Friday, December 28, 2007

His Mother's Child

Chip is peering at her. She is a mother and she has a toddler and she is on TV and she is quite pretty. And she is a toon. “Hanuman’s mother is nangoo(naked)!” Chip exclaims as he watches the toony Anjani toss a baby Hanuman in the air to the captivating strains of Akdam-Bakdam. I am speechless at the observation. “She is not naked. She is wearing a saree.” I say, in my most matter-of-fact, no-nonsense voice. Chip has a deep furrow on his forehead as he ponders the veracity of my statement. A couple of pregnant minutes later, he nods his head. “Ok. I want Hanuman chi Aie pahijey (I want Hanuman’s mom).” Just when I think the issue is resolved and closed, Chip comes with this. “You do? OK. Let’s go change into your pajamas first.” I whisk him upstairs to brush his teeth and put him in his pajamas. We wrestle over the toothbrush. I bite my tongue as she slathers liquid soap everywhere on the counter and makes bubbles. I turn away as he pours water in the toilet bowl and flushes. Finally getting tired of his own gimmicks, he washes his hands, wipes them on the towel, turns off the light, shuts the bathroom door and comes out; surprised I haven’t said a thing. I help him in his pajamas wordlessly and he says it again. “I want Hanuman chi Aie pahijey.” “You do? What will happen to Chip’s Aie then?” He thinks for a second. “Ummm… You go to the moon and the stars.” Already? “If I go to the moon, who will give you hugs and kisses and cuddle you and give you jam and poli (chapathi)?” I bet his Dad won’t be too averse to having someone like Hanuman’s mom around too. My active imagination spins into high gear. “Hanuman’s mother deil (will give). Doodh deil, grapes deil, apple deil.” He chants his favorite foods as he climbs down the stairs. Suddenly he stops. “Hanuman chi Aie oradtey, Chiiiiip? (Does hanuman’s mother yell Chiiiiip).” Now I realize what this is all about. The last few days have been rough. Chip has been very, very difficult and I have raised my voice almost constantly. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t say this. Don’t say that. One thing after the other.

Chip and I sit down on the steps. “Are you afraid of me, Chip?” I ask. “Yes.”. I can’t believe he just said that. “Why are you afraid of me Chip?” “Aie oradtey, phatka detey (Aie yells and gives a swat).” “That’s because you don’t listen Chip.” I am trying to reason with him. “You can’t run away in stores. What if you get lost? And you can’t say rude things to people. But I will try and not yell. OK?” Chip smiles and heads down the stairs to the family room calling to his Ajji, “Ajji, I want Hanuman chi Aie pahijey.” I follow him into the family room, but he pushes me away and shuts the door. I am truly crestfallen now. I have a 2 year old who just told me he would rather have Hanuman’s cartoon mom than me, who has told me he is afraid of me and has shut a door to my face. Do I act like a grown up that I am and go inside and make peace? No. I decide to go hide under a desk. As I hear my mom tell Chip to open the door, I quickly dart into the dark study next door and cram my ample self amidst cables and dongles and other junk under the desk. I hear Chip open the door. “Aie, Aie. Aie.” He is calling out but I don’t make a sound. He goes into the kitchen calling my name and then is about to head back upstairs when his father sees him. BigGeek has no idea what has happened. “I don’t know where Aie is Chip, is she in the family room?” BigGeek comes by the study calling my name as Chip goes into the family room saying “Aie, I want Aie.”

From my vantage point from under the desk, I can see BigGeek opening the front door to see if I have stepped out when he catches me flailing my arms from under the desk. I put a finger to my lips and he understands. “Aie has gone away” he declares to Chip. Ajji comes out and joins the party outside the study. “Well. You pushed Aie out and shut the door, didn’t you?” My mother is looking to see where I am hiding and I wave to her from under the desk. “If you say sorry loudly, she might come back.” My mother is telling Chip. Chip shakes his head. “Say Sorry Chip, Aie will come back then.” BigGeek tries to coax him. Chip’s eyes are filled with tears. But his ego is still winning. He purses his lips and crosses his brow. And lets out a whisper. “Loudly, she can’t hear you.” I hear my mom say. “Sorry Aie” Chips tearful voice comes loud and clear as he peers out the front door into the dark, cold night, perched in his father's arms to see if his Aie comes back magically. I get off from under the desk and sneak up behind him. Chip breaks into a wide grin and dives into my arms. “Do you still want Hanuman chi Aie?” I ain’t letting go. “Nooooooooo” Chip squeals. “I want Aiechya kushit nee-nee (I want to sleep in Aie’s arms)”.

So, on that note, I bid adieu to 2007. Happy New Year to All. See you in 2008.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Time Capsule 2007

These are the things we often buy over at DotMom's household. I thought it would be fun to keep a record of prices and how things look today.

Cheerios: $5.79 (18oz)
Juice: $5.79/gal (Tropicana Orange)
Oatmeal: $1.92/lb ($5.19/42 oz, Quaker Oats)

Milk: $6.49/gal (organic), $3.79/gal (regular)

Bread: $3.99 (Organic), $2.69 (Wonderbread)
Pasta: $1.25/lb
Rice: $1.29/lb (Tilda Basmati)

Sugar: $0.55/lb
Salt: $0.89 (26 oz)
Oil: $2.56/quart (Canola)

Potatoes: $0.79/lb (regular), $.1.19/lb (organic)
Apples: $1.29/lb(regular), $1.99/lb(organic)
Spinach : $1.69(regular), 2.99(organic)

Chicken: $5.49/lb
Salmon: $9.99/lb

The Washington Post: $0.50
U.S. First Class Stamp: $0.41
Cup of Coffee: $0.69
Gas: $2.99/gal (87 octane), $3.21/gal(93 octane)

How do things look in your part of the world? Show me. I am looking!

(Image Courtesy: Peapod, GasSigns, Washington Post.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Through the Lens

I am not the one to typically harbor regrets, but I do have one lament. And a huge one at that. We have no, really nice pictures of Chip and us, that are, well, superficial as it may sound, display worthy. While I hear the collective gasp of utter horror, let me enlighten you on the picture (pun is very much intended). When I was pregnant, we were inundated with coupons and offers to take those timeless pictures of our baby. They offered us an assortment of predictable backgrounds ranging from autumn leaves and baskets of spring flowers to clear blue skies. Complete with hackneyed props from two huge acrylic hands, a la Geddes, holding your tiny newborn to soft fleecy blankets and teddies. From $4.99 to $250. BigGeek and I scoffed. Go to a studio to take a posed picture? That would be like those godawful pictures of our parents and grandparents. We all have seen those, right? The must-have post-wedding one. Against a backdrop of lotus-filled ponds and little bridges. She is sitting on a chair looking demure, he standing with a hat and all, beaming. And then a few years later, another one, when the family is complete. She again, sitting down, looking older and tired, definitely not demure. His face is smiling, but worn with concern. A kid on the lap, one standing and one sitting. Big eyes lined with kajal, hair oiled and combed in place. And then the undated one with frayed edges. The photographer was called home then. This is not a family picture. This is a dynasty picture. Husbands, wives, and kids, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, cousins and the odd neighbor’s kid who managed to sneak in. All posed. All dressed up. All looking very slightly out of their element. This was not for us.

We have two cameras, an assortment of lenses and filters, a tripod and I went to a film school. My not-that-bad composition skills and BigGeek’s accurate, unfailing exposure has given us many a striking landscape which we hang proudly from our walls. There was no way we would take our baby to the local JC Penny and get an $8.99 portrait package. We would do it our own way. Capture candid moments: the one right after Chip’s bath in a pretty towel, when he is sleeping, when is stretching and yawning, when looking curious, when he is frustrated. But when Chip came, he was no quiet angel. He was colicky and fussy and cried a lot. We were so exhausted by the end of the day that when BigGeek in his unending enthusiasm would get out the camera, I would be too tired and unwilling to change and comb my hair. On the days BigGeek caught me as soon as I got home from work, the house would be a mess. So we had candid pictures taken alright, but they mostly had dark circles, half finished baby bottles, stained t-shirts, crumpled onesies, frizzy hair and toys littered in the background. No perfect family there. It slowly dawned on me why we needed someone else to take a picture. It was so simple that I slapped my forehead for not realizing this before. When the baby cries/fusses, I have to tend to the baby. I cannot hold a camera and soothe a baby and take the perfect picture. I don’t have eight arms. I yearned for the posed portrait where for once I would be dressed and Chip would be dressed and BigGeek would be wearing a jacket and the exhausted family would then go to a portrait studio, smile and let someone take their picture.

So, this season when I suggested we go to a studio and get a picture with my parents, BigGeek readily agreed. And a couple of days ago he told me it would make sense to get their club membership because we would be taking more pictures when his parents got here. So, here we are all set to go get our picture taken this evening. I am advising everyone what to wear and what to avoid. We have debated Indian clothes or Western ones. We have discussed make up and shoes. All for ONE family portrait. And to think I wasted Chip’s precious years in my silly vanity.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Five months and 99 posts later, here I am. Keeping with the tradition of marking post milestones, I am going to print something written by someone I admire tremendously. But before I do that, a mighty toast to all my readers who have endured my daily butchering of the English language and to those really brave ones who leave warm, encouraging comments day after day. Your tireless encouragement drives me to write. I don’t think I would have done the hundred without you. And to the strangers who lost their way and found me in the hollows of the W3, do delurk today and allow me to say hello to you.

Coming back to the point. I am going to print a transcript of a speech made by one of my favorite writers - Douglas Adams. The speech was made in 1998 at the Digital Biota 2, held at Magdelene College, Cambridge. To those who are not familiar with his works, this is how I would describe it- geaming wisdom enveloped in brilliant wit. Throw in some frank wonderment in the mix, a bit of sci-fi and you will get an idea what Douglas Adams is all about. I know there are a few Adams fans on my blogroll, so if you have not read this before, it will be a nice treat. To those who have not ventured in DNA-land (Douglas Adams’ initials are DNA), give this a try. Put the babies to bed, make yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate, find a quiet spot and read this. You won’t be disappointed.

Is there an Artificial God – Douglas Adams


So what we have arrived at here - and although the first shock wave of this arrival was in 1859, it's really the arrival of the computer that demonstrates it unarguably to us - is 'Is there really a Universe that is not designed from the top downwards but from the bottom upwards? Can complexity emerge from lower levels of simplicity?' It has always struck me as being bizarre that the idea of God as a creator was considered sufficient explanation for the complexity we see around us, because it simply doesn't explain where he came from. If we imagine a designer, that implies a design and that therefore each thing he designs or causes to be designed is a level simpler than him or her, then you have to ask 'What is the level above the designer?' There is one peculiar model of the Universe that has turtles all the way down, but here we have gods all the way up. It really isn't a very good answer, but a bottom-up solution, on the other hand, which rests on the incredibly powerful tautology of anything that happens, happens, clearly gives you a very simple and powerful answer that needs no other explanation whatsoever.But here's the interesting thing. I said I wanted to ask 'Is there an artificial god?' and this is where I want to address the question of why the idea of a god is so persuasive. I've already explained where I feel this kind of illusion comes from in the first place; it comes from a falseness in our perspective, because we are not taking into account that we are evolved beings, beings who have evolved into a particular landscape, into a particular environment with a particular set of skills and views of the world that have enabled us to survive and thrive rather successfully. But there seems to be an even more powerful idea than that, and this is the idea I want to propose, which is that the spot at the top of the pyramid that we previously said was whence everything flowed, may not actually be vacant just because we say the flow doesn't go that way.

Read entire transcript at:

Edited: I have removed the entire transcript (bad netiquette) and have put in an excerpt and a link.

Edited Again: If you are having problems with comments or other issues, email me at todotmom at gmail dot com.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Foolish and the Wicked

Fuzzy tagged me to be wicked. Somerset Maugham once said – A woman may be as wicked as she likes, but if she isn’t pretty, it won’t do her much good. To give a brief history of my wickedness – I never did wicked things. N-e-v-e-r. (Go on. Infer what you may about my prettiness from that). There were a few incidents when as a kid, I would scream bloody murder BEFORE my kid brother pushed/hit/pulled my hair, but that was done in anticipatory self-defense. No wickedness there. In school, I was the model student everybody loves to hate. Sat on the first bench, was always in the top three of my class, well-behaved, polite. Did I say I have never done anything wicked? Ok. I am going to let you in on a little, little secret. Now turn around and make sure nobody is reading over your shoulder.

It all started when I was in the tenth standard. Our class of 22 had discipline issues and the faculty, to disrupt the unruliness, decided to assign seats to us. In boy-girl pairs. In tenth standard. Can you imagine the horror? I was assigned the first bench (yeah, what were these teachers thinking? I would sit on the first bench, as is) and my bench mate was my contender of sorts. He always topped the class and I always came in second. He was insufferable. And boring and Mr.goody-two-pants. And mean. And he would refuse to share his texts if I forgot mine at home. I requested many, many times to our class teacher that I be assigned a different seat. But she would not hear of it and would not give me a reason why. Now, our class teacher taught us physics and how unimaginatively. Her post-recess drone would lull what could have been many brilliant physicists to deep sleep. Her explanation of the theories appeared to be so rehearsed and dished out of rote memory that it seemed instead of speaking words conversationally; she was printing complex sentences replete with semicolons and commas right out of her mouth.

So, on one such oppressing hot, humid afternoon, the ceiling fan in the tenth standard classroom hummed listlessly. Some of the class was already nodding into their post-lunch physics siesta. The air outside the window was abuzz with restless flies circling around looking for something to sit on. Somewhere in a distance, a lonely crow crowed. And two pigeons responded with nervous chatter. A school girl grunted on the field, playing hockey and the PT teacher whistled to halt. Amidst all this, our physics teacher droned on, not caring if our young, impressionable minds grasped how a light wave alters its phase velocity when entering water. And just then, the monotony was punctuated. The principal had walked to our classroom and was standing at the door. She beckoned the physics teacher over. Usually these interruptions lasted no more than a minute, but this appeared to be taking longer than usual. The two women moved away to cover their conversation from snooping ears. Seeing the teacher was away, the class broke out in a joyous cheer. Paper airplanes and spitballs filled the air. Boys jostled with each other and the girls gossiped. In the middle of this mayhem, something struck me about the way our physics teacher taught. She must be hiding long, handwritten notes in her notebook, I thought to myself. I leaned across the bench to take a peek under the textbook. They were no notes, but something better, something even bigger. There was a whole study guide hidden under the physics book. So that’s what she did! Simply read out explanations from the study guide. I felt so elated at having discovered her secret and felt so cheated at the same time, I did the unthinkable. I leaned and turned the study guide the wrong way under the text book. A few minutes later, she returned and picked up the book(s). Seeing the guide was upside down, she turned the book(s) thinking she had picked them up the wrong way and started to read from where she had left off. But, now, unknown to her, the physics book on the outside was turned upside down and while she read passages from the study guide held correctly underneath, and the whole class realized what had happened. Suddenly, the physics period had gotten a whole lot interesting. And in the next quarter of an hour, the not-so-bored-anymore fifteen year olds pelted her with questions and ask for explanations again and again. She was pleased that the class was beginning to warm up to her; little did she know it was for all the wrong reasons!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cookies Unmade

This year, in a very long time, the Holiday season is different. I am not baking any cookies. No Raspberry Linzers or Danish Butter, or the humble jam thumbprints. No chocolate dipped shortcake and peanut butter cookies. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

My baking journey started a very long time ago in a small, sleepy town in the dusty Maharashtrian hinterlands. The town had nothing much to offer, really, in terms of entertainment, but it had an excellent library. And a book fair would be held in the large hall at the library every year, an event my brother and my parents and me looked forward to. Though I didn’t realize then, the book selection was quite predictable. Dickens and Austen and other classics in hardbacks mixed with a generous dose of Ludlum and Forsyth and other popular authors in paperbacks. And (not really) surprising number of books from the Soviet. Printed on glossy paper with beautiful illustrations. Always hardbound. Complete collections of Chekov’s short stories and Dostoevskys to illustrated 3 book sets of the Russian Revolution (which I bought for the pictures, but never read) and commentaries on Marxism. Amidst this bizarre collection, my mom once found a book, or a magazine, it certainly was a little of both. It was a special baking issue of the Australian Women’s Weekly. I don’t know why my mom bought the book. She didn’t bake. She didn’t even like cooking that much. She owned one unillustrated cookbook written in Marathi that every Maharastrian housewife was expected to have and it was brought out only during the festivals to get the ingredient ratios.

A few days later, with nothing to do after school, I gloated over the books we had bought at the book fair and the Australian Women’s Weekly caught my fancy. I thumbed though it. I was stunned. Did that recipe really call for 400gms of almonds? That would cost a small fortune and it would be silly to spend it on a cake. And what was demerara sugar? How on earth would zucchini bread taste (yuck) and could it be substituted with something else? I was sure it that something the local bhajiwallahs would not carry. But it wasn’t just the recipes. The photographs too. Beautiful lacy table linens and exquisite silverware. Dainty china teapots and delicate crocheted napkins sitting smugly beside a thick slice of delectably golden lemon-poppy seed cake basking in the glow of the morning sunlight streaming through windows that I imagined opened to exquisite gardens. It was a whole new world to my 12-year old self. I poured over these pictures from start to finish and came back to the beginning again to an introductory section where they listed the tools required for baking. Out of a list of 15 or 20 recommended pieces that included odd looking whisks and large rolling pins and springform and lamington pans, my mother probably had an old, dusty round aluminum oven and I wasn’t sure it even worked. So the book and its culinary treasures lay partly forgotten, there were simply no resources to buy the fancy gadgets and ingredients.

And then, a few months later came summer. My mother had to leave town for a week to attend a training program and my Dad was left with me and my brother in the middle of our summer holidays. My grandmother was there to look after us but I craved adventure. I had already made a kiln and lit a fire and baked mud pots in it a couple of weeks ago but that hadn’t gone too well with my mom. I had tried making some homemade translucent paper and that turned out to have disastrous results. In search of an uncharted territory to explore, I decided to bake a cake. Once my father left, I started to execute my plan. I took down a recipe book. Not the Australian Women’s Weekly, but a closer to home version of Tarla Dalal that my mom had borrowed from my aunt. Since the last two experiments at being adventours hadn’t gone as planned, I decided to let my grandmother in on my secret. But not all of it. “I want to cook something and I need some money to buy ingredients.” I wouldn’t tell what I wanted to cook. In the end she gave me a few rupees and my brother and I walked to a little shack of a store and bought eggs and white flour. Back home, I took out the pot of butter from the refrigerator knowing fully well if I made a noticeable dent in it, I would have to face my mom after she got back once again. But 12 year old girls can be quite unfazed. I took down the dusty oven and cleaned it. Then I turned the Tarla Dalal book to the simple vanilla cake and measured and poured and mixed. Just as I was about to put it in the oven, the electricity died. With batter in hand and nothing to bake it in, I was crestfallen. My grandmother suggested I keep it the fridge and bake it when electricity returned. But I knew batters could not be stored like this. The cake would come out like a rock. I thought and thought and a brainwave hit me. We had a solar cooker on our roof that we used sometimes. That would do. So I poured the batter in the solar container, climbed the ladder (there were no stairs) to the rooftop and put the cake to bake in the solar cooker. I checked on it every hour. The batter had risen and overflowed and I was happy about that. That meant the cake would not be hard. By evening the cake was nicely done and enjoyed by all. After that there was no looking back.

When I came to the United States and “settled”, the world of Australian Women’s Weekly opened to me. I could walk into a store and buy all the pans and whisks and gadgets I wanted. And I did. My kitchen is full of every gadget they sell out there (not silly ones like egg yolk separator, but real gadgets). And a couple of years ago I splurged and bought the beautiful Kitchen Aid Stand mixer. But life took its unexpected turns. Chip was diagnosed with an egg allergy before he turned one. And a few months ago BigGeek stopped eating butter because of cardiac issues. It’s hard to bake without eggs and butter. I have found recipes that use oil and applesauce instead of butter and I have found egg free recipes. They all work out OK, for most part, but a treasure trove of recipes now lie sadly abandoned.

This is a picture of the cake I made for Chip's first birthday. The animals are moulded by hand using marshmallow fondant. Lower tier filled with oreo cream is chocolate, upper is vanilla filled with strawberry cream.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Go Retro

There is an article in science daily about toys. And just in time for the holiday season.

“Old-fashioned retro toys, such as red rubber balls,
simple building blocks, clay and crayons, that don’t cost so much and are
usually hidden in the back shelves are usually much healthier for children than
the electronic educational toys that have fancier boxes and cost $89.99,” says
Temple University developmental psychologist Kathy

The basic purpose of toys is to fuel imagination. They are accessories to a child’s play, not an end in themselves. I cannot understand the fascination with the fancy electronic toys. I have seen a few and they seem to be so limited in what they can do. Press this button and a light will glow, pull this lever and a song will play. What then? The child will inevitably get bored.

Chip has a lot more toys than what I grew up with. Most of them are gifts. He has a ball that plays songs or speaks the phonetic equivalent of an alphabet. It lies in our crawlspace. He has an electronic jackhammer, two ride-on trucks, a rocking horse, a trike, roller skates, countless soft toys, wooden blocks, 2 sets of plastic blocks (one is stored away), two basket ball hoops (one outdoor, one indoor stored away), a dozen cars and trucks, one even has a remote control, half a dozen puzzles, a few balls in various colors and textures, a small magnetic slate and some random junkie assortment including a dead xbox controller, decimated potato head, a plastic maraca, wooden coasters, beads, stickers and a small notebook. Out of the list, I have bought him a blue plastic ball, a few soft toys and some puzzles and blocks. I have also bought him the beads and the stickers and the notebook.

The electronic toys in our home follow a rule. Once the original batteries die out, they are not replaced. Chip eventually finds another way to play with the toys, which means those toys were more than electronic gimmicky to begin with. The trucks are a good example of this. Chip whined when the batteries first died, but soon figured out that he could stack more cars on the truck and make it a car-carrier. Or put walnuts into it and pretend it was a dump truck (he got a swat and then a timeout for doing this, this probably deserves a post of its own). The remote controller for the radio-controlled car soon became a phone into which his imaginary friend (Chiu the sparrow) was asked to bring goodies for all (milk and three blue lollipops for Chip, green jelly beans for Ajji, mac and cheese for Aie and water for Baba). The dead xbox controller became a camera to capture every kodak moment or a pair of headphones while he mowed the lawn with his truck. The coasters became plates for serving the delectable food he cooked for us using an empty plastic chopper (sans blade), an old pot and some spoons. This is play where imagination is at work. He can play forever with his ball or spend considerable time doing his puzzles. He draws pictures of his grandfather and his grandmother and his father and me in scribbled detail on the little magnetic slate.

Yet the fancy electronic games win the battle. It is guilt? Is it fear? As parents, perhaps the fear overrules. Like Pascal’s wager, one errs on this side. And as doting aunts and uncles and family friends, I am convinced the guilt overrules. After all, how can one give a $1 plastic ball to a favorite nephew on his birthday? Throw some electronic gadgetry in it and viola it becomes a respectable gift at $19.99. And I am not holier-than-thou and all pretentious. I have been guilty of the same. But I think I am going to change that. If I ever have to gift a toy, it going to be real, toy. A retro toy. If it is cheap, so be it. I can put the rest of the money in that child’s college fund or something. But, here comes the clincher, what if the child thinks it is too boring? What then?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Escape Artist

Were you by the odd chance at some nice designer outlets near a small town in Virginia last week? No? Good. Now I am relieved. Because if you had been, you would either have-

1.Thought madness had struck me and oh so swiftly.
2. Looked at Chip weirdly and then looked at me weirdly.

It was an eventful day to say the least. The mother, the Chip and me had been out shopping for what many women shop this time of the year – Holiday Party wear. Now, I don’t do dresses. I might just do skirts, but there has got to be a better reason than a company holiday party to do ‘em. And I am thinking Halloween before your wanton imaginations run a six minute mile. So there I was looking for some dress pants and a nice silk jacket. Now, when it comes to shopping, I am unlike most of my gender. Following Caesar’s footsteps, I usually go the Veni, Vedi, Vici way. And I go armed. I know my size, I know what colors I want and I have a general idea what clothes I am looking for. And Oh. I know which store to go to. The store has to be small with a limited selection. No department stores. They drive me up the wall with their wide selection. Analysis paralysis creeps in and I fall to the ground in shambles simply comparing things. I wish for drive through clothes stores. Seriously. You know I can go - Can I get number 3 with the large gold earrings and black satin pumps?

So we went to my favorite store. Picked a pair of nice chiffony pants and a gorgeous tan silk jacket printed with flowers with a bit of embroidery thrown in. Bought three more pants (well, two of those were for the mom) and another beautiful denim jacket that fit like a glove (ignore mixed metaphor). Done with this, we stepped out to see what the hungama at the Coach store was -everybody had a Coach shopping bag- the mom and self thought they were giving bags for free. They weren’t believably, but unbelievably, there was a line to get into the store. We were dejected, there was no way we were going to stand in a line to get into a store and just then, my mom remembered. I need to go get the umm... Unmentionables. So off we went. Chip had managed to drive my mom crazy while I had shopped and was now driving me crazy because he was begging me to fix the candy cane given to him by a Santa. As soon as we entered the I picked a few things and ran to the fitting room. I had just begun to try them on, I heard my mom.

Mom: “Oh. My god
DotMom: “What happened?”
Mom: “Chip went to a fitting room and has locked himself in.”
DotMom: “That’s OK. This way you won’t have to run after him.”
(after two minutes)
DotMom: “He is awfully quiet. Can you see his legs from under the stall?”
Mom: “No, I think he is perched on the stool.”
DotMom: “Chip, open the door now.”
Chip: giggle giggle.
DotMom: “This is not funny Chip. Open the door.”
Chip: giggle giggle.
DotMom: “OK, I am done. I am coming to get you.”

There was no way to open the stall from outside. It was time to go nuclear.

DotMom: “Ok. You can stay here Chip. We are going home. You can stay here and the store will close and it will be dark and cold and you will be all alone and scared.”
Chip: “Ok Aie, Bye! See you tomorrow.”
DotMom: “Bye Chip. “

I make shuffling sounds and we wait. And wait and wait. No sign of Chip even getting off the stool, let alone opening the door. It was getting late, we had to go home cook dinner and going nuclear hadn’t worked. What was a desperate mom to do? Dial 911 for this? Nah. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I bent down and saw Chip’s feet dangling from the stool. I tried to grab them in the hope that would make him get off, but instead he folded his legs. Not even looking who was around me, I then did what I think every mom in my shoes would do. I got on all my fours and creeped into the stall. Chip was delighted to see his Aie slither in like a python crossed with a walrus. He got down from the stool laughing, hugged me, opened the door and ran outside. I ran after him and grabbed him and carried him to the checkout counter. There was a small line there and Chip seemed to be studying the carpet quietly. So the mom and I yapped. It was only after we went out and saw a woman glance oddly at Chip and then me, that I saw what Chip had done. He had found pantyhose stickers that said “Comfort Top” on the floor and had stuck them everywhere on his chest.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow

“Just come back”. My mother was telling me gently over the phone. I had called her once again to yell and rant. It had been an hour and I was stuck in a mother-of-all traffic jams on my way to work. It had taken me one whole hour to go a mile and half. At that rate it would take me 17.333 hours to get to work. I kept hoping the jam would clear. I had just too much stuff to get done and I really did not want to use a vacation day for such a frivolous reason. Skipping work because of a traffic jam? Bah!

It had all started in the morning. Chip banged on the bathroom door excitedly shouting, “Aie, look, burfa (snow).” I hurriedly came out. Chip was standing by the bedroom window in his pajamas, his nose pressed against the cold pane, a small cloud of condensed breath surrounded it. Tiny snowflakes leisurely floated in the air outside. Falling unhurriedly to the ground. The grass was already covered in a thin layer of silvery powder. I looked at the pretty scene. “Aie, aaj shala sutti? (Is the school closed today?)” Chip broke my spell. “No, Chip, you have school today. I have office today, Baba has office today.” “No Aie office, no Chip shalaa.” Chip declared and he ran off to find his Ajji. His Ajji had heard our conversation. With her on his side, Chip haggled with me and I knew despite my saying no again and again, Chip and his Ajji had secretly plotted to stay home and spend the day together.

“Where are you?” boomed a voice through my cell phone. It was BigGeek. He had just come home after his cardiac rehab. I told him. “It’s a giant mess.” He told me. He had been lucky on his way home from the rehab, he was coming the opposite way. “Well, it might just clear up. There is hardly any snow. Less than half an inch.” I was hoping against hope. There were three accidents before I even got on the highway. The highway was another story. When will people learn to drive in the snow? I muttered and cursed under my breath. “Aie, aie, aaj shala sutti (Is school close today?)” Chip was asking me again over the phone. “Yes, Chip, aaj sutti”. I finally told him. There was no way anybody was going to be able to drop at daycare today. It had taken me one hour to get to that exit – what would normally take 3-4 minutes.

Fifty minutes later, I had enough. I had moved another half mile or so. I called home. “I am coming home.” I announced. There was joyous cheer in the background. It took me another 10 minutes to get to an intersection where I finally made a roundabout and headed back home. In less than ten minutes, Chip was hugging me. “Aie aaj no office?” “No office today, Chip.” I smiled. “Mall choo-choo train baghaicha?” Chip had already made plans in his head to go to the mall to see the choo-choo train. “We’ll see.” I said, too tired to give an explanation why it was unlikely that we could make it to the mall. My mother made some hot mocha as I tried to convince BigGeek to stay home too. But he ended up going to work at about noon and felt even worse about skipping work.

But all said and done, I am glad I did. Chip was sleepy and he slept while eating his lunch. As I carried him upstairs, my mother followed with my lunch – a salad and a yogurt. With Chip nestled between us, my mom and I had the best vacation ever. As the snowstorm gained fury outside and the snow inches slowly mounted, we were snug under our down comforter watching fashion makeover shows on TLC. Finally, I too fell asleep and woke up two hours later refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


There are some decisions that don’t quite qualify as decisions at all. Not conscious ones at any rate. It’s only when something you do or believe in is has a doubt cast on-- perhaps this is not even the right word-- day after day, that you do take a step back to think. And if you are wondering what the topic of this intense consternation is, it is the meek television set. I never had any strong opinion either way about it where Chip was concerned. I once met someone who was so afraid her son would be addicted to television that she would hold her infant away from it even if it were for a few minutes; to avoid the odd glance the said infant might throw the television’s way. I am no where that extreme. But I am also a little ykcul (spelled backwards to ward off the J-monster!!).

Chip never showed much of an interest in the television. Some well meaning friends gave him Baby Einstein DVDs which truth be told freaked me out with their linguistically indescribable images – how the hell was I supposed to explain the computer generated purple and fluorescent green swirlies to Chip when he asked the inevitable, “What’s that?” While other kids “graduated” on to Little Einsteins at the age of 18months, Chip seemed to have failed the grade. He had not even finished watching one Baby Einstein DVD from start to finish.

This gap is more apparent at parties. While the grown-ups chat and have a good time, the TV is turned on, a DVD popped inside and the kids plonked in front of it. Chip watches it for ten minutes at the most and gets bored – of what’s happening on TV and because there are no kids to play with. But what is more amazing is that other kids his age do watch. Whole feature length movies. They know all the characters too – Shrek and Fiona and Lightening McQueen and Nemo and Spiderman and other Disney and Pixar inventions. Two and three year olds. Once, at a party, I urged Chip to see the kiddie movies. He wouldn’t. So I sat alongside him and explained what was going on and who the characters were and the general story. He appeared interested but soon found a truck to ride and scuttled away. Which brings me to another question. Do these two and three year olds follow what’s happening in a movie? Because Chip doesn’t. And that’s the reason for his boredom. He simply does not understand the story unless I explain it to him in simple words. But if other kids are engrossed, they must understand what’s unfolding and Chip is missing out on all that, or even worse, he is lagging behind in his comprehension. So, yes, I have to admit, that on some level this bothers me.

Statistics tell me kids Chip’s age watch an average of 2-3 hours of TV every day. Where do they get the time, I ask myself often. But the answer isn’t hard to see. The kids who stay at home watch it almost all day. Those that go to a daycare watch after they get home. I can understand why. Chores need to be done, dinner cooked and dishes cleaned. I do all that too. But Chip is not plonked in front of the TV. We go out everyday – to the library, to the tot lot, to take a walk. When I am on the treadmill, Chip sits on the chair in the study and we sing songs or he just potters around. When I am cooking dinner and if he gets bored and there is no one to amuse him, he is put in a warm bath with empty bottles and cups to play. And we recite shlokas and that keeps him busy for 20 minutes. He might watch a DVD if he is too sick to do anything or if he is just too bored. But it is usually a song Akdam Bakdam from Hanuman movie or a 20 minute Richard Scarry’s ABC which is full of songs. And, yes, he does after a bout of illness ask to watch the videos again, but he is whisked away to do something else, simply because I feel other things are much more interesting than watching TV. But I could be wrong.

BigGeek and I are not big TV watchers. We don’t watch TV on a daily basis. The TV does not get turned on for days at a stretch. We only watch two shows. House and Scrubs. The TV is never running in background, although music often is. Perhaps Chip has inherited our genes or he has been subject to our preferences. Perhaps it is both. But it is a fact that Chip can’t tell Shrek from Spiderman. But he can tell apart a Jumbo Jet from an F-16. He has no idea who Nemo is but he knows what a Chinook is. And perhaps, just like his nerdy parents, he is doomed to be a sad misfit in a society that seems greatly seeped in this popular culture.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Purrrfect, no?

Preethi tagged me while ago to do the seven quirky things about myself. Then Sahiti's Mom did. And then it was mnamma But I try to be so purrrfect. I don't have seven quirks. I have only three. And they are here.

The Perfect DotMom