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Tuesday, February 28, 2023

When having a coffee/tea with a friend is the right thing to do...

It had been a difficult week with the loss of a loved one in the family and emotional distress manifesting as physical ailments. It is so interesting what your mind can do to your body! I really needed sometime away from working woman and parent role this weekend. And coffee/tea with a friend seemed like the perfect thing to do.

Sipping hot tea and coffee at Common Good Cafe, we looked outside! It was snowing and the early afternoon looked so pretty, and yet melancholy at the same time. We talked about life!

As anyone who has seen someone suffer from long-term illness from close knows, it is not only the person who suffers. The care taker is the one who blends in the background but suffers as much- if not more. Most often when this suffering ends for the person, it tends to continue for the care-taker as a loss of purpose as well as emptiness. Their whole life gets sucked into care-taking that imagining a life after- becomes very difficult. Sometimes this 'new life' opens a path into breaking of gender norms and increased mobility. Other times, it comes along with unimaginable responsibilities. Life has a weird way of distributing happiness - doesn't it?

Our conversation turned towards parenting. Guess you never take a break from being a parent- do you? We both had been reading the book by Heather Shumaker 'Its Ok NOT to Share' and had been meaning to debrief on it! It is a fascinating read and so many of the topics 'hit close to the heart'. We talked as how taking turns makes so much sense instead of sharing. We won't give up reading a magazine if another person 'wants' it, would we? 'Sharing food and taking turn with toys' as Shumaker observes in the book. Guarding free play for children was another important one which came up for us instead of dictating what to play for them. Children have a right to free play and their own imagination!

My friend shared as how she has started writing down her 1.5 years old toddler's feelings on paper 'making them real'. For example, one of the days when they were feeling down, she asked if they missed their Papa. When the toddler indicated 'yes', she wrote down- Dear Papa, I miss you, Love Z. The toddler held on to the note and asked her to read it to them- again and again. They felt better after that expression. It was amazing for me to realize how words out aloud can affect us. And quietly also in my head, I realized I got to be careful as what I am speaking in front of my kid- they are like sponges. Last thing I want my kid to be out with a bunch of sh***y words in public.

The author also talks about the controversial topic about 'gun-play'. We chatted as how it is different (and dangerous) for some racial groups to do 'this harmless play' rather than other privileged ones. It is also different in different geographical contexts based on easy access to guns. We agreed that the context of 'gun play' made us nervous as parents. Maybe we will come to those terms when we get there. Some things are best dealt with when we come to that stage- aren't we learning each day as parents and as human beings?

Being two moms on a conversation date, we also had to talk about one toddler transitioning from two naps to one (it is hard work-if you are a parent you know that!) and the other toddler falling from surfaces and squirting sanitizer into his eyes (sigh!).Then we hopped in and out of the store picking up some things and sharing some more of life. The best conversations are when they flow- just like water! And best friendships are when we can do chores together- as my dear friend reflected! A perfect afternoon on a cold windy day. Couldn't have asked for more.....

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Saga of a Valentine's gift!

Last Valentine's day ( our first one as parents), my hubby got a beautiful succulent as a gift for me along with balloons and chocolates 💓 So thoughtful! Right away, I noticed the plant looked dull despite gorgeous flowers. As it happened, in order to keep it a surprise he had left the plant in freezing cold car over night! Of course the poor one was almost frozen to death! As the saying goes, "it's the thought that matters". But this plant mattered to me a lot- especially after I had already killed the rose plant he gifted me in 2019 during my postpartum blues last year! Sigh!

Photo of a pink blooming flower
I was determined to save this one :) After a rigorous cutting, pruning, sunlight and watering schedule for a year, not only did this beauty grow many times it's size but also gifted us with blooms right after a year!

Feels like a save, just like our marriage which has survived the 'dip' as first time parents. I think we have fought the most after having a baby- sometimes it's about the way he does things and sometimes it's what he does not do! Of course you can't have it all folks- I bet he has his version of my 'wrongs' as a parent too!

You definitely are happiest right after your baby is born but then quickly realize (as you get back from the hospital literally) that you are ill-equipped to handle the frustrations, stress and anger the sleepless nights bring! And when you have to do it all between the two of you, you also become the punching bag for each other (figuratively and literally!).

But it becomes better as days pass by with open communication and sharing of tasks. More importantly, as the plants need care to survive, relationships need it as well to bloom! So let's keep loving and blooming -Happy Valentine's day to you all 💗

Monday, June 28, 2021

Manifesto from a pregnant woman!

Anyone pregnant out there? Or trying to get pregnant? Or anyone with body image issues? Do you believe that women should have control over their bodies? Then, this blog post is for you.

I know a lot of folks who are in the process of ‘creating’ that perfect body for themselves, and still finding some fault- either the boobs are not big enough or the bottom is too heavy! They often starve their palates (and desires) of that plate of French fries. Its ok- no need to overreact if you don’t like fries- I get it! But to my friends who are obsessed with their body image, DO NOT put that pressure on other folks, especially women. We do not appreciate that. Each body is different. Each individual is different.

Yes, some of us want that hour glass figure to match Hollywood celebrities but let’s not miss SOME in this sentence! Most others (like me) have many other things to obsess (READ-be passionate about) in my life. And when this situation is at the intersection of pregnancy (as mine is), a manifesto needs to come out of that experience. So, this is a manifesto which has come together by communicating with a circle of women who have experienced advice and varied behavior around pregnancy- of course which they never asked for! This is also a manifesto for women who are in or waiting to get into a similar process of labor- no pun intended!

  1. You do not need to lose weight to get pregnant- If your BMI is more than 30, you can still get pregnant. I have seen many women stress over their not-so-perfect bodies in order to prepare themselves for ‘the pregnancy’. I was there too but guess what- weight loss was not what helped me get pregnant! It was perhaps ‘putting a break’ on alcohol which helped me the most. And I wish I had known to start on folic acid/ prenatal tablets while in that process rather than having an acid reflux due to starving myself pre-pregnancy!
  2. You can get pregnant after you are 30- This one is especially for you, my South-Asian friends whose moms, aunts and a plethora of relatives make you feel that you are ‘getting too old’ for pregnancy. Often the years of marriage and your own biological clock become the markers of whether you are fertile ‘enough’. The innocent advice offered by almost anyone you come across ‘to visit a doctor’ is hilarious because that’s not something one would think to do, right? In addition to that this advice is only for women as the only possible explanation is for women to have ‘something wrong’ with them. And to my friends who do not want to have children just yet (or ever), it is YOUR choice. No one is going to take care of your child as they say, ‘hum sambhaal lenge’. So, go into it with your eyes open. Better to be late than sorry! 
  3. You can make your own informed food choices- Can I eat golgappas? Can I eat gulab jamun? Well, as far as I know no one has been killed by eating those except when from an unhygienic source. I have seen women obsess about what foods to eat during pregnancy. Yes, one needs to be informed of what could be potentially harmful in terms of bacteria in them but that is an easy solution with a call to a doctor. The scare of having gestational diabetes (GD) was really high in me due to the history of diabetes in my extended family. However, during my ‘pregnancy research’, I came across at least three most ‘fit’ women who went through GD. It is not linked to eating gulab jamuns (eye roll)! Nor would a piece of pizza kill you as many aunties would tell you. Eat away your pizza with a bowl of salad and there you go- you have a complete meal. FYI, the cheese on top of the pizza is amazing, especially for vegetarians like me who have a hard time finding a palatable and safe protein source.
  4. A woman eating pasta from a pan
    Here I am enjoying spaghetti in homemade 
    marinara sauce with chickpeas during pregnancy!
    Eat/drink what you can digest- ‘Eat ghee not cheese or butter’. It feels like the moment you get pregnant, your body and food choice become everyone’s business. I do not disagree that ghee has its benefits but if ghee in milk can make you puke; would you rather not eat something which your body can digest? Make smart choices not traditional ones.
  5. Just drink plenty of water, the container does not matter- Of course drinking alcohol becomes off-limits as soon as you get pregnant (or are trying to) but it doesn’t matter is drinking water from a wine bottle makes you happy! The most hilarious (and ridiculous) one which I have heard recently from a friend is ‘Don’t drink water from a copper vessel’. Apparently according to this wise soul, copper is related to ‘Copper-T’, the intrauterine device which prevents pregnancy! Fun fact- anti-abortion rights folks also link Copper-T to a ‘killing device’ which says volumes about the ‘science’ folks believe in.
  6. Wear what you like- The most ridiculous one I heard was ‘Don’t wear tight clothes, the baby can’t breathe’. Sorry, I forgot to add in the previous pointer that your clothing choice also becomes the whole world’s business. Listen- First, maternity clothes are so expensive and never on sale. Second, the woman who is pregnant knows what she can move in-the last thing she would wear is uncomfortable clothes. And third, the baby in the womb actually breathes through the umbilical cord, not my pants. So, all the folks out there advising on clothing-STOP! Let the woman be comfortable, she knows what her body needs more than you do.
  7. Sleep how you feel comfortable- Often aunties and relatives keep telling you to sleep on your left side. Is there a logic to it? Yes, and No. Yes, after 20 weeks of pregnancy, sleeping on a side is a good practice as the uterus puts pressure on rest of the body organs. But that is sleeping on any side is ok- not only left! My doctor told me to not stress if I get up in the middle of the night (which one tends to, due to pee-pressure) and I am sleeping on my back- if I was sleeping, my organs are probably fine!
  8. Don’t worry about your belly size- From young friends to old aunties, everyone feels free to tell you that either your belly is too big or too small. This is something which I stressed about all through my pregnancy. So weird-because I have struggled with extra weight all my life and here I was struggling to see a small belly, thanks to all the unsolicited advice around me. Constantly hearing that ‘you don’t look pregnant enough. You look small’ is not helpful. Here’s to all of you who tend to do this to a pregnant body- First, you are not my doctor. My belly size is not your business. And for the hundredth time, each body is different. Second, I am getting the growth monitoring done with my doctor every visit- if she finds that my belly is small, she would tell me so! I do not need your colloquial knowledge on this.
  9. Say no to people touching your belly- Here’s another big one. Do not touch my belly without asking me- you are not touching the baby, you are touching my body part! I do not know anyone who would appreciate that touch when non-pregnant- and pregnancy has its own load of hormones. And we prefer ‘not to be touched’ most times! Plus, I do not think I would like you to touch my baby (when he gets here) without my (or my partner’s) consent, especially in the time of this crazy pandemic.
  10. Don’t worry about stretch marks- The plethora of people who tell you to use creams to avoid stretch marks- here’s what I have to say to you. I, for once do not wear stomach revealing clothes and even if I intend to do so- I can embrace the stretch marks as a sign of childbirth. If you tell me to apply cream to avoid itchiness due to stretching in my body, I can for once listen to you, but for cosmetic purposes- perhaps you are stretching yourself a bit too much!
  11. Get pain medication if you need it- Folks who say that labor and childbirth is a natural process- yes, we know. A ton of women do give birth without medication but having said that all of you wonderful pregnant ladies-pain medication is available to you if you need it. Again, every individual is different. Pain sensation for every individual is different. And every labor is different. If one needs a c-section or pain medication, do not shame them. It is not that they are any less strong. Conceiving and carrying a child itself makes you a warrior. You do not need to get into the vicious cycle of being ‘strong without medication’. And to all the medical providers (especially males), don’t tell your patient to go ‘natural’ or ‘woman don’t need pain medication during labor’. Don’t make this excuse if you don’t have an anesthetist available. It sucks for you to make that decision for a woman, especially due to your lack of services!
  12. Don’t feel guilty that maternity leave is ‘time off’- Try laughing when your male colleague tells you that you would be ‘on vacation’ for long aka maternity leave. A recent insta post from mindful_mamas hits this right on the point, “I encourage anyone who thinks of maternity leave as ‘time off’ to get hit by a truck, ingest a ton of hormones, and then stay awake for 3-6 months while trying to feed a newborn with your broken body”. Hey buddy, I would then love to hear about how that vacation went for you!
  13. Don’t worry about putting on too much weight or too less weight- Let me add, ‘unless your doctor tells you so’. I have seen women be so cautious about weight gain even during pregnancy because there is an assumption that if the baby is too large it would not pass through the birth canal. Don’t believe who tell you so. Just listen to your doctor about how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy. Again, each body is different and each pregnancy is different. The obsession about first putting on weight during pregnancy and then shedding those extra kilos is both harmful for our psyches. We are not ‘carriers’ of babies i.e. it doesn’t work for you (aunts and relatives) to tell us first to gain weight to help the baby develop and then loose weight ‘as our husbands won’t feel attracted to us anymore’. We don’t care.
  14. Exercise how and how much you can- There is no doubt that exercising during pregnancy is helpful to keep you fit but everything depends on your condition- whether you can do a particular exercise or not. If walking is all you can do, just do that. Folks who call you lazy should join the gym, you don’t need to at this point. For most women (including me), I give a ‘F’ to ‘E’. I do not want to hear the ‘E’ word at least 6 months post childbirth because I am not a machine. And to all the children who are hopefully not reading this, F is just an alphabet which comes after E, as we know 😊
  15. Listen to your doctor- Finally, there are plenty of people who would give you unsolicited advice during pregnancy including what traditions to follow (including during solar eclipse- geez!) but I came across a mantra which could not get any better! It works for everyone, including your husband and your mom. It is, ‘my DOCTOR told me so’ which in very polite language means ‘I know what I am doing’.

So, here we go folks, this is my experience (and that of many other pregnant women in my circle) in a short manifesto. I definitely needed to get this out of my system before my baby can exit my system. Happy Pregnancy!

Monday, December 2, 2019

What is 'Morality' after all?

What do we understand by morality? Is it by the book or by our heart? One of the earliest conversations when this blog was coming up (in my mind) was with a professor who teaches ‘Ethics’ at a girl’s college in the New England area. She is in charge of teaching a course to freshmen year about ‘ethics and morality’. Conversation with her over a piping cup of chai with another dear friend was very frustrating at some level but enlightening.
In her class, she wanted to drive her students to the point of inherent morality, which exists irrespective of external rules. So the dialogue in the class goes like this:

Professor: Suppose, you have a car and you have a chance to steal it when no one’s looking. Would you steal it?
Class: No. Perhaps there would be police at the next traffic signal or the car would be traceable?
Professor: Suppose if there is no police and no way to track the car….
There is a pin drop silence in the class. Everyone is looking at each other.
Class: Of course we would! Why would we not?

My dear friend did try to steer the class towards their own conscience and what would it do to them if they stole the car. However, these were not toddlers. They surely have been taught about morality early on. The college was also under a religious fold and hence the expectation out of the students to have ‘inherent morality’. But is morality that inherent though?  
Multiple concepts of morality zoomed into my mind as I grasped this information. Is one’s morality for oneself or for others? Does morality count when no one’s looking? Unfortunately, in today’s life, we tend to think about morality and values through a set of rules. If the rule maker is not watching, the morality doesn’t count! Now, whether we believe that rule maker is police, our society or God, it depends on us. Either way, our morality comes out of fear. So, if the rule maker is absent, our morality goes into the shit hole! Will you say so?
However, if one can look at morality more through what our conscious would feel if we do a certain thing, we can probably build our inherent morality or values our own way! Some say, ‘moral integrity is the cornerstone to our humanity’. There isn’t a need for a set of rules. Just our introspection over a cup of chai.……. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

You, Me and Chai!!

Introduction to Chai

Chai, a sweet and spicy aromatic milk and water based tea fills the aroma of the house every morning and evening (if not more). After living in U.S. for 3 years now, I still feel I crave for chai each day unlike my friends in this coffee-loving country. Well, if America runs on coffee (whether Dunkin or Starbucks), India runs on chai. I have my share of rendezvous with my Dad’s special cappuccino, filter coffee from South India and the relief of instant coffee when my brain requires caffeine- but chai wins it for me.

Calling someone for chai has many different meanings and connotations. As people ask someone out for coffee for networking or dating- calling someone for chai is about building personal bonds at home- sometimes over awkward conversations. Bollywood song, ‘isiliye mummy ne meri tujhe chai pe bulaya hai’ rings the bell about a guy being called to his beau’s home for chai to further the conversation about their marriage. On the other hand, offering a cup of chai to someone who is stressed is also extending that hand of warm friendship, ‘Have a cup of chai and you will feel better or Let’s talk this over a cup of chai’.  

Chai holds a ‘dear’ place in the hearts of most Indians where offering a cup of chai is not only considered as hospitality but accepting one is even mandatory to keep the respect of the host. Many times during my visit to villages on work, people would insist on having a tea before moving forward. And it was considered rude to say ‘no’.

Everyone likes their chai in different proportions of its ingredients. Since childhood, I learned that my Dad’s version of more water-less milk chai was different than my Mom’s milky chai. My Uncle’s all-milk chai was another story! But my best cup of chai is made by my Hubby every morning (or evening)! Aha the aroma and served right to bed…….nothing can beat that!

Living in Bihar, I came across abridged version called chai-coffee which was chai with a hint of coffee in it. On top of that, it was cooked on a coal stove and contracted the musky smell of coal giving it a distinct flavor. We enjoyed it most times with conversations with complete strangers, discussing caste, religion or politics. Recently, I also came to know this is called ‘maara-maari’ in Pune which literally means ‘fight’. I wonder if this is the fight of coffee vs chai! Lol.  

Sugar content in chai is another interesting subject. As a standard practice in most parts of India, more the sugar in the chai, the more the host is trying to please you (Don’t worry I keep that count right at our place in case you drop in for a chai). Very soon after marriage, my hubby’s friends learned that the new sister-in-law keeps the chai less sweet but covers it up with her behavior! With diabetic genes, one cannot help but be careful.

My friends all over the world love me for my chai- including Africans (especially Kenyans who also call it Chai), Asians and folks from U.S. Chai has been our binder on many occasions when all we wanted to do was to sit around each other and talk about issues which mattered to us and affected us in many ways- from social issues to personal troubles… to spirituality. Chai complements them all. My heart fondly remembers many such friendly and deep, even profound conversations along with chai. My intention through this series is to give a peak into those beautiful conversations. I hope you enjoy this chai-time bonding moments with me….. 

You, Me and Chai is an effort to bring those conversations to you which happen among friends along with tea, whether it is at chai at roadside or at the comfort of your home. It is an open platform among friends to share their thoughts and reflections…..If you want to contribute to the conversations, please write to us! We would love to hear what you talk about during your chai-time J

Thursday, February 28, 2019

From Roses to Rose plant!

A photograph of a couple with a red rose plant in their hands
The beautiful rose plant that my husband gifted me this year!

This is not necessarily a natural transition. Sometimes Roses lead to ‘Teddies’. Sometimes they lead to tears. Personal disclaimer: So, when I was gifted a rose plant this Valentine's day, I knew we had shifted from the stage of Roses to a Rose plant stage!

Roses signify passionate love-one which depicts ‘a’ half open bud with mysteries embedded, twists and turns on the way. And often artificially stripped off thorns. Now, we all know that is not what life is about. But, surely that is what ‘dating’ is. You put your best ‘foot forward’, not necessarily showing off your thorns. Often in my experience, these ‘grafted’ beautiful roses are stripped off their original fragrance too. They are gorgeous to look at, but with a tendency to have no fragrance and often withering in a few days. But, it doesn’t matter where you keep them, they add beauty to every place and do not even need sunlight. It is almost like ‘fake happiness’.

On the other hand, a rose plant is more real. It is grounded (in reality); roses but thorns as well. You have to nurture the plant with sunlight and water (and of course love!). It may wither at times but also has a rejuvenating tendency. A hope for new beginnings. It is more work but much more sustainable.

Gift of a rose plant also signifies more than love. It means the person giving the gift knows your skills to keep things (and relationships) alive. Do not be fooled. I am not bragging about my skills. I have killed my share of plants. Or they have been killed by someone I handed them over for care as a stop-gap arrangement. But most often than not, I am capable of sustaining, nurturing and growing them with love. And I am proud of this fact. For both plants and relationships.

A photograph of a red rose plant
Gorgeous pics shared by our friends who nurtured this rose plant!
Now, coming to the sustainability part. My husband and I have started this social experiment to gift plants to friends; who we know are capable of keeping them alive. The rose plant that he gifted his friend in India, has rewarded us with beautiful pictures of red roses along with their shining faces. This is almost like a cultural shift in India where gifting of bouquets or garlands is very common. It almost seems like growing/ cultivating humanity and love in another human being.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New year resolutions- Any takers?

As the New Year dawns, so do our inspiration for our resolutions. However, since the thought process comes right at the new year’s, it takes time to settle into them! About a day or two, so the post comes today J

It’s one thing to make the resolutions and another story to keep up to them! My ‘gym-addicted’ friend tells me, ‘You will see a huge crowd in gym first week of January. By the end of February, only a handful remain.’ And I am probably not among those handful, either. So, my sympathies to all my fellow resolution-makers (and breakers)! And that is why in 2019, I want to trick myself to keep my resolutions by putting them out for the world. If they are out there on my blog, I can slightly increase their chance to remain unbroken. The resolutions might also resonate with many of my fellow humans and so, here I am!

My resolutions this year are very comprehensive (or so I would like to believe)! I intent to nourish my body, mind and consciousness…. Soul might have been a better ‘language fit’. However, I am not sure I believe in that concept anymore! And thus, consciousness takes its place J

For my body, I want to reduce the intake of unhealthy foods and sugar. This doesn’t mean I can’t treat myself to occasional chocolate or eating out. But, I will be mindful of what goes in my mouth. As a friend once shared, ‘Before reaching out to a treat, I think- whether I NEED it or simply WANT it?’ With the biological clock on the run, I do want to make sure I take care of myself to prevent diseases which can be avoided by some care measures.

For my mind, I do treat it to wonderful readings now and then. However, I do want to expand that ‘reading horizon’. All the wonderful reading suggestions are very welcome! But, what I really want to do is to spent my time on them-pondering and critically thinking. This needs reflection. And writing. I almost miss writing when I don’t. So, this year, I intent to stick to blogging in a more meaningful way, starting with this one! My new blog, ‘You, Me and Chai’ which has been brimming within me for a while now, will also be poured into your lives soon.  

For my consciousness, I want to practice ‘letting go’. In many conversations, life events and relationships, I often feel that I hold the grip too tight. It not only constricts the relationships but also my own conscience. Readings from Buddhist Dhamma texts by Temple Forest tradition share that we do not need to win all arguments. You do not need to have your own way always. Sometimes letting go is more useful for the conscious. This makes so much sense to me. For myself.

Rain drops on the window with a blurred vision of the road at the side.The friends who know me, also know (and have told me) that I can be very stubborn. It can be very useful at times, manifested as perseverance for the goat- ‘Capricorn sign’. However, the judgement needs to be made as when one needs to let go and when to face the problem head on. But letting go of situations (and people’s behaviors) not under your control is important. With such a fast and unpredictable life, I do believe it’s not worth to hold on to grudges in life. Or do actions which make people have grudges against you. It is true we cannot please everyone in life. And we do not need to. What we can do is to find peace in actions we take. And that’s exactly what I want to do.

All the very best for me to keep these resolutions in the new year (and to you too)! And a request to my dear family and friends to call out on me if I am not keeping them. After all, the whole purpose of human life is to keep ourselves on track of growth and peace. A very Happy New Year 2019!