Play-Doh Saurus

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Dear Play – Doh saurus,

You are tiny but mighty 3.4 year old with all your willfulness and individuality. You made up your own name in a flash of inspiration from an empty play-doh box and of course, Play-Doh Saurus you are. You definitely are. I have lost the count when we have made instant play-doh at home. Your dad has lost the count of times he bought you play-doh. You definitely love mixing things…textures…colours…exploring new textures sensorily. You love play-doh, kinetic sand, home made dough, soil from pots, salt and what have you.

In a rare exception you didn’t want to touch the earthworm because it was slithering in a puddle, though you tried hard to touch a snail and were frustrated that it went inside its house. You are curious about our home-pets (home insects rather)- the ants, you have love-hate relationship with. Sometimes you follow them to see where they are going and sometimes you want to crush them because they might want to eat your meal. Lizards, a staple in Indonesian housing – you love. You always compare their calls to each other with me calling you. That makes me feel super awesome! ok. I am kidding. I hope by the time you are of age to be able to read this – you will realise how disgusting this is…. you hate errant houseflies but wanted to collect cockroaches and take them home one day.

You love singing. you want to sing nursery rhymes with pretend mike in hand. You need to be sung to so that you can sleep but a lot many times these days it is counter productive because you join the singing 🙂  you hate going to podium. I have to push you outdoors, but once you go there you love playing on the slides. At home you keep climbing on things – on me too and yet you are a cautious wise pre-schooler. I think you do balance out. You’re not a daredevil. Nor are you timid. You do run like there’s no tomorrow, but always turn around and look for me in a while. I think that’s cute. Though when you know I am really close by, you don’t prefer to look where you are going and ram into things, people and what not. You love tug of war, somersaults, chasing and your cars. Your red car is like your sibling. Just yesterday you called your yellow car your baby too and asked me to ‘gendong’ (Indonesian) = hold the baby. You also love pretend plays, pretend talking on phone, pretend shopping and pretend doctors.

You were not much into soft toys so far but a Diwali visit to meet a  newborn had you reformed. You made your tiny Ele (elephant) your baby and began microwaving it – to keep it warm. Later you kept her in refrigerator to counter the heat. I was touched when you started calling your small kiwi bird baba when the real baba had gone one business trip. You took it everywhere, fed it meals and even slept with it. When your real baba returned you were excited and even slept on the big trampoline (baba’s tummy) but you never cried when he was away. That reminds me. You call your dad’s tummy big trampoline and mine, the little trampoline! I guess you do have a point there. You want to convey in cute creative words, the need for us to work out!

You have a 3 year old mind of your own. You value your possessions. A bit too much sometimes 🙂 but I hope you soon will learn to share. You are beginning to notice other kids and wishing to play with them. Your sense of fashion is much ahead of mine. This I concluded almost an year back when you matched white shoes with white design on your orange shirt and requested to wear eye glasses :-). You have maintained this interest. You hate long sleeves and formal shirts. You hate collars, long pants and non-cotton fabric. I feel this is cute as well as precocious you know.

You get mad when people make incorrect pronunciations! something that you seem to have inherited from me ;p you began crying while correcting pronunciation of your friend Y’s original Mandarin name. You call languages ‘talking’. You ask me to play ‘shopping’ in ‘English talking’. You asked me this Saturday – what talking is going to be there at the birthday party aai ? English talking, Bahasa talking, Marathi talking, Hindi Talking or Mandarin Talking? though you only understand Bahasa and Marathi talking mostly 🙂

You observe more than you talk and one day suddenly spill words of wisdom 🙂 just the other day, you asked me to draw an angry tyrannosaurus (‘ANGRY’) and called it Baba. You asked me to draw a pterodactyl and called it aai. How did you even know these names? or even remember them? That’s when you called yourselves a play-doh saurus! You love reading. Mainly car stories. But you are also enjoying stories about insects, germs, and cats. You are a cat person! (We are dog people … so we tried to  make you come to the other side. It didn’t work.)

You love love love colours! colouring, drawing. You seem to be engrossed while colouring. You talk in terms of colours. The waterbottle is always the red waterbottle. Aai-purse is always yellow aai-purse and so on.

Most of all you love me a lot. You used to hate kisses and hugs till you turned 18 months and from then on you have never looked back. You are big on hugs and kisses  – but only with me. Not with baba, not with tante, not with anyone else. That makes me feel so special 🙂 You still have great separation anxiety and still we go together to relieve both ourselves … but I hope you will outgrow this soon….

There are lot many things I want to write but I’ll just sum it up saying you are an awesome kid and I love you to the moon and back ( though you never loved that story).

(Inspired by a post I saw on my friend Rekha’s blog)

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Reviews: Regency Romances I read in 2018

Regency romances is one of my favorite reading genres and so far mostly the only kind of romance books I enjoy. I am all for light-hearted romance, full of witty banter and longing looks and regency manners. I prefer what is nowadays being called as ‘clean’ romances, without much of sex or sleaze and usually this implies I am comfortable with classic love stories within which I infinitely prefer regency romances. This year I read four!

The Grand Sophy – Georthe grand sophygette Heyer

This was my first ever Georgette Heyer book after having heard of her for too long. Her writing apparently was inspired initially by Jane Austen, the diva of Regency Romances. Give me Austen any day for an engaging, yet lighthearted read about the tragedy-less uneventful lives of the upper class British during the regency era  :-). Anyway, having had great expectations after reading rave reviews for the book and the author, I was as the logic would go, disappointed.  The language is quite regency for sure. My issue was with the characters. Mainly the protagonist Sophy who is funky, spunky and independent, doesn’t seem to be a regency character considering the era and the life of women during it. She is quite manipulative without remorse. Somehow almost all the major characters seem more frivolous than the regency characters I am used to. There are modern authors who have nicely replicated regency era so I know it is achievable. I only thought that Georgette Heyer is over rated if one has to go by only this particular book. I think what the author did was to mix up Mansfield Park with Emma where Sophy was somewhat like Emma only less gentle and the Rivenhalls were less dramatic or tragic than the Bertrams. Also of course Both Mansfield Park as well as Emma are more serious books.

My rating was 2.5 stars rounded off to 2 on Goodreads. It probably could have been 3 stars if I hadn’t heard a lot about her all these years that had built up sort of an expectation.

After reading The Grand Sophy in fact I considered to stop reading regency romances altogether because suddenly I couldnt see the point of it that I had seen all these years. Sophy was the ultimate antidote apparently. Things changed when I got my Kindle later in the year and I discovered the joy of Kindle Unlimited which, discovering my reading history on goodreads, suggested me some ‘Novel Abc (insert an actual regency era novel) variation’/s – as they are being called now. Back in the day they used to be called fan fictions. There were and are loads of sites dedicated to the regency fan fiction and I would check them out time to time. Some of them indeed had quality reading content. So it is some such authors who published their novels, stories and novellas.  I read three last year and all of them were Pride and Prejudice variations. Lets see how many this year brings.

  1. ‘The Darcys of Derbyshire : A Pride and Prejudice Variation’ by Abigail Reynolds  – I have read her work on fan fiction sites earlier and I think her language fits my expectation of regency language. Her characters too are consistent with what the original Pride and Prejudice. Her cleverness lies in the fact that she is able to create novel variations within same plot (P&P) usually, while remaining mostly true to the original regency character. I have enjoyed her work – whatever I of it I have read. Most of it is better than the celebrated Georgette Heyer above going by Grand Sophy. Anyhow this is a novella and has a lucid backstory. Its a diverting read, good for some absolutely light hearted romance on the go. Though I found it out of character for a  such taciturn and proud man such as Darcy to elaborate a backstory of his parents with such a detail including their feelings etc to a woman with who he tried to share his own romantic feelings and was rejected just few weeks back. I am sure he would eventually as we know the plot  – but not so soon. I also don’t think that a man too concerned about proprieties will not suddenly flout  Overall my 3 stars for the book.
  2. Did Darcy do it :A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Sophie Lynbrook – I was intrigued by a P&P whodunnit. Usually such outlandish ideas have lame endings but going by the rave reviews I felt like going for it since it was available on Kindle unlimited. I am glad I did it. This author too is very much focused on sounding authentic regency and she has nicely built the intrigue. She has studied the facts about regency courtroom trials, imprisonment etc. Though its a murder mystery, it still is faithful to basic concept of regency romances whereby there isn’t extreme angst involved, only light. At the same time she has built up and nicely unraveled the mystery, provided explanations for the twists and involved some of the popular characters in detective work too. Overall I liked this diversion well. Better than the Darcys of Derbyshire though the idea in this story was even more outlandish than Darcy sharing a sentimental story with Elizabeth pretty soon after being rejected in the Abigail Reynolds’ work – somehow the fact that Darcy is accused of murder is gradually built up and at a point seems plausible thing to do given the circumstances in the plot. Which is all to the credit of the author . I gave it 4 stars rounded up from 3.5. Because it was unexpected  & pleasant surprise.
  3. Wild Goose Chase: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Sophie Lynbrook – Happy with the whodunnit, I decided to try one more of her novellas. This is as outlandish as the other where Darcy and Elizabeth chase Lydia and Wickham through Gretna Green and in the process fall in love. However to make this believable, author built scenario whereby Elizabeth initially leaves with her uncle and aunt and Darcy joins them in the quest. Thus the question of propriety and chaperon etc is solved. I mean the author cleverly digresses from original plot for short duration still trying to reflect the regency society and lifestyle. Her style of writing is enjoyable. I personally do not prefer any sex or sleaze in regency romances because it feels absolutely out of character. I like the author (her 2 works that I have read) for maintaining this, maintaining the language as well as making her digressions from the plot seem palatable and plausible. So again I felt it deserved 3.5 stars rounded off to 4 on Goodreads.

Let’s see what this year brings. I want to read across the genres so maybe not many from regency romance genre.

My glorious reading journey in 2018 and goals for 2019

Very happy to be able to post this on the very first day of the year, albeit, 7 more minutes to go for the said day to be over… and since my writing style has never been to the point, this might not be actually posted on the first day. Though I am happy indeed. I am writing. As planned. This didn’t happen a lot many times this past year. Therefore as far as I am able to post this without any interruption (such as my son P waking up  – which keeps happening, and one of the reasons I really haven’t been able to update this blog exactly when I wanted to) – so as far as any interruption to this post doesn’t happen, I am happy. It still remains a win-win situation!

I wont be writing reviews in this post. I hope to do a post/s later for that. I just want to declare my success to the world (if at all anyone really reads this blog). I finished… hold your breath….a staggering total of 17 books in 2018. And exceeded my goal of reading a book a month! This wasn’t really easy. I am an avid reader. Rather, I used to be. But after moving to Indonesia – my reading of physical copies of books was next to nil. I couldn’t find affordable sources of English books anywhere. I suppose these books are expensive here because a majority of them are imported. Whereas in India, same books would cost much lower – because of localised printing because of the fact that English is the choice of majority when it comes to reading. Also due to limited baggage allowance, I have never carried back more than a couple of books during my India trips. As a result, overall my reading has been abysmal. I read a lot of short stories and online works during ensuing years, but my habit of reading regularly went for a toss. Locally as far as I am aware, there’s just one English newspaper that is easily available and that is Jakarta Post. It never had thought provoking articles and interesting Sunday supplements that I used to enjoy back home. I’d say probably because it took me some time to assimilate the local way of living. Also possibly because the day to day English as used in India could be different in ways that only my subconscious might have understood ( I haven’t). The point is, my reading had come to a standstill. It also didn’t help that I refused to buy kindle thinking that the experience would never compare with the joy of reading physical copies of the books… the touch , the smell of paper, smell of print, the bookmarks and so on… I was not exactly right.

I wouldn’t say I was totally wrong. Yes, in fact Kindle experience is not at all close to that of holding the real book. But it is absolutely the more practical choice for any person in my situation – someone who wants to read English books,  wants to be able to afford them (without resorting to piracy) and someone who couldn’t bring more books from India. I failed to see this all these years. I was also totally involved in being a new mom (not that I stopped reading – but my reading was mainly parenting sites and parenting facebook groups. In fact it was obsessive. So much that eventually I uninstalled FB app from the phone to limit my frequent surfing – that used to happen while being in a semi passive stage such as feeding times during the infant stage or insomnia due to difficulty in getting back to sleep after having woken up every time to take care of the baby’s needs)

This year in October, I got Kindle. Till then I had read 5-6 books out of the total 17 I have completed in the year. And that’s exactly why I am happy. This is absolutely promising. If I could finish 10 books in 3 months, I could finish several more in an entire year. So I am grateful beyond measure for the Kindle 🙂 Thank you husband, for such a birthday gift! You kept suggesting over years that it should be bought, but I never paid any heed to you or turned down your offers to buy. I think what prompted you into ruthless action of buying without asking me is the fact that I joined a book club in June and tried to read every month. You saw my life suddenly spring into real life (outside of the preschooler and the kitchen) and you saw me enjoying it, holding on to it  – like a treasure. Normally you ask me before buying anything for me – you don’t like giving surprises for the possibility of them turning out to be unpleasant 😉 as you have wisely learned over the years 😉 😉 But this, you made an exception – and I am really really thankful for that.

With a Kindle Unlimited subscription, I already have access to a large number of books. Though this excludes majority of well – known books and authors, there ARE some of them very well – known and also in my ‘to be read’ list. And needless to say there’s a vast ocean of undiscovered books and authors – which I have begun and am really happy to discover…

I read (not in the order of reading):

  1. One life to ride – Ajit Harisinghani
  2. Wild goose chase – Sophie Lynbrook
  3. Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  4. Montessori at home guide – Rachel Peachy
  5. Midnights with the Mystic – Cheryl Simone and Sadhguru
  6. Did Darcy do it – Sophy Lynbrook
  7. Prachin Bharatiya Shastradnya ani Sanshodhak – Bhalba Kelkar
  8. An Unquiet Mind – Kay Redfield Jamieson
  9. How to take decisions – Devdutt Pattanaik
  10. Laws of the spirit world – Khorshed Bhavanagari
  11. Ready, Study Go – Khurshed Batliwala and Dinesh Ghodke
  12. Chai, Chai – Biswajeet Ghosh
  13. Many Lives, Many Masters – Brian Weiss
  14. Gathoda – P. L Deshpande
  15. My Favourite Nature Stories – Ruskin Bond
  16. Montessori at Home Guide: A short Introduction to Maria Montessori – A. M Sterling
  17. Darcys of Derbyshire – Abigail Reynolds

I aim to post reviews of some of these books that I haven’t already posted.

So what next? The Goodreads app already asked me what my reading challenge for the year is. Instead of putting in a number I’d have liked to make qualitative goals. But Goodreads doesn’t yet let set such kind of goals. Thus I thought of blogging them here:

  1. Equal number of Kindle and Paperbacks – to catch up with some paperbacks that haven’t been read from my earlier collections.
  2. A balance between Indian and foreign authors – to make sure I read even Indian authors – whom I have been mostly avoiding.
  3. A balance between English and Marathi books – to make sure I read enough Marathi. I love reading even Marathi books which were so far inaccessible being abroad and Kindle has made them accessible.
  4. Versatility in reading – Try to get out of my comfort zone and read across genre.
  5. Read some George Eliot because it’s her 200th birth year
  6. Try to finish some books from my ‘Currently reading’ list in Goodreads. The number is 32. Yes. Total 32 that I picked up and abandoned after some time. Not all of them are bad. So try to sort of salvage my list.
  7. Since Goodreads asked for a number I have put 30 books for the coming year, but we are flexible about that in reality – as far as the 5 goals above are met.

All in all, it feels awesome to jot down these goals somewhere. I think these are much in detail as compared to the last year’s a book a month. So a lot of improvement over the last year!

Its 12.40. So we are already on the second day of the year. Like I said, its still a huge improvement over all years. I think since inception. Signing off. Happy New Year 2019!

Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The first time I heard about this book must have been atleast 10 years ago. Ever since I have been hearing about this book every now and then. For last many years mainly non – fiction has interested me so I suppose this had remained in my ‘to be read’ for a long time. Thanks to the book club that I am a members of, that I finally read it this month.

Synopsis – The Kite Runner is a book about almost coming of age (literally and figuratively) of the protagonist through one incident in his life which tests him and how he redeems himself later . Its also a story about two friends , a story about a father and son from son’s viewpoint, all of this, against the socio-econo-political backdrop of Afghanistan. All the other circumstances move around the 3 central characters. Amir, the protagonist, Hassan, his close friend and servant and Amir’s father. Amir, who looses his mother at birth, craves for the attention and approval from his father who is the absolute ideal in his eyes and who in turn seems distant towards himself (Amir). His only confidant is Hassan, who braves it up for Amir many a times through thick and thin with loyalty that is fierce as well as servile, that is as innocent as it is absolute, that only children can offer. But Amir fails his friendship for a choice he makes for personal gratification and that choice haunts him for the rest of his life. It strains his ties with the others, including his father. While Amir goes through mental turmoil, Afghanistan goes through political coup that changes the socio – economical landscape of the country forever and forces Amir to leave the country and leave his past behind. Years later Amir is forced to revisit his past and gets an opportunity to redeem himself.

Paras below contain spoilers.

Like many peals of the onion, this book is about several things. It narrates the realities of Afghanistan before and after Taliban came in force, the social hierarchy and discrimination based on it – economic and religious. The book depicts vividly, plight of the servile classes as well as those belonging to a marginalized religion, the status of women in Afghan society, situation due to cold war, the Russian interference, post Taliban takeover, exploitation of masses and even the question of faith etc. It paints a picture of Afghanistan that was much more liberal in the past.

The book describes nature, places and landscapes quite vividly . Author’s style of writing is very lucid. I enjoyed reading this book. It is fast paced and doesn’t have many dull moments. Some scenes, dialogues stood out to me forcefully. Like the one where Amir discusses concept of sin with his father, description of Hassan’s expressions while being oppressed by Asef, where Amir throws a pomegranate on Hassan’s chest and asks him to retaliate, description of travelling in a heavy transport vehicle to cross the Afghan border and so on. However, it read to me almost like a screenplay and I felt it was written with an eventual movie in mind. Some incidents were too ‘filmy’ (a term we use to denote semblance with Bollywood movies) – such as Amir being hurt on his lip and being reminded him of Hassan’s cleft lip, that Amir was childless – it almost was clear even while Sohrab wasn’t introduced that Amir is going to adopt or grow close to or see his own child in Hassan’s child. , later Soharb too working for Asef by coincidence is a ‘filmy’ coincidence. That he has to go through agony similar to his father, that he saves Amir from Asef in similar manner as Hassan once did etc. Also the book is all praise about US and negative about Russia’s role in the Afghan situation. While Russia’s role has been manifold, US hasn’t been entirely blameless as per the popular media that I was exposed to as a reader of international news. As a result I felt this book was not honest on that account. That it was written keeping the US audience in mind. All in all, not a great book to get a lowdown on what exactly is the political situation in Afghanistan etc. but as a fiction with certain realistic elements, it is a lucid read. Sort of populist -pulp fiction version of the Afghan conflict in the middle of a personal story.

Overall rating – 3.5/5

Book Review: Chai Chai by Bishwanath Ghosh

Book’s Name: Chai, Chai: Travels in places where you stop but never get off By Bishwanath Ghosh

Section from the description on the back of the book cover –
Chai, Chai: Travels in Places Where You Stop But Never Get Off allows the reader to join the author-narrator while he experiences new places and faces. The beautiful sun, the rich cultural history and the people are all rendered with humor and love. One can almost feel the narrator going through the little lanes in Kanpur and then end up in Madras. Whether one is drinking tea at a local café or sitting with numerous people in a local train, Ghosh breathes life into every moment. While speculating on life’s little moments, the author also realizes the amount of hours spent in waiting at railway junctions. The destinations are not just stations and stops for trains to drop commuters off. They represent a different life and a new adventure everyday.


It was this description that enticed me into reading the book .Long distance train journeys were ubiquitous for those of us who grew up in India in the 80s and 90s and I have fond memories of traveling with extended family, friends etc on these journeys. Moving across compartments, jolly conversations with these co-travelers with who you would share your meals, stories and jokes like you would with a close friend, street food bought at each such major railway ‘junction’ and so on – where you stopped but never walked out of the station premises. Having had my fair share of long distance railway travels I was curious how these nondescript ‘junctions’ were outside of railway premises .

Therefore, I can now say that the book while a travelogue, is not what I had expected. Author visits Mughalsarai, Jhansi, Itarsi, Shoranpur, Arakkonam, Jolarpetai, Guntakal etc.These places while don’t cover the extensive geography of India, are important connecting points on the railway line, that join the four corners of the country. While I particularly felt Western, Eastern part of country were not really covered, this seemed to be author’s personal journey – the junctions that have been important to him over his lifetime .

His modus operandi was to travel to each of these places, stay for a couple of days, attempt to know the history and collect the stories within such period. His account is in first person, reads like a travel diary really. His go to strategy seems to be finding the nearest popular bar and chatting up with patrons over a drink or two. This seems to have worked for the author because after losening over a drink or two, some strangers have regaled him with very interesting stories. I’ll say that the book in this case should have been called ‘Bar – Bar’ because the author hardly drinks Chai throughout the book, mostly bar hops and has also written from time to time about his cravings for a drink or two and how he met them. In fact Chai might have one passing reference that I already seem to have forgotten. He definitely has been able to capture small town charm / quaint lifestyle, more successfully in the middle chapters where he probably found his groove. I especially enjoyed reading Itarsi, Guntakal and Jolarpet chapters. His descriptions of nature and surroundings especially Jahangir Mahal at Orchha, the Shoranur – Nilambur railway track etc made me google these locations up and look at the images. Towards the end, he seems to have hastily wound up and concluded, either because his modus operandi /Sop got too monotonous or his own interest waned due to language barrier.

Overall, 2-3 days per location are never enough to really understand the culture, history and the roots of the place, the lifestyle of a town. Author seems to have done no homework before landing at the specific town and hence spends most of his 2-3 day stay looking for and describing accommodation, the food he got to eat or trying to reach right persons who could provide him more of historical perspective. Wherever he fails to meet anyone right, he just gives up and moves on to a different location. Also due to lack of homework his go to strategy seems to be wheedling out stories from fellow bar patrons over few pegs of whiskey which as a source of legit information seems dubious to me.

Still, for the off beat topic, and lucid writing in parts, it seems to be somewhat of an entertaining read. However is a one time read because there is nothing profound, no thought provoking observations and despite having finished it just a handful days back, I dont seem to recall most of the anecdotes mentioned therein. 🙂

Overall Rating: – 3/5

Games my toddler plays

Inspired by one of my friends, who has begun chronicling interesting and astounding things her son says these days, I thought of writing about current games that my toddler has made up . I hope to laugh at them when I read x years down the line, though currently to me, not all are entirely entertaining. My husband enjoys them and howls- especially since I am the one who my toddler expects to play these with.

As another friend once mentioned to me, my toddler P, so far seems to be a mamma’s boy, having spent a large part of his infant life away from his dad. Though now things are changing finally, more than 1.5 years after we returned to Indonesia to join his dad, I still am his go-to for everything, his play-bouts with dad lasting for max to max 15 mins. He will come back to me for a tiny break at least in between 😊. So, without further ado, these are the current games my toddler plays:

  1. Dada padla (दादा पडला)-this is probably the first game he invented and has been playing for more than 5 months now. Dada means brother and probably he has taken it to mean boy because he calls himself dada. Padla means fell. This game involves lying down all of a sudden on the floor and to say “Dada Padlaaaa!”. Anywhere! The dirtier the floor, the better. Then to watch the embarrassment of parents. Usually also involves rolling on the floor, rubbing back and hands against the floor. A great source of enjoyment at public places. So far he played this game at various places. Once at the grocers, the owner asked me to kindly bring him around 10 am every day so that the store doesn’t need a mopping service anymore -which I laughed too loudly with embarrassment and complimented the owner on clean floor -which thankfully it was. He has played this game at various malls at Jakarta, regularly in the lobby of our building, various stores, homes of various friends, even outside the public toilet in a Singapore mall. Imagine the kind of cleaning exercise that takes place after such things. Also, usually this is to be played when accompanying parent/s have their hands full with things so that they can’t pick you up. Even if they try, you just let lose your body or resist being picked up and create a scene. Such scene was once being recorded by a lady on Changi airport and my husband had to request her to kindly mind her own business! The only time this ‘benefitted’ us parents was when he lay in front of immigration desk and the officer allowed me to jump the queue because of that !!
  2. Ta-daa – This game involves asking the unsuspecting mother to lie down on the bed because you want to sleep and then lie low in ambush till the sleep deprived mother Is herself half drowsy and thinks you have slept. Then slide out and quickly arrange pillows on the top of her and before she understands anything, shout ta-daaaaa and throw yourself roughly on the pillows so that her world shakes literally!! The first couple of times this happened, it caught me unawares. I was almost sleeping, which these days happens a lot – while putting him to sleep in the afternoon. Then I began catching him as he would slip away, and he would howl in anger because he wanted to play ta-daa. Then I arranged pillows on the mattress and asked him to play ta-daa, but hey, where is the fun in that. So he never complied. He hasn’t forgotten this game though I now prohibit him every time (Almost! – occasionally I did give him the pleasure) and immediately goes for arranging pillows on my tummy every time we go to take afternoon nap.
  3. Aai baau (बाऊ) – Baau in Marathi baby language means injury. So no prize for guessing what this game involves. This game is open in its intention where you just ask your aai (mom) if you can play ‘aai baau’? and irrespective of her answer pounce on her to start roughhousing. This game involves roughhousing it with aai and scratching her, pulling her hair etc. She needs to shout “aaaaargh!!”, “maajhe kes!!” (my hair) and all for the game to proceed and conclude. This can last a long time and aai is really exhausted by the end of it. Not allowing him to play this game has led to very long bouts of crying. Initially it was lot of scratching and hairpulling. I have resisted every time and never encouraged him to continue this game thinking it would lead to an aggressive behavior. However, I have noted that he is in fact reserved by nature and not aggressive outside of home.  I felt he needed some roughhousing as a toddler and he chose me as his candidate to try it on because I am available all the time. It took a lot of scratches and training to focus on masti rather than scratching to turn this game into fun activity (For him. For me it is still exhausting) – which involves pillows and mattress jumping and roughhousing that doesn’t involve much scratching (though little bit of hair pulling is still there). Of course, I have to over dramatize the ‘injury’ always.
  4. Shouting gaau (गाऊ)– Gaau is derived from gaa in Marathi – which means to sing. Instead of ‘say’ he usually uses a form of this word – gaa or gaau. Shouting gaau is a precursor to his career in death metal I think sometimes… Shouting gaau means shouting in chorus. This is an ‘exceptional’ game because it is one game he tries and enjoys with his dad and they shout ‘aaaaaaaaaaaa’ in chorus till as long as they can. Or when we are sitting together he will first ask his dad to join, then me in the next round and then all three of us in the third round.
  5. Fekla! Kashala fekla! (फेकलं! कशाला फेकलं ) (Threw. Why did you?) So he has a tendency to mess things up while saying tidy up! Tidy up! It began when, inspired by various online articles on Montessori parenting, I thought it would be cool to teach him to clean after himself as a toddler. It began at 16 months that whenever we would tidy his area, I would keep saying tidy up, tidy up! He watched enough and one day joined us! Whenever I would put a toy in basket, he would throw it out saying tidy up! Initially I thought this hilarious but later, as it continued over months, extending beyond his play area to laundry basket, our closets and shelves ( some of which are unfortunately at his height too ), I lost my temper at times and would shout “Fekla! Kashala fekla?” – which is now the new name for his game of ‘tidyiing it up’ involving throwing tidied items… Maybe I need more than online Montessori articles – to implement the Montessori way. Or maybe, I need to ignore all the parenting mumbo jumbo and plain simple discipline him. Not that I haven’t been trying – but at the age of 2 he is still away from the concept of that mom can be upset about something (done by him). So I am still tidying it up after all the mess. An acquaintance whose son is 10 now told me, when her son was small she never tidied up his play area at night because he would always come in the morning and mess it up! For a moment I felt relieved that someone actually practiced what I secretly had been thinking. But alas, I cannot actually make myself follow this!
  6. Whoa – So Whoa is a game of trying to free fall while falling cautiously (because  – its how we naturally are). P is a cautious toddler mostly, except while roughhousing with me. Its entertaining to watch him laying his head on the floor. Slowwwwly! 😊 but these days he is inspired by Marshall, the paw patrol puppy. Marshall is a cute Dalmatian and a fire fighter and a para medic puppy. He owns a cool fire truck cum x ray machine etc. For P however, his most appealing characteristic is that he is extremely clumsy and accident prone and falls down everywhere. So being a cautious toddler, P has found a way to imitate marshall, where he holds a corner of sofa and then tries to fall, or he holds my hands and pretends to be falling off a cliff . Many a times, before playing whoa, he places a pillow on the floor where he expected to fall and then proceeds and changes the pillow properly if he notes mid way his ‘fall’ that it is not placed correctly. 😊 . At other times, he just crawls everywhere, including public places, pretending to be marshall and expecially on the wheelchair ramps, he will try to slide shouting Whoa whoa whoa. Those ramps are not too high. So he loves sliding on them and pretending to be Marshall sliding down the paw patrol lookout – rather than sliding off actual slides. 😊 Though he likes actual slides as well (if they aren’t crowded).

With these games being frequently played at my home these days, I am kind of busy and exhausted. I applaud all sorts of internet and Instagram parents that seem to be doing so many cool things with their kids, activities, discipline, reading wise. Kudos to you all !

Dating !…of sorts…

I spotted you from a distance…. As you stood under a tree
The sun shone upon you, as you basked in all its glory
Your eyes, with pleasure alight, upon the tot at your knee
And I saw a ray of hope –  a kindred soul in thee

 

As I approached you, you noticed me and I smiled shabbily
You narrowed eyes appraisingly, as I stood so flabbily,
I tried some witty remark on weather that I offered as a bait
I thanked my stars in my mind, that finally someone worth I met

 

Then we exchanged pleasantries and chatted for a while,
And what I learned about you then, really made me smile
You stayed nearby and came to the park daily at this hour,
You too were seeking to meet someone these days that had been so dour

 

Accidentally daily at same time we seemed to bump always
One day at park, my heart hummed its time to seek the ways
To spend more time with this one, she’s the keeper you see
So I gathered my wits and my courage and invited her for tea

 

We bonded over diaper brands, we gushed over babyfoods,
We shared agonies with each other complaining about our broods
Dear reader, the rest is history, of this love story of sorts,
Its about one mom dating another one, now control your snorts…

 

The end!

Probably I have overused the poetic license , but these or any other words wouldn’t do justice to one important agony of the mom life! Finding new friends – er make it new mom friends.

Mom dating! Yes, Mom dating is the term for it, and about accurate and succinct description – of the struggles one faces as a mom, trying to make friends with other moms. This agony may not be faced by every mom. But many of the first time moms (that’s FTMs in modern mom world lingo) that have willingly opted to be a stay at home mom (SAHM – another modern mom world lingo aka MMWL), do face it. Like any other decision taken in the heat of the moment – where we later try to justify it  (including that of marrying, having a child and so on) (LOL) – the decision to quit job never really estimates the impact of lack of regular (almost constant) adult interaction, that makes up for even the lack of social life otherwise, in some cases (like mine to an extent when I was working in India with 14-15 working hours a day). Working moms have colleagues for some sensible adult conversation throughout the day. They connect over one common aspect – work. Whether they like each other or not, they must accept each other. It is sort of God given (or fate given – take your pick) arrangement, where you need do nothing. You can meet your other friends during the weekends – but mostly you are busy with chores on weekends – and spending valuable time with your kids. There is no time to feel , think etc.

For us SAHFTMs (Ha! I just thought of it) – life is all fun initially until the extended break seems to be extending towards infinity. You spend your day cleaning, bathing, feeding (rinse and repeat) ,putting them to sleep, obsessing over number of feeds, number of poops, colour of poops, figuring out exactly why the baby cried and so on… I have elaborated more than enough I suppose. It is a mix of awesome, fun and frustration in equal measures and worth every moment spent in doing these I agree. But as days go by , and the signs of clinginess of the baby don’t dissipate,  you do miss some adult conversation. The husband being the only remaining earning member of the family, cannot cater to this whim exactly when you feel like it – like when the baby is asleep in the afternoon or when out for evening stroll, since he is probably stuck in some corner of his office, trying to make sense of something on his work screen. Plus who would really want to bond with you to discuss your frustrations about a diaper rash cream , a baby detergent and so on??? Unless that person is a mom of a similar aged baby herself!!! That’s why SAH-Mom dating is needed. Some adult conversation, similar concerns and so on!

But what is the reason for a blog post if it was as smooth a sailing as in the poem above, which is just a figment of my imagination. In reality, if you notice someone at the park, in all likelihood they already belong to some mom-clique and will tend to ignore you. If this important hurdle is crossed, probably you have won half the battle. If not, then park probably was not the right place for you. You need to find other places – like playgroup drop off and pick up area, playgym / music / activity classes etc.  You cannot be seen looking shabbier than your mom-target, nor can you look unachievably chic holier than thou (though sometimes it could lead to aspirational popularity  – because everyone always wants to be friends with the cool chic mom in the class/area isn’t it?) You try to bond over clothing, stroller brands, parenting style and passing judgements about how other moms are acting (and in a way try to know each other’s compatibility).  You start discussions with discussing number and quality of playgroups in the area (I tried this), saying – “how has been your experience of ____ playgroup? Would love your honest feedback.” You send Facebook friend requests and then compliment now and then on their photos whenever you possibly can.  You receive and give compliments on baby clothes, get asked about doctors and so on. All this can be asked genuinely too of course, but these conversations, if happening too frequently are “masked friendship requests” so to say :-D. Sometimes, your “friendship requests” are met with a royal ignore. You do wonder things like – am I not interesting? Not funny? Am I not cool enough and so on –how easy it was during childhood. My toddler shares his toys with people he likes. If someone doesn’t play with him, he moves on…after 3.5 decades of life, such rejections are hard on your ego….

All in all, making mom friends is hard. Just like romantic dating I would say. Similar level of uncertainty and bruises to ego, which become more difficult to bear because of the advanced age (as compared to the romance years) I’d say, if you meet someone, keep the momentum of friendship going, because you never know- the 15 days you were absent from park were enough for your target mom to meet someone new and move on

The cat who… got lucky!

At the outset, I am NOT a Hello Kitty aficionado.

In fact, this post is specifically to ponder over the unbelievable popularity of Hello Kitty. In general, most of the popular characters have followed commonly trodden path of first being introduced through comics or cartoon series and subsequently have found themselves being peddled as various kinds of merchandise. Clothes, accessories, toys, paraphernalia. Hello kitty as per my knowledge is the only such extremely famous character which has traveled a reverse journey. First, as a bag and subsequently in other merchandise and a few years later into cartoon. If there are others as grand and as famous who have emerged in similar manner, I am not aware of them of course.

In India, I have seen Hello Kitty in various forms, especially on bags and lunchboxes, ribbons and dresses of little girls, which, I have to conclude were illegal imitations, now looking at the price of its official merchandise in various stores in Indonesia. I had always wondered back when I was a kid, who Hello Kitty was, because unlike other cartoons I had never come across animated series of Hello Kitty. Years passed and cut to present years in Indonesia, where I came face to face to the gigantic brand that Hello Kitty is and was astounded by its penetration at so many levels in the merchandise world. I was particularly flabbergasted to notice she was on this packet of sugar :-D.

IMG_20140629_143358

I mean, though I have studied finance,  subconsciously one does ponder brand association with products every now and then. How is Hello Kitty relatable with a day to day item which is used thoughtlessly? Maybe they want to say the sugar is as sweet and the character Hello Kitty is sweet natured too. Though, since Hello Kitty is almost a collectible brand now, one would think, they’d skip merchandising it in form of a generic consumable like sugar.

Kudos to its creator, Yuko Shimizu, who, in comparison with the Disneys of the world, did not have to even create a story for her character to sell so much of the merchandize 😊 . Today, as per Wikipedia, Hello Kitty is a USD 5 Bn brand, as per this article, it is USD 7 Bn.

On the other hand, was there a dearth of cute comic characters? There wasn’t. There were cute care bears for example, the popular series during late 80s and 90s when I grew up. Remember seeing them in Archies greetings too. They have faded now. But Hello Kitty, which was ‘born’ even earlier (is apparently 43 now) than these bears, is still thriving, and is being followed; my niece aged 7 for example is a big fan and owns everything Hello Kitty from erasers, dresses, books, toys and all-that-you-can-have. Though many who were her fans in childhood are now adults and have her as tattoos for example. The Taiwanese Eva airlines has her on their planes and in flight merchandise apparently!

Really, is Hello Kitty that unique? I personally am not really into Hello Kitty (or any character, or a film personality, star, singer and so on), so I cannot understand this phenomenon of mass following, especially the owning of merchandise, posters, dresses etc. Sometimes I feel this tendency of mass following has got to do with feeling some sort of sense of belonging. The fans belong together in celebration of something. An exclusivity etc. Despite the great many explanations on Hello Kitty phenomenon, including by people who have studied her for decades apparently and explained how her lack of mouth is adaptable and empowering to women etc., I just believe Hello Kitty and its promoter company got lucky to put it simply! Despite other Kawaii or cute characters in Japan, only one was picked up the world over…. By luck., and congratulations to its promoter company Sanrio for that!

The Key to knowing Bahasa street style

Sample this – random texting between my husband and his friend:

Husband – Hey, long time , lets catch up!

(I am sure, the real message was even shorter. Something like – ‘Let’s meet’ or even ‘Meet me’ or ‘Meet!’ – all of this is probable considering my husband’s low patience for all sorts of texting, further tempered by the fact that it wasn’t his client)

Friend – Hey, sure! Let’s meet at Kunci? (Knowing his friend too, I know it was much shorter reply 😀 )

So, my baffled husband turns and asks me – “do you know a place called Kunci? “

Ever proud of my own better Bahasa Indonesia skills (only as compared to my husband), I set him correct. “Kunci? Come on! Kunci means a Key Swapnil, a K-E-Y! Key! That which helps to lock and open the door??”

He made a noncommittal noise and went back to messaging, then smiled looking at me. “You’re wrong. Apparently Kunci means mall Kuningan City”.

We spent a moment in amused laughter. In almost 6 years of my residence here in Indonesia, one thing never ceases to amuse and baffle me. Its the abbreviations created by people. The local slang language or ‘Bahasa Jalan’ (Street language) as they call it , has evovled a ‘tendency’ to create short cuts. I call it tendency because I notice this leaning towards shortforms in almost every sphere of local life. I have come across abbreviated forms of so many unexpected words, places, things and so on, that sometimes, when I learn a new word, I ask the native Bahasa speaker if it is a shortform or a real word.

So you have shorter names for malls like Mangdu for Mangga Dua, Kokas for Kota Kasablanka, Sensi for Senayan City and so on. Not just malls, even place names become shortforms and you tend to get confused. Once while reading a running race schedule, I noticed the location was Jakpus. I got quite confused before realising that in all probability it was Jakarta Pusat  (Central Jakarta). Similarly Jaksel, Jakut and Jaktim. Names too do get shortened here, say a Wijayanto becoming Yanto, Arianto becoming Ari and Christina sometimes being called Tina! Which I guess is the only abbreviation, commonly practised throughout the world. 😊

While these abbreviations are mainly a part of street language, they are formally used sometimes  – such as Jakpus / Jaksel on the website of that racing community. The national monument in Jakarta is called Monas, which is shortened ‘Monumen Nasional’ . There are many communities with shortened name. Certain ‘national communities for so and so’ being called Komnas __ ___. Even the ministries have faced same fate. Kemenkes for example means Kementerian Kesehetan (Health Ministry) . Minsitry for information and broadcasting is called Kemkominfo and formally so.

Once while travelling I came across a series of shops named Warkop. Example – Warkop Ibu Yeni , Warkop Pak Nurul and so on. I wondered aloud what warkop meant. Our driver informed us – it was Warung dan Kopi (Snack and coffee).

With so many shortforms floating around, you would think, that there wont be many long words in Bahasa Indonesia. That’s extremely far from truth. To get a taste of the long words, one glance at newspapers is enough. Sometimes the words seem so long to me, that I wonder when they will end , even while reading them 😊. All in all , maybe these long words are what prompted the locals to start with shortforms. Whatever it takes to make communication easy! Only, they should have this kunci (Word key) for us newcomers though and regularly update it. That will make our life easier. 😊

 

Achche Din

I had created this cartoon on Bitstrips to share amongst the friends as an announcement of my pregnancy. I found it today while cleaning my mailbox and thought of preserving here permanently. It comes off a bit silly now, for sure, but since I was trying to be funny back then, it really feels in line with that intention now.

Bitstrips has ever since stripped off its own existence. It was fun though, to create cartoons, and then check out other users’ who were mostly teenagers and probably had no idea it was a lady in 30s whom they were encouraging through their comments on my cartoons 😀

 

Acche Din