The magic books can do

When its late in the night to call up a friend to rant about a cussed, difficult day, and equally late to wake up those at home who would have a sympathetic ear to lend, I have found unexpected comfort in reading. Not anything that professes to help, but any thoughtful, sincere piece of fiction or non-fiction, by nearly anyone, on nearly anything!

The other night I went through three pieces by three different authors on three quite unrelated things. One by Amitav Ghosh ( on the deep influence of his stay in Egypt in his 20s on all his subsequent writing; another an excerpt of a new book about Gandhi’s last day and a third a short piece by a widely regarded spiritual leader whom I’ve usually felt no affinity with.

By the time I was halfway through the first piece, I was already feeling better, less bogged down by the various complaints I had had about the day and the part I had played in making it insufferable. And it wasn’t only a sense of distancing from the acute unease I was feeling about nearly everything that had transpired but a kind of illumination on the experience itself.

Ghosh’s piece made me marvel at how self-reflective and thoughtful his younger 24 year old self was in having decided to lose himself in a new but culturally familiar country for the reasons he mentions; the book excerpt made me think of how liberating it is to consider death the way Gandhi seemed to have as a final, celebratory release and ‘return’ and the short piece by the guru made me think of how nearly everyone who has committed herself to a life of mindful reflection has something vital to say to those of us toiling away in samsara.

And yet none of this discounts the intense feeling of defeat and loss that can engulf us some days — triggered by in hindsight some of the most banal complaints against the world. But picking up something to read on such days does something special — it pats down big feelings and puts them in place without a trace of condescension and reassures us the way good friends do that this too shall pass.

Meeting a Psychology Prof

One of the wonderful by-products of working in a field that requires speaking to people and having the unusual prerogative of asking complete strangers, a series of rather personal questions, is that once in a while, I get to meet and speak to some really unusual, interesting and unforgettable people.

One such most recently was Professor Frederick

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.

Putting it Together

“Putting it together,
That’s what counts!…

Putting it together
Small amounts…”

Dear readers mine,

It’s been about three months now since I plunged into the world of blogging — and my word, do I love it!

I don’t get to read as much of the wonderful writing out there as I’d like to — but in a funny way I feel more connected to writers and writing, everywhere — and progressively less fearful and anxious of publishing in this manner — a rather aptly, naked form in our hyper connected, post-modern world.

I really admire the searing honesty with which some of you, especially the parents among you, share your raw experiences — and I feel humbled by your courage and openness in sharing them.

They make me fell, suffice to say, less alone in my own ‘mountain climbing’.

I cannot think of any other experience so profoundly life-changing that is so poorly portrayed (or partially portrayed) in order to resemble at all times, a perfectly lit and perfectly composed work of art.

And yet the taboos against describing it, in its many hues, are many and deep-seated and understandably universally shared.

So thank goodness for humour and wit; grace and wisdom which help us re-tell and re-imagine our lives and help us transform those sometimes harrowing moments of utter despair and heart-break as parents into dazzling luminosity.

A clash of cultures

Being on opposite sides of the work-flex debate probably only fueled our already obvious differences.

The head of editorial and production at a large publishing and printing-house began the exchange badly by asking whether I thought I was the only parent in all of Delhi who had a child at home.

And worse, actually said, with all sincerity, that a three-year old child did not deserve to be called little anymore.

The immediate cause of her ire was that I, despite being shortlisted for what she certainly thought was a hot job at her organisation as head of copy, had the gall to enquire if I could do half days simply because I did not want to be at the other end of this large, sprawling city for more than a couple of hours.

Now, a few hours after the rather unpleasant and unbecoming exchange, I can actually feel compassion for her. And I don’t at all mean it sarcastically. (Well, okay, a tiny bit…: )

I mean this is what all of us are drilled with day in and day out.

The cost of living is rising, a good education costs a lot, the older you get, especially as a woman, and even worse, as a mother, the less desirable you are to the work force, children need to get used to the harsh realities of the world and not be molly coddled, they can thrive equally well in the hands of an ayah and so on and so forth.

I can’t dare say the first few concerns don’t affect me but I am quite sure that suitable work, preferably not too far from home and preferably not full-day, will eventually work out.

Simply because things do have a way of working out.

Or so I believe so far.

And until then I can bask in the glory of being told by our favourite cab company’s head on the same day as this godforsaken job interview that he was very touched when I corrected the little three-year old when she called him (as a lot of people unfortunately in this culture and this city do), ‘driver’ — as though he were a job, not a person.

He said it had meant the world to him that there was at least one young child who was being taught to not mindlessly replicate the predominant abhorrent etiquette of addressing those considered beneath their class or station, by their occupation, rather than their names.


The thrill of deadlines

It happens every time.

Despsite having planned it all well in advance, thought about, scribbled down, edited and rewritten all the various bits and bobs that are to become full-fledged copy, it’s only when the deadline is looming on the horizon that we, the two-member, geographically splayed editorial team of our small-sized, grand themed mag really get into the groove.

And I have to say, there is something about deadline pressure which is actually quite thrilling.

Working against the clock, being totally consumed by the act of thinking, pruning, rejigging, rewriting one’s own and each other’s copy, and being rendered unavailable, well nearly, to the rest of the world.

It reminds me of a writer saying that one of the greatest pleasures of work, and especially that involving doing what one loves, is exactly that. The gift of oblivion. The immersion into something that ensures the loss of oneself. At least temporarily.

Until the world comes creeping back, leaping back in.

Wonderful, wonderful world.