Wanted: A good GP

At the outset, let me put the disclaimer: A) I do not claim to know about healthcare in entire Jakarta or Indonesia B) This post is related to just my own experiences.

Over the last 7 years, I have concluded that the healthcare options available to us where we live in central Jakarta are at best dubious, despite having 2 very well known state of art hospitals nearby. As an expat, the first problem that one comes across is to find a doctor, a GP, that is reliable. Usually, there are references, but everyone’s perspective and experience are different. Also, it’s not easy to find a doctor whose approach matches with your beliefs.

In Indian context usually, the approach/line of belief is ‘minimum intervention’ – that maximum healing should be done with minimum possible intervention in the body’s natural rhythm and healing process. Treatment only if necessary. Body is a natural healer. We need to allow it enough chances to heal itself. Antibiotics are used at a later stage in the healing process  – usually only after determining that other medicines are not working.  There is something called drug resistance which develops on account of constant, unnecessary and incomplete drug intake. Thus my first preference would be to find such a doctor who believes less is more.

As an expat, very first difficulty is finding a good GP, especially the one that confirms with your own approach of health care. Yes. the doctors KNOW what is right, however, over the years, we laypeople do develop a valid perspective in my opinion, which is in other words known as ‘informed choices’. This became more critical to me after my son’s birth. All the ensuing reading and discussion with his Indian pediatrician led me to be fixated with minimum intervention philosophy. One of my closest friends happens to be a practicing pediatric cardiologist, presently in Germany but who has also worked in India and thus contributed to my education on the subject substantially. I think of her as my lifeline!

The problem might also be because as expats we receive references of doctors who are good with English as well as only state of art clinics/hospitals, which might not necessarily lead to effective treatment. Finding the right medical care is like finding a needle in the haystack. That’s what my experience says.

Urgent need for today’s post came from yesterday’s visit to the nearest GP’s clinic. I had been having fever since early morning and it seemed to increase gradually, so I went to the clinic at my husband’s insistence. It was just the first day of fever. Since I don’t work, I do not have the pressing need to feed myself antibiotics or cure myself immediately. But I do have a 3-year-old at home who is absolutely attached to me and from whom its difficult to quarantine myself. We had been hearing about dengue since last week in Jakarta so we thought better be safe. As my GP measured the temperature, it was 38 degrees (100 F). He asked me certain questions about fever, phlegm etc the usual. Then he immediately offered injection – anti-inflammatory he said. It will also break my fever. I asked him why was he offering injection when it was just 100 degrees. He replied because my throat was extremely inflamed. I said I would not like to take an injection. Then he gave me a total of 6 medicines including antibiotic, anti-allergen, something to manage my stomach acid, a syrup to alleviate sore throat, a flu-related tablet and one more tablet. The syrup was a concoction of some powdered medicines+syrup – what they call ‘Racikan’ here and you don’t know what it includes. I asked him why was he giving antibiotics  – he replied because he was sure I had bacterial flu and not viral flu and that it needed antibiotics. I didn’t argue. I am not a medico. But I have enough experience of falling sick on account of flu and it getting cured by itself with no medication. I was only relieved that it wasn’t much serious.

I came home and messaged my dearest pediatric cardiologist, who despite handling close to 100 patients for the day on account of winter-related sicknesses, replied back saying all I needed to do was just to take a paracetamol and lie down for as long as my son lets me, drink lots of fluids and repeat this for the next few days till I feel better. She was shocked that I was offered injection as well as antibiotic and then an anti-allergy to counter the effects of antibiotic if any.  I followed her advice and my fever has broken immediately and not returned so far as I type.

This, however, is not a sole example. Over the last 7 years, we have always been given antibiotics for flu every single time we saw a doctor from the nearby clinic/hospitals. We being expats are not covered by the national healthcare program and hence our bills for simple flu visits can range up to 700,000 IDR which is near about USD 50 / INR 3500. We do not have health insurance too. Which of course is our own laziness but in any case I don’t think coverage will include flu visits.

I was chatting with few friends on this and they were in fact in favor of a treatment containing antibiotics though aware of drug resistance etc. They were working individuals and felt they didn’t have enough time for the flu to naturally subside. However such strategy is harmful in the long term and someone badly needs to educate the public at large.  Some of them were indeed shocked at the total bill amount I mentioned because larger clinics and hospitals are probably charging a lot more due to their infrastructure and their names. There could be the whole shebang of corporate sales/ profit targets at hospitals behind this for all I know.

When I was in India, the very first pediatrician I consulted, who was attached to the maternity ward where I gave birth, was big on medicines. Which is exactly why I looked up, researched and found the right doctor for my son in India. Here so far despite living for 7 years, I have been unable to.

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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!

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 !

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.

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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. 😊

 

The greenery and the scenery amidst the traffic

One of the things I love about Jakarta is its greenery. I haven’t really traveled to many commercial centers beyond India and some regions of SE Asia. However, having lived majority of my life in Mumbai, the most important commercial city in India, I find myself pleasantly surprised by Jakarta, almost every time I step out. The city is still green thankfully and that creates pleasant vistas within concrete jungles. Sure, Jakarta doesnt have huge public parks that many other (mainly western) cities are known to boast about. But it has enough greenery to cool down your eyes amidst the super horrible traffic that it is known for. I live in almost CBD area and across my home is a boulevard laced with lush evergreen trees. I would also love taking a walk around my office area, which too boasts of lush greenery. This post is just to share some pix of the greenery that I took in during my post lunch walk around my office block. One more aspect that I miss about my work 🙂

Rants of a stay at home mom!

With the birth of your child, comes the birth of your new role as a parent and your whole life changes. It is true, everyone says that. But one more change, that happened in my life as a new parent – which may or may not happen in case of other parents – was my transition into being a full time stay at home mom. Making this decision was not easy for me, having worked for several years, usually long working hours for a majority of my career in India mainly. Making this decision in Indonesia was even harder than quitting my job in India (to relocate to Indonesia). In addition to excellent work culture and learning, important fact was that I was staying very close to my office and that provided me with good amount of work life balance. However we had to make this decision till we were convinced of a good child care option.

During my youth I was extremely influenced by a book called ‘A road less travelled’ by M Scott Peck, the psychologist, who had contended that a significant part a person’s nature/personality is determined by how s/he is raised till the age of 4. I had determined to myself back then (when I was around 19-20 and really inexperienced in the ways of world in general and ways of parenting in particular) that I would take a career break if need be and really raise my child in the most ideal manner etc. Blah blah blah…. Cut to present day and I find myself missing those early morning market and current affairs analyses during team discussions, deadlines, meeting clients- here it was even more interesting because different language posed new challenges. The tea time converations, and so on. With so many years of working behind me, how could I believe that I would be immediately okay with the sudden end to it? This was in a sense me time. I never realised how much I have enjoyed my work before I had to shut my shop so to say and sit at home. Raising child in ideal manner etc was thrown out of the window, the day I gave my child my mobile phone to watch youtube for a while so that I could drink my tea in peace.  There is no ideal. Parenting is always about uncertainty and guilt. I learned soon, sadly.

Yes, it is mainly the work-life, the excitement of working on a new project/case, new sector, the rush of chasing a deadline… all these things is what I am reminded most sorely. This was also my personal space. Socialising has definitely reduced, but I was more or less prepared for it,having noticed change in the lives of new parents around me.

Is it wrong of me to think of my worklife since my priorities have changed? I do not feel guilty, despite being subjected to constant judgement the moment I mention this. As a new mother, every woman is subject to constant judgement anyway, so I have taken it in a stride. I do enjoy being at home and being available through all milestones and stages of my child for sure. I have enjoyed it to the fullest and am most thankful for this opportunity. Not many have this luxury. At the same time, I remember how wonderful I felt while working too. The sense of independence , confidence in my work etc were wonderful to experience. On some days, I envy those who have resumed working and on others, I am extremely thankful for being at home with my child.

Not a unique rant, I know. Many must have gone through it, many must have either resumed or reconciled to staying at home. But sure, most of them would have ranted atleast for a while, and it is my turn today!

Bucketlist – Things I’d love to do on a day off.

Today, I took an off. Was tired of routine. Was unwell too. So just thought of pausing for a moment. It wasn’t an ideal day though – nevertheless, I felt much better for it. I thought of listing things I’d do on an ideal day off 🙂

  1. I’d wake up to cool morning breeze and lightening sky. Would love to take in the calmness of early morning. Peace and quiet. Just be. Take in lovely pink and orange hues of the skies.
  2. Make myself a cup of steaming ginger-flavored tea, listening to the early morning classical raagas. Just absorbing every taan, aalap, every nuance of a bandish… experiencing its mood, sentiment, just dissolving my existence, going to faraway places within that song – that raag. Its been ages that I have done this…. I guess these days, early mornings are all about getting breakfast ready / lunch boxes ready.
  3. Would then go for a walk on the podium. It is lovely around 7 here. Much brighter than I would like, but on an off day, I am hardly going to wake up too early 🙂 . What I love about Jakarta most is its green surroundings. At least compared to Mumbai, where I lived most of my life, this city is several times greener. Evergreen trees laden in their full glory all the time. 🙂 No fall here … The facility management of this apartment complex has done lovely landscaping work and maintained well all these years. Its a pleasure to walk on the podium – especially when it is less crowded. Mild morning weather, chirpy birds, green grass, evergreen trees, flowers… would just take in everything. The hibiscus near swimming pool with bright pink blossoms, frangipanis  just about everywhere, dotted with yellow flowers, at times which are scattered on the lawns below, making a beautiful picture. I would stop to notice the toddlers over at the kiddie-swimming pool. Their laughter and bright faces will be sure to set my mood. Maybe, I will just sit on one of the benches for a while, all by myself  – just observing. Just being. Doing nothing.
  4. I would return home to be served delicious breakfast. On a day off, I wouldn’t have had to bother about deciding the menu or even cooking it. I’d just get it ready in my hands. I would eat it while scanning through the morning papers. I’d find just the right news to debate with my husband and chat leisurely. Or just to talk about nothing and everything. No rush to get to the work – no rush to be on time anywhere. No meetings, no deadlines, no notes to be written, no follow – ups.
  5. I’d then tidy up and just lounge about with a favourite book to read. I think I haven’t read a book end to end for quite a while now. It would be fun to just read for 3-4 hours at a stretch.
  6. It would then be lunch time and miraculously home made lunch would be ready waiting for me 🙂 On weekdays, I cook only a part of my morning meals, and on a day off, I’d shirk from even that. It would be awesome to eat my favourite meal – varan-bhat-batata bhaji – poli – tup and limboo. Simple Maharashtrian fare. It would taste like my mum’s cooking.
  7. After lunch I’d probably watch some movie or tele-series, out of the collection of CDs that has been accumulating here over the last 2.5 years, but really never accessed yet….
  8. Or I’d go to a spa and pamper myself – especially my feet, I feel too worn out these days.
  9. Tea-time I’d just make some nice snacks. Try something new – and quick 😉
  10. I’d then make an hour – long call to some friend . Catch up. Laugh, cry and be happy. Maybe even gossip a bit.
  11. Husband would be back early from work. Or he too has stayed in and just lounged about with me. Maybe, we will go out for a nice dinner or just stay in. We will cook dinner together. I will cook and he will be with me in the kitchen, chatting about his day, maybe he will lend a hand. Would play some nice music – maybe consorto music? maybe Vivaldi’s four seasons while we cook. We’d have risotto, some bread and some salad. 🙂 Numero uno of comfort food.
  12. We’d then walk up to the terrace and just watch the city go to sleep. Try to catch some stars in the clouded skies of Jakarta. Or we’d take our sleeping bags and just lie down, listen to radio, playing old classics.

🙂 thinking up all these things in itself made me giddy with joy. Now I can’t wait for a real day off to arrive.

The culture of respect ?

“Ibu, aku terlambat , pesawat belum datang.” I heard a part of what my colleague was saying on phone. We were in Lombok, on an assignment and stuck at the airport. The plane taking us back to Jakarta had gotten delayed by 4 hours.  I had already called up my husband to inform and was waiting for my colleague to finish his call, before we went back to work related discussion again. “Ibu, nanti aku telepon ketika pesawat mendarat”. …

I was sort of surprised + impressed that he still calls his Ibu (Mum) first, even in his mid thirties. Indonesians are very close to their family – mostly like Indians, I had heard, but this was little out of ordinary for me.  I wouldn’t call my parents immediately under such circumstances, they need not know that I’m getting delayed and then worry about me. Maybe, he lives in a joint family. ‘The analyst’ started making her assumptions. Anyhow, after he hung up, I asked him how came he called his mother because she might worry unnecessarily. Indonesians do tend to ask even more personal questions and even to casual acquaintances or even strangers. Though I knew he wouldn’t have minded – he’s a friend.  Anyway, he did a double take – “Mother??, no, I called my wife”.  Then it was my turn to do a double take – “you  address your wife with ‘Ibu’?”. Till then, to me, Ibu meant only following things:

  1. Ibu is your own mother
  2. In formal situations, it is a title of respect – similar to ‘Madam’ – for someone senior in age / designation – mostly aged 30s and above.

So I was even more impressed with this colleague, who was addressing his wife ‘Madam’. Not jokingly, I could tell from his expressions. He added, “Of course, that’s what I always call her”.Having returned home, I mentioned this to a local friend and he set me correct. “We always call our spouses with the relevant title”. This was a shock and relief to me. After hearing the Bahasa Indonesia word for the word ‘husband’ – Suami, which has been derived from Sanskrit ‘Swami’ (master), I had been flabbergasted. So this new information was a happy shock.

 This means, husbands will call their wives – ‘Ibu’ (Madam) or Mbak (Miss) while addressing and wives will call their husbands  – Bapak/Pak (Sir), Mas (young sir I guess?) while addressing them. This to me initially seemed too formal, until I recollected that in many parts of India there still is culture of addressing significant other ‘aap’ (respect) irrespective of gender. Even kids . India always has culture of addressing husband as ‘aap’ – being the patriarchal society that it is. But in some areas even the wives are addressed in kind. In Maharashtrian culture too probably till last century I guess, the culture of calling significant other “tumhi” (respect) existed. However, I don’t think adding a title for those considered ‘junior’ was ever a part of our culture. Fortunately, today we have again gravitated to an era where genders are on equal footing when it comes to addressing each other (genders to come on equal footing in India in real sense will take probably couple of centuries more… but that is besides the point).

So, coming to the point, so far in my interactions, I haven’t come across anybody in this country, irrespective of his/her age, situation,  social status, profession etc, being addressed without title. Titles – Pak/Bapak, Mas, Mbak, Ibu, Nona (for young miss) etc are used in formal as well as casual situations. I guess, in situations with extreme familiarity, sometimes, you could be addressed only with your first name, parents calling their children etc.  I call some of my friends on first name basis, but I think their acceptance of it could be more to do with the fact that they understand differences in cultures.

To me it is amusing how the use of titles does not really impact the level of intimacy in this culture. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Indonesians are very genial? – that they always have given respect to anyone irrespective of their status / situation by addressing them with titles?  I can only make guesses.

Shoes that don’t fit (in my drawing room)

Why do some people wear their shoes indoors?

Or let me rephrase it – why do some people continue to wear the shoes that they wore outside, indoors as well? -in  their friend’s, or even their own house?

Till recently, I never really had to think about this question and likewise, I never really thought that I would one day explore in detail about its causes etc. I have been brought up in ‘No shoes at home’ manner –  and believed that this was Indian custom. A possibility that there existed any other way to behave  – than leaving shoes at the door when entering own/another’s house, didn’t even enter my mind for a long long time. However, times have changed and brought me into contact with people who wear shoes into the house.

Our Indonesian acquaintances have never done this. So no question of this being attributable to the diverse culture. They have always removed their shoes. The people who wore shoes indoors were in fact Indians. Belonging to a particular part of India. I do not want to pinpoint it – So let me leave it at that.

There have been instances, of people from this particular part of India walking in, either alone /in a group and walking in with their shoes, noticing that the hosts (us) are barefoot and yet continuing to move about the house wearing their shoes / chappals/ sandals. When they came in as a part of a group, they still kept their shoes on while the others removed their footwear. As hosts, so far we have said nothing, but I was shocked to see this repeatedly ever since I moved here. And only by people from one specific part of India.

To me, shoes worn outside are dirty and unhygienic. They must be carrying not only dirt and dust but who knows , even bacteria/fungi and what not from various public places that they’ve been worn to. Removing them means avoiding infesting the host’s house with that dirt. I guess, this is how I was brought up. Both India and Indonesia are countries where hygiene at public places can be an issue and people staying in either of these countries should be mindful of this. Further, noticing that the hosts (As well as other guests when they remove shoes,) are barefoot, and still continuing to wear shoes despite of that, is sort of arrogant and disrespectful.

I try and request those who are friends, and they do listen. However, this doesn’t guarantee that they’d remember next time. The job of reminding is quite embarrassing then. That apart, usually as a host it is a dilemma whether requesting the guests to remove shoes will give offence, some of them being my husband’s business associates. I guess, I never really imagined that Indians would do this. Most of the non – Indians ASK you – if they need to remove the shoes. They are very mindful about differences in the culture. Desi guests however neither ask nor are they expected to be unaware. Following rules at the host’s place is not culture specific I think. It is universal.

Anyway, after one more such experience yesterday, when some of my husband’s Indian associates came over for dinner and a couple of them promptly ignored that both the hosts and some of their colleagues had removed footwear, I was forced to think about the possible reasons for this practice of wearing shoes indoors. I came up with –

  1. Weather – People from this community in India belong to a region which can get too hot or too cold. Maybe the floor heats up or gets stark cold and you need to protect the feet. In this case well – this is Jakarta. Perennially stuck at 32 degrees celsius and definitely neither too hot nor too cold.
  2. Some people have ‘house slippers’ or house footwear.  – Basically they constantly wear something in their feet till they go to sleep. Yes, many people in my family too do this. However, the house footwear is not same as outdoor footwear and if they go to someone’s place for couple of hours, they probably can survive without footwear. Some families I know keep spare house footwear for guests. I haven’t done it so far and I don’t think it is practical especially when you are hosting a number of people at the same time.
  3. Some people have health issues or some injury – in which case it is understandable. However I guess this would be exception and even the hygiene-OCD affected people will accommodate such guests.

I could not think about a ‘culture’ specific reason  – none of the above is specific to that culture. Many people live in areas in India which have extreme climates. Not just this particular part of India. Anyway, I found a thread on metafilter discussing exactly this – but in the western countries. This was new to me. I had imagined that US and UK have colder climes and hence probably they must be wearing shoes inside the house. But I had no idea that in many parts, its the same pair of shoes that is worn outside the house. I find it amusing (because its not in my own house of course 😉  ) that some even wear shoes on their beds. But this thread gave many reasons why a person might be wearing same pair of shoes inside the house, what they wore outside.

Anyhoo, my rant is done. Time to sign off. In case anyone knows any cultural reasons why some INDIANS might be wearing their outdoor shoes indoors, please let me know.