Daddy Diaries : Anika turns two

Seeing your child unfold in front of your eyes is the strangest sight. It is like witnessing a face being carved out from a lump of clay. An individual emerges with her own set of thought and quirks, her own way of interpreting the surroundings. You are awed by the way nature works and wonder if all this is just a dream. You keep reminding yourself that this is the same puny girl with crumpled skin whom you met for the first time outside an operation theater.
I have read enough on the internet to be scared of the terrible two. When I look back at the last one year, I can say that it wasn’t the easiest of times but the thought leaves me with a smile. There was time when I wanted to bang my head on the wall, when I wanted to run away and hide in the hills, when I wanted to sleep peacefully for a night but then there were also millions of moments when my heart melted at the mere sight of her. It was last year when she pointed a finger at me and said Papa. It was last year when I started telling her stories and although she does not understand a word, she listened to them with rapt attention. It was last year when she turned into this non-stop talking machine. I still tell myself that I am not made for being responsible for an individual, that I am still not ready for this but the fact remains that unless you jump into it, you are not ready.
She has started dancing without any qualms in marriages, she started eating Maggi and chocolates, she started admiring herself in the mirror, she started getting scared of doctors and needles, she started copying the maid and broomed the whole house, she started loving those videos on YouTube where someone opens chocolate eggs to reveal gifts hidden inside, she started playing Temple Run, she started liking nail paints and sunglasses, she started loving car rides. Her Bollywood fixation ended, which was a mercy. She is now more into animated songs for children. She is an entirely different person from who she was in the first year. Back then she only slept, pooped and cried. Yes, that was pretty much it.
Having her in my life has made me wonder about a lot of things. There are some things for which you become more perceptive and tolerant after you become a parent. For example, I do not make a face when I see a couple jostling with their crying baby, I don’t say – they can’t even control their child – when I see parents wondering what to do when their child throws a tantrum. I don’t have anything but sympathy and understanding for them. I can even go and help. I also do not understand how people abandon their girl child in dustbins. The mere thought of Anika out there alone send shivers down my spine. I also do not understand how parents allow their daughter to be mistreated by her in-laws. Believe me, I would end up breaking open their heads. I am now filled with more and more anger at how the girls in our country are treated as second-class citizens. I was always a feminist but now I am a feminist with a daughter which makes me doubly dangerous and doubly furious.
This may sound crazy but sometimes I keep thinking of the time when she will leave the house. She might leave to study or work in another city or get married. I know its years away but the mere thought chokes me up. See, its happening as I am writing this. I might cry right now. But, I guess its bound to happen some day. There is a whole world out there for her to see and experience. She will have to fall and fly because that is the only way to live your life. As a father, it is my job to be worried and overprotective for her but I will never take away her wings.
Oh well, I must come back to the present. So she turns two today and I am hoping that the next year will be as exciting and scary as the previous one. She will finally get potty trained which is such a relief because my life savings are depleting buying diapers. She has started joining words so I suppose there will be more non-stop banter all day. She has started understanding the world bit by bit but sometimes it breaks my heart thinking that she won’t remember any of it. She will start making memories only after three and that too will turn vague as time will pass.
Maybe, all this is just for us, her parents, to remember.
She is two and she is sleeping with her mouth open, showing her two front teeth. I must stop writing and look at her. This is an important moment to remember.

Sunny’s sad sojourn in Switzerland

Geet and I met Sunny for the first time during our four day tour to Switzerland. He was a puny nine year old, wearing thick glasses with a constant expression of sad aloofness. Initially we took his stoicism as lethargy but that did not make any sense. We were visiting the country of the Alps, where Yash Chopra made Bollywood actresses dance in chiffon sarees in negative temperatures. Everyone in the tour bus was excited except for Sunny who had nothing but contempt in his eyes. Maybe he was too young for this tour.

His father Dr. Bhattacharya sat with him on the last seat of the bus, right behind me and Geet. His mother Mrs. Bhattacharya was busy clicking pictures of every cow, tractor and tree on the road as if the world was going to end soon and she was bestowed with the task of passing the relevant proof of the existence of  Homo Sapiens to the next dominant specie. She took rest from the clicking frenzy only to stuff her family with snacks that she had brought in kilos. The tour operator shared the history of Switzerland with us in the background.

A few hours into the bus and we understood the reason why Sunny was so stolid. The initial two days were Alps-less and we toured Zurich, Geneva, Schaffhausen, Lausanne, Lucerne, Interlaken and Bern. As our tour operator poured all his general knowledge on us, we realized that his words were molted lava dripping in Sunny’s ears.

“Sunny!!! Bhaat is the name of that large fountain in Geneva?” Dr. Bhattacharya asked his son.

“Jet something,” he replied.

“Think properly Shona!” Mrs. Bhattacharya said stuffing her son with cashew filled cookies.

“Jet d’Eau,” he said after a while. His parents clapped. Geet and I looked at each other.

“What does Bern means in Swiss?”

“Bear.”

“How many Cantons are there in Switzerland?”

“Twenty-sigh-six.”

“To commemorate whose memory was the carving of the dying lion created in Lucerne?”

“Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. I wish I was with them.”

“Bhaat? Anyways, Chapel Bridge is situated across which river?”

“Reuss.”

And this went on and on. We were horrified at what the poor child was going through during this ultra educational tour. I was sure that when all this would be over, Sunny will be permanently scarred and a slight inclination by his future wife to visit this romantic destination will be answered by shrieks of madness.

I remember talking to Dr. Bhattacharya during the journey where he expressed his shock that he had to wear seat belt in the bus. I argued that it was commendable that Swiss laws valued human life. I do not remember much of what else we talked about, only that Sunny slept peacefully during that one hour. Geet hailed me as a hero.

After our two days journey through the cities, it was time to visit the Alps. As our bus lifted higher and higher above the sea level, the frenzy of walking on snow that had footprints of Bollywood stars imprinted on it reached an unnerving crescendo. The bus snaked through a thousand tunnels and we saw villages on the edge of lakes surrounded by picturesque blanket of greens. People were straining their necks to get a first peek of the peaks and if the suspense would have carried on for another half an hour, we would have ended up with a new mutated specie that would have been a cross between a human and a giraffe.

Mrs. Bhattacharya was holding her camera so close to her bosom that anyone would have thought that she had a third eye there. In addition, she was jumping in the aisle with enough glee to give me a heart attack. I held Geet’s hands and chanted Hanuman Chalisa. Then everything happened very quickly.

“Boooooooootiphool! There there! Alps!!” Mrs. Bhattacharya screamed seconds before the bus entered a tunnel.

“Bhere?” Dr. Bhattacharya screamed back staring disappointingly at the insides of the tunnel. Sunny shut his eyes tightly pretending that he was asleep.

Soon the tunnel ended and the scream repeated itself. I saw a pair of buttocks jumping up and down in my line of sight and quickly realized that my armrest was not in place. I pushed it down in the nick of time and seconds later Mrs. Bhattacharya tumbled on it instead of my lap.

“Sorry,” she chirruped.

“If I would have been one second late, we would have spent the rest of our life searching for sperm donors,” I whispered in Geet’s ear. She looked with disdain at Mrs. Bhattacharya.

“What is she? A horse with crackers tied to its tail?” she squeaked.

“Control your emotions. The Alps are here,” I said, rotating her head to the window.

We stayed at the village of Engelburg, surrounded by snow covered Alps and minutes away from Mount Titlis and an hour’s drive from Jungfrau. We saw sulking Sunny during dinner. One look at his face and you could tell that the educational tour was spreading like slow poison inside him. Thank God the food was Indian.

The next day we had to take a train to the highest railway station in Europe at 11,000 ft. The prospect was endearing and would have left anyone wide-eyed. As the train spiraled up the tunnel, I spotted Sunny through the gap between the seats, sleeping peacefully. His father was frantically trying to wake him up while his mother was talking pictures of the darkness outside. I poked Geet and made her conscious of the sight. And then both of us started laughing. We laughed till tears ran down our eyes, till our faces turned red with the effort to suppress our laughter. Everyone was staring at us. The tour operator gave us uneasy looks. Our unchecked spurts of laughter took a good fifteen minutes to subside.

Later, I felt nothing but pity for the child. In a bid to train their child to become a Superman, Mr. and Mrs. Bhattacharya had ruined his holiday. Wasn’t the kid supposed to enjoy this precious time with his parents? We bid Bhattacharya family goodbye at London airport and that was the last time I saw Sunny. I hope his relationship with his parents does not hit rock bottom, although the chances of this happening are slim.

It has been three years since I visited Switzerland but there are a few moments that are etched forever in my memory –

– Sunny’s lost gaze

– Geet and I laughing hysterically in a tilted train inside a mountain

– Geet and I sitting in the balcony of our room in Engelburg with a blanket draped on both of us, looking at the fog drifting over the mountains.

– Sabotage of Mrs. Bhattacharya’s attempt to cut my family tree.

 

[All the pictures are taken by me]

Sensitization begins at home

We are contrary creatures, us humans, but that isn’t something we need to be afraid of, or even much troubled by. And if you make a list of those people who worship consistency, you’ll find they are one and all tyrants or would-be tyrants. Ruling over thousands, or over a husband or a wife, or some covering child. Never fear contradiction. It is the very heart of diversity.

– The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen)

A few days back, I overheard a conversation between two Software Engineers. Both of them were discussing rape cases and laughingly agreed with each other that 95% of the rape cases are consensual. I am sure that they kept a window of 5% open in case a female member of their own family gets raped. Such females can then be conveniently boxed in the category of 5% women who are tamed and belong to well-to-do families but who are victims of the evil. Mind you, these are extremely well-educated men working in an MNC and earning a handsome salary, who like going to a pub and like getting drunk, who despite being married will stare at a woman’s buttock as she passes by, who snigger at a woman driving a car. This well-educated category of urban Indian male also believe that any woman who does not belong to their family are objects and possible prostitutes and leave no stone unturned in blaming the victim. They forget the fact that a stranger might be having similar thoughts about a female member of their own family.

The bad news is that education has nothing to do with changing mindsets. Education cannot teach the idea of respecting a fellow human. But then what can? Baring a minuscule population of India, a large unbelievable chunk is deeply entrenched in the swamp of patriarchy. The rot is so deep that we will not be able to see a change in our lifetime. Patriarchy glorifies the act of controlling another human’s life. The acts of crime against women that we witness in modern India are illegitimate offspring of patriarchy. Respect has to be treated as gender neutral and so should be freedom to make choices. 

Can we make a beginning somewhere?

It is extremely difficult to change the mindset of an adult. Two adults can react differently to the same situation. For example, consider a man who has seen his father as an authoritative figure all his life. It is possible that such a man carries his father’s legacy and treats his own wife as a subordinate. It might also be possible that he reacts to the suffering of his mother and when the time comes, treats his own wife with all the dignity and equality she deserves. But where does the distinction comes from? What are the factors that decide the path a man would finally take?

In the end it all boils down to how much contradiction can you swallow as a human. How much is the magnitude of your fear for a thought or an act that contradicts your beliefs? Are you willing to let go and ready to open the cage that was meticulously built around you? Ironically, a majority of us do not acknowledge the presence of a cage. It has melted so deeply into our psyche that we fail to feel its presence. It is embedded in us. A monster that lurks silently.

Sometimes I wonder that if gender inequality is such a pressing issue, why can’t our government work towards bringing up a more gender sensitive next generation? Why can’t we set up mandatory sensitization sessions for all the newly wed couples? Why don’t we put a huge fine if the couple fail to attend these sessions? Why can’t we arrange similar sessions for all the parents with children in the age group of 0-10 years? I don’t believe reactive measures are the correct way to approach the issue. What we need are preventive measures in place so that the next generation don’t end up like those two software engineers.

I see that as our only hope. Unless the present lot of parents understand the idea of bringing up their daughters and sons at an equal footing, no amount of punishments or laws are going to work. We have to make sure that our next generation is not as messed up as the present one. Otherwise this is a vicious cycle and there is more never-ending, unimaginable traumas coming our way for years. 

A majority of women in this nation do not know what real freedom is. The irony of mankind is that we have used the very act of creating life to abuse women and then blame them for it. It is similar to cutting a tree that sustains life and then blaming it for being in the middle of the road. 

We have to bend this devious road or there won’t be any trees left.

Kofi

[This is an entry to Indiblogger’s iDiya Contest]

http://www.isb.edu/idiya/

image from here

10 Syndromes to check before you decide to have a baby

one one legWe all know that India is going to overtake China in population in roughly the next 35 years. The country is already packed to the rafters and our nation might develop a gigantic crack any day from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and do a Sita on us. I completely acknowledge the commendable job our country is doing in reducing the population which includes hunger, accidents, suicides, murders, foeticides, price rise, riots, Rahul Gandhi and so on and so forth but clearly the measures will never be enough unless we move all the people below poverty line to the moon and cut off the oxygen supply.

But there is another way and hence Mashed Musings have come up with an incredible idea to dissuade couples from having babies and nipping the problem at the root. A lot of couples in our nation are anyways not worthy of becoming parents because they are so incredibly messed up and would have been immediately quarantined in another country. So, here is a list of dangerous syndromes commonly found in couples. Refrain from having a child if you have any of these and help to create a better India by ending your family tree.

The Loud Mouth Syndrome – If the frequency of your voice is very close to that of a bat but still in audible range, if you talk on a mobile as if radio waves are not yet discovered, If people pretend to be a wall-hanging the moment you enter a room, if someone faints in your presence because you have been yakking since the last 5 hours, if empty popcorn boxes fly towards you when you attend a call in a cinema hall, then you should not have a child. The child might end up as loud mouthed as you are or start pretending that he is dumb and deaf from the age of 5, similar to Mamta Banerjee, Rakhi Sawant and Manmohan Singh.

The No Rules Syndrome – Now there are times when you are the king of the roads honking to glory, there are times when you are spitting red liquid like Mount Etna, there are times when you cannot see the harsh red traffic light, there are times when you zigzag your car through traffic like a hungry anaconda. If you are a person who suffers from this syndrome, then you should not have a child because he might end up as irresponsible and worthless as you are.

The Leone Syndrome – If you are addicted to porn, you are making the biggest mistake of your life by making a baby for obvious reasons. Your child will become a liability and you have to discover Sunny Leone on mute.

bad_parentingThe Long Nose Control Freak Syndrome – Your life revolves around what other people are doing. You use the gossips to forward your interests or to add some masala to your bland existence. You might go into combative mode just like the Indian Media as soon as the gossip is turned on you. A side effect is that you might have an immensely irritating laughter or a Dracula smile. You should not have a baby because she will shun you violently, commit suicide or end up like you.

The Special Job Syndrome – If you are a painter and usually do not remember when or where was the last time you emptied your bowels or had food, if you like to travel to places like Tanzania to eat a special delicacy of earthworms, if you are a page 3 celebrity who salivates on seeing young models (male/female no bar), if you are a TV actor who works/sleeps/bathe buried under 10 kilo of fake jewellery, if you are a news reporter who specializes in dancing with soldiers in war zones, then try not to have kids. They will anyways never know you.

The Take Care Of My Child Syndrome – You might be dreaming about how other people will take care of your child once you are done with providing the world with your labour of love. If you are about to burden people with your child on weddings, travelling, watching movies, shopping or elections, it will be better not to bring the gift in the world. We know that you derive sadistic pleasure from it but your child might refuse to recognise you as he grows up and might have disorders because of people shunning him all the time. He might end up like Tushar Kapoor.  

The Toy SyndromeIf you are going to handle your future child in any of the following ways, then you should not have the kid – Moving the baby from one room to another by holding him upside down with one leg, throwing the baby 10 feet up to pacify her, slapping/pinching the baby to make him stop crying, putting a strap in his neck and drag him while you shop, forgetting the baby in the car, allowing the dog to lick your baby clean instead of giving her a bath etc.

the prefect familyThe My Child is Cool Syndrome – If you might be the kind of parent who thinks that his child will be the most special angel that will grace the Earth and everyone around you have to bow to your and your kid’s flights of inflated egotism, then better not bring the angel in the world. If you think it will be ok for your child to create ruckus by howling at public places, pull hair of aunties in cinema halls, break lines, create special Vadra queues, throw tantrums and your Vijay Mallya money while you wipe a proud tear off your puffed-with-pride face, then try not to grace the world with his existence.

The Bhatt Syndrome – If the habits of farting, belching, peeing in public and scratching your private parts in public is like a gold necklace passed through generations in your family, it will be probably a good idea to deprive yourself of a kid. He will anyways end up an animal just like you or die of poisonous gases and infections.

The Sexist Syndrome – This is the most dangerous syndrome of all. If you are a true blue sexist, then it will be a good idea to use that condom with Fevicol. You MUST NOT have a child. Your daughter will either run away, kill herself, get killed by you or end up as a vegetative cow. Your son might end up a molester, a rapist or a wife abuser. You are a hazardous factory that should be immediately locked.

If all the couples of this country who are suffering from any of these syndromes give up their plans to bring a baby in this world, the day will not be far away when India will have a population less than Lakshadweep.

p.s. We know Mahesh Bhatt does not fart, belch and pee on walls. The syndrome was named after him to honour the self-inflicted (please note) marks on his sexy body.

Mahesh-Bhatt

I can’t *scratch scratch* lift both hands but thanks for *scratch* naming the *scratch* syndrome after me. *scratch damn! scratch*

[images from 1,2,3]

Dirty picture is dirty after all

That is all you will get to see after 57 cuts.

The opening scene of The Dirty Picture shows a rustic Silk Smitha moaning in her room trying to distract a couple who is having sex in the next room. As I settled comfortably on my seat in the cinema hall enjoying the moaning overlapping with my wife’s laughter, I heard another voice – a crying child. At first I thought it’s a woman screaming at her husband but then a second later, a pair of toddlers swooshed past me playing on the stairs of the cinema hall. Considering the fact that the movie had an Adult only certificate, there were a lot of children in the theatre. It seems that Indian parents have taken up sex education very seriously and the cinema owners were fully supporting them by royally flaunting the rules.

That is why, when I&B ministry decided to stop the prime time telecast of the movie, it was unscrambling scrambled eggs. If the I&B ministry wanted to save the parents from embarrassment, maybe stopping the news channels from using the word “Porn” while telecasting the sham that happened in the Karnataka assembly would have been the right step.

Another point to moan in the whole episode is that the movie won three National Awards and still was banned to be shown in prime time. It’s like the French draping the statue of Venus with a cloth in the Louvre and justifying it with the following statement – “We know it’s a masterpiece but we can’t show her naked breasts to children.”

How dare you call me a naked woman? I am a masterpiece!

I am not completely blaming I&B ministry for this. The ministry apparently received a lot of calls from concerned parents about the effect the movie will have on their children. Haven’t the parents heard of a remote control? And how much of the objectionable content of the movie will be left after 59 cuts? Did the parents understand the meaning of a UA certificate and the fact that the Censor Board approved the movie after the cuts? Maybe instead of sexually oppressing their children, such parents should talk to them about the topic. They will be surprised to know that their children can teach them a thing or two.

I grew up watching Baywatch and Santa Barbara with my grandparents and came out all right.  I do not eve tease; I am not a rapist and have a comfortable job. Although my parents did not want me to see Pamela running on the beach wobbling her assets and reprimanded my grandparents for making me sexually active well before my age (which is not true I think), all they could elicit was an amusing tsk-tsk from my grandma. She found my parents very old fashioned. It’s just a bloody kissing scene, she would say at times.

Sometimes I wonder if there is an entire spectrum of parents in India. The liberal who take their children to watch Delhi Belly, The Dirty Picture and Vicky Donor and the conservatives who have loads of time on their hand to file a PIL against Dirty Picture being shown on prime time after 59 cuts. I am sure the latter group would turn a beetroot red every time they view an advert for sanitary napkins and condoms in front of their children.

The point being that the more a child is hushed into not watching something, the more curious he gets. If you do not give him any answers, he will find them from somewhere else, sometimes contorted ones. I am not asking the parents to send their children to strip clubs but running towards your child with a blanket to cover him up every time you see Imran Hashmi on screen will not help either. You will end up with a lot of holes in your blanket.

And please do not talk about culture and values. I am sure parents will instill more values in their children if they do not spit on roads, do not litter and do not jump signals in front of their children. Installing values is making the children aware of the various evil practices rampant in our great nation. And culture is nothing but a controlling stick. The brittle it gets, the better.

And, yes, The Dirty Picture is available for 20 Rs in a lot of markets in India. I am quite sure most of the children can afford it.

[images from 1,2,3]

The glasses and the tussle

I recently crushed my glasses under my feet because of which it ended up with a broken right nose pad and a twisted frame temple. As I was not having a spare which I am quite sure nobody has, the loss sent me reeling to an Optical shop close by, named Blue Bay. The name made me think that what would have been the name of the shop if it would have been an outlet for watches. Well, Blue Baywatch. 😀

I entered the shop with crossed fingers because a no-we-don’t-repair-glasses would have landed me into a situation of near despair. Thankfully, the old and decrepit yet assertive human sitting on the other side nodded as I asked the quintessential question.

“It will cost you 30 Rs.”, he said as he stared at me with raised eyebrows and handed the glasses to a teenage helper.

As I was waiting for my glasses to emerge from the operation theatre, the uncle eyed my watch and asked me its price. I told him very politely that it was a gift from a friend from overseas and thus I had no idea about the price. He gave an impressed and sad nod. He then bombarded me with questions about my job, my package and my future prospects, which I answered very politely while twirling my fingers. It was then that he started pouring his personal life in front of me.

It looked like the well being of his sons was the only main concern of his life. According to him, his elder son was somehow settled but the younger one was quite aimless and was corrupted by his friend circle.

“All I want him is to settle down so that I don’t think that I have wasted my life and resources on him. He is a graduate but does not know what to do in his life. Whenever is zero in on anything, his friends dissuade him to follow the path.”, he said.

There were many questions which I wanted to ask this elderly person. I wanted to ask him that what kind of a parent he was? How did he treated his children when they were studying in schools?

  • Was he a “Superman” father who wanted his son to have all the properties of a “Superhero”? Did he wanted his son to be a superhuman(so that he could puff his chest in front of his peers) instead of finding out if his son was capable of being one or not?
  • Was he a “dreamer” father who wanted to burden his son with all his dreams instead of finding out if his son was capable of fulfilling them or not? And irrespective of knowing what dreams did his son carry in his own mind?
  • Was he an “understanding” father who always told his son that he has to choose a path for himself. He has to understand what interests him the most and carve a career out of it, because what is the point of doing a job which you don’t love? Did he tell his son that money isn’t everything in life but satisfaction is?
  • Was he an “indifferent” father who thought that studies and exams was a department which his wife was supposed to handle and all he had to do was to shout and slap when the results went bad?

I wanted to ask him if the concern he shows for his sons have materialized out of thin air just because things went beyond repair because of his neglect or because he pressurised his sons to fulfill his own dreams OR was he always so concerned about his sons? If the former case was true, then he was not in a position to blame anyone but himself. For the latter case, his sons needed a good lashing and a reality check.

But I didn’t ask anything. I just listened to what he had to say and consoled him with whatever kind words came in my mouth. I told him to talk it out with his younger son and to come to a mutual understanding. I did not react because I have seen and heard this story so many times. Its either the *pressure building up, the sound of the shattered dreams, the sacrifices for the sake of the society and finally a job which pays the bills* story or the *aimless son, concerned parents, clashes and the son realizes everything too late, blame game continues for the rest of the life* story.

Although, I was not aware of the category in which his story fell, but it made me think anyways. I wanted to tell him that you can clap only with two hands. If he thinks that his son failed him then his son would have his own story to tell. And I have always found it very amusing how parents turn into an understanding and kind psychiatrist when things are beyond repair. Aren’t 18 years a big enough time to understand your child? To understand his/her interests? And to understand that every child needs the liberty to chose a path for him? Similarly, shouldn’t his son realize that he can’t depend on his parents for the rest of his life? Shouldn’t he understand that he has to think what he wants to do and convince his parents(although they are so worried that they would be too happy to accept)?

Finally I got my glasses back and I stood up.

“Sorry to trouble you with my grievances. Please let me know if there are any good courses for the graduates.”, he said.

“No trouble at all and I’ll definitely let you know if something catches my eyes.”, I told him and smiled.

* * *

Now this post has really turned gloomy. Let me cheer you up. Recently I was nominated in two categories for the Second Annual Dabido Awards. Although I did not win in either of them but I am happy that I was nominated. The first category was the Fun Guy Award(Blogger most likely to be mistaken for a form of fungi. Must be a blogger. Is not allowed to actually BE a fungi) and the second category was the Photoshop Me Award(Best photo. Photo must be original work by blogger being nominated). Well, *Sigh*, better luck to me next time. 😀 You can see the results here.