25 September, 2007

Changes Abound !!

“They’re changing – are they not ?” is a question oft heard, nowadays. Just the other day saw me and Vic talking about how Abhay is evolving – how he was last year, how he is now. Every now and then, when we compare notes on both the children, one thing that stands out is the element of change.

Transformations are in progress every given minute – such is the nature of change. It may be extremely minute or vibrantly evident – all the same – one cannot deny the existence, the reality, the veracity of this element of time that refuses to stand still. At every given moment, there is always some makeover taking place – in the children, in us, in just about everything. The equation is ever evolving.

"Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations" ~ Faith Baldwin

This, I guess, is precisely why there is this incessant need to capture facets of both Appu and Abhay’s personalities. To try and preserve segments and fragments of memory for posterity. To create a time bubble linguistically which can be looked into many many years down the line. And giving credence to the need to capture these times is the factor of change.

It is akin to holding a fistful of sand in our hands. The sand slips through our fingers because that is precisely what nature intended. And then we pick up another fistful of sand and this slips through too – but the capricious nature of life does predict that the pace at which the sand slips through does not necessarily have to be the same.

About a month back, as the summer holidays dwindled to an end and as another year at school beckoned, Appu and me had been to school to pick up her new uniforms. And her excitement was quite palpable. She was so looking forward to starting school after a one and a half month break. That enthusiasm, that anticipation of starting school in a new campus was very evident. That exhilaration, that vibrancy was also quite naturally tinged with a wee bit of apprehension – those little shades of trepidation which are a understandable accompaniment to anything new and as yet unexplored. The wings are making their presence felt and they are waiting to fly, to seek, to learn, to unearth and to succeed in the endeavour.

These past few months have seen new facets emerge in both Appu and Abhay’s personalities.

Aparna is learning to strike a balance and is learning to infuse evenness to her thoughts and actions.

Simple things like buying a new school bag – for instance - a couple of months before the summer holidays began, she was insistent that she needed a trolley bag. By the time school was all set to reopen, there was no such talk. A week before school reopened, I had asked her to empty her school bag of all its contents so that it could be washed and dried well ahead of next week. That was when I expected the “trolley bag” issue to come up again. Surprisingly, it did not. When her grandma asked her about it later on she simply said “I don’t need another bag right now. And we don’t have to carry any books or anything to and from school so I don’t need a trolley bag.” Plain and simple.

Yet again, when we were getting back from school the day we went over to pick up her new uniforms, I asked her if she was hungry and if she wanted something to eat. The earlier Appu would have jumped at the opportunity and asked for a burger or chicken wings or some such thing. That day, her reaction was “I am not really hungry right now. Lunch can wait till we get home”.

At school too, she is definitely getting more and more assertive. She is learning to put her foot down where necessary and keep it there.

At home the word most often heard from her nowadays is “Whateverrrrrr” with that twist and twang and that drawl to it that seems to herald a glimpse of what we would possibly be in for a few years from now.

Wherein a bit of pushing around could get her to compete a task soon earlier on, the same kind of pushing and insisting leads to irritated looks now.

A irritated “Pchhhhh” followed by a (*sigh*) is only all too common an occurance. And inevitably, the “pcchhhh” sound is followed by a roll of the eyes or a sideward pursing of the lips. Whilst previously she was extremely dense as regards the body language of the other people around her, now that sense is getting sharpened and honed. She seems to be able to sense “irritation, exasperation and annoyance” only too well.

Just the other day saw Vic mentioning that in another 3-4 years she’ll officially be a teenager. What storms or typhoons head our way, we know not. But over the span of the next few years, we’ll just have to prepare ourselves for the typhoon by taping up the windows as best as we can.

Abhay too has is changing. Just the other day while he was running past, I tried to grab hold of him for a quick hug – something he has never ever resisted in the past. And there he was, all squirming and wriggling to get away. I thought it was all a part of the game and that he would start squealing and laughing any moment but what he said was “Let me go. Let me go Mummy. I don’t want hug now.”

Something as simple as waving bye bye to one of the security guards in our apartment complex was something he would do naturally a few months back but now he wants to choose when he waves and when he does not. Sometimes he says “I don’t want to say bye.” Little things, I know – but viewed on a macro level, is rather significant.

There was this phase where he would say the opposite of whatever it was that we said. That was jest. Now when he says “No” it is a word filled with meaning.

Even while working on his CD-ROMS or while writing, he categorically refuses help of any sort. “No. I’ll do it.” is the reply that is oft heard.

Brushing his teeth, putting the light switches on and off (with the help of a footstool), dragging his bike down the steps – all little things – which now have the unmistakable stamp of “independence” all over. “I don’t need help. I’ll do it” he says. Why he does not exhibit and flaunt his independence over the rather pertinent issue of feeding himself is totally beyond me. I mean – isn’t there supposed to be some kind of logic to these things ? I sure have heard of Selective Perception – but Selective Independence !!! ??

There is evidently a sense of achievement and pride in him when he brings home his artwork/craftwork from school. “I made this” he says. And just about everyone on the way home from school is made to stand and listen to him as he tells them what he made at school and what artwork he is carrying home from school.

Little signs that the children are growing up. It’s the way of life. It is bound to happen. It is something that all parents want. We too don’t want our children hanging on to our coattails for ever.

"If growing up is the process of creating ideas and dreams about what life should be, then maturity is letting go again." ~ Mary Beth Danielson

These little people, whom we got to know pretty well over a span of nine-odd months, those little hands which looked up to their parents to steady them as they took their first steps, those little babies are growing up and seem well on their way towards forging an identity of their own. Growing up to know that they are individuals in their own rights who can make simple decisions for themselves – more importantly, decisions which, within certain boundaries and limits, would indeed be respected.

“When are you going to grow up ?” I used to ask them with a rather exasperated sigh, earlier on.

And now that they are indeed growing up, it seems so very bittersweet.

A part of you gushes with satisfaction, eyes and heart swell with pride and say “Yes. That’s the way to go. Break free slowly but steadily, plant your feet firmly on the ground by yourself, spread your wings, fly, soar and reach for the sky and aim for the stars.”

And yet, there is undeniably that little niggly voice deep within the heart which cries out and says “No. Not yet. I’m not ready for this. Not just yet.”

A quote from “The Wonder Years” sums it up very aptly .....

"Change is never easy. You fight to hold on. You fight to let go."

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22 September, 2007

Ganapati Bappa .......

Last Saturday (15th September 2007), like we do every year, we celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi.

The Kozhukattai Neivedyam was scheduled for the evening and come afternoon, Mommy and Grandma were busy making Kozhukattais. Two little apprentii were at hand to roll out the purnam and help us stuff it into the dough made out of rice flour.

Whilst the kozhukattai making was in progress, Vic got back home from work. And told both Appu and Abhay that the kozhukattai dough could be used to create shapes and stuff too.

Now it so happened that there was very little of the plain dough left. Most of it had already been used up to cover the purnams (fillings). So, well before brains started to work overtime, eyes started to look at the yet-unsteamed kozhukattais from a new angle and before little hands decided to try and undo some of the dough in order to facilitate the "creation" of new shapes - Mommy directed them towards their pots of PlayDoh.

Fortunately for Mommy, it had been a while since they had laid their hands on PlayDoh and so - with the excitement and hullabaloo that only children are capable of - off they went in search of the pots of PlayDoh. Back them came in a jiffy (by which time the Kozhukattais were safely resting within the confines of the pressure cooker) looking for newspapers to spread on the floor. Off they went again with the bounty (newspapers) clutched in their hands.

Mommy just could not resist joining them and after a while Grandma too followed.

And this is what we created with PlayDoh on last Saturday.

The PlayDoh Ganeshas alongwith the small plate of PlayDoh Modaks and Bananas and the two small bunches of cherries and the one mango and the vettalai pakku too were placed on the prayer shelf. The Neivedyam done, the modaks (kozhukattais) beckoned all of us from the dining table.

It was when Appu was attacking the Kozhukattais that we saw trouble brewing. Abhay, who had been giving her rather baleful looks, walked up to her and asked her very seriously

"Aparna - why are you eating Ganesha's modaks ?"
"That's Ganesha's modak."

Aparna, the modak all forgotten on her plate, was desperately trying to come up with a reason plausible enough for Abhay to buy.

She did finally manage to stave him off long enough to polish off the Modaks on her plate. Abhay did not want to have any because he kept repeating - "They are Ganesha's Modaks".

All of us who did have the Kozhukattais were subjected to the same round of interrogation.

All this because while we were making the modaks Abhay was, as usual, full of questions. And Grandma told him that Lord Ganesh likes modaks and so we make modaks for him on Ganesh Chaturthi day.

Next time onwards, memory ought to serve right and there does need to be an added clause to such explanations in that after the pooja God does indeed give human beings permission to consume the Neivedyam.

As far as Appu is concerned - her penchant for Kozhukattais (Modaks) has led her face to face with a dilemma of sorts. A catch-22 situation, if I may call it.

Cos her proclivity and partiality towards Modaks led Daddy to coin Appu's latest nickname (which is in use till date).

The nickname being "Modakeshwari" !!!

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17 September, 2007

What's In A Name ??

Well, I’m swimming in a sea of tags right now. To take stock, at last count, to list the tags (that I'm yet to do), I’ve been tagged by

ChoxBox and Moppet’s Mom to list out five of my OCDs (Gawd – you think I’m going to stop at five !!!)

Boo to list out my favourite Indian Authors.

CeeKay to list out “What I admire most in people”.

JLT – with the Thinking Blogger tag.

Well, get around to these tags, I shall, in due course.

Like the saying goes – “Better late than never”.

But the tag that has really caught my fancy – and not surprisingly enough – the one I’ve not been tagged for – is the one with giving our babies and children all sorts of names.

We’ve been pulling our kids’ legs ever since they’ve been able to recognize that they are having their legs pulled. If they get exasperated with us in the process, well ........ so much the better. May they grow really tall !!!!

When Appu was born, being the first grandchild on both sides of the family, there was indeed much fanfare. And the usual nicks like Kunju, kunjukutti, Chella Kutti, SonaPapa, Sweetie Pie, Sugar Plum and the like were bestowed upon her. And to give credence to my sweet tooth – there have been innumerable times when I’ve called her something as whacky as GubbuJamun, Sonpapdi, ChikkiChikki, Lochogolla, Dubbudumundi (god alone knows what this means – this must have been during one of those “off the cuff” naming sessions).

It was just a question of time before her mad parents took stock of the situation, decided that the nicknames assigned were a little too sweet and logical for their taste, got hold of her and started to confer titles on her.

We had named her our very own "ShoePolish" – what with her tendency to pull any given footwear within her reach and quite literally get it to “spit and shine”.

Also during her toddler years, she used to do this monkey dance whenever the Falguni Pathak CD was playing and she used to be egged on by her loony parents who used to pelt her rather vociferously with a multitude of “Naach Jhamoore Naach”. And there used to be a lot of laughter and hand clapping – so much so that the little tyke did not realise that “naach jhamoore naach” is used, for the most part, to refer to a dancing monkey.

Then the little human that was our daughter started to speak. Illegibly at first – but speak she did. And this opened up a whole new vista for us, as far as assigning nicks was concerned.

Her first attempts at speaking brought forth something like “Aashomay Kinkaayoo”. To everything and anything we asked her – her reply would be Aashomay. For that matter when I had taken her for her admission interview at the kindergarten, the principal asked her if she wanted a book to read and she immediately piped up “Aashomay Aashomay” And the principal, in all of her infinite wisdom, smiled and said “Oh – she’s speaking her mother tongue”. And there I was, struggling to contain the mirth and laughter that threatened to erupt rather dangerously at any given moment. It had taken me all my self-control and then some to give the principal a smile and just leave it at that.
Till date, my B-I-L, while speaking to me, refers to Appu as "Aashomay Kinkaayoo".

Whenever she would get hurt – it could be something as simple as a mosquito bite – she would say “ouch patla” and so for a while “ouch patla” she was.

Other names that we had coined were rather chaste ones like “roly poly”, “jelly belly”, “Appu Tubby” (what with her fascination for the Teletubbies), chakkapazham (jackfruit).

We started to call her “Appu Star” (when she was so taken in with the rhyme Twinkle Twinkle little Star which soon mutated into “Appu Thaaath” (Cos that’s how she pronounced the word star).

Then we had this full time helper who used to call her "Abarnan". She never used to mind it then, what with the innocence that one associates with children under five years of age but now - if at all we need to get on her nerves (as though we don't do that often enough) - we know just what to do - call her Abarnan. It gets to her like nothing else does !!

Then along came Abhay and gave Appu a break from the naming ceremonies that her loopy parents used to bestow upon her and upon her alone.

As far as us, the batty parents were concerned, hee haa haw, we now had one more person on whom we could unleash our linguistic acumen, as far as coining nicknames went.

Abhay too has had his share of fairly chaste nicknames like Kuttan, Abhaykutti, chinjukutti, sonapapa, kunjupapa, sonaraja, chickpea etc…..

When he was a baby – a couple of months old – we fooled around with a picture of his – unleashing artistic tendencies gave rise to a mustache – a small, eeny weeny mustache.

Things started to get interesting when this little lock of hair right in the middle and front of his head started to have a mind of its own. No matter what was tried, this little lock of hair would not – I repeat – would not flatten itself onto his scalp. It would just go Booooiiinggg like a spring and curl up. Therefrom arose Abhay’s nick “Springroll”.

And it certatinly looks like this “nicknaming gene” which we have, I’m sure, bequeathed to our kids, is an active one in Abhay. How else could he have named his bottom - Annie and Clarabelle ??

During his first year of kindergarten, his name was changed to that of a girl by the supervisor at their school. "AaaaBhaaaaa" - her voice used to resonate and she used to sport a smile to match. A smile so very ingratiating and victorious as though she'd just climbed all the way to the top of Mount Everest. She probably thought she'd finally pronounced one Indian name right !!! And I used to wince in discomfort each and every time she called out his name. To tell her how to pronounce his name and more importantly, to get her to pronounce his name correctly - felt like I was banging my head on a wall.

And now that they are both grown up enough, things are just getting better for the nutty adults that they have for parents.

Together, they have shared nicknames like Tom and Jerry, Calvin and Hobbes, Timon and Pumbaa – which are the more sane ones.

A few months back we used to call them Sushi and Sashimi. Abhay even used to respond to me calling him “Sashiiiiimiiiii” and pat used to come the reply “Yeess Mummmeeee”.

By far the best, is what we were calling them a couple of weeks back when we needed to call them both together - “lost and found”.

When I mentioned in my earlier post that we have more than our share of nutty characters at home – I was not referring to Abhay alone !!!

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13 September, 2007

Oh !! The So Very Quirky Abhay !!

The incredibly humorous mother of Kuttimeow has tagged Abhay with the ‘quirky’ tag. I honestly was going to leave this tag open for Abhay to do himself when he grew up enough. But wiser counsel prevailed. Simple reason – I dare not !!! With K’s mom promising to send more missiles my way [oh yeah – she’s already sent one missile all the way to HK and boy oh boy – it sure found its mark and then some :-)], I kind of decided not to risk it.

Now after K’s Mom reads the above, I’m sure a missile is going to head my way anyways – if it has not already been launched, that is !!!

Awright – that is enough digression on my part. Abhay and his quirks .... here goes .....

Anything and everything under the sun, moon, planets, stars has to be either preceded or followed by a barrage of “Why’s”, “How’s”, “What’s”, “Why nots” and the like. We live in a world that is swimming with questions right now. Questions that could well be downright silly or questions that could totally take ones breath away with its clarity of thought. But questions rule the roost !!!

While on our way to school (and this is only on the way to school and not while coming back home – even though the route we take is the same) – he has to, come hell or high water – he has to count the steps while on his way down the steps. “One, Two, Three …..” he goes in his singsong voice and if he happens to jump down double steps or if he happens to forget to count a step – then God help me !!

He has an unquestionable accent. The way he twirls the “R’s” and the “C’s” and the “K’s” and many more – the accent is unmistakable. Where he got an accent from or where he learnt to speak that way – we have absolutely no idea. Ever since he started to speak out loud, the accent has been there too.

He loves to spray water on Timmy the turtle. He uses the water sprayer that I normally use to spray water while ironing clothes and liberally sprays water all over our pet turtle. Best part – the turtle does not seem to mind either. Generally what Abhay gets in return is a rather bored look which seems to say “Hey don’t you have anything better to do ?” and it is that very bored look which sends Abhay into a laughing fit.

Not only does he feed the fishes now, he also sits patiently near the aquarium pointing out to each and every pellet that floats in the water. “Eat, Fishy Eat this, Fishy Eat that, Fishys Finish your food” is oft heard. And once the fishes have finished their pellets he simply has to say to them “Now go - wash your hands”.

Abhay gets right royally drunk on Mango Juice. Frooti especially. We noticed this while in Bombay last year. He totally goes bonkers, speaks gibberish, behaves like a cracked up coconut once a pack of Frooti finds its way into his tummy. For that matter, once the Frooti is in, he cannot even walk straight. So if it is some wholesome in-house entertainment we are after, we know just what to do – give Abhay a pack of Frooti, sit back with a bag of popcorn and enjoy the show !!! Cos once he downs a pack of Frooti, Abhay turns into a very potent source of entertainment.

While walking, out of the blue, he has this habit of patting the legs which are right in front of him. Front of the leg, back of the leg – it just does not matter. Specificity exists – in that only female legs get patted and it is always a couple of inches above the knee – and no before anyone gets any ideas – it has never gone any higher. There has been many a time when I’ve been at the receiving end of dirty looks, shocked looks, gasps …. You name it !!! Someday, if I ever get beaten up, you know exactly whom to thank !!

McDonalds is never just McDonalds to Abhay. It is always “Old McDonalds”. “I eat fries at Old McDonalds”. “I eat some chicken at Old McDonalds”. The menu might differ – but the name never does.

Space still remains a huge obsession. Only difference being that the focus of interest has now shifted to the satellites of each of the planets. Right now, the planet under scrutiny is Jupiter. So words like Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto are heard quite often. To a passerby, it might well seem like we speak in a rather “unearthly” language. And till date, the “Space Book” (Abhayspeak) gifted to him by Aunty Tharini has not lost its charm. When he needs to take a look at and reassure himself that all the planets and stars up in the sky are all well and safe, Abhay is normally seen marching off to the bookshelf and returning with his “Spacebook” clutched in his hands. Thanks Aunty T !!

Ask him to brush his teeth 10 times a day and he will – simply because he loves to “gargle and spit” at the end of every brushing session.

He has to – absolutely, unquestionably and categorically has to wipe his nose upwards. He so does not hold his nostrils and wipe down with the tissue – it has to be an upward swipe. So much so that a tiny eeny weeny line has formed on his nose – what with all those repeated upward twists that his poor nose has to put up with. If he continues like this, his nose is pretty much going to end up with strong shades of resemblance to a capsicum.

The vehicle mania still continues unabated. His collection of wheelies has grown exponentially. And now added to the list of wheely fascinations is something without wheels – boats. Or should I say “Bauts” (that's accented Abhayspeak). And he loves to travel in them too. Come Sunday, the whole entourage is seen heading towards the ferry terminus and then onwards to one of HK’s outlying islands, on a Baut, of course.

He seems to change into something else everyday – or for that matter – many times during each day. As of yesterday, he was a firefighter trying to spray water and put out fires on Aparna (who, incidentally, was posing as a building on fire) – that addendum just in case anyone got the impression that we actually set our kids on fire. And the building on fire and the firefighter successfully completed their mission complete with sound effects – plenty of times over. We’d anyday put the Addams family to shame !!!

Like someone once said,

Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts.

Well, what can I say !!! We have more than our share of nutty characters at home !!!

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04 September, 2007

Craftwork - Project Rakhi

Raksha Bandhan was just around the corner. And the thought suddenly dawned on me that I had done absolutely nothing towards procuring a Rakhi. Bright tool that I am, this does not surprise me - not one bit. And to people who think that I am organised, well ...... , this should serve as a huge neon billboard, effectively advertising the fact that I am not - organised, I mean.

Gave the whole issue a lot of thought and realised that I was so not looking forward to buying a Rakhi. Because of the simple reason that Rakhis are available only in the Indian stores and invariably the Rakhi's look either pathetic or downright gaudy and flashy. Either way they look as if they have been through the manufacturing process ...... say about a decade back. That is a fairly safe and reasonable estimate, given the condition they are in, when on display in the shops here.

Realisation dawned - that there was enough crafting material at home to "make" a Rakhi. There was just one little problem - there was no appropriate "dhaaga" available at home. Tried imagining how a "dhagaless" rakhi would look ..... and that idea fell flat on its face before it even took off.

Just as I was trying to imagine and conjure up all kinds of dhaaga possibilities - ranging right from the thread used for the diyas to some of Aparna's old and discarded hairbands - the inspiration presented itself. Or rather, it sort of came walking to me !!!!

Who else but Abhay !!!

He was walking around with a paper bag, trying to pry the bag open by pulling on its handles. The idea quite apparently had been to invert the bag on his head once he had managed to pull the bag open. His noble intentions were thwarted by a loud screech that emanated from his Mommy. Screech that came about not because he was going to invert the bag on his head but because momma had found exactly what she had been looking for - the dhaaga. The very same "so very difficult to get hold of" dhaaga had now become the "so very ubiquitous" dhaaga.

Yes - the handles of paper bags which are invariably made of a silky sort of material. There had been plenty right under my nose but it took a bit of monkey behaviour from Abhay for inspiration to strike.

First started off Project Rakhi by cutting off one of the handles from a small paper bag. Chose one which was on the thinner side and silvery grey in colour. Then used a fine toothed comb to slightly frizzle out the edges of the handle to give it that tassel-like appearance.

Now for the main body of the rakhi.

There were many sheets of suede-like craft material in many different colours at home - also thanks to a stationery shopping binge that I had once been on.

Chose to stay with the familiar "circle-shaped" rakhi.

A deep maroon background looked rather visually appealing and so - maroon it was.

Cut out two circles from the maroon suede sheet. And to achieve perfect circles, a one-dollar coin was brought into play. A circle traced and cut out and then another circle.

Decided to cover the dhaaga on both sides with the suede just in case the dhaaga irritated the skin. With the suede cushioning the dhaaga, that problem would not arise.

Ran into a slight problem here because the two pieces of maroon suede (with the dhaaga running through them) refused to adhere with PVA glue. So then, had to resort to using various single stitches all over the outer rim of the circles and some more stitches to ensure that the dhaaga stayed in place.

Next came the decoration of the Rakhi.

We had some sequins leftover from one of last year's art projects which had been sent to Abhay's school. One of those sequins was transformed into the centrepiece of the rakhi.

Some more of the suede sheets were brought into play - this time in many different colours. Cut out two little pieces each from four different colours and shaped them into small petals.

A generous helping of PVA glue and a multiple of crossed fingers and the glue did work its magic. The petals stayed stuck to the main body of the rakhi.

Now all that remained was to jazz the whole thing up and add some glitter to the rakhi. Not to mention, cover up the stitches that were somewhat visible around the outer rim of the rakhi.

Glitter glue to the rescue.

And this is what the rakhi looked like.

Surprise, delight, awe, enchantment, glee, fascination – all rolled into one was what I saw in Aparna and Abhay’s eyes and demeanor when they took a peek at the Rakhi.

And that look on the two little faces when they glimpsed upon the Rakhi, all completed and ready, will always remain a very very dear and cherished memory.

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