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Archive for the ‘Musings…’ Category

We’ve been here three weeks already.

Sometimes, it feels like time flies. At others, it seems as though we are floating through time with each day taking ages to pass by. I had a fabulous time with the kids….we were together night and day, doing everything together . It was so much fun :). Eventually, we realized that it was time to put them in school . Luckily, we found one close to our apartment and the kids were duly enrolled (that deserves a post in itself). The kids started school last week. I feel each day dragging by once the twins leave 😦 . The hours which earlier flew by when we were all at home, seem to drag on endlessly when the kids are away.  I have a crick in my neck from turning to look at the wall-clock every few minutes 😦 (wonder how BF managed it for a year all alone)

On the plus side, this break from the kids has given me  a chance to observe this city and environment more closely. The more I see, the more I’m surprised. I confess I had my own preconceived notions about America (and Americans) and I’m glad that much of it is misplaced. For once, I’m happy that am being proved wrong 🙂 .  So here are a few things that have me nodding my head in wonder :-

1) I wouldn’t have used the word “Conservative” to describe the people here but surprisingly that is exactly what they are. Much to my surprise, regular people are still conservative in their appearance and thoughts. Family values still hold strong and places like the twin’s school can compete with the public schools in India regarding school uniforms (no short skirts 😐 . In fact, they said that it would be preferable if we sent our daughter in pants 😐 ). Even our apartment administration has a dress code. No loitering in the lobby in shorts OR bikini tops!

2) Even though I stopped doing the mental currency conversion, it stands true that downtown Chicago rates are much steeper than the outskirts/suburbs. Onions are more expensive than cheese and parking lots cost more than cars. This place is really expensive *Sigh*. Also, there are no prices tags on the products. The store decides the rate. A packet of chips in one store could come for $2 and the very same pack could be available in another for $5. There is no concept of MRP like we have back home. The good part is that you can get everything here. And I mean, everything! Even Parle-G. I kid you not!!

3) People here are very cordial with their P’s and Q’s in place. They will talk about the weather and chat about their work, but no one talks much about themselves or their families. Asking about their wives/husbands/kids is seen as intrusion on their privacy 😐 . I realized this when once too often, my questions were met with silence or change of topic! I mean c’mon! How long can one talk about the weather which has been the same for the last 4 months??

4) I used to curse Indian television which inserted a zillion advertisements when a movie was playing. But that is nothing compared to what happens on some channels here. The last 5 minutes of a movie were dragged for 20 minutes, with advertisements inserted after every minute of the movie !! I was so stunned I sat through the entire thing wondering what lengths they could take their advertising to 😀

5) Traffic in downtown Chicago is much like it is back in Pune. Bumper-to-bumper vehicles during peak hours and mostly empty roads thereafter. So I was walking along one day when I saw a traffic jam. Vehicles at a crossing were stuck at the centre because of a signal further ahead on that road. Though it was a green signal for the other side, the cars couldn’t move because of the other vehicles stuck in the centre. As I stood there watching, I felt something missing. Something that I thought should be a part of that scene but wasn’t! And then it hit me. There was not a single car horn to be heard! Yup, no honking! It was absolute silence as every single driver waited for the traffic jam to clear. And no, there was no traffic policeman around. Everybody patiently sat in their cars and waited for their turn. It was shocking and amazing! I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the same scene took place in Pune!  Also, though they have signals for pedestrian crossings, there are times when people cut across the road. Even then, the cars slow down and wait for you to cross. No cussing or yelling out by the drivers 🙂 . It is so wonderful to see such discipline 🙂 .

6) People here love their pets. Many locals don’t have kids. They prefer keeping dogs or cats. Each to his own, I say. But the best part is that they treat the pets exactly like they would a child. The stores have the most amazing variety of dog/cat food, treats, toys and even clothes 😐 . So deep is the love for pets that the half-kilometer radius near my apartment has more than 6-7 pet grooming saloons and hospitals. The best part? There are no clinics/hospitals for people 😐 !

7) I was at the Social Security office the other day. There was a line for the security check. I had dumped my purse and jacket on the conveyor belt for scanning and was waiting for my turn. When it came, the tall, burly security guy (definitely white American) looked at me and said,” Toh, kahan jaana hai aapko?”  To say that I did a double take would be putting it mildly. He, of course, looked amused 🙂 . Obviously, he was waiting for me to reply. “I wasn’t expecting that”, I mumbled feebly,”Social Security office jaana hai”. “Koi baat nahin”, he says, “Aap second floor par jao. Khushi hui aapse milkar”.  Whoa!! What was that?! When I asked the BF later, he said that the security guy had a roommate who was Pakistani. So thats why the chaste Urdu . I think it was very nice 🙂 .

There’s so much more to put down here….maybe I should just start a category on Chicago Tales and dump my posts under that header 🙂 . For now, I have a pending task of doing the dishes before I go and pick the kids from school.

Till then,

Have fun 🙂

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Soft And Silky??

I catch Lui washing her hands at the basin and once again, her sleeves are wet till the elbows.

“Lui”, I thundered, “How many times do I have to tell you to roll up your sleeves before washing your hands?”

“But Mumma”, whined Lui,”Maine roll-up ki thhi. But my hands are so soft and silky ki sleeves slip hokar neeche aa gaye!”

😐 😐 😐

Too much of Vaseline body lotion ? I wonder 😐

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A few days back, after the twins were done with dinner, me, the MIL and BIL sat down for ours. As we were eating and chatting, I noticed that the twins had strewn their stuff around the drawing room. I called out to Lui who pretended not to hear me and carried on with her drawing. I called Shobby and he immediately came to attention. I told him to pick up the stuff and he dutifully obeyed.
The MIL got a little riled when she saw this. “Hey”, she said,”This is not fair. You hardly make Lui do anything whereas you always make Shobby run around”.
“Its not so”, I denied.
“It is”, she said, turning towards the BIL,”sometimes I feel , her hatred for men shows in the way she treats Shobby”.
All this was said in jest and good humour.
But it got me thinking.
Was I really a man-hater?
Kind of surprising for her to think so isn’t it, considering I ended up marrying her son 😀 .
But jokes apart, I took a long time that night thinking of why she came to the conclusion which she did. With a whole lot of introspection, I realized that I did make Shobby run around a lot more than I did Lui. But, so does the BF. Does it then mean that he is a man-hater too?
Of course not!
His reason is that Lui will one day get married and leave him and he wants to treat his little girl like a princess till then.
(The man hasn’t used these words exactly, but I can make out by the way he fulfills her every wish and command 🙄 )
My only reason for making Shobby run errands is that I don’t want to bring him up believing he has special privileges in life just because he is a boy. Many households still consider making boys do house-work as taboo. I encourage my son in whatever he likes to do and also involve him in stuff he doesn’t like doing (nothing to complain here as he actually LOVES housework).
I have no qualms about my son’s interest in cooking and Lui’s complete lack of the same. One day, when I told Shobby that will make a good chef if he practices well, the MIL got annoyed and said that Shobby will not cook when he grows up. It wasn’t what she said that surprised me. It was the sheer vehemence with which she said it that shocked me. Almost as if it was a fate worse than death if her darling grandchild served his wife breakfast in bed 😀 😛

Can’t blame her though. Its the social conditioning of ages, of being married into a household where catering to men’s needs was the sole purpose of a woman. Even the FIL confesses that when he was a child, he was strictly forbidden from entering the kitchen or even making his own bed. It was how things were done in those days. To some extent, the BF and the BIL too shared a similar thought process, that there were demarcated things that a woman should do and other things that a man should do. The MIL, even though a full-time teacher, slogged terribly at home. She woke up earlier than everyone else, did the dishes, washed clothes, swept and mopped up the house, cooked food, packed the lunch boxes and then went to her school. After coming back home, she would have to first enter the kitchen and cook dinner for the whole family before even thinking of putting her feet up and resting with a cup of tea.
She did all that she did because she was conditioned into believing that her job was secondary to her primary reason of existence, to serve and look after a household.
After I got married, the BF realized how terribly careless he had been towards his working mother, not realizing the amount of effort she had to put in. It is not something he is proud of, but he is willing to accept that he was wrong in expecting royal treatment as his due. That he could shun housework because he was a male. Today, he does everything to help out at home, be it me or his mother for he realizes that we work just as hard as men and in fact, even more.
Better than late than never, isn’t it?!
I want Shobby to involve himself with household chores just as he would with chores outside the house. It would be the same for Lui too, only difference being that with her, people have already started outlining what she should be doing. When guests come and we ask Lui to serve anything or just pass the dishes, people comment on how it is a good thing that she is learning “her duties” early. Ticks me off each time someone says that in front of Lui! I don’t want my daughter growing up believing that she has to do housework as is the wont of her lot (girls).  In fact, I think I don’t make Lui run errands because of this same reason!

Truly speaking, I don’t think my actions or ideas are feminist per se. They are reasonable and logical on humanitarian grounds. Shobby and Lui are two sides of the same coin for me. There is no way I can treat one any different from the other. I believe in equality and I will treat my children just the way me and my brother-sisters were brought up – as equals. There is no house-hold chore that my brother isn’t adept at. Heck, he even knows how to embroider, because along with us, mom made him also stitch table-cloths 🙂 . Dad taught us to swim and to play badminton just the way he taught Bro. Except for him getting a separate room and us sisters having to share ours (so unfair!), there wasn’t anything we could complain against the way our parents treated us all.

When I express such sentiments at home or even at work, I’m dubbed a feminist, a member (and sometimes leader) of the “Mahila Mukti Morcha” ! I don’t mind the titles as much as I mind the belief that I am going against a norm or fighting for a lost cause. I don’t laugh when a male colleague makes fun of the work his wife does/doesn’t do. I don’t find it funny when they crack jokes on women’s intellect. I don’t approve of beauty pageants, for women married or otherwise and I’m dead against pageants for children ! (I can never understand how a woman’s practiced pirouette in high heels and a bikini will help the world become a better place).  Call me a grumpy old hag if you may, but by demanding a right to being treated as an equal, I’m just making an attempt to make tomorrow better for my daughter. For all our daughters.

Isn’t that a cause worth championing? And wouldn’t it be great if we teach the men of tomorrow to treat women the same way they would expect to be treated?

If this classifies me as a feminist, so be it. I’m proud to be called as one 🙂

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*Giggle*

Okay, so I’m being rather nasty here and maybe one day, when my kids read this, they will never forgive me, but I seriously MUST post this 😀 😀

Yesterday, while I was ironing the twin’s school uniform, Shobby came up to me and muttered, “Mumma, Little Z has not come to school for so many days”. I looked down at Shobby, he looked truly worried and heart-broken.

Now, for the un-informed, Shobby and Little Z are BFF.  I guess she adores Shobby as much he does her. Make what you can of it 😀

Anyway, even I was concerned why the little girl didn’t show up for so many days. So I fished out the phone and gave her mother a call. In fact, if I had given the phone to Shobby, he could have dialed the number himself. He remembers it so well 😉 .

When the mother picked the call, I asked her about Little Z. Turns out, the poor girl was bitten by some insect which made her skin break out in an awful rash. But all was fine now and the girl would come to school the next day, her mother reassured.

Since Lui was hanging on to my shoulder, begging me to let her talk to Little Z, I asked her mom if Z was around. She was, and I spoke to her for a minute before handing over the phone to Lui. As with all pesky moms, I turned the phone on speaker mode before giving it to Lui !

Lui, with all the sincereity of her gentle heart, asked Little Z about her health and why she didn’t come and all the usual talk. Z replied to a couple of questions and then, ignoring Lui’s further queries, said this, ” Lui, please give phone to Shobby”. Lui initially ignored the command and kept on talking, discussing all that they did in class that day. Z repeated her request one more time , a little too firmly, I think, ” Lui, give the phone to Shobby. I want to talk to him”.

Shobby all but burst with pride when Z said this. He immediately grabbed the phone from Lui and with what I think was a distinct blush, started asking her about her health 🙂 . They spoke for a few minutes in which Little Z’s voice became much melloewr and sweeter than when she was talking with Lui. Once done, Shobby came up to me and handed over the phone.

I have no words to describe the distinct glow on his face as his face beamed like a thousand flashlights. No words were necessary. He just grinned and walked off.

Lui, poor girl was offended big time. She just couldn’t understand why she was sidelined by Z in favour of Shobbs. “She is my friend too”, said Lui, her brow furrowed with worry.

“Its okay dear”, I consoled her, “it happens”.

Lui went off to look for Shobby while I sat there pondering once again…..why now? Why not after another decade?!!

😐

😀 😀 😀

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Writing a post after a very long Diwali hiatus….was busy putting up my feet and snoozing away the time 😀

Hope you all had a blast too 🙂

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A few days back I was putting the twins to sleep, making sure that they say their good-night prayers. Lui finished her prayer and then turned to me with a small face.

“Mumma, when we go to US, mujhe dada-dadi ki bahot yaad ayegi. What will I do then?”

I came up with a list of things we could do, starting from getting the in-laws their visa to video-conferencing, etc.  After a few suggestions, Lui became quiet, almost contemplative and then, repeated in a small voice, “Mujhe phir bhi unki yaad ayegi!

Thats when it hit me….the kids have never been away from the in-laws for longer than 2 weeks. This would be the first time when they were going to be so far away and for so long. I didn’t expect the twins to realize this truth but now that they have, it is a little unnerving. Frankly, I had never thought about the side-effects of taking them away from their grand-parents. Every time the topic of our travel comes up, the twins bring up the fact that they will miss their Dada and Dadi 😦

There is a wedding in the family in Feb. The twins are excited that their Chachu will be getting married shortly. The in-laws are pretty busy with preparing the lists for the guests and the gifts and the menu and what not. I’m elated that the BF will be coming back in Jan and that after the wedding, we’ll be together 🙂 (InshaAllah, me and the twins will join him on his return back to Chicago) . There’s much to do right now, renovations at home, shopping, clearing up the unwanted clutter and what not.

But under all the cheer, there is a certain nervousness. The in-laws, mirroring the twin’s sentiments, are also a little perturbed that the twins will be leaving them. The only times they have been without the kids was when I visit Bangalore for a week or so. Even then, they keep calling up everyday to talk to the twins 🙂 . Both the in-laws are deeply attached to the kids and it troubles them deeply to think of the time when we leave and they won’t get to see their darlings everyday 😦 .

The twins, on their part have grown even more close to the grandparents (if that is possible). The more inevitable our trip, the more the children are clinging on to the FIL and MIL. Shobby, who never slept with the in-laws before, now insists that he wants to sleep with his Dada. Lui runs around the house, doing little odd-jobs for her grandparents where earlier she used to shirk all such work.

This puts me in a little difficult situation.

More than anyone else, I’m keen on joining the BF as soon as possible. Though he visited twice in the last one year, it still was a long separation. But now that we have the chance to be together, it means uprooting the kids from the one secure environment they have ever known. There is so much that the in-laws do for the kids, I wonder how I will manage them all by myself (when the BF is at work)! But then, the BF misses the kids like crazy and it is for him that we are making the move. Also, we’ll be back, maybe within 6 months or up to a year. But we’ll be back.

Right now, everything in the house revolves around the twins. Everyone in the house plans their schedules around them. The in-laws, who earlier used to go socializing after work, now rush back home because they need to pick up the twins from day-care. Once the twins are home, they are busy keeping the twins entertained till I get back. If they have to go out anywhere, they take the kids along. So much of their daily routine involves the kids that they are unsure of what to do with their time once we leave.

I know that the in-laws secretly wish that we don’t go. They don’t say it openly, but each time they draw a deep sigh looking at the kids, it is obvious to see what they feel.

For now, the in-laws are spending as much time with their ickle grand-kids as possible. The FIL has even taken to feeding them food, an activity he has never done before 😀

Its cute you know, to see such a loving bond….In a way, I feel guilty of taking the children away from them…. 😦

InshaAllah, we’ll be back soon!

🙂

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Teaching the kids to be unafraid of Diwali 🙂

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You Know………

…that you will always be needed, when,

your loudmouth, all-knowing, sassy daughter finds comfort in your arms during a bout of illness in the night. All the years seem to melt into that one moment when you held her as a baby, rocking her gently as she sleeps. She may usurp my role most of the time, but for the rest, I’m still needed 🙂

….that you will always be a gloating mother when,

your children speak with impeccable courtesy in front of guests/other people and they start gushing about how well-mannered they are 🙂

….that you are in a different generation zone when,

you discuss about the benefits of drinking water with a young colleague, casually mention that Milind Soman suggests drinking a sip of water every 15-minutes and she gently cocks her head, raises an eyebrow and asks, “Umm….Who’s Milind Soman?”

Milind Soman“, you insist, “The Super model!”

She looks blank.

“Tuff shoes??”

No luck!

“Made in India??”

*Silence*

*STAB STAB STAB*

You look up in horror, not at her ignorance, but at the realization that today’s generation has no clue about the hottest man of our times. That indeed, our time was so far back!!

…that you are still a young girl at heart when,

Your husband sends lovey-dovey messages in the middle of the night and even from the deepest slumber, you hear the slight ping of the message, check it out and giggle with exuberance of a 15-year old 🙂

…that you are deeply loved when,

you little boy puts his tiny arms around your neck, nuzzles up to you and mutters that he will ALWAYS be there for me and take care of me, all this when I’m deeply engrossed in thoughts about the BF!

…that you have crossed an invisible age-line when,

songs from the popular FM band don’t register in your head. You know some music is playing, but you realize that an entire program went by and you cant recollect even a single number from it! Also, you quickly switch over to 101FM and delve into the pleasure of decades old Rafi/Kishore songs.

…that you have gained a few more inches in the middle when,

that shalwar of your starts climbing up your ankles. HATE  the ankle-climb 😐

fat-cartoon

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Compensation

There was a short post on FB by Shail on modern parents compensating their love with gadgets. It was a humorous take on gadgets at least being available now 😀

It did get me thinking though.

What exactly does it mean by compensating love?

Does it mean that you cannot love your child enough and that is why you have to give them expensive stuff to be happy?

Or does it mean that you don’t have the time to love your child and buy them expensive stuff to keep them busy?

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If it’s any of the above two, then gadgets do serve the purpose, don’t they? They keep the children happy as well as busy. And if some parents are okay with it, who am I to judge? I, personally speaking, have very strong views about children and gadgets (it doesn’t help that a very popular cartoon character fishes out amazing gadgets at the drop of a hat! My children think he’ s the epitome of cool-th and want a magic pocket just like him 😐 ).

Since, its none of the above two reasons for me, I desist from making my children gadget friendly. I’d rather they be an ignoramus than be a smart-ass.

But then, this post isn’t about gadgets. It’s about compensation.

I wonder, who started using the word “compensation” in a parent-child relationship anyway? How exactly in this world can we compensate for something that we cannot measure? And by ‘something’, I mean Love, not time! Time is measurable 😀

What got me thinking more on these lines was an incident that happened at home the other day. The twins were jumping up and down on the sofas after being strictly warned not to do so. I raised my voice sharply and scolded the two to stop the jumping right now!

The FIL, who was in the hall with me, immediately cautioned me, “Don’t shout at the kids, remember, you are not at home the whole day“. He didn’t add to it further but the wheels of my mind started churning rapidly. Should I not correct my children when they are doing wrong, just because I go to work?  Should I be always sweet and obliging because I don’t spend the whole day with them?

I did not point out my vehemence to the FIL right then, maybe next time a similar situation comes up, I will voice my opinion.

But I just want to know, how many people believe that because a woman goes out to work, she should be extra kind and generous towards her children?

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Since the kids started school, I’ve kept telling them that I need to go to work just as they need to go to school. Only that my work timings are longer. The twins have learned to accept my absence. Sure, they miss me when I get late but it isn’t a deal-breaker in our relationship. I do everything that a regular mother does. I get them up, make their lunch boxes, prepare their breakfast, brush their teeth, bathe them, get them dressed for school, pack their bags and see them off. The only thing I don’t do is give them lunch (they have it at the day-care). Once I’m back, I take their homework/studies, feed them, prepare their uniform/shoes for the next day, tell them stories, give them milk and lie down with them till they go off to sleep.  Projects, assignments, preparing for assessments, all are done in time. Any extra work of mine is done after the kids are asleep.

mommy

Nowhere in my regular day do I feel that I lack in my responsibilities as a mother. I may be spending less time with my children, but every second that I do, is accounted for. From the minute I come back from office to the time the kids leave for school, we are together. Weekends we either laze about or do some crafts. Sometimes, I even take them out to meet relatives or friends (Shopping with children is still off the list).

Till date, I’ve never let my work come between me and the kids. They are my priority, sure, but my work is important too. The kids understand this. I’ve done nothing to let my children feel that they can boss over me using the guilt train because I’m not at home! They don’t do it. I was just peeved that the FIL felt I should be guilty because I’m a working woman.

Maybe its just a generation thing. At their time a woman’s sole responsibility was to look after the home and hearth. My in-laws are by far one of the most broad-minded couple in my entire relative circle, but there are times, like recently,  when age-old conditioning sets in . I don’t grudge them that.

I’m just worried that someday, their perception of a working woman’s attitude towards her children will rub off on my children. I don’t want my kids to believe that I’m doing something wrong by going out to work and they need to be compensated for my absence ( They will never get anything from me if they take that route 😐  ) . Today they are too small to understand the implication of the FIL’s words, but tomorrow, they will understand it and God forbid, even use it to their advantage!

So, has anyone else faced similar circumstances, arm-twisting by the children, guilt-trips? Please share how you went about handling such situations!

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