Category Archives: Random Writing

Saying NO to bullying by birds

It began one day when A was drying clothes in the balcony and I was giving him moral support out there. We were discussing how some of our t-shirts and tops were missing, when suddenly he noticed my Anokhi (this detail is relevant, trust me) top on a tree nearby. Without the height advantage, I had to lean out of the balcony on my toes to see the tree and that’s when this eagle swooped and clawed my head before flying away.

I ran inside and kneeled in sharp pain and saw A right next to me also kneeled, but doubled in laughter. Given that this was an unprecedented situation (and A wasn’t done laughing), I called my mom to ask for a home remedy for eagle scratches.

Me: Amma, an eagle attacked me and I have scratches on my head! What to do?

Amma: What did you do to the eagle? (Notice how even in this situation, my mom gives the benefit of the doubt to an unknown bird.)

Me: I didn’t do anything! My Anokhi top is on a tree and I was just seeing how I could get it back.

Amma: Anokhi va? Isn’t that the shop where simple cotton tops cost some 1000 rupees?

Me: (Mumbling in silence)

Amma: Appo ve I told you, 1000 rupees for a simple cotton top is too much, now see what happened.

Clearly, I was getting nowhere with Amma so I googled for “what to do when attacked by an eagle”. The few results that came up referenced babies or other small animals and all of them suggested calling a local sheriff. By then I knew if I have to get somewhere with this, it has to be Quora where all the crazy is. I was right and found a group of falconers from Dubai who suggested I get a tetanus shot. A and I drove to the doctor while I was figuring out if I had intentionally ever wronged birds. The clinic was shut and I really didn’t want to explain over phone why I am asking for tetanus shot for an angry bird scratch. So we dropped the plan and went home.

A few weeks later, I was in Bombay at home when I noticed an eagle staring into my room. I immediately took a picture, drew a red circle around the clearly visible eagle (Times Now style) and sent it to D (the best friend) as well as A. I wasn’t delusional to believe that the same eagle followed me from Bangalore but this clearly this wasn’t normal. While A responded with his usual LOLs, D was the one who took me seriously and suggested I could be under surveillance by a national network of eagles.

Over the next few months, I saw eagles perched on different trees around my house. I began limiting my visits to the balcony and as any woman, who has been stalked before, wondered what I had done to cause this nonsense.

I visited Delhi last month and was having lunch outdoors with a friend when I noticed some eagles being unduly aggressive. I naively chalked it up to Delhi and let that be.

Two days ago, I went to soak some sun in my balcony (Bangalore is cold you guys!) and an eagle swooped real close with no respect for my personal space. I ran back in and shut the balcony door. This was all the pigeons needed to decide I was easy and they began to get comfortable in my balcony. That was it. Something in me snapped and I decided I was no longer putting up with bullying by pigeons or eagles.

I went screaming into the balcony with a newspaper in my hand and scared the living daylights out of the pigeons (and possibly the uncle in the opposite house who was standing on the terrace for a smoke).

This is it. I am now reclaiming my home, my balcony, my space. Enough is enough, birds. Your time’s up.

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Not being treated like an adult because you are not a parent

One of the things that drives me bat shit crazy is how it is assumed that the husband and I just sit around on large wads of cash, doing absolutely nothing other than sipping on wine and watching Netflix. If you are suspicious about how an imaginary scenario can be so specific, it is simply because I basically strung together everything that has ever been asked about us simply because we don’t have kids.

It may come as a surprise, but we still have full-time jobs, bills to pay, taxes to worry about, medical appointments and other “fun” adulting things to do even though we don’t have to care for a tiny human. Whether it is at work or with extended family or with friends, there is always this awkward conversation where people try and guess what we do with all our “free” time or why do we need time off since we anyway don’t have “serious commitments”  like children.

The expectation to stay on longer at work, to show up for family stuff you didn’t sign up for, to cover for family friends is sometimes flattering, I mean who doesn’t like feeling wanted?! But the assumption that either of us are twiddling thumbs or don’t need to consciously carve out personal time is infuriating.

Statements like “You won’t understand, you do not have kids” or “you don’t know exhaustion until you have had sleepless nights with a baby” are simply exclusionary. Yes, I may not have the life experience of raising a human but neither am I sitting to watch paint dry. I am not taking away from the hard work that goes into parenting but when you look around you will see that everyone is trying. Working moms/dads, stay-at-home moms/dads, people with aging/ailing parents, people trying to pay off medical bills, people straddled with loans working different jobs, you name it. Some struggles are just less apparent than others.

I have read many articles such as this one or this one – some more kind than the others but most in a similar vein. Across many cultures where busyness is now a status symbol, it is hard for me to not see what you do as taking a moral high ground simply by being a parent. Feel free to vent and cry, I want to be there for you. But don’t pinch my cheeks and sigh when I offer help. Not advice – actual help. If someone is just offering you advice, feel free to kick them in their most vulnerable area.

Parenting is the most non-secret, secret club. Not being able to break into this club sucks big time and many times is bloody lonely. I love hearing about your kids, seeing their pictures – truly. I sympathize with your pregnancy struggles – really do. But I have been in enough situations where not being a member of this club keeps me out of so many conversations. I am not saying don’t have conversations on birth plans, how much/how little sleep your little one is getting or about switching from breastfeeding to formula or preschool selections or arranging for childcare. They are important to you, you are important to me therefore they are important to me. I am not blaming anyone at the slightest but for the sake of other women like me; I want to also say that many of us feel left out beyond a point. Also, it sucks when you chuckle or patronizingly smile when we share something from work or about struggling relationships.

All I want to say is that I may never understand what you are going through but I want to, and I am working on it. All I am asking for are two things:

1) Please return the favour and respect my life experiences as well

2) Allow and trust me to help you so that I can be/do better

#Endofrant

 

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Damn, Daniel

When the husband and I went through the battery of tests before starting treatments, we both got all reports as normal. Wait, let me rephrase that – all my reports were normal and his were spectacular! It was like the difference between our CAT scores – I scored enough to make the cut while he was above and beyond.

Side note: I have a serious issue when it comes to diagnostic tests, not just the ones related to fertility but generally for any medical procedure.  I believe the best value for money is either if I get a positive result (even if it means I have some life-threatening disease) or if I score spectacularly well across the range column typically given in the right side of the report. This whole being mid-range makes me feel mediocre and I refuse to pay good money to put myself down.

But I digress. This isn’t about me.

So as you may (or may not) know, for the IUI procedure I need to prepare by taking drugs during the entire cycle and he needs to prepare by being ready to offer a sample in a container. He once had the unfortunate experience of providing the sample in a bathroom where he could hear the guttural sounds of pigeons through a broken window. To prevent any further scarring, for this cycle we decided we will be getting the sample from home. We were told to be there at the clinic at 5:30 pm sharp because Daniel will be present to help prepare the sample.  The instructions for being on time were repeated a few times because Daniel is incredibly busy and we should not be wasting his time.

Taking these instructions seriously, we left home at 4:45 pm. It was tense because we planned to leave at 4:30 but didn’t know how best to carry the container with the sample. After a lot of back and forth, we narrowed down on a Nalli bag and off we went. As soon as we sat in the car, there was the choice between lowering windows and putting the AC on. I was fine with the windows solution since I feel cold with air conditioning irrespective of the time of the year but he was worried about pollution and general humidity. Since they were his swimmers, he won this round – we put the AC on full blast and drove at the top speed possible on Kanakpura Road (10 kmph).  I sat perfectly still holding the Nalli bag in front of one of the air vents and regularly turning it for all-around cooling which apparently is important as per so many refrigerator ads.

We reached at 5:30 pm sharp but as luck would have it, Daniel was stuck in traffic. So we waited – me with my Kindle, him with his book and his swimmers holding onto their dear lives. Soon a motorbike pulled up and Daniel rushed in. His client engagement game was on point, because he asked for our names and shook our hands while apologizing for the delay. I felt reassured that someone this well-mannered would be handling what goes inside of me (okay… that came out wrong). Taking the container off our hands, he was off to do what he does best.

After about 30 minutes, he called the husband into the lab. By then I was wrecked with nervousness wondering if the AC killed the swimmers (they are originally from Chennai and it was cold!). Within a minute, the husband came out looking both gray and unable to suppress his laughter. Daniel followed and asked, “Ma’am would you…” and before he could finish, the husband jumped in screaming NO! Daniel looked surprised and said, “The sample is super ma’am! Very good quality!” The husband by then took Daniel’s hands, thanked him profusely and tried sending him off. But Daniel being Daniel, took his time to thank me, wished me luck and as he was leaving reminded me again how sir’s sample was super.

The husband walked in sheepishly and confessed, “He made me see them and wanted you there as well! For what it’s worth they are moving superfast!  But what idiots, putting in so much hard work without realizing that the eggs are sitting in the other room!”

We both started laughing incredibly hard (think snorting, spit bubbles and on the floor) and were immeasurably judged by the receptionist.

We both couldn’t figure out why Daniel had to invite us individually to view the sample. The husband was however glad because he felt we would have offended Daniel if I had broken into my laughter fit. Maybe he is right…though I would never do anything to hurt Daniel’s feelings. He truly must love his job to express that kind of enthusiasm and I will not be the cloud that rains on his parade.

Damn, Daniel (at the risk of being so 2016) you are now inextricably tied to our lives!

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Temples, faith and dissonance

We were on this road trip with our parents to this temple called the Garbharakshambika literally translating into the Goddess who is the protector of the womb. It is located near Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and believe it or not, is very easy to find using Google Maps.

Flashback: We have fielded many suggestions around applying some kumkum from some temple to wearing some thread on the left hand. A visit to this temple was something that came up over and over from relatives and it was something we never acted on. I was able to park it aside with the excuse of undergoing treatments and therefore not wanting to do road trips. But once we decided to stop all treatments, we lost that excuse and it was hard to ignore the plea of “there is no harm in trying”.  So off we went with a seething husband waiting to connect his fist to the face that made this suggestion in the first place.

What is strange about this temple is how new-age it is. There is a dedicated website (feel free to look it up. I have no intention of ruining my day with sponsored ads by posting the link here) explaining the history, instructions on how to consume the prasad and most importantly, how it can be couriered with blessing to U.S, UK, Canada etc. There are also testimonials but again all by NRIs as though domestic clientele is not worth bragging about.

As we were entering the temple, the lady selling flowers on the other side of the entrance, yelled out saying buying flowers as an offering is great for putrabhaagyam (fortune of having a son). That got the ball rolling.

Outside the administration room (where one goes to pay for the rituals and prasad) there is a board in Tamil explaining how there is no need to stop on-going medical treatments in order to make an offering at the temple. In fact, it strongly encouraged continuing with medical treatments.

Walk further in, there are cows grazing and women in three clear categories:

  • Category 1: Women here to pray to have a baby
  • Category 2: Heavily pregnant women who are praying for a safe birthing experience
  • Category 3: Women with babies who have come back to offer thanks

As everyone stands to look at the deity, the main priest offering prayers inside the sanctum summons the Category 1 women to line up with the ticket bought, a 5-rupee coin, a small bottle of nei/ghee (clarified butter) and a coconut. This isn’t some discrete announcement or a tacit understanding but more like an angry man bellowing at a room of about 50-60 people.

Then in groups of 4, we were asked to sit at the threshold of the sanctum and the priest took the stuff from our hands to rest it at the feet of the deity. Sitting there it is hard to not notice things like the palpable sadness in the women around me, the fact that our husbands are not expected to sit alongside us, that the priest is churlish to a point that makes me wonder if he is mad at us for not being able to do the one thing that is expected of us.

I was also incredibly conscious that I was basically sitting at a threshold of a temple asking for absolution. As a feminist, was I disrespecting the way paved for me by all the work done in the past? As an educated woman, did I fight hard enough against this? As an educator, am I no longer a role model for my students when I preach rationality? But what if this works, would I become a statistic on the website in the favour of this ritual? Was I going crazy thinking this would work?

The four of us were then asked to put some kolam on the threshold of the sanctum and place the 5-rupee coin on the design. Now the other three women drew a star with two intersecting triangles and in my head, I was like everyone obviously has seen/read the Da Vinci Code. But I cannot draw straight lines with a pencil let alone rice powder so I drew a basic flower imagining that I could place the 5-rupee coin at the centre. Clearly, I didn’t meet the brief since the priest scowled, redrew a star on top of my flower and placed the coin on top of it, not trusting me with anymore tasks.

We were then given back our small bottles of nei/ghee and sent on our way with instructions on consuming it for 48 days.  As I walked back to my family, I was struck by how even though I come from incredible privilege (caste, colour of my skin, ableness, education, economic background, access to medical care, voice, you name it) in this temple I shrunk my presence without being explicitly asked to do so. I walked slower, with lowered shoulders, I struggled to find my voice when the priest barked something at me and most importantly, I experienced guilt.

Fast forward: The 48-day thing didn’t work. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt. The rational part of me, of course, didn’t think it would work. But clearly miracles happened to someone right?  I was just hoping it could have been me.

Other things I noticed:

  • This temple is dedicated to a goddess who is dedicated to solving only the women’s problems. There is another section in the temple with another god for men but guess what, that God deals with “general health problems”
  • There is an ecosystem around the temple where there are flowers to please the goddess and chappal stands. BUT there are also a few stores on the parallel street to the temple selling porn. Loving how this “ecosystem” is committed to the whole experience
  • All the paintings in the temple explaining the story have incredibly fair skinned people. Because you know, if you are dark-skinned and struggling with infertility then even God cannot save you
  • How the word “luck” was thrown around so many times and most of the women in Category 3 came with twins. Awfully coincidental?

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Immaculate conception during wedding season

When in teens, sex was all about the sheer quantity – how much are you getting. Then came the 20s where it was about the mood, the ambience, the planned spontaneity (my favourite kind) and needless to say the quality. At some point towards the end of 20s and early 30s, IF procreation is on the cards there begins an unspoken scheduling  and then verbalized scheduling based on apps and/or pee sticks. Post which comes a time when the dates for sex are on a prescription alongside the different medicines that need to be paired with it. While sex by itself is great, when accompanied by a calendar and a cocktail of hormone stimulating drugs it does little for either parties involved.

Along with this angst, add a houseful of people and the madness of an Indian wedding – even a platonic hug seems like a chore. Typically when I whine about weddings, it is because they are a great place for anyone to be more inappropriate than usual. Not only do people shamelessly try and arrange the next wedding by pairing up unassuming souls, there is brazen questioning of anyone’s child-free status. In at least two cases in the last year or so, I have been asked about why I didn’t bring my non-existent child to the wedding. I think this is the latest strategy of the aunty network – ask with so much conviction that the person is shamed into at least renting a child for the next wedding if not making one on their own.

But there is more than just the random accosting by strangers during the ceremonies. Weddings also mean cohabitating with family from far and near. Families with great heart but also Vulcan hearing, x-ray vision and enough curiosity to kill any feline.

Case in point:

Me (gulping the water down with my drug cocktail in the kitchen thinking everyone is in bed): Ohh..hi!

Aunty: What is wrong? Do you have a headache?

Me: No, no…I am fine

Aunty (eyes narrowing): Then? Why tablet and all? Are you still on the pill?

Me: What?! No, no…just some vitamins for good health

Aunty: Oh good, so you are trying. Nice nice… Give me also one vitamin tablet.  So much work in this wedding, I could do with some health.

Me: Ummmmm

Other problems include: How do you escape for a couple of hours to go for a scan between the mehendi and the sangeet? How do you get out of people giving a mile-long shopping list when you lie about going to the market? Or worse, ask to accompany you or be dropped off somewhere on the way to the market you weren’t going to in the first place?

But the most difficult to tackle is ovulation and prescribed sex.

With people camped in every room, walking in and out at all odd times and gendered, hostel-style sleeping arrangements; making a dash for the narrow window of ovulation is hard. Forget the stress-free ambience or the mood, there often is little room to get the basic mechanics right.

That leads to shady projects like trying to get people out of the house for at least an hour by suggesting movies, shopping or even a chaat visit. But no – every project will be met with either disinterest or worse, extra kindness where you get pulled into the amazing plan you made to get rid of people in the first place.

That’s when even an agnostic such as myself turns to all the possible gods to get tips on how exactly does one manage to make a baby without really doing it. Does one try pulling a Kunti from Mahabharata – glaring at the sun while chanting some prayers and risking blindness? There is the Mary-Joseph route, but if I actually had a barn to myself I could make this work without needing divine intervention. I also considered the birth of a child like Aphrodite from the foam of the sea on Marina beach in Chennai but knew deep within that there is no way the husband will willingly throw his testicles into the ocean.

For the sheer number of examples I could pull up, I realized that these stories were not just folklore – they were clear messages pointing in one direction.

If you want to make babies during the wedding season, you are better off trying to pull a baby out of the earth, fire, ocean or sky.  There is no bloody way that the conventional, more fun route is getting you anywhere.

kunti

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Sometimes just being in a place wipes you out…

Maybe a childhood home, maybe a café where you have had a lot of difficult conversations or a work place you never want to go back to. What is strange is when the heaviness comes from a place you have never been before.

I have never been to Nepal before. I have seen pictures of the Himalayan ranges and then some of the city in the news during 2015. But as I walked the streets, along with the smells and sounds was a wisp of sadness. Something I couldn’t put my finger on but I could feel in the crack of every broken building, every electric pole with mangled wires and every pothole along the way.

It makes me sound like I am from some developed country where none of these exist. But that is not true. Where I come from, the cracks in the buildings somehow feel like they ooze anger, the mangled wires shock enough to tell that they are live and the potholes, well…they are filled with the curses of those who drive over them.

Maybe it is me who brought that wisp of sadness. Asking questions on why it feels calm when there should be rage. Is what we see contentment or resignation to fate? Was that laughter or was that a sigh? If there are enough prayer flags and wheels does it bring peace? Is it peace or is it apathy? Does seeing grief in someone’s tired eyes, remind me of happiness within reach back home? Shouldn’t there be guilt if someone else’s arduous life makes me feel more than a twinge of gratitude for my own? Why am I constantly scanning faces for some extreme reaction? Am I seeking validation for screams ringing in my ears?

Sometimes just being in a place wipes you out. But most of the times, being in my head does the trick.

More parents bother me than their kids do

Before I begin, let me state that I do not have kids yet and I disallow you to dismiss me off as a carefree, millennial with no responsibilities, tons of cash to spare and probably a frigid soul. I honestly do respect your decision to have children, I really do and I expect you to return the favour.

Now that we have that out of the way -let me share my two cents on this whole Indigo “child-free” zone fiasco.

Over the past few months, I have been irked multiple times about Indigo’s need to monetize every single seat, leaving only terrible middle seats on the rear end of the aircraft. I also think that this whole zone idea in a budget airline in India makes no sense considering there aren’t any physical barriers to block sounds and neither is there any distinguishing service (no, getting a dried out sandwich and a MinuteMaid doesn’t count). Lastly, I do think it is discriminatory if you are a parent, who is willing to pay and still doesn’t get seats with more leg room. If you have a toddler or an infant, you deserve to board first and get the necessary space to feed and rest with the child.

But there is a slightly different issue here – I have been seeing responses that talk about how adults aren’t any better and there is a litany of woes about mobile phone usage, manspreading, getting up from seats before the plane is done taxiing, misbehaving with women passengers and the crew,  leaving toilets unclean and what not. Yes, it is true and it is terrible but that still doesn’t make the behavior of many kids on flights any less awful.

Cross your heart and tell me that you really believe that ONLY kids who have earaches or any other physical need cry on flights. I have been on multiple flights where I have had my seat being kicked by a child constantly. When I look behind, I see the parent either completely disengaged or worse look at the child with eyes filled with pride and joy. I have had conversations with parents who think it is really cute when their kids pull my hair and I think otherwise. I have had moms who say “Beta, why is this aunty not smiling at you? Let’s make her smile! <insert strange baby talk and face touching> ”  I have seen kids mashing bread with water and then spreading it on the seat – this maybe a great kindergarten activity to build motor skills but it is disgusting when you are on a non-stop 12 hour flight. Once again, conversations with parents lead to shrugged shoulders, quick assertions on how “kids will be kids” and worse an argument about how they have paid equally for the flight and therefore anything goes.

You recall the never ending list of terrible things that adults do? Well yeah, when those very adults have kids and their kids behave like mini versions of their parents – being callous, discourteous and conceited, I have a problem with that. When I hear the idea of a kid-free zone, I get dreamy because I envision a zone where both those adults and their kids are not around when I am crammed in a wafer thin seat.

Also you cannot possibly believe that my existence centers around you and your child. So when I pull out a laptop and am furiously typing, it is not to show you up but to finish some work before a crazy deadline (Also side note: check gender bias when you rant about corporates and working people. It may not necessarily mean men or black suits).

Flights are hard for kids and I am happy to help with reading a book, figuring out a quiet game, walking the aisle or just holding a baby while the parent on the adjacent seat needs to use the restroom or eat. I have met amazing kids while travelling but I most often see them with parents or guardians who are considerate individuals themselves.

When space is so less, we are bound to get into each other’s nerves. Being less obnoxious whether you are a parent or not can help go a long way.

Would I pay Indigo more for a kid-free zone seat? Absolutely not! But would I pay to get away from obnoxious adults and their kids? Hell yeah! If I can afford it.

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