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?
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.


(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)


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


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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Bug's Life

For two days, a small dream came true. Anybody remember the Herbie movies? The Love bug and Herbie goes banans and Herbie goes to MonteCarlo? I loved the Bug. Always wanted to own one. After my attempts at getting one were promptly squished by BigGeek many years ago- he warned me he would never sit in one, let alone drive it, I gave up. There was to be no Volkswagen Beetle in my life – also, it was a coupe and with a baby planned, it would be hard to navigate the whole car seat thing with no back doors and all that.

Two weeks ago, no it more like three weeks ago, I had a fender bender. I was stopped at a light and a guy in some Nissan came behind me, forgot to stop and rear-ended my car. I had a whiplash, the rear bumper was splintered. When I took the car to an auto body shop, they told me it had to be replaced. So this Monday, I rose, bright and early and took my car down to the shop to get it fixed. My insurance provided me with a rental car and I waited for 40 minutes to get one, my best scowl plastered on the face.

Finally, a shuttle arrived and took us down to the rental car office. I was still scowling. They had told me the rental car would be at the shop and it wasn’t and I was getting late for work. I surveyed the cars in the parking lot while I waited. Predictable Kias and Nissans, the odd Ford and Chevy. I didn’t care which car I got. I just wanted to get out and on my way. As I went up to the desk and handed my papers to the blonde behind the counter, she beamed at me. “I just have a VW beetle come in. Would you like that?” Would I like that? Would I like that? Was she kidding me? Hell, yes. I am a certified chick, y’know. “And it’s green.” she added, her eyes twinkling. I could see eyes burning holes in my back. But my scowl had turned into a happy grin. An apple green bug for me. Yay. I prayed the body shop took a week to fix the bumper. The car was brought to the front and I happily sat inside. It was spacious. Beautiful big windows.
And that little car had some remarkable pep. Compared to the staid “Mommy” Honda I drive. I was ecstatic. I hadn’t been this ecstatic over a “thing” in a very long time. I eased the car into gear and it purred and zipped away.

Ten minutes later, the sun started to stream in my eyes. I leaned to flip the visor only to find that my five-and-a-half-feet tall frame could barely reach it. Minor Annoyance One. A few minutes later, I made a turn, the sun moved to my left and I reached out to move it to the window only to find that it barely covered half the window. Minor Annoyance Two. No box to store my car essentials – parking badge, EZ pass, cell phone charger, junk. Minor Annoyance Three. And the ride was bumpy (ok, they call it sporty, I call it bumpy). Minor Annoyance Four. I tuned the radio to a news station and cranked the volume waay up. The car was super noisy. Major Annoyance One. But the biggest annoyance was that nobody took my road presence seriously. When I am in the Honda on a crowded road during rush hour, nobody will dare to cut in front of me from a piddly side street. With the bug however, people thought I was just driving a toy and had really nowhere important to get to, and boldly cut in front of me. All the time. Major Annoyance Two.

By the second day, I sorely missed my Honda. I was what I drove. I was very unlike the Beetle. I was not small and cute, I was not noisy, I really had no pep to speak of. And like my Honda, I was more, let’s just say, umm, mature looking and gray and reliable. Quiet. Staid. Mommy-like. So, despite the initial euphoria, I was mighty glad when the body shop called me at work and told me the work on my car had been done ahead of schedule.

I went picked up my car yesterday evening and turned in the VW Bug. It was a fun ride, but I was relieved it lasted just two days. When I went to pick up Chip in the old car, he was sad. He had so liked the VW Bug. I explained to him again that it was a rental and now that my car was fixed I had no need for it. Hours later, after we got home, he stood in our picture window watching the street, and turned to me and said “You know Aie, you were driving that rental very fast this morning.” It IS a good thing I don’t drive a VW after all!