To be reminded of who you are

Old, dear friends can surprise you in the most unexpected and heart-warming ways.

You could have been out of touch for decades and not known much at all about the million small and big events that have swept up in their lives and yet, when you sit down with them, with faces (your own and theirs), enriched by the often difficult, challenging and at times gut-wrenching choices they and you have made, you can return, in an instant, to the closeness you had long-lost.

And what can make you gladder still is when such old friends can effortlessly reach out and establish an easy and deep affection with your young child — not because they want to please you or be polite, but because loving children is to them, as it is to you, one of the most natural things in the world and their wonder at the miracle of the birth and existence of a young person can remind you of your own, now often forgotten wonder — submerged as you often are in the necessary although uninspiring humdrum of the everyday.

In the past few months, I have had the wonderful chance to have had two such old friends of mine pass by our home. And although neither is much like the other, what both do have in common is an unwavering respect of young children, the ability to effortlessly fit in to a home centred around the child’s needs, and an unbridled enthusiasm in celebrating play, spiritedness and mischief.

Thank you, both!


The hum of the road

In my childhood, vacations were always about visiting the extended family in Madras and Ernakulam.

It was about boarding sleeper class trains, mastering the art of using perennially filthy loos, dexterously, slurping milky tea early in the morning poured from neon coloured flasks, chit-chats with fellow travellers, and then long, conversation-free vigils by the grilled windows, watching the Indian countryside flying by.

I had never known road trips since we didn’t own a car until when I was much older and since holidays were always about spending time among the known, often in their homes which were too far away to reach by road.

So much has changed since then. Both my grandmothers whose homes we nearly always crashed in are no more. Other close relatives are far too old to comfortably host us for more than a few days and most of all, my father, chief planner and executor of those long, sumptuous holidays, is also no more.

So when I began plotting on a small, three-day getaway (which for various reasons had to be reduced to just one night and two days) for us, somewhere not too far, or cumbersome or uncomfortably new, I had to start on a brand new slate.

And I thought I must find someplace that would not take more than 3 hours to travel to, that was generally familiar to me, and that would be comfortable enough to give all of us a break from the never-ending work and responsibility running a home for three people entails.

I picked on the Neemrana Fort-Palace and I decided we would rent and a keep a comfortable car for the entirety of our little vacation. Fortunately, the man we most wanted to drive us was the one who came, and with his own home being just a bus ride away from the palace, we encouraged him to have a get-away to his village without his boss coming to know!

The first 40 minutes or so of the ride out of Delhi was full of bureaucratic detail — paying toll tax at three gates, getting out the right change each time, making faces at the beeping horns behind us when we took a little more time in finalising our toll tax transactions and so on.

But no sooner had we left that behind that the ride and the landscape improved instantly. Gone were the shiny new buildings of Gurgaon and in place were sheets and sheets of brown and green fields, spotted intermittently by water sprinklers, grazing cows, buffaloes, goats and on the dusty roads right beside us, a few bedecked camels.

I have never before felt so keenly the absolute relief the senses feel in just seeing flat land! And although I’m a very new convert, I have to say there is something to the idea of a journey where the way you travel is part of the experience.

Once the novelty of the sights ceased to invoke a whoop of delight from my little girl, we all were gently taken over by the hum of the road. What a wonderful pleasure — the sound of the wheels traveling at a steady speed over the well maintained Delhi – Jaipur highway, the unexpected and very welcome silence from my otherwise talkative youngling and the satisfaction of being scooped up, so safely, so comfortably by the body of the car (and the deftness of its driver) transporting us so effortlessly, forward and away.

Although I had read and known that the palace we were heading for was a fort, I wasn’t prepared for the setting as it swiveled into my field of vision — amidst (and seemingly atop) rugged hills. We lost speed quickly and began a short but considerably steep climb. (Well, relative to the flat plains of Delhi!) Little did we realise that the rest of the trek was going to be on foot!

So, here’s the thing — although in retrospect I have only good things to say about our stay and the palace itself, I guess it is not the most favourable destination if you are going with a young child and elderly adult (and especially if your child is the kind who enjoys freaking you out by dangling a leg dangerously over high walls and asking, “Mamma, shall I jump?”). Nearly any journey within the palace premises whether for food, entertainment or just a leisurely stroll requires steep climbs up and down old, high, stone steps and although that scores high on atmosphere and authenticity, I guess none of us realised a luxurious albeit short stay at a palace would require robustness (and an ever watchful eye on the youngling what with those steep heights)!

It took us a night and a day to discover the parts of the fort that we loved best — a large, sun lit aangan surrounded by bright blue, wrought-iron chairs and a spectacular view of the hills surrounding the palace and the town laid out below.

And again, it struck me, how important it is for us city folk to drink in the beauty of open skies, large spaces and an unhindered view of the horizon. Although I don’t feel guilt free about staying as a guest at such a place for all the obvious reasons, I have to admit, it’s the kind of treat all of us homebound creatures, deserve every now and then. To have others look after your daily needs, to not wake up worrying about what to make for breakfast and to sleep even for just a night without a care in the world.

“Hardwired to misbehave”


“Michael Potegal, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, has spent the latest part of his professional career studying tantrums and how and why young children have such brutally emotional explosions.

“And what has he learned in that time? That their outbursts are as normal a biological response to anger and frustration as a yawn is to fatigue. So normal, in fact, that you can make a science out of the progression of a tantrum and predict one down to the second.

“Kids from about 18 months to 4 years are simply hardwired to misbehave, he says. And that means “nurture” (i.e., you) isn’t always to blame.”


(Why couldnt someone have told me this earlier??! And why is it still so hard to not assume responsibility for it, in some fashion??)

(Credit of paragraph quoted to:

Raising an infant without Gina Ford

You know what they say about there being no hard and fast rules about child raising?

I don’t know, the further away I get from the beginning — or from when my little girl had just come into the world — the more unconvinced I am about that.

I have just read, and I must admit with some degree of envy, that a friend of a friend who has been blessed with twins has, with Gina Ford’s help, got the two little ones sleeping soundly at a stretch in the night by preventing the babies from nodding off whenever they please and also managing their feeds during the day.

I did hear of her when I was pregnant and I do remember flicking through her book briefly but I also remember feeling quite ill at ease with the very thought of imposing some arbitrary set of rules onto the infant who was yet to come. As though it was alright to assume control as parent and as though raising a child was about adhering to some other person’s, (no matter how famous and well-regarded), method.

But now when I’m reminded of those early days or actually the entire first year, I wonder if having introduced some amount of discipline in nap times and feeding would have helped me feel far less exhausted and given the little one a bit of a sense of structure.

I guess I’m still quite uncomfortable about viewing the parent-child dance as something that can be preempted or slotted into ready-made boxes, but what I do see very clearly now is that what a mother needs most as she is just recovering from the l o n g journey pregnancy is, and the hard, hard work deliveries end up being, is multiple sources of unconditional support and loving friendship. People and relationships that help her stay focussed on the crucial, intense and all-consuming experience as a mother — in whose having, a scepticism towards all methods — (no matter how certified) doesn’t feel foolish, foolhardy or overly optimistic.