Author: obsessivemom

I see you

I see you

Dear sister,

I know you love festivals, just like every one else. You love to dress up and celebrate and have a house full of friends and relatives.

It’s Rakshabandhan tomorrow and the children are excited as children are wont to be for almost anything at all. The husband is happy too at this break from work, looking forward to spending time at home. The in-laws, ma and papa, love the change in routine. It gives them something to think and talk about for days before and after.

Yet as the day draws close this year, I see your heart sink, just a little bit. You put away the feeling of course, overlook the fact that you really haven’t been feeling your best, dismiss it as the onset of menopause or something similar.

The evening before the festival, the day maid asks for leave. You try to persuade her to stay back, but you do it half heartedly because you know she needs to be home too. You ask her to come in for a little while and have to be grateful for that.

They day dawns, bright and sunny, a trifle humid as rainless August days often are. Soon enough the house is full of sisters across generations, some with their better halves and children in tow.

Amidst happy laughs, rakhis are tied and laddoos eaten. After the ceremony everyone settles down for long lazy conversations. Hot cups of tea arrive and soft drinks do the rounds. ACs are switched on and conversations continue as morning segues into noon.

I see you, dear sister…

……through it all, a smile on your face, that becomes increasingly mechanical as they day grows hotter. I see you readying the puja thalis, making sure the aarti is ready, checking the boxes of sweets. You add some extra rakhis because you know someone will certainly forget to carry their’s. Even as you are counting the gifts one last time you are calling out to the children, making sure they are bathed and ready in their crisp kurta-pajams. The tween tries your patience and the teen is no better.

I see you welcoming everyone, handing out cool glasses of water calling out to the teen to tie the dog because your 4-year-old nephew is scared of him, even as you hug and reassure the little one. Then you’re lighting the aarti, helping through the ceremony. I see you making and serving out those endless cups of tea, remembering precisely who wants it without sugar, who likes it black and who wants it green. You give out cold drinks – a not-so-cold one for the nephew who has a cold, chilled ones for the teens and a Frooti to the one allergic to soda. Oreos for the kids, roasted mixtures for the adults, fruits for the uncle who doesn’t have tea.

Chopping, heating, hugging, smiling, joking – you are at a hundred places at the same time.

‘Why don’t you sit down bhabhi. Take a break,’ says your sister-in-law, ‘Can I do something?’

‘No no, the maid came early and finished the cooking already,’ offers ma. ‘There’s nothing much to do.’

You nod and smile and carry on piling the cups onto the tray. You’re in the living room wiping away spilt juice and wondering when you can get started on the washing up when you hear someone call out, ‘Come on bhabhi, we’re having a family picture. We’re waiting for you.’
‘Come on,’ says the husband, ‘Don’t delay everyone.’

And you’re back, adjusting your smile, looking into the camera surrounded by your family, this family that you made your own.

As the day ends, I see you, waving to the departing guests. ‘It was a good day,’ says the husband. ‘It was,’ you echo, even while your mind is drifting to the sink full of dishes.

Don’t think of them now, dear sister, give yourself a break. I’m not even sure I’m qualified to hand out advice but I hate to see you ignore yourself so. I hate to see you exhausted. Festivals are for you as much as for the rest of the family.

Something is not right if festivals leave you mentally drained and physically exhausted. Click To Tweet

And if no one notices, maybe you have to get them to notice.

Ask for help.

  • Ask the husband to chip in.
  • Take help when the sister-in-law offers.
  • Call out to the tween to fetch and carry.
  • Let the teens get their own drinks.
  • Put them in-charge of the younger kids.
  • Order out.
  • Let the dishes pile up.
  • Eat a laddoo.

This festive season sit, talk, laugh, celebrate so your lips lift up in a genuine smile when it’s time for the family picture.

 

If you, like me are incredibly fortunate to have the freedom to mould celebrations the way you want to, you may think this is entirely a figment of my imagination. I know for a fact, however, that festivals, for scores of women, mean just so much work. And they remain unseen, unappreciated – invisible hands that get things done.

This one is for them.

 

 

Linking up with #Chatty Blogs from Shanaya Tales

The heart of a festival

The heart of a festival

Dear H and N,

Yesterday was Rakshabandhan – the day for sisters and brothers.

The popularly accepted version of the festival says that sisters should tie rakhis onto the wrists of their brothers and in return get a gift as well as a promise of lifelong protection. It’s a sweet tradition and when I was young I remember feeling envious of girls when they came to school the next day jangling their purses, telling us how much money they made. We never tied rakhis because we lacked that one key ingredient – the brother. And so we settled for mailing ours to our cousins.

Like most traditions have a way of becoming, this one too is a tad outdated. So when both of you came along we brought in some changes.

One: That you will both tie rakhis to each other.

and

Two: That there will be no gifts.

You understand the first one well enough. That thread is a pledge by both of you to help and support each other, to draw strength from each other and to be there when the other one needs you, always.

Why is it only the brother who should be ‘protecting’ his sister? Click To Tweet

‘That’s unfair’, I hear you protesting, H. And you’re right. N, you should be protesting too for the tradition implies you cannot even look after your own self let alone your brother. From the countless times you have come to his rescue, we all know how untrue that is.

Now for the second one – the one I find you resenting. You love gifts, I know and I’m sorry it disappoints you that there are none for you on Rakhi. I see the shine in your eyes when you see those rakshabandhan commercials. I love them too. I like the way they capture the festival – lit up homes, children running around in traditional clothes, dressed up adults and of course lavish gifts – elaborate gourmet chocolates and dazzling jewellery.

The sad part is that these ads lead you to believe that you must have all of that to make a festival complete. What they don’t tell you is that a celebration can be fun even without all those trappings, because they are just that – trappings, not the real thing. At the heart of every festival is something more than chocolates and jewellery. I’d much rather you focus on that core. I love a good celebration more than anyone else, you know that, well. But..

When the peripherals take over the core, become the core, it is time to take stock. Click To Tweet

When you are older and are making your own money, go ahead and get gifts for each other, get them without waiting for Rakshabandhan, and while you’re at it get some for me too.

For now, let’s just focus on the warm hugs and banter of the day. The way we get together with your cousin for a fun morning. Let our memories be of how you, H, never get used to the tika and how you protest and shake off the rice that falls onto your glasses. And when it’s your turn how you can never remember the correct finger to use or the correct hand for that matter, and the way you make a big long one for N, only to hear her complaining. And N, you remember how you have to hold H’s head up each time because he insists on looking down always?

Let’s store away in our memory the way you do “Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo” to decide which sweet you should pick for your brother after you tie his rakhi, the way you stuffed a whole big laddoo in his mouth so he couldn’t talk for a full minute. Oh and also the way he tried to aim and lob the laddoo at you when it was his turn.

Let’s remember all of that and the long chats after the ceremony, over hot cups of tea even as you, N, are bugging us all for ‘one more picture’.

It’s this – the warmth, the laughter, the teasing, the love – that are the core of the festival. Let’s not lose all of that in the clothes and the gifts.

*************

 

Linking up with Deepa and  Amrita for #MondayMommyMoments.
Kreativemommy.com
Gift your child a hobby

Gift your child a hobby

Since when N was a child looking out for rainbows in oil spills , or watching butterflies and picking flowers, she has had a special connect with nature. She’s more outdoorsy than the rest of us and is always ready for a walk.

I might grudge the times she has dragged me out of the bed on a weekend but thanks to her I do step out more often. Once the waking up is out of the way, mornings are my favourite time of the day.

A few years back she started clicking pictures on my phone. I used one of her’s for this post and that had her thrilled. Finally, for her eleventh birthday this year, we gifted her a camera. It’s the smallest most inexpensive one we could find, but it has proved to be  the best gift we could have given her. She carries it along everywhere and has been clicking everything in sight. We are hoping this is beginning of a lifelong affair with pictures.

With stress levels what they are, a hobby is important for children as well as adults. Click To Tweet

When we were kids we had plenty of spare time and that gave us the luxury of trying out and picking up hobbies on our own. ‘What is your hobby?’ used to be such a common conversation starter whether we were meeting someone for the first time or at job interviews. I don’t hear it so much any longer.

Oh the children now are way more accomplished and are doing more things than we ever did. But the important thing is – are they doing it for fun or is it just another task? Are they doing it for no reward? For no marks or medals? Simply for the pleasure it gives them without the thought of excelling at it? Are they doing it even though they may not be super good at it? Expertise might follow, of course, but it is no pre-condition for having a hobby.

That is what makes our task as parents that much harder. Did you know that people with no hobbies are more prone to ailments such as depression? Doctors ‘prescribe’ cultivating a hobby for them. And rightly so. Nothing is more relaxing than indulging in something purely for the fun of it. Here are a few more reasons why everyone should have a hobby.

The best bit is, it starts paying off even when the kids are small and goes on to yield richer dividends as they grow.

That is why I am glad N has taken to her camera. Meanwhile, she has decided she should be paid if and when I use her pictures. Yeah she’s already turning her hobby into a profession and we’ve been bargaining about the rates. This could well be the most expensive post on the blog, since I am including some of her pictures. Here they are:

Also  she has been brainstorming names her photography ‘company’ more or less settling on Peacock Pictures :-). What do you think of it?

Am I doing it right?

Am I doing it right?

This post is a Tangy Tuesday Pick at Blogadda

Once upon a time I used to be this easy person, happy to drift along whichever way life took me with the Husband for company of course. I was passionate about my work and had plenty of work-friends. We went out, frequented food festivals, attended plays, watched films, and browsed exhibitions. A lot of it was part of my job and things couldn’t have been better.

We never bothered with a master-plan for life. And it didn’t really matter.

Once we decided to have children, that changed. We had to have a plan, we had to make decisions, not just for ourselves but also for two other people and I found myself stumbling around in the dark, unsure, unprepared.

It was terrifying. It is terrifying.

Parenting is like handing over a company to a trainee with no experience and no option of quitting. Click To Tweet

Two companies in my case! And so very diverse ones at that :-).

There I was, expected to excel at the most important job of my life with only my instinct to guide me and the whole world judging me. Is that crazy or what?

Not to worry, I told myself, and got on with the task, with bits of advice from doctors and counsellors, family and friends. Soon, the bits grew into a deluge that threatened to drown me. It’s like the story of the man, the boy and the donkey. There really was no one right way.

The first few years I thought it was the physical demands of motherhood that were the toughest – the unending feeding, cleaning, boiling bottles and the long sleepless nights. I was wrong, for that was only temporary.

What didn’t change, hasn’t change even now, is the constant doubt, the indecision and the big question – am I really up to this task of turning babies into decent adults? That, is the hardest part of parenting.

The hardest thing about parenting is never being sure if one is doing it right. Click To Tweet

It begins with: Is the baby waking up too frequently because I use cloth nappies for him? And conversely: Did he get that rash because I chose diapers instead of cloth nappies?
Then : Will my baby grow up to become clingy because I opted for co-sleeping? Or Will he feel deserted because I let him sleep in the crib?
Is she refusing to eat solids because I introduced them too late? Or did she take a dislike to them because it was too early and she wasn’t ready for them?
Am I destroying his spirit because I am too strict or will he grow up spoilt because I’m too lenient?
Am I pushing her too much or am I not pushing her enough? Should I lend a hand or should I let him figure it out himself?
Will I distance my teen if I am too strict? But then how do I ensure he is safe?Should I be a parent to my child or should I be a friend?

And then there are the big ones:
Am I doing enough?
Could I have done more?
Am I doing it right?
Should I have done it differently?

Even after a decade of being a mom somedays, specially on the bad days, I am badgered by these fruitless ‘What iffs’ and there really are no answers.

The thing to do then is to tell myself the one thing I am absolutely hundred percent, sure of – No one loves my children more than I do. And that is the beginning of convincing myself that I am doing the very best I can.

How can I not?

***************

Linking up with Deepa and  Amrita for #MondayMommyMoments.
Kreativemommy.com
Food on my mind

Food on my mind

I like food – most kinds, as long as it is vegetarian, since I gave up meat over a decade ago. So basically I am grateful for all kinds of food, home-made, store-bought, gourmet, roadside all of it. I am someone who can binge even on plain paranthas and pickle, roti and baingan bharta or dal and rice.

Choosing a favourite food is like choosing a favourite from among your children. Click To Tweet

However, that won’t quite do since in this post here, I am trying to narrow down my preferences to three foods I am grateful for, just three. I’m giving you this background only so that you appreciate the effort as I try to pare down my list.

Here goes:

Food for the taste buds

My first pick is a treat purely for the taste buds. If you’re not from Lucknow you’d probably only have heard of paan ki gilauri. And that, dear friends, is gross injustice, to this decadent dessert special to my hometown – the malai gilauri or the malai paan.

What is it?

This delectable sweet has a thin layer of malai, folded like a paan (betel leaf) holding within it the most delicious filling, topped off with chandi ka vark. As the soft layer of malai begins to melt in your mouth you get the crunch of mishri and dry fruits along with a delicate flavour of kewra, rose-water and saffron. It is way more sophisticated than the regular khoa- sugar sweets, truly Nawabi, just like the city, a party of textures and flavours in the mouth. Each time I take a bite of it I am grateful for a little piece of my hometown that cannot be replicated.

Food for the soul

Here’s another one from my childhood. Meet tehri – my comfort food. It isn’t a pulao, it isn’t a biryani and it isn’t masala rice. It is just tehri.

What is it?

A rice dish flavoured with whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves) cooked together with salt, turmeric and vegetables like onions, cauliflower and peas. One of my happiest childhood memories is of winter days when our high-ceiling house would get just too cold and we would pile our plates with tehri and step out to eat in the garden with the warm sun for company. The best thing ever about this one is its utter simplicity. Anyone, just about anyone, including me, can get it right and it cooks in a jiffy. I even taught the husband to make it and that is saying something. Since I became a mom the days I come home tired and hungry I am grateful for this simple flexible dish and it always comes to my rescue – my go-to meal when I want something delicious super fast!

Food for the (peace of) mind

Lastly, I pick this universal favourite, one that I’ve learnt to be eternally grateful for specially since the twins came along. Chocolate. If only you’d have seen the storms this one has averted – it has calmed screaming children, sorted fights, wiped tears, expressed love, cheered up the saddest souls and don’t you dare bring in that whole spiel about bribes and children. Sometimes one needs a bite of happiness to keep one’s sanity. Cakes, cookies, pastries, mousse, doughnuts or plain simple bars – chocolate has never failed me. So yes I am and shall always remain grateful to chocolate in all its myriad avatars.

Note: Re-reading my post I know why I have never been able to kick off the weight and am almost tempted to go back and change at least one of them to a soup or a salad but that would be dishonest of course, not to say grossly unfair to my true loves.

***********

 

Linking up with Amrita, TinaDeepa and Mayuri. for #ThankfulThursdays.

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