Monday, December 29, 2008

Time Capsule 2008

These are the things we often buy over at our household. I thought it would be fun to keep a record of prices and how things look today. I did a smilar time capsule in 2007 (see it here)

On the whole, it cheaper to drive than a year before (gas is down by almost a $1.50 since last year), but more expensive to get that cup of coffee on the road, costs more to mail a letter and read the newspaper, but less to eat healthy- organic stuff seems to be more affordable. How are prices in your part of the world?

Cheerios: $4.99(18oz)
Juice: $7.49/gal (Tropicana Orange)
Oatmeal: $4.99/42 oz, (Quaker Oats)

Milk: $5.79/gal (organic), $3.75/gal (regular)

Bread: $3.29 (Organic), $1.99(Wonderbread)
Pasta: $1.25/lb
Rice: $2.39/lb (Tilda Basmati)

Sugar: $0.53/lb
Salt: $0.69 (26 oz)
Oil: $3.74/quart (Canola)

Potatoes: $0.79/lb (regular), $0.99/lb (organic)
Apples: $1.16/lb(regular), $1.99/lb(organic)
Spinach : $1.69(regular), 2.69(organic)

Chicken: $4.99/lb
Salmon: $9.99/lb

The Washington Post: $0.50
U.S. First Class Stamp: $0.42
Cup of Coffee: $0.80
Gas: $1.58/gal (87 octane), $1.83/gal(93 octane)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Secularly

“Don’t forget the true meaning of Christmas.” I head someone admonish her companion in the store a few days ago. I winced. And looked around guiltily as if that someone was pointing a finger at me. Every year, unfailingly, I hear some one go on and on about the true meaning of Christmas, how it has been commercialized, how it is just about the gifts and food and this year, the inevitable – how the recession will bring back the true meaning of Christmas. Every time I hear this, I wince and gulp. Because, you know, Mea Culpa. I am probably the one of many contributing to the whole “commercial” aspect of Christmas. Gifts, Santa, Tree. The whole shindig. I am not a Christian. Let alone a practicing Christian. But every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, I send BigGeek down to our crawl space to get out the tree and the ornaments. (The lights are already out for Diwali and they stay on until the New Year). My silk tree is moved from its year-long corner, the Christmas Tree is set up. Trimmed with lights and ornaments. A tree skirt with a giant Santa and Ho-ho-ho written in very large letters spread out under it. And the gift or two, for Chip placed under it. Cookies are baked. Wine is mulled. Cinnamon scented candles lit. And we all look forward to enjoying some nice family time. With lots of food of course. A very secular Christmas. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

But it is what it is. Our Christmas has no religious undertones whatsoever. I love the nativity scene our neighbors put out (and they hadn’t this year until this morning and I wondered is something untoward had happened there). I love listening to the carols and hymns. And the uber-cheesey Christmassy pop songs blaring out on the radio and in the malls. I love how every house (well almost every) puts icicle lights and wreaths and the whole dull, gray winterscape suddenly springs to life. I love the mall crowds (I am probably the only person in the entire world to say so), although this year, they have been abysmally thin. I love the Starbucks specials (peppermint mocha, mmmm) and the new gizmos that come out during this time of the year. Bulk of my gift shopping happens at Diwali and I sorely miss the buzz of the festive season then.

Does this mean that I am truly stealing Christmas from its true meaning? Being a Hindu, immigrant Grinch of sorts? Probably. But Probably not. This is also a time for us, to reflect on the year, so see how we traveled through it, so to speak. It is also a time for us to give to the many charities we support. Our local volunteer firefighters association, Wikipedia, the National Children’s Leukemia foundation, Smithsonian. It is a time to cherish our families and spend this day in their warmth. Sleeping late, eating a lazy breakfast and staying in.

A few days ago, as I picked Chip from his school, we met his principal on our way out and she asked Chip if he had a good day. Chip nodded and said, “I was a good boy today Miss F, because if I am not good, Santa is not bringing me any gifts!” Miss F. was surprised. “You celebrate everything.” She said to me. I just nodded. A big part of our Christmas celebration, is also that I don’t want Chip to be left out. If we lived in the middle-east, I would have celebrated Eid, if we lived in China, I would have celebrated the Chinese New Year. All with gusto. We live in the US and we celebrate its biggest holidays. What’s not to celebrate? And of course it also ensures that Chip will never be lost, when his friends at school ask him the inevitable post-holiday question, “What did you get for Christmas?”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All Dolled Up

A few days (could be weeks) ago, I had a spirited debate with CeeKay about gender identities. While I can’t quite give a blow-by-blow account of the discussion, I was certainly arguing for this point. That gender identity is not just a social construct. Genes play a role too. Boys have one whole chromosome different than girls. It makes them more susceptible to autism and learning disorders, some types of cancer, it is not a big surprise that it plays a role in the way we think and act. We agreed to disagree in the end and that was that.

Imagine the irony this weekend then. We had been invited to a birthday party. Lots of our friends were invited too. With their kids, obviously. Girls and boys. It was a fun party. The kids ran and played with each other. And ate the delicious food. Suddenly, a friend exclaimed. “What is Chip doing?” I looked up in alarm. There was Chip, holding a cute baby doll in his lap, feeding her with the toy bottle and singing a song. To me, it was a beautiful sight. “What do you mean? He is playing with the doll.” I told our friend. “Don’t encourage these things, I am getting him a nerf gun. Dolls?” “What’s wrong with dolls? He likes playing with dolls. I don’t mind at all.” The conversation was left at that.

A couple of hours later, as guests dwindled somewhat and everybody relaxed with a cup of tea, the topic came up again. Because, well, Chip had found the doll again and was playing with it. “What are you calling her?” I asked Chip. “Dottie, don’t encourage him.” The friend again cautioned me. I was getting riled. “Why not?” There was some snickering that could have only meant this. “Because he will turn gay? I don’t mind if he grows up to be gay.” I don’t think boys turn gay because they play with dolls. Girls certainly don’t turn gay because they play with cars. “He is three, let him be. What is the big deal?” “Give him action figures.” Someone suggested. “He can play with action figures and he can play with dolls. I said. “In fact I should buy him a doll” “Some one record this.” Someone said. “We’ll play it back to Chip when he is older.” “You know what” I was trying hard to not let my irritation show, “His wife will thank me. Because it will bring out his inner sentimental self.” “But he will curse you for 25 years before that.”, our friend laughed. I gave up. It’s all imaginative play, isn’t it? Really, what is the big deal? “What if he turns into a cross dresser?” someone asked again. “Who knows?” I said “In a couple of generations, it would be acceptable for boys to wear skirts. A century ago, pant-wearing women were frowned upon.” Another friend was amazed at me. “I really didn’t think you were this sort of a person.” Whatever that meant. “I am surprised” she said. “Why, won’t you let your son play with a doll?” I asked. She hesitated. “I won’t encourage it.”

That seems to be the common sentiment. Ignore boys playing dolls. Do not encourage doll-playing. If they seem to be too drawn towards dolls, quietly buy them nerf guns or other macho toys. What load of bull-x. Tell me, would you buy your son a doll? Because I will and should have. To nurture is an emotion that occurs naturally in boys and girls.. So what is the harm if they express that sentiment when they are children? Boys grow up to be loving fathers, you know. Compared to earlier generations, men today are much more hands-on as fathers, much more nurturing. As the need (and thus the expression) for violence has declined in the past several generations, in the developed countries at least, men (and boys) have found their nurturing side. And that’s a good thing. It does not make then sissies. In cultures that encourage violent toys, the rate of violence is much, much more than cultures that that are more accepting of gender-role-reversals. Daddies opting to stay at home to raise kids, instead of mommy being default are on the rise. If the wife makes twice the money than her husband, what else would be logical, for a family, tell me?

But for some it’s hard to be accepting of these changes, I suppose. Big and small. Including boys playing (or rather encouraged to play with dolls). I wonder what it is they fear.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Absolute Scandal

Summary
In the early 1990s, about 1,500 (out of 34,000) Lloyds members (called Names) went bankrupt trying to pay asbestosis claims for companies that Lloyds insured. An Absolute Scandal is based on that event and takes a look at the lives of those affected by this unlimited, personal liability. Wealthy, upper-crust folks, find themselves being slowly stripped of their wealth as losses mount and they struggle, at first to keep appearances, then to maintain their lavish lifestyles and then in the end to just survive.

What worked for me
The English-English. The very Brit language was charming. I read the whole book in a faux-British accent (yes, it was exhausting) and that was fun. Almost like role playing.

What did not work for me
Pretty much everything else. I had never heard of Penny Vincenzi until I picked up this book. It is very long. 500+ pages. And frankly the subject matter does not warrant that. It takes many unwanted twists and turns that add nothing to the plot or to the characters. The plot itself is quite weak. Also the sheer number of characters are hard to keep track of. And a lot of them are romantically involved with people they are not supposed to. Too many tangled relationships to keep track off. I found myself skipping several pages and found it did not really affect the story, or rather my understanding of the story in anyway. The back cover has some review excerpts and I agree with the one that says, it is a soap. Yes, this is a soap in print. It really told me nothing about how Lloyds operates, it gave me a general, vague-ish idea about the ‘Names’ and syndicates but nothing more, really. Perhaps Vincenzi expects the reader she is targeting to know innards of Lloyds operations, but given the amount of fluff in this book, I doubt if that is the readership she is really trying to attract. I think someone like Grisham would have done true justice to the subject matter. There absolutely was no research in this book – it feels like Vincenzi just read the wiki page about Lloyds and tried to incorporate some of that information across 500+ pages. In the end, I did not understand what the book wanted to be. A whodunit? A romance novel? A historical fiction of sorts?

Hot or drop
I think drop. If you are looking for a romance novel, I am sure there are others that have more to offer than this mish-mash.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter

I haven’t left the building. Had only been hiding, not knowing what to really say or write. I saw the Mumbai attacks on TV; was horrified and tongue tied. What could I possibly say here on this small blog without really trivializing the whole sordid deed in some way, I thought. I am no public policy pundit or a security expert or a journalist. What could I possibly say that would affect the outcome of what followed? I could not sleep for a few nights. I was jittery, perplexed, trying to internalize the whole affair through snippets of conflicting information from news sources and family back in Mumbai. Too many questions, too few answers. Too many what ifs. Too many buts. Too many too manys.

This is a winter of wrath. No doubt. Wrath of the terrorists and the wrath against them. Wrath against the blasé Indian intelligence and the flaccid politicians. Wrath against the banks of Wall Street, wrath against the foolish homeowners who bought more than they could possibly afford. Wrath against the car industry, wrath against the lost jobs. And exasperation. Like gray sky outside that casts its dreary glow everywhere, the attack, the downturn has cast a dull, depressing shadow everywhere. Holidays are almost here, but they seem so far away. The icicle lights not as bright, the holiday songs jaded and forced. Uncertainty hangs in the air like the sword of Damocles. Fear lurks around the corner, waiting to pounce on its newest, unsuspecting prey. Like the milky fog I see rising from the river I must cross twice each day, the vagueness of our times veil what lies ahead. And I wait with millions others around me wondering what I can do to lift it and ask if there is a bend ahead somewhere towards sunnier times.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Phone Call

Phone rings.
Aie: Hello
Woman Caller: Can I talk to Jolanda?
Aie: Umm, I think you have the wrong number.
Caller: Ok, sorry. (disconnects)
Chip: Who was that?
Aie: Someone dialed us by mistake.
Chip: Was that a mawshi?
Aie: Yes, it was a mawshi
Chip: Which mawshi?
Aie: I don’t know. She called us by mistake.
Chip: What her name?
Aie: I don’t know. It was a wrong number. She dialed us by mistake. We don’t know her.
Chip: Ok, she was just some random mawshi, then?

Friday, November 21, 2008

The LadyBug Mystery

So, as the weather turns cooler, we get around two or three ladybugs in our house. Every year. They live on the ceiling of our bedroom, in a corner, and some times crawl down the frosty window and let us admire their utter cuteness.

Chip is fascinated by them. From since he was a baby. When they come down the window, he can watch them for hours (ok, I am exaggerating, but hey, I am a blogger!) with rapt attention. Their tiny feet, their hard backs, their strange wings and their half-hearted, clumsy attempts to fly and their total inability to flip themselves if they happen to land on their backs. It’s a fascinating lesson of nature right on our windowsill for Chip.

Last weekend as we got ready to go out, Chip spotted a ladybug come down from its heavenly abode. He was delighted to watch it. I was delighted to get him out my hair while I dressed. He watched the bug for a few minutes and then dashed out of the bedroom. I could hear him downstairs in the kitchen, opening a drawer. In a flash he was up, wielding a plastic storage box. “I wanna keep them” he told me. Without waiting for me to answer, he ran into the bathroom, opened the vanity and got a ball of cotton. Using his makeshift brush, he tried to coax the red bug in his box. The ladybug was obviously frightened at Chip’s ham-fisted attempts to “catch” it and tried to feebly move in the other direction. “Aie, its running away”, he exclaimed. “Let it” I told him. “Why do you want to catch it? We don’t even know what it eats” “I’ll give it a green leaf.” said Chip, no doubt drawing his wisdom from the nature bible for 3 year olds – The hungry caterpillar.

“Please put him in the box” he pleaded with me. I gently brushed the ladybug (which appeared a little lethargic and sick) into the box. “What are you calling him?” I asked. Chip pondered over the question. “Sheanoo.” He said. Sheanoo? Chip has come up with some imaginative names in the past – his rag doll is called Shant because he is quiet, duh. And our fish is called submarine because it lives in water. “What’s Sheanoo?” I asked. Chip looked as if some great force had sucked out the intelligence from his mom’s head. “I told you. That’s the ladybug’s name. He is Sheanoo. How many times must I tell you?” And off he walked with the ladybug, trying to snuggle with it under the comforter.

After I told him, he could not snuggle with the lady bug he looked sullenly at me and he just kept playing with it on the window sill when, another ladybug joined Sheanoo in the box. Chip ran into the bathroom to show me. “Another one came” he grinned. “That’s so cool. What are you going to call Sheanoo’s friend?” I asked. “Chivda.” This time I did not bother asking what Chivda was all about.

But this is not the end of the story. I told Chip to go downstairs and put his shoes on. Chip for once did not run, but climbed down the stairs carefully, with the ladybugs in his box. As I straightened up the room, I could hear Chip pottering around the kitchen downstairs and when I went down a few minutes later, Chip had dumped a bag of skittles (they are small hard, round candies, that umm look like ladybugs, the red ones at least) in the box that had the ladybugs and was eating them one by one. “Chip! That box had ladybugs in them. What have you done with the ladybugs?” Chip looked down at the box and searched for Sheanoo and Chivda. “They are lost” he told me with a puzzled expression on his face. “Lost? Lost? How could you put skittles in the box that had ladybugs? And you wanted to keep them as pets? You can’t even look after them for five minutes.” I ranted. “Where are they?” “I don’t know Aie, they are lost.” “Did you eat them?” I was suspicious. Chip had eaten ants before and it took him a while to get into his head that we don’t eat ants. “Did you eat them?” “Umm.. I don’t know.” Sheanoo and Chivda were no where to be seen. I looked in the kitchen if they had flown away, but couldn’t see them on the countertops, floor, even the ceiling. One of them was too sickly to even move, let alone fly. I looked and looked but we never did find those ladybugs. Wonder what’s happened to them. I guess we’ll never know.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Debug my batter

For all the things I can cook, and cook well - just as BigGeek and Chip, they will vouch for it – I can’t, to save my life make idli/dosa batter. I usually buy the overpriced tubs of batter in my local Indian store and palm the dosas and idlis made from it as “home-made”. It’s pathetic, really. My mother, on the other hand is the queen of idlis. She had a bunch of Tamil co-workers and she got awesome tips from them and her idlis turn out to be soft and fluffy and delicious, her dosas crisp and golden that will put any udipi to shame.

Her batter always rises well. Always. No matter where she makes it. In German winters where she lived for a few years or in winters here. And we keep our house coooold. 65F. And she makes the batter and it rises like it is the tropical Mumbai. She can make batter on an Antarctican ice-shelf and it will rise. I don’t know what she does. I ask her and she says she has given me all her tips, but I still can’t get my batter to rise unless I keep it on the deck outside on a hot July afternoon.

It’s so depressing that I have stopped making batters at home. Altogether. But two days ago, optimism reared its head again and I said, “Why, not?” So I soaked two cups of urad dal (the skinned, whole ones), some methi seeds and tried my hand, again at making a multipurpose batter. Idlis, dosas, uttapams. But it turned out to be a total disaster. The uttapams were so heavy that I sprained my back holding a plateful of them. Sigh. So, please all yout idli-maidens out there, help me debug my batter. This is my trace output.

Tuesday, 10:30 a.m.
Yay! Vetran’s day. Let’s make idli batter. Soak two cups of Urad dal with a tablespoon of methi seeds. No rice. Plan to use idli rava.
Urad dal is skinned but whole? Check.

Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
Hmm..dal looks soaked. Let’s grind it in my (horrible) Cuisinart food processor.
Use as less water as possible? Check. Grind very fine? Check.

Tuesday, 7:00 p.m.
Add idli rava. For each cup of urad dal, 3 cups of idli rava. I hope I haven’t got the ratio wrong. What if it's 2 cups? Let’s compromise. 2.5 cups of idli rava per cup of urad dal. Mix, mix, mix. With hand. A little water. I was told that the bacteria/yeast on the hand will help ferment in the chilly weather. No spatula (although I am sure my spatula also has a ton of bacteria too)

Tuesday 7:15 p.m.
Find a warm place for the batter to rise. Vents are not warm. Top of the fridge? Umm, no. What if I forget? That will be one stinky science experiment by the weekend. Oven? Maybe. (Stick hand in oven.) It’s not exactly warm. But it will do. Turn on the oven light for warmth and put the batter in.

Wednesday 8:00 a.m.
Who turned off the oven light? Who ? Who? BigGeek confesses to having committed the act before he went to bed on Tuesday. Arrrrgh. Take out the batter with zero hopes. The batter looks pathetic. It hasn’t risen. Turn on the oven light and stick the batter once again with many prayers.

Wednesday 6:45 p.m.
Batter looks even more pathetic. It hasn’t risen at all. My dinner plans crumble to tiny pieces. I have been looking to eating utthapams since two in the afternoon. BigGeek to the rescue. Batter is stuck into the oven. Oven is set to warm (170F) despite my vociferous protests that the batter will be cooked in it at that temperature. A large hairy hand shooes me away. The oven is too warm, the batter in. In a few minutes or an ternity in Dottie’s time, the oven is turned off. Hope hangs in the air.

Thursday 7:00 a.m.
Gingerly take out the batter. What are the three brown spots? Did the batter get cooked? Sniff, sniff, sniff. Its smells ok. And it has risen. But in an over-fermented sort of way. Store batter in fridge. Oh well. Atleast it did rise.

Thursday 7:00 p.m.
Chop onions for uttapam. Make chutney, make sambar. Drool at the smell.

Thursday 8:00 p.m.
Get the batter out from the fridge. Thin it a bit with water. Add salt. Heat griddle, make uttapam. They stick. Oh no they stick. Change griddles. Repeat. It sticks again. Panic. Chip is super hungry. Think fast. Take a can of flour from the pantry. Rice flour, hopefully. Add it to the batter. More water, more flour. Make uttapams. Better now. Still a bit sticky but not plastered to the griddle. Repeat 6 more times. Thank god dinner is over.

So this is what happened. Where did I go wrong? Please debug my batter. Sending out an SOS.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blackhole memories

When they are not fighting over guitars –not real guitars mind you, but the guitar controllers for RockBand and Guitar hero, our little kingdom here settles into a cozy Sunday night routine. Chip’s insistence that his toy guitar be granted the same sharing privileges as the guitar controllers, meaning, he get his legit turn pushing the plastic buttons on “our” toy guitars is as old as the Friday night and the last hours of a lazy, cozy weekend are spent post-dinner in the family room.

As one of us does the dishes, the other shoos Chip upstairs for his night-time routine. Brush teeth, get into his pajamas. Ten minutes later the kingdom of three assembles excitedly in front of the TV. The lights are dimmed and BigGeek who has the supreme powers granted by his being the “Secretary of Remotes”, either turns on a specially DVR-ed show or we just browse our favorite channels until we find something that excites us. We huddle on a couch at first, but soon the cushions find their way to the floor as we stretch lazily, arms and legs in every direction. Chip burrowing here and there like a little squirrel, trying to fit into this crook then into another as we all try to get the “sweet” spot to watch the show, catch the sound effects and stay away from that elbow poking in your ribs. A few minutes after much twisting and turning, some yelling and some compromising, the three of us settle down. Monday morning blues are still far away.

Yesterday is one of many such Sundays. We find our places on the couch, fleece throws covering chilly hands and feet. BigGeek turns on the TV to the science channel. He flips through the guide and we see “Supermassive black holes”. “I want to see that! I want to see the black hole show” Okay, BigGeek, true to his name is a sucker for things like that too. “Are we playing Rock Band?” asks Chip and dives for the “real” toy guitar. “Are we playing Black hole sun?” Chip’s connects black hole to black hole. The cosmological phenomenon to Soundgarden’s 1994 hit. “No sweetie, we are watching a show on black holes.”

The show starts. The graphics are mind blowing. And it’s a bit nostalgic too. For BigGeek and for me. Black holes, Special theory, Quantum physics are some of the topics we discussed at the dining table, growing up. Ditto with BigGeek. His claim to fame is also a couple of uncles who were particle physicists. So, to the both of us sitting here with Chip, watching a show on black holes brings back many childhood memories and as Chip snuggles close to me, I realize that we are making memories here for Chip too. That being said, watching a show on black holes with a three year old is a multi-dimensional experience.

Some excerpts.

“Why is there a black hole?” Asks Chip with his typical 3-yr old existential logic.
“Well… that’s what the physicists have been asking too. For a really long time.”

A graphic of a swirling black hole in the middle of a galaxy fills the screen.

“Is that a black hole?”
“Yes, that’s a black hole.”
“What’s that?” pointing to a swirly graphic.
“That’s a quasar”. Wrong answer. I have dug a hole and a super massive one just now.
“What’s a quasar?”
“It’s just a lot of dust that goes into the black hole. The black hole eats the quasar.”
“Is it hot?” the graphic artist has obviously done a great job.. Chip can deduce the gases are hot.
“It’s very hot. Very very hot.”
“Like the sun?”
“Yup, just like the sun.”
“So is quasar a sun?”
“Umm. No… no.”
“Is sun a black hole?”
“No, but it can turn into one.”
“I want to touch a quasar.”
“It’s very hot and it’s very far away.”
“I’ll get a boo-boo?”
“A big boo-boo. Go to sleep now.”

The images on the screen are swirling galaxies now.
“I want to fly, Aie. I want to fly and go there.”
“And you will. Sleep now.”

p.s. thank god he drifted to sleep before the next show on string theory began!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pat a cake, Pat a cake

Pat a cake, Pat a cake
Bakers man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can
Pat it and Prick it and mark it with a T
Then put it in the oven for Teddy and ...

“Chip!” Chip completes the rhyme excitedly. And then asks, “Does that cake have egg in it?” “No sweetie.”, I reply. “That’s a special cake. No eggs.”

Chip is allergic to egg. Both yolks and whites. It means that his body does not recognize the egg protein as a harmless food. It attacks the egg protein by releasing immunoglobulinE that cause certain histamines to be released in his blood, causing a severe reaction. He gets hives, his face and ears inflame, he itches, gets unbelievable stomach cramps and finally his body tries to get rid of the offensive substance by making him violently sick. When Chip was younger, he would also wheeze – his airways would get inflamed as well. Fortunately egg allergies rarely result in an anaphylactic shock – something that nut allergies can snowball into.

For Chip, the tiniest amount of egg causes a severe reaction. (For differences between intolerance and allergy refer to Tara and PG’s posts). Pastas made on equipment shared with products that have egg in them. A bite of a bread brushed with egg whites. A tiny dot of ice-cream containing egg yolks. When he was younger, even touching egg products would bring on a dermatological reaction – the site of contact would get itchy and he would develop rash or hives. As he has grown older, the response has toned down in its ferocity. Instead of suffering for a few hours, he suffers for one. His pediatrician thinks he might outgrow the allergy by the time he is 5 or 6, and even if he doesn’t, it would downgrade to an intolerance level- he should be able to enjoy a small slice of cake or half a muffin by the time he reaches adulthood. He might not be able to eat a plate of eggs all his life.

Chip was diagnosed with egg allergy when he was 10mo old. The allergy had manifested itself once before, when I gave him a dot of peach ice-cream, he grew red instantly and howled and vomited multiple times. But he suffered from colitis as a baby and we attributed it to that fact. When he started flailing his hands and turning red and having severe bouts of vomiting, twice, when I fed him french toast, I suspected an allergy and the doctor confirmed it. Chip also has eczema and asthma, which put him in the high-risk group for food allergies as is.

Having an egg allergy is difficult. A lot of foods have egg or egg derivatives in them. Baked goods, salad dressings, battered foods, ice-creams, chocolates, potato chips, corn chips can have egg in them. So do influenza vaccines (which Chip does not get). The first few months after the diagnosis were hard. Two years ago, many foods did not list egg as an allergen 9many still don't), so before buying every processed product I had to learn to read labels. Before buying every ice-cream at the concession stand I would have to ask to see the list of ingredients. Before buying every pizza, I would ask the restaurant to provide me with a list of ingredients. Often we would turn back with Chip not getting the ice-cream, pizza or chicken nuggets. Baked goodies were avoided like the plague. The nanny was taught to spot an allergic reaction and dispense Benadryl. Then the same process repeated when he started daycare.

The first thing we realized in dealing with Chip’s allergy was that we had to make him aware and educate him. By the time he was two, we taught him to ask “Does this have egg?” when offered a new food. And to decline if it did. He did admirably, most of the times, but sometimes it was hard for him, especially when a plate of birthday cake with colorful icing was offered to him, and on many occasions he ended up having a meltdown and refused to accept substitutes. But he learnt. We reminded him of what an allergic reaction would do to him. It was not the world’s most pleasant experiences. He also learnt to identify when he was having an allergic reaction and alert a grown up.

He did me proud a few weeks ago. We had carried chocolates for our family when we visited India. Twix and mars bars and three musketeers, that sort of thing. Someone offered Chip a chocolate and he ate it –nobody thought chocolates had egg in them. A few seconds later, Chip ran into the kitchen proclaiming he was having an allergic reaction. “To what?” I asked. He said he had eating a piece of candy and it had egg in it. The signs were all there. He was itching, his face had inflamed. I gave him ½ tsp of Benadryl, but it was too late. His stomach started to growl and he started to howl in pain as cramps twisted inside his little tummy and a minute later, he violently threw up. This was not the first time Chip had eaten candy. He ate lollipops and gold coins all the time – it was just luck that he had never consumed candy with egg in it – I really had no idea candy would have egg.

It’s hard for Chip at birthday parties. And other social occasions. And it’s hard for us. I wish people were a little more sensitive to his allergies. Especially in the desi circles. I remember an incident a few weeks ago in India. We were visiting some family and they had bread (the paav, not the sliced bread) for dinner. It came from a small bakery, with no nutritional information anywhere. A similar paav had caused an allergic reaction in Chip once and I was cautious. I asked Chip’s aunt if there were any rotis for Chip or rice. The paav might have an egg glaze. She said she could make rotis, no problem, but could he not “try” the bread and see if it had egg in it? I did not know whether to laugh or beat my head against the wall.

Parents whose kids have allergies are most understanding. I have two such friends (one of them is gnd) who will always have a ready substitute on hand for Chip. And for that I am grateful to them. Another friend is also very understanding. Her child has no food allergies, but knowing how hard it would be on Chip, she asked me before her daughter’s 1st birthday party if it was OK for them to cut cake in front of Chip. I thanked her for her consideration and quietly took Chip away to the garden while cake was served. Most people don’t realize what it is to have a food allergy, in a social sense, for a young child. To be “different” like this. It’s not easy for a child. So, I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of dos and don’ts for all of you out there that are fortunate to not suffer food allergies.

Don’t feed my child without asking me first.
Although Chip will ask if a food has egg in it, he is only three and very often he will forget. Check with me or his father before you feed him anything. For parents of young children who are allergic, there is a good selection of tees and onesies at cafrepress.com. Just search for 'allergy' and you will get results for tees with things like “Don’t feed me, I am allergic to XYZ.” It’s great if you are attending large parties or if your child is starting a new daycare.

Do inform the parents which foods with common allergens will be served at a party
While your menu should be allergen-free when a child with severe allergies (like nuts) is invited, for most other non-anaphalytic shock causing allergies (like egg), a warning will be appreciated. The parents can then decide how best to handle the situation.

Do serve alternate foods
Don’t make it a party where the child can only eat potato chips and nothing else. Children are very sensitive. Do offer some, other non-allergic foods.

Don’t pity my child
Not to his face, at least. Admire his courage instead, when he declines a piece of most yummy looking cake. I have had friends exclaim loudly to me at parties “This is such a pity. So sad he can’t eat the cake.” To Chip’s face. Don’t rub it in.

Don’t thrust a cake in my face when I am shaking my head to a “no”
This does not mean I am disrespecting your party/guest of honor. It only means I am going to give my son some company while he sits by himself, unable to enjoy the goodies. And yes, please refrain from asking things like “Even if Chip can’t eat, you can eat, na?” in Chip’s presence. Especially when he is whining for that item. The child is old enough to understand. And if you do ask, don’t be offended by what I answer.

Do educate your own child about food allergies even if your child doesn’t have them
No parent wants their child to be weird of different. In the US at least, there is a growing allergy awareness and kids are understanding. In India, even adults think allergies is a firang disorder and will tell you so. No idea what their kids will do.

This post is a part of an allergy awareness month started by Tara. Please share your stories and comments and help spread the word around.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Baayko (Wife)

Chip: Am I married?

Aie: No pilloo, you aren’t married.

Chip: Are you married?

Aie: Yes, pilloo, I am.

Chip: I want baayko (wife)

Aie: Not so soon

Chip: I need to get a moustache and a beard first?

Aie: Yes. And you need to go to school, then go to a college, then go to an office, then you get married.

Chip: But I don’t want to go to an office. I will go to school, then to college, then to NASA, then to moon.

Aie: OK. You can get a wife after you go to NASA.

Chip: But I want a wife now.

*Who will marry him? He is a snotty, tantrum throwing, overactive sorta fella. But it would be a stupid girl, who would say no to this charming prince. He does have a twinkle in his eye and says the darndest things. And he gives endless hugs.*

Chip: Aie, I want a wife now and a diamond.

Aie: Do you want a wife or a diamond?

Chip: Ummm.. diamond.

Aie: No wife? Just diamond?

Chip: No. I want both. Diamond AND wife.

Aie: Diamond first or wife first?

Chip: Diamond first.

*So, yes, looks like this guy’s pick up line is going to be this- ‘Give me a diamond, else I’ll make you my wife’. Any takers? And oh, I forgot, he already has a mangalsutra. A string of green mardi gras beads. That he wears around. It’s the age of equality, people. My son proudly wears his ‘green mangalsutra’.*

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween -2008




Friday, October 31, 2008

The Diwali that was

Homemade Chakli - check.
Doesn’t matter it turned out to be rock hard

Homemade Kalaakand –Check
Doesn’t matter it wasn’t was sweet as it should have been

Homemade Chivda – Check
Doesn’t matter it turned a bit too sour

Lights strung – Check
In the freezing wind and at the very last minute, along with a lighted Halloween pumpkin thingie.

Oil and Aukshan for Chip and BigGeek on NarakChaturdashi day – Check
Doesn’t matter of all days, we woke up AFTER sunrise on this day.

Laxmi Pujan – Check
Doesn’t matter that BigGeek and I always forget the second stanza of every aarti we sing.

Sparklers – Check
Doesn’t matter it was windy and freezing cold. And that we were wearing nylon parkas for it to be comfortable for me. But, it was fun.

BigGeek’s Aukshan on Padwaa – Check
Doesn’t matter he suddenly remembered at the very last minute he had indeed bought me gift - an ipod and a fancy car integration kit a few weeks before, stating it was an advance Diwali gift, so did not get a second gift despite the guilt I tried to induce ;-)

Chip’s Diwali gift-Check
Doesn’t matter he raised hell and tried every trick in the book to open it before Diwali. He choose to get a big milk truck. Yes, a milk truck. That lights up in a folksy song and moos.

Phone calls to family in India – Check
Doesn’t matter Chip refused to wish and on prodding, told everybody it was not Diwali, but it was Halloween, really.

Pictures taken – Ummm, no.
Thank god a few friends took some at a Diwali party.

Had a good time – Check.
Doesn’t matter things were very laid back this year. Doesn’t matter it is exhausting to rush back from work, make a nice dinner and do poojas. Diwali on weekdays is uber-exhausting.

And such was our Diwali. Hope you had lots of fun too. Leaving you with Chip’s picture taken last weekend at a Diwali party. Chip is trying to fake-smile.



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hair Raising Story- Part Deux

...what happened before

Wedding day arrives. It is humid. My hair is a disaster. The humidity gives it a frizz and an undesirable curl. My brother and BigGeek are out doing some last minute shopping when I frantically call them. “Get me some hairspray. Medium hold.” “Where will I find it?” asks the husband. “I don’t know? Maybe the chemist? Where are you?” “I am in front of Shoppers Stop right now. Will see if I can get it there.” Two hours later the duo return, unsuccessful in getting a can of hairspray. I have no choice but to gel it and blowdry it with “the contraption” and have it up in Velcro rollers for half a day. I drape my saree, put on my face and take down the rollers. Hair does not look bad. We hurry into the waiting cars and drive to the wedding – which is outdoors. Thirty minutes later, as humidity takes over, my hair curls up and frizzes.

The reception is two days later. My cousins have arrived and one of them has told me her friend/cousin runs a beauty parlor. I could go there. “Will she take two hours?” I ask. Ofcourse not. So on my way home running errands; BigGeek drops me to this salon. Hairdresser comes in smiling, introductions are made. I thank her for squeezing me in on such short notice. She points to a chair. I sit. I thought she would want to ask me about my hair and what I wanted. I tell her I want a blow dry that will hold in this humidity. I want volume. I want no curls. “No problem.” She smiles reassuringly. Then she takes out a blow-dryer and a paddle brush and begins to blow dry my rather dry hair. I am speechless. Well, my hair had been moistened by exactly three seconds of rain when I exited the car and entered the salon. I expected a shampoo, but if she did not want to do a shampoo, a thorough misting was in order. It was ridiculous to have my almost-dry hair being blow-dried. I try to make small talk. Pointed small talk. “You know, my hair routine everyday is this. Wash, apply holding gel, blow-dry, put up in Velcro rollers until I get dressed and I am good to go. My hair is so short. That’s all it needs.” She smiles and continues to blow-dry my dry hair while telling her assistant to get out the hot rollers for my hair. I eye the half-inch hot rollers with suspicion. “Are you sure the hot rollers will not give a curl? I don’t want a curl. Only volume.” “No, no. the hot rollers won’t give you a curl. Only volume.” I sigh. I wonder if she had actually used the hot rollers before. There is no way I am letting her put hot rollers in my hair.

10 minutes into blow-drying with a paddle brush, she suddenly stops and goes away and comes back with a small bottle. “This is a serum. It’s an anti-frizz.” I know what a serum is. I hate serums, I try to tell her. But before I can speak, it is plonked on my head. And again blowdried.

“What do you think?” She asks after another 10 minutes. “My hair is flat.” Thanks to the serum, I want to add. “No volume. It looks oiled.” “Okay, no problem. What I am going to do is tease your hair.” She says grabbing a teasing comb. Tease my hair??? WHY? Again before I can say anything, she has started to tease a section of my hair. “Please don’t tease my hair. It breaks easily.” She lets out a laugh. “Just comb it gently and it won’t break.” “No, really, I don’t want it teased.” “Ok, just a little bit. You want volume, na.” Sigh. 5 minutes later. “What do you think?” “It’s not straight. It curls. It’s an angled bob. It looks terrible when curled.” “Ok, I’ll straighten it.” Sorry-looking straightening iron is plugged in, two wisps of my hair straightened. All I want to do at this point is grab her hairdryer and iron and do my hair myself. Only if. At the end of 50 minutes, the ordeal ends and I thank her unwillingly and ask her how much I owe her. Two hundred, she replies. I sigh and pay, not knowing if that’s a lot of money these days in India.

My cousins give me a ride home when. I see BigGeek and whisper my exasperations to him. He says my hair looks fine. Lying obviously. I want to put it in my beloved Velcro rollers, but there is no time. I run out of the house and arrive at the reception. The photos haven’t arrived yet. I really want to see how my two hundred rupee “setting” looks. No wonder these “stylists” take two hours to “set” your hair. Have you ever tried blow-drying already dry hair? Ever?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Hair Raising Story - Part Un

So, the only-sister-of-the-groom wanted to get her air blow-dried. That should have been enough for the whole of the town to come running to me with their services, no? No. What follows is my rather hair raising story of how I got my hair “set”.

I, naively thinking, that hairdryers are as common in middle-class Indian households as pressure cookers are, decided not to take mine. In my defense, I had asked my mom about it before I left. “Do you have a hairdryer?” I had asker her, not mincing words. “I don’t want to bring mine.” My hairdryer takes up 1700 watts of energy and is mammoth. It’s huge and has a huger spiky wheel at its end to “add volume” to my wafer thin hair. Okay, I know wafer thin and hair don’t go well together. I know. But you get the idea, no? So, no. I was not lugging that contraption in my suitcases that seemed to be stuffed more than what I am after a hearty, eat-all-you-can buffet. Not to mention the transformer issues given its wattage and what not. “Yes, I have a hairdryer.” My mother repeated, again. And again.

Surely she must have picked up a decent one, I imagined. She lives all over the world and has terrible hair. I am sure it is a crime in some countries to go out with hair like that without at least blow-drying it. I should know. I have inherited that same hair. “No, don’t bring your hairdryer. It’s so huge.” She told me. Okay. I thought. I could borrow my sister-in-law’s travel hairdryer as a backup. Just in case. That hairdryer sort of just generates a lot of air and noise without any direction, but it’s workable. (Apparently, as I later discovered, it’s hard to buy a full-size, enough wattage to light up a small town, spiky-wheel-at-the-end hairdryer in India without wearing your chappals thin.)

Before I started to pack for my trip, I had pulled the 10 gallon wicker tote from under the bathroom sink. Now, this tote contains every hair product ever sold in this country. Mammoth dryer that looks like a mean weapon on Star Trek, teflon lined straightening iron, hot rollers for curl, velcro rollers for volume, half inch barrel curling iron, two inch barrel curling iron, metal hairdresser butterfly clips, hair color, developer, leave-in conditioner, straightening balm, curl defining mousse, volume enhancing medium hold styling gel, firm hold styling gel that does not enhance volume, anti-frizz hair serum that positively makes your hair flat, medium hold hairspray that retains bounce, firm hold hairspray that glues your hair tight. It is one well armed tote.

Hair dryer, the mother had. Straightening iron? Very useful, considering my bob. Bob + Humidity = Disaster. But Poona, where my parents live and the wedding was, is hardly humid. Also, straightening iron is high wattage. It might just burn. Not worth it. And in the end, I can always go and get my hair “set”. I hate getting my hair styled in unknown towns. For some reason they always know you are an out-of-towner and give you a shoddy blow-dry. It’s never worth the money. I much prefer to do my own hair thankyouverymuch.

So, I arrive at my parents' house. Armed with many bags. And my trusty Velcro rollers. Whoever invented them, I want to tell you, I worship you every morning. But I digress. So, yes. Rollers, volume enhancing medium hold styling gel, hairdresser metal clips, sarees, jewellery, evening shoes but no hair dryer and no straightening iron. After lunch, I say to my mother, “Show me the hair-dryer.” “Wait a minute. Let me remember where I put it.” She replies, running away because someone calls her. This does not look good. A few minutes later she returns and tells me she has found it and it is on the bed in my brother’s room. I walk inside and find no hair dryer. “Aie.” I call out like a petulant 3-yr old. “Where is the hairdryer? I can’t find it. All I see on the bed is what looks like a small personal heater.” My mother comes rushing in. “It’s a hair-dryer, alright” What? What?? “Well it’s a travel hair-dryer. It’s actually a hair-dryer-cum-heater-cum-iron-cum-water-heater.” WHAT? Surely she is making this up. I call out to my brother. “What is this thing?” I demand of him. “Oh.. that’s the travel thing. It has the iron and water heater. I have actually used the iron.” I am hyperventilating. This could not have been happening to me. My brother plugs it in and turns the neck of the contraption at an angle to turn it into a hair-dryer. It whirrs. “See? It works!” My mother says and flies into the kitchen before my speechless self can even begin to gather my thoughts.

For the next two days, I try blow-drying my hair with the hair-dryer-cum-heater-cum-iron-cum-water-heater. It’s not so bad, really. But takes a really, really long time. “Where do you go to get your haircuts and eyebrows done? Will that woman do my hair?” I ask my mother one evening, rubbing my sore arm from the blow-drying. “Dottie”, my mother shakes her head “that woman will take 2 hours to ‘set’ you hair.” “Two hours? I just want it blowdried. My hair is chin length. You can’t even do an updo. Why will it take two hours?” “They are very slow. They take two hours.” My exasperated mom tries to explain. So be it. I’ll just do my own hair, I think to myself and the sight of my Velcro rollers cheers me up a bit.

to be continued...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nine Days, Eight Nights

It hard enough trying to squeeze a month long trip into two weeks and harder still to squeeze a hectic 2-week trip into a blog post. Or two. Or even three. But try, I shall.

On the day of Dussehra, my tuck-his-wooden-sword-into-an-elastic-hairband-cummerband, spiderman-loving, he-man-obsessed brother got married. I don’t think he tucks swords in anymore or plays with he-man action figures – I am sure his wife took care of those obsessions when she appeared on the scene (wink, wink). My new sister-in-law a.k.a vahini is really sweet and even in the short evening we spent together, I totally saw what my brother meant when he said about that she had a positive vibe to her. There is one, no doubt.

The wedding as most Indian weddings go, was a weeklong affair. Exhausting. Exciting. My memories of the hectic week are so disjointed that I have been unable to gather my thoughts in to a coherent post. So I am giving a glimpse of what I remember. Fragmented, just like it is in my mind.

Rustling jewel colored silks. Grandmother, mother and daughter whispering, gossiping until the dawn sun broke. Grandfather threatening to wake up Chip if we did not immediately go to bed. Giggles. A flash of diamonds. The quiet shine of a gold necklace nestled in plum velvet waiting to be worn. Tinkling of glass bangles. Green. Gold. Silver. Fragrance of hot upma and coffee. Flurry of activity. Aching feet.

Rain.

Perfect tie hunt. Perfect jooti hunt. Perfect sleepwear hunt. Overheated Fabindia. The heat. The dust. The traffic. Datenight. Autorickshaw ride with BigGeek. Sizzlers. Too tired for a movie.

Attempts to find cotton nighties and slips. Muddy puddles. Caught in an unexpected shower. Drenched. Buying the perfect earring. Loosing its tiny screw but finding it, in forgotten dustballs under the bed. The aroma of havan smoke. That lingers for days afterward. Covering BigGeek’s designer dress shirt hung out to dry in the balcony with a smoky scent. Henna. What to give who. Packed in suitcases. Shown but not given.

Meeting relatives. Some older, some grayer, some taller, some drained, some unchanged. Forgetting names. Forgetting faces. Another wedding, another meeting. Perhaps.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Am Back

From a hectic 2 week trip to India. Hightlight of the trip was the wedding. Stories coming up!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Candy

There is a story my mother-in-law has often told me. About BigGeek when he was 3 years old so. They lived in Iran then and BigGeek would play with the kids in the neighborhood. One of the kids belonged to a baggage loader and one day, BigGeek went to this kid’s house and ate some ice-cream. When my mother in law came to know about it, she was not happy. The loader’s family was not rich and ice-cream was a luxury. So that BigGeek did not attempt imposing on the family in the future, she decided to teach him a lesson. “Don’t you get ice cream in our home?” she asked him. “Is what I give you not enough? Do you want more ice-cream? Here, eat this.” She said plonking a huge brick of ice cream in front of BigGeek. The 3-year old, either did not get his mother’s sarcasm or got it but ignored it, in the end, however, he calmly proceeded to finish the ice-cream. One huge 1-liter brick. I have often laughed at the story – my mother-in-law has many such incidents to retell, but yesterday I almost sought solace in it. This post is going to be long. Consider yourself duly warned.

So yesterday, the day was going in a pretty routine fashion, when Chip came holding a bag of caramels (a part of the anniversary gift we got from a dear friend). “I want to eat some candy.” He said. “No, Chip, no candy, not now. It’s time for a nap.” I replied. That was enough to send Chip into a nuclear meltdown. He stomped and whined and cried. I ignored and restated my position. A few minutes later a quieter version of Chip came up to me. “Can I pee in my pants?” he asked me, defiantly. He was pushing my buttons. “Go ahead. You know where you are supposed to pee, I am not going to tell you.” I was exasperated. A few minutes later, Chip came back, with a hop in his step, wearing a fresh pair of pants. I was aghast. Thinking he was just fooling, BigGeek went to his room and found his old pants and undies, soaking wet, carefully placed in his hamper. Chip was summoned and sent to his room with a good sounding. “Think about what you have done.” Chip was whining and crying. But BigGeek shut the door to his room and told him to come back out when he was ready to apologize and behave himself.

A few minutes later, the crying turned to a request. “I want to go do poo-poo.” BigGeek, thinking it was just a ruse to get out of the room, told him to stay put and do it on the carpet. “You peed in your pants, you can poop on the carpet.” But the whine grew and a minute later, BigGeek thought Chip really did want to go. So he opened the door and told Chip, he could go to the bathroom, but had to return to his room after he was done. Chip went to the bathroom and sat and five seconds later, ran back to his room, declaring he was going to poop on the carpet. We were convinced, he was pushing our buttons, he really did not want to poop, but had just wanted to get out of his room. BigGeek turned his back and we went about doing our chores when few minutes later, Chip proclaimed cheerfully. “I am do-ne. I am do-ne.” I could not believe it. Chip had actually pooped on the carpet. I had never seen such defiance from him before. Never. At this point, I totally lost it. I smacked his bottom and told him I refused to clean his bum and the mess. I was not going to take him to India to attend his uncle’s wedding. He was to stay home while his father and I went by ourselves. At that, he started howling. We let him cry for 20 minutes. He said he was sorry that he had pooped on the carpet, but I would not budge. He said he felt like throwing up – he was crying so much – but I still would not let him step out of the room (the door was open) BigGeek cleaned the mess while I fumed. I told Chip he was to go to bed. His father and I would decide in the meanwhile what was to be done about him. Chip cried himself to sleep. It was hard for BigGeek and me to be so hard on him, but he had to learn his lesson, we thought.

An hour later, he woke up and behaved like everything was just peachy. Like nothing happened. I have him his milk and his snack and told him that he would be allowed to go with us only if he managed to behave and not throw tantrums. One more tantrum and he would have to stay back. “V-mawshi will come and give you food, but otherwise you are on your own. You can eat all the candy you want. You can watch all the TV you want” I told him. He agreed to behave himself and I thought, this was it, when an hour later he came downstairs and told me he had eaten some homeopathy pills and he was sorry and he would not do it again. I sniffed his mouth, sure enough it smelled of homeopathic pills. I went upstairs and asked BigGeek if he knew what Chip had done. BigGeek replied yes and that he had talked to Chip about it and Chip had asked BigGeek not to tell me. BigGeek had told him, that he would not tell, but Chip HAD to ‘fess up to me. Which is why Chip came down and told me what he had done and had apologized. I had enough of this. I took some blank sugar pills and told him he could eat all this “medicine” and when he was done, I would take him to the hospital and let the doctors deal with him. He started crying again, but in a few minutes started picking the sugar pills, enjoying the “candy”. I had reached the end of my tethers. I sat down Chip and told him this was it. I had enough of him. I was going to tell the recycling guys to take him and bring me a “nicer Chip.” Chip went awfully quiet. “Am I trash?” he finally asked. I looked with a lump in my throat at BigGeek and saw tears in his eyes. Three years of father hood and I had never once seen BigGeek’s eyes misting like this over Chip. “No, Chip, you are not trash, but you certainly behave like it sometimes.” I said quietly. He was still mulling over it. “Well, if you put me out and when the trash people come, I’ll ask them, am I trash? They will say, no, you are not trash, you are Chip and they won’t take me. I am not trash, I am Chip.”

Chip must have seen the color drain from my face, as I crept towards BigGeek and buried my face in his shirt. I totally broke down at that. I was heartbroken, exhausted, exasperated even defeated, yet there was a small pride in this mother’s heart. He had stood up to me and reasoned with me, calmly. Chip walked to me and gave me a kiss and said “I will be a good boy, ok? No tantrums. I won’t pee in my pants and poop on the carpet. OK?” “Well you better be” I said composing myself, “because if you are not well-behaved, you are staying home and not attending your uncle’s wedding. Also, until then, you are off candy and off your favorite movies as a punishment for your behavior. You are grounded, dude.” He nodded and BigGeek pulled him in his lap and I gave him a kiss. This will be a day to remember and I hope we reach a stage when we can laugh over it and tell Chip’s kids this story the way BigGeek’s mother tells his story. And yeah, I hope it’s a stage, this defiance. I need some new strategies to deal with it. I am woefully unprepared. I thought teenage is still a decade away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

Summary
In this rather expansive book, Phillipa Gregory recounts the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Don’t let that faze you. The narrator of the book is Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister and the king’s mistress. Its through her point of view, we get a rich glimpse of the power games at play in the 16th century English court. Almost like an inside scoop. The story of Anne Boleyn is very well known, so there is really no suspense, in terms of plot, because we all know how the story ends. Yet, Gregory manages to keep us on the edge of our seats. How did it happen? Who did it? The realpolitik of the court, the games to win the king’s favor, the spies, the wars, the diplomacy and the lack thereof and most of all the ambition spin the characters – Mary and Ann Boleyn, their brother George, the King and Queen Katherine, the courtiers, the bishops, the knights even the lowly chambermaids into a dizzying, enthralling tale.

What worked for me
The flow. The novel flows effortlessly. And is very well researched. Only if they had taught history like this in schools! The novel is also extensive in scope and while I winced at the 600+ pages before I started to read, I slowly realized that it couldn’t really be edited to something significantly smaller without sacrificing its pace. I liked the pace of the book. It starts with an execution (actually two) and ends with one. I fall for full-circle-themes like that.

From what seems a fairly routine and innocuous incident (well at least in the 16th century) of Mary Boleyn catching the King’s eye and becoming his mistress, the story unfurls the unbridled ambitions of the Boleyn family, who will literally play the field with their daughters, right under Queen Katherine’s nose. The queen’s quiet dignity and anguished struggle in response to the King’s whims and the Boleyn girls, her political acumen and astuteness, her defiance, all come alive with the character Gregory crafts. The characters are all multi-dimensional. Even the gentle, sweet Mary Boleyn has a dark side to her. And the King, who seems to get what he wants, all the time- well, he is the King after all- has a tragic side to him.

I discovered the etymology of “courtship” and “courting” while reading the book. I discovered the customs and traditions of day to day living in the 16th century England. What did people eat? How did they dress? How did women give birth? And how were they branded witches? I enjoyed the ride immensely and at the end of it was left feeling sorry for every character in the book and thanking my stars for having been born in the 20th century.

What did not work for me
Some language was too modern. Although Gregory, thankfully stays away from the 16th century English and writes her dialogues in faux-old English to set the tone, sometimes, the phrases seem too modern. What also did not work for me, were the gratuitous passages of intimate relations. Between Mary and the King, Anne and the King, Mary and her husband. Too much detail to the point it felt like reading a Harlequin romance novel.

Hot or Drop
Definitely Hot. I can’t really compare it to other historical fiction novels – the only other piece of historical fiction I have read is in Marathi called “Swami” and I read it almost 15 years ago. But I enjoyed this very intriguing book and I highly recommend it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Seventh Step

I don’t remember what I did before I met you. The days are sort of blurry. I went to school, I worked, I partied like there is no tomorrow on the weekends, but I cannot quite remember any specific details. It is all in black and white. Sort of.

You and I were married twice. To each other. Once in the US, a couple of months later in India. It was not planned so. I always had wanted a small wedding. I did not even really want a Vedic ceremony. So many of its rituals seem to have lost their context. I would have been happy signing the register and celebrating it with close family and friends, but you believed in the sanctity and purity of fire and wanted us to be married the Vedic way for that, if not anything else. And I decided not to press my point. Did it really matter how we were married? A grueling six hour ceremony, many saree changes and many untranslated chants? So be it.

But I must have wished really hard for a small ceremony. Because, soon after our engagement as my full-of-lawyers family began to enquire into where the marriage would be registered, it became apparent that it would be easier to just get it done here before we left for India. We went to the county court and got our license. I came back home and looked up a Justice of Peace and booked her for Sept.20. at 9:30 a.m. I wore turquoise Dharmavaram, the only saree I had with me. You wore a business suit. And thus we were married. No rings exchanged because, the wedding bands were already ordered for in India. The two of us and three friends as witnesses. A lot of our friends did not even know this, since it was so sudden. A close friend brought a chocolate cake to celebrate and the “reception” was held at a place dear to our hearts - a Starbucks shop - over slices of rich chocolate cake and lattes.

The funny part of our wedding was this. Our friends had decided to throw us a bachelor/bachelorette bash the next day (which was a Saturday). This had been planned for many weeks and a big junta was invited. So imagine the surprise (and I suspect the letdown) most of our friends had when we announced that we had been married by the justice of peace, the day before.

It will be six years tomorrow since that early autumn day in a county court. I look upon that day and see it as a day when we loved each other the least. For, even though our love changed and took on many different avatars, it never ceased to grow. While most husbands and wives go out for dinner or a movie on their anniversaries, or plan a trip to the beach or the mountains, we celebrated our anniversary last year at the cardiac recovery unit. You had a stent put in your heart that very same morning. The irony of that day never ceases to stun me.

But as we step into our seventh year, I hope the worst is behind us. And while I have wanted diamonds or flowers or gadgets on our anniversary before, I ask for nothing more than your health and companionship and our unity.

Happy Anniversary, love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Encounters of the Virtual Kind

The sunny Raysh and cheeky Preethi have claimed me as their BFF. Oh! Wait. Actually not Preethi. She has given this cute card to Chip, not me. Bah! What does the kid know? Huh?

The best part of blogging is the camaraderie I share with many of you. I have always envied the menfolk for the easy companionship they are able to share with their friends. No pettiness, no back biting. Well at least most of the time. And I have been lucky to have found such a circle of friends through this blog. You know who you are and this award goes to you! Thank you for your lovely friendship!

Monday, September 15, 2008

WALL-E

Before the movie
DotThoughts: So who wants to see Wall-E?
BigGeek: I want to!
Chip ignoring everybody.
DotThoughts: Nobody wants to watch Wall-E? OK, Baba and I are going to the theater ourselves. OK, Baba?
Chip: No, I want to watch Wall-E too!

During the movie – the first 20 minutes
Chip: I want some more popcorn.
DotThoughts: Aren’t you watching the movie?
Chip: I am! Look, that’s a trash truck.

An hour into the movie
Chip: You are just “sharing” the soda, right? You are not finishing it?
DotThoughts: Watch the movie, will you?. See what Eva is doing. What is she doing?

After the move, standing in checkout line at the grocery store.
Chip spots a book with Wall-E on it cover.
Chip: I know who that is.
DotThoughs: Who is that? What is his name?
Chip: Umm.. Umm..
DotThoughts: Dude, we just saw the movie.
Chip: Yes! I liked popcorn and soda. You shared soda with me, right?

Tickets – $25
Popcorn - $7.50
Soda - $5.50
First movie theater experience - Priceless

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Test

More than a quarter of a century ago, in a smallish classroom sat a girl of about five. She sat on the last bench, next to this plump, pasty faced girl who was her best friend for the sole reason they both liked blue and bonded over this essential aspect of their lives. Two months later, the friendship fell through because the pasty faced girl declared her favorite color to be green which was unacceptable. Green? Please. But for the first quarter of the year they were swore to be best friends forever.

So, on this particular day, the girls were writing a test. Community Living. The girl always though the subject really made no sense. The textbook told to use water carefully but there was never enough water to go around, so wastage was not really an issue. The book told her to eat pulses, but she ate them already and liked them.

The girl really had no idea what the test was all about. It was the first test she had ever given and had no clue what one was supposed to do. As the bell sounded, the teacher started handing out the question paper glancing at her watch. The teacher was reputed to be really nasty. She had once hurled a wooden blackboard duster at a student when she had lost her temper. Thankfully the duster had missed the student’s head, instead hitting the white-washed wall behind him.

The girl got her paper and started to read the first question. “Cross out the wrong words.” She read. Whatever that meant. The words made no sense. How was she to determine the wrong words? She thought about it for a long time. When the teacher walked past her bench, she timidly asked what the question meant. The teacher glared at her and told her to stop talking during an exam and to just write her answers. The girl thought some more. Again when the teacher walked past her, she repeated the question. “I don’t know.” replied the teacher brusquely and then threatened a rap on her knuckles if she asked again. Once the teacher’s back had turned, the girl turned to her best friend who sat besides her. “What does cross out the wrong words mean?” she whispered in desperation. Her best friend was smarter than her. “I think it means you just strike out the words you don’t like.” She whispered back. Words she didn’t like? How was she to determine that? It was getting complicated by the minute.

She chewed the back of her pencil wondering which words she didn’t like. She liked them all. What was there to not like about these words? She could read them all, even if they made no sense. But she had to pick and cross out the wrong words. She peeped at what her best friend was doing. The friend seemed to know which words she didn’t like. She was crossing some, leaving others out. The girl, had to decide fast. But she was so peeved with all this test business. She decided she did not like a single word from the test paper. Hell, she didn’t even like the test. Her chewed out pencil leapt into action and she unfalteringly crossed out every word in the test paper. Every damn, single word. And then she sat with a smug smile on her face. That would teach them, she thought to herself, realizing she mostly meant the nasty teacher who was glancing at her watch.

Her best friend peered at what the girl had done and looked at her own paper realizing that the girl had crossed out more words than she had. The friend panicked. The girl was going to get better marks because she crossed out more words. In a hurry she started placing neat ‘X’ marks on every word, but the teacher was already collecting the papers and before she could finish, the papers were all collected and bundled up.

Epilogue: The girl scored a zero on the test. The best friend scored 1- She miraculously had got one of the “cross out the wrong words question” correct.

And now here is a quiz question. Can you tell who was the girl and who was the best friend? Correct answer will be awarded $5*.

*Terms and Conditions apply. The award will be given to correct answers by respondents aged 500 or older. Valid only in the continental 48 states. Neighbors, blog-pals, family and friends will be excluded from the award.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Toy Blender

There was a tale my grandfather told me when I was very young. About my father. My father was a model child. Very low maintenance. This particular memory that my grandfather often told me while putting me down for a nap in the afternoon was how my father never broke a teacup as a small child. When guests came over, my father would take their empty teacups back to the kitchen. Very slowly. Very carefully. Never dropping a cup. My father would sing lullabies and pat my uncle (his younger brother by three years) down for naps when the said brother was a toddler. He would by vegetables on his way home from school with the few paise my grandmother gave him to buy treats from the school canteen. The joke in the family is that my dad was already 50 when he was born.

Some times I see my father in Chip. For all the tantrums and drama surrounding him, there is this very mature side to him that peeks out now and then. Take this past weekend. I had promised Chip he would get a toy blender (something he had been wanting for a while) if he went to his new class at his pre-school without a whimper. He managed 3 whine free days and so the promise had to be made good. On Friday evening, I picked him from the school and we drove to a toy store. We looked for a toy blender, but there were none. So he settled on an iron instead. Now the iron was much, much cheaper than the toy blender, so in a fit of generosity, I told him to pick something else too. “No.” he said shaking his head. I insisted. Do you want a Spiderman action figure? Another thing he had once asked for. “No” he said. “A baking set?” “No.” “Puzzles?” “We bought one toy. That’s enough for today. I don’t want any more toys. I like my iron.” He said hugging his exact iron replica. He never really demands things. He demands to “do” things but not demand I buy stuff for him. He will ask for something, but he is usually satisfied when I tell him it’s too expensive or that we will wait for a special occasion to buy it. Of course, this could the hubris of a naive toddler’s parent. In a year, I will be writing about His Chipness incessant demands to “buy” stuff. Until then I am smiling.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bag Grab

I love handbags and shoes. Women like me simply have to. There is this theory which states that- “In a closed fashion system, as the mass and volume of an entity falls away from a store mannequin or a runway model, the entity’s attraction to shoes and handbags tends to infinity.” Hello, Fendi. The past long weekend found us in the city of cities, New York.

You know, there is this thing about New York. Well, actually there are a lot of things about New York and in New York and of New York and about New York, but the one that always strikes me is how the New York Woman dresses. Have you seen those little articles in fashion magazines? Wise words from fashionistas that tell you to “match it” or “clash it” (whatever that means). The ones that tell you to unabashedly pair a gold belt with a purple shirtdress and wear nude shoes and acrylic bangles? Or to wear white when one is not supposed to, or wear full skirts with chunky sweaters and a hat. The New York Woman wears it all. Thankfully, not all at the same time. And yet, somehow, manages to look so stylish. Crazy, but stylish.

On that background, I look too much of a suburban mom. I live my life in the rainbow shades of polos, henleys, oxfords and chinos. And I only have myself to blame. A few weeks ago I went to get my hair cut, determined to have a stylish angled bob, but when the scissors hit the hair, I chickened. “Make it a mommy bob.” I told the stylist. Mommy bob? “You know I want to look chic, but mommy chic.” In the end, I got my angled bob, but I have to tell people it’s angled and more importantly chic. My friends admire the angled bobs on other’s heads while I stand right beside them, tapping my foot, pointing to my own do.

I do not, unlike the writers of fashion magazines would like me to, own any gold belts or a purple shirtdresses or acrylic bangles. And the white capri I bought so enthusiastically at the beginning of this summer has salsa stains from when Chip had overturned a bowl of taco-salad bought from a drive-through fast food place. So obviously, having learnt something from that stainful experience, I have avowed not to wear white until Chip goes to college. I cannot wear full skirts and chunky sweaters with a hat. BigGeek will laugh until his eyes pop out and ask me without batting an eyelid if this is what I plan to wear when I take Chip out to trick or treat this Halloween, cautiously avoiding the sensitive issue of my abundant behind.

Determined to be somewhat chic, I decided to get a new handbag. And shoes if I could find them. Over the years I have come to realize, that a handbag or a nice pair of shoes can be the answer to most pressing dilemmas and deepest questions. Life, after all is so much like a handbag. Leave it open and a lipstick is bound to fall out of it sooner or later. In an earnest quest, then, my friend and I walked and walked. Ok, it was only 10 blocks, but it seemed like a long journey. Felt like 20 blocks, if you ask me. At last, we reached the corner of Broadway St. and Canal St. where touts from forgotten African countries tried to sell us luxe knock-offs. Coach? Gucci? Fendi? We were in heaven. I bought two and at that instant, my suburban persona underwent a dramatic transformation. New York Chic was upon me. I was New York Chic and New York chic was me.

Who was I kidding? Who was I kidding? After I got back home, far away from New York, and dangled the bags from my shoulder to my thick middle, I realized that New York Chic and I were far away from being one. Now I looked like a suburban mom trying to be New York Chic. Sigh. On the flip side, that means, I get to go and buy another handbag very soon. And shoes if I can find them.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bully Me Not

This post was on my to-do list for a long time and frankly, I don’t know how quite to organize my thoughts on the subject. A few weeks ago, a pretty scary incident happened with Kiran’s son (read about it here). Kiran’s son has been picked on by this boy at school, his bullying resulting in serious tumble down the stairs. It was a scary time for Kiran and her family, no doubt. While exchanging emails with her and a few other friends, I discovered how common bullying was in the elementary school aged kids and kids even younger.

Chip is 3 and I never thought he would be bullied and perhaps he isn’t because how do you really define bullying? In the context of someone so young?
Isolated instances of aggression?
Repeated instances by the same person?
Repeated instances of aggression with the same victim but different aggressors?
How?
Chip falls in the last category. I don’t think he gets bullied at school, I would have heard of it, but he does fall victim at get-togethers, parties and on the playground. All kids get into scuffles, yes, but with bullying one child is always powerless against the other. The bully always holds power over the victim and the victim is unable to respond.

Take a dinner party we went to. The kids were playing in the basement when a kid about 4 years old walked up to Chip and demanded that Chip hand over the foosballs he was holding. Chip denied. The boy, punched Chip in the stomach. Hard. I was watching; unsure if I should step in. The boy demanded the foosballs again. Chip shook his head. The kid punched Chip again in the stomach. Two quick, hard punches. Chip fell to the ground, breathless. I went to help Chip, another friend who noticed went to the boy and told him to stop hitting. I went to the boy too and told him hands were not for hitting. He walked off in a huff. His father was watching and said nothing. The father obviously did not mind the boy hitting to get his way. The boy has hit Chip before and I have always wondered what to do. I don’t want to butt in what are essentially kid’s quarrels, but I also don’t want Chip to get hurt. So after that instance, I told Chip, that he has to hold the bully’s hand (if he can) and say in a loud voice “Don’t hit me. Hands are not for hitting.” That, I told him, would attract the attention of a grown-up.

A couple of weeks later, Chip was at a tot lot. We were meeting some friends for coffee and they have 3-year old too and the boys were playing. I suddenly heard a cry from Chip. He came crying pointing to a stocky, blond boy who had hit him. The boy was now picking on my friend’s 3 yr old (M), but M had more grit than Chip. He hit the blond boy back. The boy backed off. My friend told Chip to play on another slide, but the blond boy followed Chip and punched him again. This time I saw it and told Chip to tell him to stop hitting. Chip ran back to the boy, put his face within an inch of the boy, and looking into his eyes, yelled at him. “Don’t hit me. OK? Don’t hit me again. Don’t hit me.” That was enough for the boy’s mother who sat engrossed in a conversation to look up and scold her son.

But I could not get the incident out of mind. After I got home, I told BigGeek what had happened. BigGeek was furious. He went to Chip and asked about the punching incident. Chip told BigGeek that a boy had punched him. “If someone punches you Chip” said BigGeek, “tell them once to stop hitting you and if they don’t listen, punch them back. Punch them back hard.” Two months ago, I would have disagreed with BigGeek. We should not be encouraging Chip to hit other kids. But after this incidence, it got me thinking. A grown up is never going to be always around to help Chip, and even then, Chip should be able to take care of himself. He should defend himself. To not do so, would be to encourage the bully. Co-incidentally, that week, Chip also saw Spiderman 3 and Batman. In bits and pieces. I was not comfortable letting Chip watch the violence, but it did him some good. He realized that good guys sometimes have to beat up the bad guys. Chip is a gentle kid by nature. He gets upset when a cartoon character falls or crashes because he is worried that the character is in pain. Even during the throes of his terrible two’s, he rarely hit or punched. His anger is directed inside (which frankly is a lot more scarier to me). I have seen him wanting something another kid has and not snatch the item. He asks for it, or tries to barter or divert the other kid’s attention to something else, he rarely snatches and never from a younger child. This is who he is and I don’t want to change it, but his father and I can and should teach him to defend himself. The world is not as gentle.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Brilliant, me?

Brilliante Weblog 2008
Not just one but two. And from my favorite bloggers too. Kiran and Itchy just floored me with this. Compared to their insightful and funny posts, I write pretty mundane stuff. I am ecstatic that some one apart from the trusy ol'BigGeek here thinks I am brilliant and don't just... you know.
This award is for blogs whose content and design are brilliant as well as creative.The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.
Here are the rules to follow:
1. When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back
2. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in their content or design.
3. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with ‘Brilliant Weblog’
4. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional).
5. And then we pass it on!"
And the seven brilliant weblogs I award are:
Boo's Baby Talk : If only I could write like her. She has a refreshing point of view. And always manages to see things in a lighter vein. Soo, Boo, this is for you.
CeeKay: She is a bold lioness. Never afraid to speak her mind. Sensible parenting advice to boot.
Suki: She is a teenager, but she writes with such maturity. Never fails to impress this "behenji" : - )
Moppet Tales : Funny and insightful. I love reading adventures of Moppet and the newly minted Munch.
Dipali: She is a virtual mommy. I particularly enjoy her "blast from the past" posts.
Rayshma : Reading her posts always put me in a positive frame of mind. With her blog, sunshine is just a click away.
Noon: there is something about noon's posts that is very, very honest. No pretenses here. Always look forward to reading her blog.

Edited to add: birds-eye-view has honored me with this award too. Thanks, BEV.

Another update: PG has floored me with this too. I love her anecdotal posts about her son!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Alchemist

Summary (Mild Spoilers)
Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd, has recurring dreams of finding a treasure in Egypt. He embarks on a journey to seek that treasure that takes him over the moors and the desert sands and he meets many spiritual advisers on the way. A fortune teller, an old man in disguise, an Englishman who is interested in Alchemy, a shop keeper who sells crystal, desert tribes’ men and warriors. And of course the alchemist. Even the sands and the camel acts as his spiritual path finders on his journey to Egypt to find his treasure a.k.a his Personal Legend. Through his adventures, Santiago makes discoveries about himself and the world and finds about the Language Of The World and the Soul Of The World.

What worked for me
The title. The title is intriguing, as is the location. Spain and North Africa conjure up mystery and certain inscrutability. Descriptions of the landscape. I enjoyed them and dreamt of jumping on a plane to see Andalusia and Algiers and even traveling in a caravan across the desert.

What did not work for me
Whatever else remains. I think the book is a bit heavy-handed. For a fable it is very long and not surprisingly redundant. I am a big fan of “show-not-tell” style of writing. This book shows very little, but tries to tell a lot. Which gives a feeling that the author is trying to dumb down the book for his readers. Also, where allegories go, there is a certain thrill in “discovering” the allegory which is completely lost here. He lays down the symbols, decodes them for you and then gives his own interpretation all nicely bundled up and tied with a pink ribbon. In my opinion, spiritual themes never go redundant. But when a book like this comes along, it gives a feeling that it is nothing more than recycled spiritual material. The thrill is in finding out the message. If it is laid out plainly, it becomes a sermon, which is what this book boils down to. Also, a good allegory, I think, is a mirror. You see yourself in the symbolism, here I saw only Santiago.

I also had problems with how Coelho defines “Personal Legend”. Is it what you are destined to do? Or deserve to do? Or eventually end up doing? What about responsibility? This book had so much potential. But the seed never quite germinated here. Coelho lays it on thick. On every page. Syrupy Spirituality. I cringed when he described in detail the meeting between a mysterious warrior on the horse in the Oasis and Santiago and ended the narration with this – “He had met the Alchemist?” I, a novice writer could have done a better job of that.

Hot Or Drop
If you like pop spirituality, then this is for you. If you think you can enjoy Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, at this point in your life, read this book. I read Jonathan Livingston when I was 13 and was enamored by it. I think I will pass that book now. If you have read the Little Prince by Antione St.Exupery, definitely drop this book. The Little Prince is in a whole different league. And if you haven’t read the Little Prince and don’t think you will enjoy Jonathan Livingston Seagull at this point in your life, I would recommend heading out to the library and reading The Little Prince instead of the Alchemist. Or pick up Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. That’s a good read too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Chipspeak

(On the way home from daycare)
Aie: We have to stop at CVS on our way home to pick up Baba’s meds.
Chip: OK.
(2 minutes later Aie realizes she needs to go to the bathroom)
Aie: Chip, actually, lets go home, you drink your milk and then we’ll go to CVS.
Chip: Why? I want to go to CVS now.
Aie: I have to do pee-pee, that’s why.
Chip: You won’t do it in your chuddi?
Aie: No! Am I a baby? We will go home, you drink your milk and I will to go to the bathroom and then we’ll go to the store.
Chip: No, no. Drive fast and find a gas station. You can do pee-pee there. The bathroom’s just like home. Don’t be afraid. Even I do pee-pee there.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

(Shaking a blue stuffed elephant in Aie’s face)
Chip: Poo-poo. That’s poo poo.
Aie is silent. Tries to get a rise out of his mother
Chip: Is that poo-poo, Aie? Is that poo-poo?
Hahaha. Aie was not born yesterday, dude
Aie: Yes, that’s poo-poo.
Chip is taken aback.
Chip (cautiously): That’s poo-poo?
Aie: Yes, its blue poo-poo
Chip: OK, let’s put it on your bum then.
(Chases Aie up the stairs to pin the blue poo-poo on her ample behind)

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Aie finds a small dark wooden stick under her bed. She wonders what it is and keeps it aside. Two minutes later Chip arrives and looks at the stick.
Chip: What’s that stick?
Aie: I don’t know. It’s just a stick. I don’t remember what it’s for.
Chip thinks for a second.
Chip: It’s the frog’s stick?
Aie: Frog’s stick?
Chip: Yes. Sadhee (Ajji) got the frog. You do this with the stick. (does a motion with the stick)
Aie (suddenly remembering): Oh! Yes. The frog croaks when you rub the stick on its back. Now I remember.
Chip: Yes! Frog goes croak-croak.
Aie: I wonder where the frog is. Give me the stick.
Chip: No. Are you a frog? No. You are not a frog. You are Aie. This is frog’s.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chipspeak

If I were sitting on a chair, I would have fallen off at what Chip told me last night. He was answering his nature’s call – and no this fact isn’t really relevant here – but this is how it happened. I was around, straightening up the bedrooms when he called. “Aie.”. Louder. “Aie”. “What?” “Do you know?” “Do I know what?” He still doubts my all knowing capabilities? Like father, like son. But going off on a tangent here.

“Do you know” he proceeded to calmly tell me “I have a baby in my tummy?” You have a what???? You have a what???? Okay. Calm down. Deep breath. He is 3 and he is a boy. And the last time you checked he hadn’t been abducted by aliens. Time to pull out your nonchalant-when-you-are-about-to-hyperventilate tone. “Really, Chip? I can’t see it.” Chip pulled up his shirt and pointed to his tummy. “See, its right here. Inside.” I debated for a full 5 seconds whether to ask him how the baby appeared inside his stomach. But I was too chicken that he might actually end up enlightening his mother on that issue. Because, what does she know? But keep quiet I could not. “You can’t have a baby in your tummy Chip.” I said. “You are a boy.” He thought about that for a second. “Let’s wash you bum.” I said.

Two minutes later we went to his room to change clothes. “Do you have a baby in your tummy, Aie?” That was easy. “No.” I replied. “No? There is no baby here?” I shook my head. “Why, Aie, why?” As I looked for answer, Chip volunteered, again. “Is it because you are a good girl, Aie?”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

FrontEnd and BackEnd

Yes, I know. My blog life has been neglected. Both in the writing department and reading. My excuse? I was super swamped at work. No, make that a present tense. I am super swamped at work. And while taking 20 minutes to write a post is very doable, no matter how much stuff I am buried in, inspiration refuses to strike an overworked mind. Well, that’s my story and I am sticking to it, ok?

If you read my last post, about the fender bender, well there’s more to it that the little apple green VW bug. The day after I go my car back, I got a call from the auto body shop telling me that I owe them $500 as the insurance deductible. “But, it wasn’t my fault. The other party rear ended my car. They are supposed to pay my deductible.” I tried to explain. The man was very understanding but told me I would have to pay and then the other party’s insurance would send me a check.

I called BigGeek and told him what had happened. “Call your insurance agent” he advised. “Give her the third degree. Tell her on no account will you deal with a third party insurance. Tell her we don’t pay hefty premiums for such shoddy service. You will deal only with her. Tell her you are not writing a check for one red cent. Also, when my car was T-boned by another car 5 years ago, I did not go through this. It was the other party’s fault and I did not have to pay any money upfront. Just rail on her. And of course don’t forget to play the I am shopping for another insurance company card.” So I called the insurance agent and while she tried to brush me off, I stuck to my guns and gave her the third degree. Word for word what BigGeek had told me. It worked. Or I hope it has. I haven’t gotten a call from the auto body shop or the insurance agent. And no news is good news, right?

But I digress. The point of the post is not really my insurance woes. It is how we, as a married team communicate to the outside world. I am the front-end, he is the backend. ALWAYS.

On lazy Saturday mornings.
BigGeek: Dottie, call Verizon. They have charged us $100 for the 20 min. phone call you made to London. Tell them what nonsense is this? We are not paying. Charge us by $0.10 a minute. This is thievery. Call them and yell.

Or on a busy Thursday evening.
BigGeek: Dottie call the construction guy and tell him to give us a discount on the walkway quote. Use your charm.

Or some random day
BigGeek: Dottie, tell Chip to stop making a mess. Look at the mess he is making.

Or the Sunday morning phone call to my in-laws
BigGeek: (to his mom, after she has asked him how our week was): Wait, let me get Dottie, she will tell you what we did.

And you can’t beat this.
BigGeek: Dottie, call M (a good friend) and ask him if he wants to meet me for a haircut and a coffee.

Early on in our marriage, I once complained to his aunt about this rather annoying habit. She laughed and shook her head. “That’s how all the men in this family are. Better get used to it.” And the thing is, now, I am used to it. I get annoyed, but I am used to it. BigGeek will always run in the backend. I would have said he runs like a daemon in the background, but BigGeek does not run on open source. So he runs on the Windows in the Scheduler, like a monitoring script picking up the slightest discrepancies, triggering a warning and feeding it to his error handler that makes phone calls. A match made in heaven. Indeed.