Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Such a Lovely Morning

I'm in the process of preparing for my next class at the Management institute where I'm facilitating a month-long Marketing Course. It's a terribly busy time, and there's a lot of work to be done on my upcoming book, too. The kids are getting ready for school, and I'm looking forward to their getting out of the house so that I can concentrate on my work.

My maid then comes in crying. Oh. Her grandmother has passed away. She says she has to go back to the village, and may be gone for a month. I have to bite back questions about why it would take that long. The family is grieving. And so am I, but for a slightly different reason. I now have no nanny, and a LOT of work to do.

After some confusion about whether to book plane tickets or rail tickets for the family, it is decided they will try their luck with the trains. I walk towards the nearest ATM to withdraw money for her, wondering all the while how I'm going to manage over the next few weeks. It's an SBI ATM, but it's not blinking that bright blue warm welcome at me. It's stone cold dead. Great.

I have to walk further along, enjoying the fumes of the traffic that mills about me, and finally reach an HDFC ATM. I withdraw the cash, trying to cheer myself up somehow. So what if I've not yet got any work done because of all the crying and the plane booking discussions and the fact that the Tata Sky guy landed up and messed up my internet connection while installing a new Set Top Box and all that jazz. I still have another hour or so before the kids come home. And after that? Well, we'll just see, won't we?

I wait patiently for my card. And wait some more. And then some more. This can't be happening. The screen has frozen with the message 'Please collect your cash.' Aha. It seems that the ATM has eaten my debit card. Hallelujah.

I somehow summon help and the fellow tries to reassure me that the ATM-cash-stuffing-man will be along soon and I should go home and wait. He takes my phone number and says he'll call me when the card is out so that I can walk all the way back to collect it. I look at his face, and it is kind. I give a hysterical sort of laugh and walk away, facing the fumes of the traffic all the way.

On the way back, I now notice that the closer ATM, the SBI one, is blinking a warm friendly blue welcome at me.  It appears to be in perfect working order now. I laugh again, shaking my head, the hysteria causing a few passers-by to gaze at me wonderingly.

I would love to have a nap now and sleep the rest of this day through. But I'm expecting a call regarding my ATM card anytime now.

Anytime. Now. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Defense of Not Forgetting My Phone.

There's a clear wave of concern about the overuse of technology in our lives - phones, social media, cameras and the combination of these three powerful forces is resulting in our missing the moment and disconnecting from real relationships. This is showcased by the now-famous 'I forgot my phone' viral video below.

This really does ring true to an extent. There are so many instances where I've found myself sitting around with my family where there are moments where everyone starts to play with their phones. And my husband drives me crazy with the checking of his work email at home, and listening to Osho lectures instead of me ( although I don't think I can blame him for that last one much - it's perhaps a tad more calming listening to Osho than me. Just a tad.) Yes, there are many times that this phone-and-social-media obsession can get particularly excessive and therefore annoying.

Still, here's why I don't lament and regret the shift as much as some people claim to ( and it's worth examining when we do complain about the all-pervasive role of technology in our lives, whether things really were all that rosy in the past.) For me personally, I think life is decidedly better when it comes to the context of relationships and memories now. Here are just a few reasons why -

- Moment and Memory Capture: Ever since I switched to an iPhone - the clarity of the pictures on the camera resulted in, for the first time ever, my ability to capture innumerable precious moments with my children on film. You cannot carry a camera around with you all the time when you have three kids running around, and I think I've now built a really great collection of moments to look back on over the years. Including truly priceless pics like this, which would never have been possible had I been running around to get a camera all the time. Does it keep me from 'living in the moment'. Er...I don't know. I think it's great to be able to enjoy a situation and also keep a record of it. It doesn't always have to be a choice. If it is? Yes, I'd rather close my eyes and listen to Farida Khanum or watch a play than try to get a good angle for a shot. But I don't find a reason to choose in every situation, just some.

-Moment Sharing and Memory-Keeping:  Facebook and its phone application has allowed me to store the best pictures over the year - the fact is that when you're trigger happy, the best real filter (for me) is the pics that I think are worth sharing with my family and friends. It's comforting to know that that record is there. Hopefully Facebook will not shut down in the next decade, and if it does, it will allow us to take our albums with us.

- For fostering really close relationships: I haven't found something better than Whatsapp. I'm part of at least four different groups of about 5-6 people; a group of ex-colleagues, a family group, a group of batchmates from my older company - this is one form of social networking that I have found really meaningful and it's actually put me back in touch with people that I care about. In fact, I'd say this one single feature of group chats on Whatsapp has actually lifted my level of connect with people.

- Long-distance real-time moment-sharing: Facetime! Like a lot of people I have relatives living abroad and if there are going to be little cousins in the family growing up thousands of miles away from each other, at least they have the ability to occasionally 'see' each other and share all-important news like 'This my new toy' and relevant updates ( 'Waaah - he broke my new toy').

I could go on, but I think the point is made. Are relationships suffering because of technology, specifically because of the ubiquitous mobile phone? No - relationships suffer because sometimes we behave like idiots and don't set rules about our use of that technology. Too much of a good thing is bad - we've always known this. So why not put in place some ground rules for ourselves, with the people we care about - and recognize our own flaws and bad habits and just work on them - like with everything else?

Now, excuse me, while I go and share this deeply insightful post with the many people I care about on Facebook and Twitter and Googleplus and... 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Whacky Vaccinations

As a family, we tend to display slightly weird behavior regarding vaccinations. This month has been no different.

One fine morning, I heard Pickle say to Papad, ''Lesh play Mama-Daddy''
''Okay'' said Papad. I was amused to hear of this game and waited to see what they would do.
Papad then picked up his sister's Mickey Mouse bag and said to Pickle ''Honey, it's 5 o'clock! I'm GOING.'' And then marched out of the room.
I laughed as I told Vijay about this, saying that I have no idea where they got that from. My attention then moved to other things - the kids had been unwell for a while, especially little Papad who had a bad cough. It so happened that this was a day that Vijay had a holiday, so I made a call to the Pediatrician.

'You can have appointment at 11 o'clock' said the depressed sounding voice of the receptionist.
I looked at the time - it was 10.15 a.m. 'Can't we make it 11.30?'
'No.' said the receptionist decidedly.
'Fine.' I said. 'Please book me in for 11 a.m.'

I told Vijay to get ready so that we could take little coughing Papad for a check up - it had been quite a few days and  now that we had this unexpected slot, we should definitely make use of it. Vijay agreed wholeheartedly and then proceeded to ignore me for the next twenty minutes and read the newspaper. Fuming, I got ready and asked our help Rinki to get Papad ready too.

'Papal kahan jaayega?'
'Doctor paas, Pickle.'

I gazed at my tantrumming son. What was with this fascination for going out, even if it were a visit to the doctor. 'But you're alright, beta. Papad is the one who...'

He came charging at me with his head lowered like a raging bull and caught me just above the knee. I gritted my teeth and told Vijay, 'You manage him now.'
'Arrey, I'm coming with you.'
'Honey. It's 11 o'clock. I'm going!' With that, I flounced out of the house, picking up little Papad on the way.
'You see where they get it from?' called Vijay 'At least take his shoes!'


In about 15 minutes, Papad and I had reached the doctor's office. Vijay had called and tried to stop me, saying that we should just take Pickle as well. I refused, saying I had only taken an appointment for one kid and besides, we were already late. Vijay had tried using his random logic 'You're anyway not going to make it on time - what's another few minutes.' I hung up on him after telling him that if he wanted, he could drive Pickle and Peanut over too, but the Priority was to get Papad to the Pediatrician as Promised.

Vijay and I often disagree on this. I'm a stickler for being on time and he's a lot more easy going. Sometimes I think he's being deliberately maddening, but this time, I had determined I would do things my way. So little Papad and I walked into the pediatrician's office - to find it completely empty.

The receptionist really could have given me a later time, I realized. There were hardly any patients around today since it was just after Diwali. Whatever. The friendly and efficient doctor made her appearance and gave Papad a thorough checkup. Within about seven minutes, the door opened and Vijay, Rinki, Peanut and a very irritated Pickle made their appearance too.

'Wheezing.' murmured the doctor as she examined Papad. We discussed his treatment and then the conversation turned to the Flu vaccinations. I explained that it had been a year and she gave me an explanation about this year's strains or something else that I pretended to understand.

Since Vijay was here, I thought I'd discuss with him the possibility of just getting all the kids their flu vaccinations on this visit. How unfair on them, though, I said to him - they came here unprepared and just expecting a joyride and to play in the doc's waiting room and now they're going to get jabs.

Yeah, he said. So? Let's do it. He was clearly as fed up with the relapses as I was.

About fifteen minutes later, there was still so much screaming that you would have thought there were about seventeen distraught families in that waiting room instead of just one. To add to all of that chaos, Vijay and I had both decided on the spur-of-the-moment to get our jabs too. I had half-jokingly asked the doctor if she could do ours too, but she agreed without batting an eyelid. We had all been sick and reinfecting each other, so the two of us merrily got our shots.

Vijay then said 'What about Rinki?'
'What about her?'
'She should get vaccinated too. I heard her cough this morning.'
'Yes but...'
'What?' asked Vijay.
'You know how she feels about injections!'

Vijay did know. Rinki acted all sympathetic when it came to the kid's injections but she was in reality terrified of injections herself. 'Well, never mind, she'll just have to have them.' he said virtuously 'it's good for her, anyway. She won't fall sick!'
'Well,' said the doctor 'there's no guarantee...'
'Rinki!' Vijay was already calling her. He informed her of the impending injection, while she listened in growing horror and then politely declined.
When Vijay wants, he can be very stubborn and convincing. Rinki walked in trembling into the doctor's office. The kids were now curious enough to have stopped crying, and they followed and crowded around the door, watching.

Rinki put on a brave face, but as soon as the needle was plunged in, she let out a wail that would have not been out of place in a Tom & Jerry cartoon, kind of like when Tom's tail gets cut off with an axe or something. I thought this would only upset the children further, but they appeared to think it was the funniest thing that they had ever seen - they almost fell down laughing, pointing at Rinki and even clapping in delight. It was the best end to a doctor's visit EVER, and there was much happiness and merriment all around, except for poor Rinki - but she soon recovered too and was as amused at the rest of us by the children's evident joy. Too late I realized that if the kids had seen me and Vijay getting our shots, we might have avoided several minutes of crying. Next time, I determined, we wouldn't miss the opportunity to get needles poked into us in full sight of our darling, strangely sadistic little kids.

For now, the ordeal is over - and for some days, all of us proudly sported those little square band-aids, the way one would wear their battle scars.

Strange we may be, but now you may please bring the winter season ON. We're ready!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


It's been a rather eventful couple of months, and it's kept me from posting. In a rare burst of energy though, let me share a few things that have been going on with me.

I finished my work assignment early September, and got busy with helping organize a not-for-profit event called the 'Globeathon - the walk to spread Women's GYN Cancer awareness'. With very limited time and funds, we still managed to get about 400 people to turn up for this walk ( which also happened in over 80 other countries!) on the 29th September. It was quite an experience organizing this thing. Someone I know who's been advising me to cut back and focus on activities just rolled her eyes when I told her I was doing this. After looking nonplussed for a moment, she threw out her arms and said 'Oh well. Why not!!'

My point exactly.

So anyway, October was exciting. I underwent two trainings of very different kinds. One to get certified as Practitioner Marketing Faculty for HT's new Bridge School of Management, for which I am likely to start teaching a marketing course end of November - that should be a lot of fun and very enriching, especially because it's a facilitator-type role and the students are people with significant work experience.

And the second was a training in Zumba with an excellent instructor called Lucas Mthenjane - (a superb teacher, super-fit with a Martial Arts background - and a good-natured hilarious mimic of failed attempts at dance steps, too). Before you ask, no, I'm not going to make a career out of this one: but this weekend, I start a batch in my own complex - twice a week in the mornings and as much for my own fitness as putting my newly acquired
'License to Teach' to use!

Now, here was the slight catch. I fell rather ill, and so did the kids, due to the change of weather - and was very, very low energy over the last few days. And that's when moments of doubt began to hit me. Was I really up to all of this? With growing alarm, I realized that I had also loaded several things onto Saturday.

Saturday morning - Zumba class
Saturday 11 a.m - my Happy School volunteering
Saturday afternoons - a four hour Marketing class.

Ack!! What had I done? Each of these things require tremendous energy, and here I had piled them all onto the same day. Not to mention the work that would be required during the rest of the week, including the piece I'm trying to do on my own Marketing Consulting Gig and leave us not forget the Writing Ambitions. The week was packed, but Saturday was impossible.

I debated cutting out the Happy School thing briefly or shifting it to another day. But this simple Saturday morning activity of teaching spoken English at this school for underprivileged kids brings me so much joy, and to those kids too - not to mention, my own, all three of whom clamber into the car with me and contribute to the chaotic time in class. I actually felt bad that I haven't been going regularly there for the last few weeks and redoubled my resolve to go again - I called up the principal, the lovely Mrs. Kamal Capoor and apologized, reaffirming my commitment to show up post Diwali.

Next was to call my own Zumba instructor, under whose guidance and mentorship I've learnt over the last year - 'Sameer! I don't think I can do this! It takes sooo much energy...and I've got all this other stuff...'
'Will power, Yashodhara...give yourself a chance...also, you've been ill, yaar, that's the only reason why you're feeling like this.' He said briskly. 'And lastly. Shift the class to Sunday.Bye.'


That's what I did - this simple shift caused a little chaos to a couple of prospective students, but will hopefully make my life that much more manageable.

I'm packing so much into life these days - my father-in-law is rather disapproving about my overall lack of focus ( as he perceives it) , but I've figured that it makes me happier than anything else. Besides, the way I look at it, it's nice to be able to do a whole bunch of things.  The important thing is for me to quit imposing arbitrary deadlines on myself and creating unnecessary pressure, which has been a bit of a habit. It does take a lot of planning; and it's most critical to have my health ( and that of my family) in place before I'm able to do even one of these things properly - well, we've just got our flu vaccinations ( and that's another story) so hopefully that will help!

However - I'm fairly certain that a time will come really soon (in the next month or two) when I'll have to shift gears and work on something single-mindedly, to the exclusion of some of the other things that take up my time. But in the meantime, this is how it is, and now that I'm feeling a little better after almost fifteen days of that damned viral fever - it ain't looking all that bad!

Oh and - lastly, before I forget. Here it is! Out in the next couple of months sometime at a bookstore near you, dudes! My second book. More on this soon, too.