Sunday, October 21, 2007

Buffet Boy!!!

I was always thrilled that Shiv loved his food unlike myself as a child. Nothing stayed in my tummy for more than a minute. My mother was always wiping up regurgitated food off of the floor, and chasing me around the house, trying to get a spoonful of anything edible into my mouth. I guess her persistence paid off because I absolutely love eating now. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but will happily attack large amounts of meat at any time of day. I won't be surprised if someday McDonalds has my face on a banner, announcing me their official burger endorser. But I doubt that's going to happen, since people might be suspicious of the South Asian woman with the big grin and thus, avoid Mickey Dee's altogether. And then of course, I might be excommunicated by the Hindu community for promoting the consumption of the cow, which we consider a holy animal back in India. How blasphemous of me!!!!

Anyway, I've always wanted Shiv to be an adventurous eater like his parents are. Unfortunately, my zealousness in exposing him to different foods is that he has not only taken to a variety of different edible substances but demands that variety every meal!!! How exhausting!! Anyway, here's an example of the contents of Shiv's lunch:

1. Two spoonfuls of rice, lentil and vegetable mixture (pressure-cooked to optimum softness to ensure minimum chewing)
2. Three cheerios
3. Four goldfish crackers
4. A mouthful of banana
5. Five grapes

(Hmmm, maybe the numbers are some kind of code he's using to communicate with the aliens!!)

6. A small bowl of yogurt, most of which has been smeared on his face and hair, making him look like a native of the Amazon forest.
7. A few bites of a cheese stick.
8. Several sips of water (which I pray has some miraculous nutritional substances for fussy eaters).....

And the list varies everyday. It's never consistent; at least in which case I know how much of what food to lay out on the table for my finicky little diner. It's always one big game of anticipation and guesswork. And I can't complain of not being rewarded with a big smile and sloppy kiss at the end, but hey, I deserve it!!!

Anyway, I'm convinced that my son was born to dine on buffets; Chinese, American home style, Indian....the cuisine doesn't really matter, as long as he can pick and choose from a hundred different dishes. And I'm sure he would make a great poster boy for the respective restaurants!!! Of course, I could look at it differently and assume that he might go to culinary school and become a great chef; write a book called "Discovering the Nibbler within us"; host his own show titled "Calling all Nibblers" or something like that. Or maybe he's just the average 19 month old, warning me of the "terrible twos" to come!!! I could keep pondering over it, but right now, I have a buffet table to set up for my little boy!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A fresh start!!

I've been struggling with my thoughts the last few weeks. It's been a while since I've posted a blog and I'm afraid I'm hit with blogger's block! Anyway, I figured that instead of just moping around, I should try and overcome it by writing about it. So here I am!!! I think my basic problem is that I think too much. I try too hard at wanting my blogs to be very philosophical and inspiring, while all I really have to do is just relax and 'chat'. I tend to be a perfectionist, to the point where I've read and reread my blogs to death and then lose interest because I've forgotten what it was meant to be about in the first place. Jen, you're absolutely right, when you said that I should write for myself and if by chance anyone reads it, then so be it. Otherwise it's not the end of the world.

It shouldn't matter if I use simple words instead of looking up every 2 seconds to replace a trite term with something more astounding, or dazzling, or prodigious.....ok, ok, I'm going to stop right there!!!! Well, I guess that's my problem. And I suppose it's a little confession as well. I need to be content with what I am. I need to to be able to read other blogs and appreciate them, without being critical of mine and tearing it to shreds. I was talking with a dear friend/relative about my blogs being epic-long, and she simply said that the reader would stop if they felt it was too much for them. And that bothered me!!! And I've been thinking about it ever since. I need to write for myself, because it's my way of letting my thoughts out without bothering anyone. I need to write for myself, so when I read my blogs, I know that I'm a normal person with feelings and emotions. Sometimes a little out of control, but for the most part, contained!!

So, tomorrow, I will sit at my computer and write about simple, uncomplicated things. Like our trip to the Zoo, or my grocery shopping expeditions, or trying to get Shiv to eat his lunch...wait a minute, I was going to stick with simple and uncomplicated, right?!! I know that I will always find something interesting and wonderful to write about, because I have a beautiful 19 month old, who just amazes me everyday with his smile and words. I have a loving husband, whose sense of humour is what gets me through the toughest times, and whose love I can always count on. And I have a gift. I can write, and I will.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A little thing called love...

My father is visiting from India. Now, take a deep breath before you read further. He's been staying with us for the last 6 months......and we love every minute with him!!! I've been fortunate enough to have my mother visit three times in the last seven years. The last time was when I was expecting Shiv. She stayed with us for 3 months to help with the baby. Her presence helped more than I could imagine, since Ranjit had started his new job in Pittsburgh, and I had to stay behind with Shiv to sell the house in Cleveland. So, while my husband was away 5 days of the week, acquainting himself with a different company and city, my mother and son bonded.

There's something very endearing about watching a grandparent interact with their grandchild. There's a certain calmness and peace about them that you never really got to see growing up. I don't think my parents really had the time or energy to really enjoy my company, because they were more focused on meeting my basic needs. Don't get me wrong, though; they've been wonderful parents and still are. What I mean is that as a parent, sometimes the responsibilities and mundane duties are what can prevent you from sitting back and just indulging in your child's affections. When I look back at my childhood, I have so many wonderful and fun memories. But I also recollect that my father had to be away on work for long hours and days, so he could provide the best for us. I remember my mother always making my birthdays really special with her home-made cake and deserts, but I'm also aware of how frustrated and exhausted she would be when she was unable to communicate with me.

But now it's different for both of them. Of course, they still have responsibilities of their own, which seem never-ending sometimes; paying the bills, cooking meals, attending endless family functions, etc. Now, they can allow themselves the freedom to relax and laugh more. To let down their guard, be silly and monkey around with their grandchild. I never realised how much joy my child would bring my parents until he was born. For them, he is a gift from God. An acknowledgment of their dedication and commitment as parents. A reflection of their identities, virtues and complexities.

In the last 6 months, I've seen my father and my little boy develop a beautiful relationship with one another. My father has never been known to be demonstrative in his affections. He's never said, "I love you!", or hugged us instinctively. He's done so much more though. I feel his love when he lets me sleep in in the mornings, while he attends to Shiv; I know he cares when he insists on doing the dishes in the evening after I've spent hours in the kitchen making dinner; when he makes my favourite dish without me asking him to.... But I do see a different person now. And that's the magic of a child. Shiv brings out the best in my father. He makes him smile and laugh more. He makes him want to hug him back. He makes him return his tender kisses. He make him give him high-fives, and say, "Good job!!!" very proudly. Shiv makes my father do all these wonderful things that I have seen him do so rarely, and I know that it doesn't feel forced in any way.

My husband asked my father whether he would miss Shiv when he returned to India. My father smiled and simply said, "I don't know". But deep down, I know he will. I know he will miss Shiv running to him every morning, calling out "Ajja" (grandpa). I know he'll miss playing "cookie" (peek-a-boo) with him. He'll miss Shiv trying to feed him his half-eaten drool-soaked grape. He'll miss listening to those funny animal noises during diaper changes. And most of all, my father will miss Shiv holding his face and gently giving him an "omma" on his cheek. But I think what will hurt the most is me not being able to see any of this for another one year.....

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Potty Time!!!

Ah yes, the most exciting time in a parent's life!!! Shiv's pediatrician suggested that we should try the whole potty training thingi, and so I've decided to jump right into it with gusto. My life is now dictated by my little timer, that screeches every one hour, signaling that it's time for the prince to sit on his throne. So I interrupt Shiv from whatever toy he's destroying, and talk to him like we're on our way to Disneyland. I will say that he does seem excited about sitting on the potty, which is really nothing but an infant seat that fits over the big one. He has his special stool so he can rest his legs as he proceeds to exercise his little 'pee pee' muscles. And then of course, he has own little library of books in a holder on the side of the toilet. He usually likes to pick which book to peruse while he goes about his business. He sometimes insists I read to him, and so I have to put on a show for the little fellow. The reading and talking are frequently interrupted with me making a hissing sound like a snake gone berserk, since I've been told, (and witnessed), that hearing that actually encourages the child to 'take a leak'.

We started just two day ago, so I'm not expecting miracles. But I was ecstatic the first time when he did what he needed to almost a minute later!! Oh my gosh!!! I high-fived him, and told him what a big boy he was becoming. And then I smothered him with hugs and kisses while diapering him. We immediately called my husband to inform him of his little boy's achievement. Alas my celebration was short-lived. The third time we took a trip to the water closet, I was all set for another round of cheering and clapping. Five minutes into the reading and my mouth dry with all the hissing, Shiv had not produced a single drop!!. But he still insisted on using the toilet paper and flushing the loo. Anyway, we kept trying over the course of the day. Some trips were successful and some weren't.

Now if we were in India, he would have been potty-trained by now, due to peer pressure (my peers, that is!!). Besides, it is easier back home, since the floors are not carpeted and it's easy to wipe the pee off of tiled floors. Toddlers do run around with bare butts sometimes (Yes, of course we clothe our children; we aren't that uncivilized!!). And even if they peed on the bed, usually protected by a plastic sheet, every household generally has a maid who does your washing for you (Now before you think we're privileged, remember that cheap labour is the result of overpopulation!!!). I would love to allow Shiv to run around naked here; there's nothing more liberating than being free of all that fabric on your body. But I'm way too paranoid about my apartment smelling like a public restroom. So, anyway, Shiv and I will continue to take our trips to 'pee pee' land, and I hope there's enough toilet paper to last us for a while!!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

There's no place like home...

People are sometimes curious about my life. They come up with the strangest questions; some so amusingly bizarre that I wonder if they hail from another planet. Don't get me wrong though; I love talking about my culture and antecedents. I'm all for sharing of information; the give and take process that allows us to define our uniqueness, and also discover that common thread connecting us as humans. The basic emotion of curiousity is what allows us to develop, progress, create and invent. People have different ideas and opinions about India; the country I was born in. Someone once asked me if we had cars there, and I answered very somberly that we had to rent an elephant on a monthly basis. I added that although our insurance covered accidental deaths, we were still liable for our elephant pooping on public property!! He almost believed me until he saw me wink and grin!

Another fun question is regarding the whole concept of the 'arranged marriage'. My husband and I were out to dinner with some colleagues of his from work, and they were curious about how we met. This is what we were waiting for!!!!!! We proceeded to tell them that we didn't have a say in the matter at all. Our parents were responsible for the whole event. We were just informed that we would be married on a certain day, shown a photograph of the to-be-spouse, and forbidden from interacting with anyone of the opposite sex henceforth. Now as we're telling them all this, we can see their eyes grow larger and larger in horror and disbelief! We went on to say that we were allowed to look at each other only on the day of the wedding and ordered to produce children as soon as possible. One of the ladies at the table suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, you poor dear!!!", at which point we decided to put them all out of their miseries. Now, I will let you know what you've read above was true at one time and probably still occurs in small villages among the uneducated. Bu the truth of the matter is that my husband and I met on a blind date of sorts, arranged by our parents, and the decision was ours to make. I wouldn't say it was love at first sight, but I believe that Ranjit and I saw something in each other that made us want to be together for the rest of our lives.

People are surprised with how comfortable I am with the English language. They say to me, "You speak the language so well!!", assuming that I've been exposed to it only for the last 7 years that I've been in this country. Well, firstly anyone who's been awake during their world history classes should know that India was colonized to death by the British and the least they could teach us was how to say," Up yours!!", which actually translates to "get out of my country!!!!". I've been familiar with the Queen's tongue since I was born. I grew up listening to the Beatles and Kenny Rogers, learned my alphabets with Ernie and Bert, wolfed down french fries and coke, wore denim and t-shirts, etc, etc, etc. Well, in my case, the comfort with the language is also because I grew up in Africa and had the added advantage of visiting different parts of the world. I am fortunate, is all I can say.

I've traveled and lived in more places in the last 31 years of my life, than some would in a lifetime. So, when I'm asked, "Do you miss home?", I'm not sure what exactly to say. Is home Africa, where I spent most of my childhood, growing up in 4 different cities? Or Rishi Valley, a boarding school nestled on the outskirts of a small town in South India, where I studied and lived for 5 years? Where education just wasn't about books, tests and grades, but being one with nature, and exploring the different dimensions within oneself? Or Bangalore, where I was born, and where I returned to complete my graduation?

And then again, isn't home really where you feel you belong, no matter where you are. Whether it's sitting under a tree watching my husband and son chase each other on the grass; or twirling around the living room with Shiv, listening to Harry Belafonte; or all of us sitting at a restaurant, feeding each other pizza... Yes, it's when I'm laying in bed, cuddling Shiv while his father reads him his favourite book and he reaches out to touch our faces lovingly, that I think to myself, "At last, I'm home!!!".

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mama's little boy.

My son's first sound was the most beautiful grunt I'd ever heard. I couldn't wait for the day when he would look into my eyes and say, " Mama!". Everyday I would point at myself and say the word, hoping it would register in his little head. But instead he chose to say, "Baa baa!!". Good for the sheep, is all I can say. And then came "grrrrr", which meant doggie; "tee tee", the bird; "phrrrrrr", the elephant; "naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa", the horse, "ishhhhhh", the fish; "saaaaaaaaaaaa", the snake; "mmmmmmm", the cow, "peeee", the pig,.....but no "Mama".

Of course, we were still thrilled that he could recognise the animals. And Shiv always obliged when we'd ask him to make his sounds. When we'd talk with my parents and in-laws back in India, Shiv would always get a chance to showcase his "talent". We would mention the animals, and he would dutifully respond with the appropriate sounds, a big smile and lots of drool. We would clap and hug him, and tell him what a smart little boy he is. And his grandparents would be absolutely besides themselves listening to him, so many miles away. Shiv loved our walks in the park. He would spot a dog half a mile away, point and 'grrrr' all the way, till we passed it. He would manage to catch a glimpse of a bird way up in the trees, and excitedly "tee tee", wriggling his little fingers. At night, we would read his favourite book, 'Time for Bed', where he would point at the animals on each page and "mmm", "naaa" or "saaa" accordingly.

And suddenly, he said the word!! But everyone was "Mama"; Kirstie Alley on the Jenny Craig commercial, the Victoria Secret models, the lady bringing us the mail, our 85 year old neighbour tending to her garden, and occasionally, the long-haired, herculean dude on the Harley!! At the store, Shiv was really good at making eye contact with people, especially the women. He would get their attention,by cooing, and batting his eyelids, and then while they smiled back at him, say, "Mama!!!". I remember the one time, he was trying to get this lady's attention, and she seemed too preoccupied to notice him. We seemed to bump into each other quite often around the produce section, and Shiv was determined to make himself noticed. Talk about babies with big egos!!! Anyway, at one point, right by the onions and potatoes, she happened to be standing directly behind me. Shiv arched his head to one side, so he could look around me, pointed at her, and yelled in his loudest voice, "MAAAMAAA!!". The poor lady almost dropped a sack of Idaho's on her foot. She looked at us, and Shiv immediately began bobbing up and down in the cart seat, grinning away at her, and singing to himself, "Mammammamma!". I think she managed half a smile and scurried away!!

It's been a month since he's been calling only me "Mama". And now, he won't stop. Whether I'm in the bathroom, or cooking, or on the phone, or trying to put him down for a nap, he says it in his sweet little voice. There's so much love in the way he says it, and I fear that may not always be so. That word may be coloured with anger and exasperation and frustration toward me. There may be times when he shuts me out, whines that I'm not being fair, claims that I don't understand, and maybe even confess that he hates me. But you know, I'm not going to worry about all that now. Right now, I'm content with him looking into my eyes and saying, " Mama!".