Category: Reclaiming life

Welcome vanity

Welcome vanity

When I go home for the summer the one thing I do is take a mental break from being a parent and reconnect with the person I used to be. There are enough people around to pull me back the moment they see the mom-in-me taking over me-the-person.

And so it was that my sister pointed out a change that had happened so slowly, so unobtrusively, that I had barely noticed it. Since I gave up full time office I stopped bothering about the way I look.

That doesn’t mean I have become sloppy or untidy or that I lounge around in my night clothes all day. In fact, I like the routine of sitting down at my work table neatly dressed and ready to take on the day.

The difference is – it’s all done mechanically. I don’t give a thought to what I wear. I wear what I always wear. When I was going out to work, I dressed with care. If I was out on an assignment I’d be even more careful, dressing up according to where I was going or who I was meeting. I enjoyed that. It was part of the happiness of going to work. Clothes, pretty clothes, cheered me up. They do still, but somewhere along the way I stopped indulging myself.

If you are a stay-at-home-parent or a work-from-home-person you might comprehend how that happens.

Comfort takes over fashion completely. Not that I was ever ‘fashionable’ but I did own at least one pair of heels which I would fish out when the occasion demanded, I’d visit the parlour regularly and I’d wear a sari to work somedays just for fun.

Now, I find I come up with all kinds of reasons to not dress up – the sari is too cumbersome, heels too uncomfortable, skirts make me look fat, salwar suits are too difficult to maintain and so on.

So I pull on a pair of tights or my jeans and a tee and I’m good to go just about anywhere, a dressy shirt when I’m going out, a plain one when I’m home. As for the sneakers – I practically live in them. Formal events, specially those where I need to wear traditional clothes, are few and far between and always lead to panic (WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR!) so much that I look for ways to avoid them. This really needs to change.

Watching my mom is an inspiration. She religiously sticks to her nightly self-care routine, never steps out for her evening walk without changing into a starched and ironed salwar kurta and spends hours at weavers’ exhibitions picking out the most gorgeous saris.

So here it is – my resolution for the rest of the year, rest of my life hopefully: I will have more fun with the way I look.

With the children a little grown up I do have the time. Also, the change might not be huge in the physical sense of it. All one might notice is an extra dash of lip colour, the occasional eyeliner, painted toe-nails, open toed sandals or a bit of heel. Flamboyance was never my thing. Besides, this transformation is more from the inside, more about trying new things, about taking an interest in and enjoying the way I look.

The weight is there of course, it’s going to be there for sometime, maybe longer, maybe forever. However, that really shouldn’t stop me, right?

Some amount of vanity cannot hurt.

This piece here argues that vanity can be an effective motivator. So if I start enjoying the way I look I might actually be motivated to lose weight and look better and get further motivated and so on in a delightful cycle.

Sounds good, huh?

Linking up with Linking up with Nabanita’s Mommy Talks

Reclaiming life

Reclaiming life

This post won the ‘Life Changing Device’ contest on Blogadda. Got a Philips MP 3 Player for this one. Yay! The contest was judged by Kunal Sheth. You can read the other award winning entries here.

Since I started working I’ve changed cities pretty regularly. Each time I’ve looked forward to the move with great excitement. Setting up a brand new house while we stayed at the hotel was always fun. I would take a short break then start job hunting – new job, new friends, new beginnings.

However this time when the husband announced our time at Mumbai was up I had a sinking feeling. Setting up the house would be a nightmare with two four-year-olds getting underfoot. There was to be no job since I’d turned a stay-at-home-mom. We’d been in Mumbai since the kids were born and now I was to going to lose my entire support system – my friends who’d seen me through the toughest times and my trustee maid. I was leaving behind my whole world.

Just as I’d feared, the move was traumatic. The first month went by in a whirl of carpenters and plumbers. I struggled with a house that refused to run smoothly, maids who didn’t cooperate and kids who were … well.. busy being kids. And, I had no friends. The city was not new to me.. yet all my old friends were working. My mommy world didn’t connect with their media world.

Writing used to be my way to unwind and I’d started blogging right after the twins were born. The blog was for me.. just me. However, in this new house our study was at one end of the house and I couldn’t leave the kids and disappear for some ‘me’ time. The one pleasure of my life became inaccessible. It couldn’t get worse, I thought.

Alone, depressed and overworked I was nearing break point.

Some time back we had subscribed to a holiday package (which BTW we’ve never used thanks to the workaholic husband). Along with that package we got a complimentary laptop. My husband suggested I make use of it. I’m really not a technology freak. I figure out just about enough to keep myself going. The comp was an old friend but a laptop…? Desperation drew me to that dust-ridden carton in the loft. The laptop was out. I struggled to work without a mouse and surprisingly within days I was comfortable. Soon I found myself reveling in the freedom of the laptop and a wifi connection. They accompanied me to the kids’ room, the balcony, the dining table, the living room… wherever the kids chose to play. I was writing…. furiously.

Picture courtesy Google Images

That was the first step. Then I began to connect with other mothers. I found Parul who had a book to her credit despite a four-year-old and a baby (now she has two, books, I mean), Mad Momma and Rohini, also moms with two kids each who held full time jobs and surprise surprise there was momofrs who had twins just like me. They were in their terrible twos and she was a working mom. There was Y who has a young daughter followed by twins.. gasp. Could it get any tougher?

They all generously opened the doors of their hearts and their homes to me through their blogs. It felt like family. I could talk about my son’s tantrums and my daughter’s homework issues without fear of being judged. Oh I know they weren’t reading my blog but I was reading their’s and when I wrote I felt I was talking to them all… like I had ‘friends’ out there. They had the same issues, unruly kids and absconding maids included. And they talked about much more.. book reviews, films, family functions, issues, impressions. They were out there doing it all. Maybe I could too.

And then I discovered blog directories. For the first time I entered a contest and found myself attempting to write something NOT to do with my kids in a long time – a first since I quit my job. That was the icing on the cake. Then I actually won the contest .. talk about the cherry on the icing.

Coincidentally around the same time a few of my articles/stories were selected for various publications and I was actually paid for them.. hah. I was on a roll.. damn I AM on a roll. I have more virtual friends than real ones. I’m not sure that’s healthy but at least they’ve kept me sane.

My laptop and the wifi, that’s where it all started, that’s how I reclaimed my life.

Check out Buytheprice.com and connect with Indian Bloggers at BlogAdda .

Happy happy happy

Happy happy happy

After five years, writing something that’s worth publishing feels so goooooood. Even if it’s Chicken Soup…
Thank You Bhopal!
************

Writing a new story

I’m sorry we don’t have anything suitable for you,” said the receptionist behind the desk as she handed me my resume. I felt the now familiar feeling of despair. I counted off mentally — this was the fifth ‘no’ I’d received over the week.

It had been four months since my husband’s transfer brought us to this small town and I felt like a fish out of water. Life seemed to have come to a stand still after the hustle and bustle of vibrant Mumbai. I missed my work, my colleagues, my friends. God, I even missed the overcrowded Mumbai locals. My job with a large financial corporation seemed like a distant dream. Back in the nineties, smaller Indian towns had barely any financial activity. For someone used to spending over 12 hours at work, sitting home was punishment. I needed to work.

I went to the few placement agencies in the city. Not satisfied with that I went to the business hub and dropped off my resume at all suitable offices.

No luck! Either I was rejected for being ‘over qualified’ or the jobs just didn’t excite me. Now, after almost a month of serious job hunting I was still jobless.

I pored over my resume looking for other qualifications I could use. I had a dual specialization in marketing and finance… so if finance wasn’t working out maybe it was time for a marketing job. Every city needed people to market something, I reasoned. I had no experience but I had to give it a shot.

Soon I was back at the offices with a new resume highlighting my marketing qualifications, back to the placement agents telling them I was okay with a marketing job.

Then followed another wearisome round of interviews and the ‘no-thank-yous’ really hurt. There were times I had a brusque ‘no vacancy’ flung at me heartlessly. Sometimes people would glance at my resume and dismiss me with a curt ‘but you have no experience’. Other times the reasons were bizarre. ‘You are an MBA but you will be reporting to a graduate, it won’t work’ even stranger ‘we have an all-male team, you’re a girl you just won’t fit’. I’d have laughed if I hadn’t been so miserable. Worse, there were times I couldn’t even get past the receptionist. I’d plead with her to let me meet the management. But they were always ‘busy’.

It was frustrating and I despaired. Was there really nothing I could do? I felt worthless. My self-confidence, always a tad shaky, took a deep plunge. My husband was busy with the demands of his new assignment and I felt well and truly alone.

Then one day a neighbour dropped in. While I brought her water she idly flipped through the ‘crib diary’ I’d left on the table. This was an informal journal where I’d often pour out my anguish after tough days of job-hunting. “You write quite well,” she remarked casually, even as I took the journal from her, terribly embarrassed about my private ramblings. She left but the thought remained. After months of rejection the compliment felt good. I was good at something.. or was she merely being polite? I dismissed the thought and tried to busy myself with the housework.

That evening over dinner I mentioned the incident to my husband. “I know someone at the local newspaper why don’t you check with him. Maybe they have something suitable for you,” said he. Newspaper? No way. My only relationship with the entire publishing industry had been that of an avid reader. It was unchartered territory.

However I did make an appointment with the shift-in charge. I had

nothing to recommend me – no qualifications, no background, no experience. However I firmly pushed back all my anxieties. I tried to concentrate on what I DID have. My Convent education and love for books ensured that I was fairly well acquainted with the intricacies of written English. That was all I had.

The next morning armed with the shreds of my confidence and my resume (Why was I carrying it I wondered?) I went to the newspaper office. I had nothing to lose — perhaps it was that thought that gave me courage. I told the shift in charge I had never worked in publishing before. He silently handed me a copy and said, “Edit it.” When I finished I handed it back to him. I waited with baited breath for the dreaded ‘you won’t fit’ line.

“This is not bad,” said he, “but you realize you’ll be starting at the bottom of the ladder?” Bottom of the ladder? My brain repeated… I’m being offered a job, the thought took coherence. I stopped myself from whooping with joy and managed to reply with a sedate “Yes that’ll be fine.”

“Well then go down to the Personnel Department and work out the compensation,” said he. I tripped out feeling suddenly light and euphoric.

That’s not the end of my story, though. Each day I was assailed with doubts, I made mistakes and got laughed at. But I learnt. I learnt the intricacies of news reporting, of conducting interviews, of scanning pictures, of dummies and layouts, of ads that came in at the last moment and upset my careful space calculations. Each day was a challenge and I fell in love with it all. I’d never enjoyed work so much before.

Ironically enough a year later I was approached by the financial corporation I had been working for in Mumbai. They were setting up office in our city and wanted me to head the operations. And guess what, it was my turn to say ‘no-thank-you’.

The renuion

The renuion

May 2010
A reunion with Loreto girls… wow I thought.. it had been over 20 years since I met up with everyone. It was to have been a rendezvous with three pals, then there were five, another one joined in and then another one. Finally on a hot May afternoon eight of us gathered for lunch.

Time works in strange ways… it changes some things beyond recognition even while leaving others untouched.
It had turned skinny girls into pleasantly plump women while leaving the smiles intact. It had, quite magnanimously, allowed the plump ones to keep their curves while taking away their self-consciousness replacing it with comfort that comes only with..yes…time.

It had turned jet black hair silver, while leaving quicksilver tongues untouched.

It had transformed gawky teenagers into lively women, with their ability to giggle hysterically intact.

One thing was for sure the teens were far far behind us. Oh well not quite.. the excitement of the reunion melted the years away and turned us back into rowdy teens. Someone upturned a glass full of water while someone else knocked over the tissue box. The rest chatted animatedly, as comments flew around and camera’s clicked in a bid to savour and capture the moment.

The young couple at the secluded table next to us beat a hasty retreat followed by barely concealed hoots from the rowdier ones.. while the others tried unsuccessfully to shush them. Waiters hovered around trying in vain to get us to place an order. Who had time for food when each had a quarter century of tales to tell?

Looks came under the scanner first…..
‘You so look the same..’
‘When did you get cholesterol deposits on your eyes?’
‘Why on earth don’t you colour your hair? I hate to be seen with an aunty.’
‘You were so thin in school… what happened?’

…. then the catching up….
‘You’re a principal? Gosh.. unbelievable.’
‘Your son’s 17, how lucky is that! I’m still struggling with my four-year-old twins.’
‘…92 pc in her boards…. Great.’
‘Do you still sing?’
‘An Hod? Can you actually tell off students?’

‘…in dad’s real estate business? That’s something!’

‘… settled in Jaipur? Wow great place.’

…. And the unending memories… 25-year-old school gossip that still seemed so interesting.. the scandals that seemed so huge back then…. the shared punishments…. the dreaded subjects…

Of course there were the teachers — the quirky and scary.. the elegant and the frumpy…all of those who struggled to make ‘young ladies’ out of us. There was the tough librarian thanks to whom we never could still turn corners down in books, the oh-so-propah English teacher who taught us to appreciate Shakespeare and get the pronunciation just right, the nun who walked around with a pillow to sit on, the music teacher who exhorted us non-singers not ‘slide over’ the notes… the memories were endless.

As we relived them our school days seemed to come alive.

Finally the order was placed.. rather, over placed.. each thought the others were big eaters. Between bites of paranthas and kebabs the talk continued till responsibilities beckoned.. there were businesses calling, kids to be put to sleep, husbands to be taken care of.

With promises to keep in touch and meet again we dispersed, each becoming a grown up again leaving behind our teens in the restaurant.

Mama’s day out – N

Mama’s day out – N

Mama went to the gym today. I would have liked to say ‘mama started going to the gym today’ but she’s so doubtful whether she will be able to continue that she wants to take it a day at a time. She told the entire society that she’d be away for an hour and that they should keep an eye on us, as if Sophia didi wasn’t enough. And that too when she went during our morning nap. It became a tad embarrassing because she was supposed to start a week back but she couldn’t because both of us fell ill and everyone from our doctor to our neighbours was asking ‘Have you started going to the gym?’ I think it was all the pressure that finally pushed her to go today.

Anyway, she came back all sweaty but very happy. As far as I am concerned her absence was quite uneventful but bhai had a crying fit as soon as she left and didn’t sleep at all. Sophia didi says he dreamt that mama would be gone and that’s what made him wake up. I say that’s all rubbish. Sophia didi gets these weird ideas. The other day we overheard her asking the cook, how she can ward off the evil eye from us. She was complaining that when we go down EVERYONE looks only at us. Some one just has to say ‘how cute’ to me or ‘how chubby’ to bhai to get her all worked up. Well some of it might be her imagination but we do seem to be the favourite playthings for a lot of older kids around. Sharvari and Shalmali love to take us in their godi, Ankita likes to swirl bhai and make him laugh, Trija holds our hand and makes us walk, Yash and Jai just love to pet both of us, Tamanna gets a special football keychain that Rit bhai likes to play with and Khushi hangs around us because she’s too shy to say anything… and that’s just some of our older pals…but Sophia didi doesn’t understand that they are our friends, how can they cast an evil eye on us?

Anyway the cook did give her a recipe involving a lemon and she made mama buy it. That irritated mama no end but she did get the lemons.

Meet me on Instagram @obsessivemom06

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