When life turns turtle




The story starts off in the hustling and bustling city of Mumbai. The protagonist, Indraneel, is a young and successful filmmaker and the story revolves around his spiritual journey that starts with the end of his relationship with Avani, a beautiful aspiring actor. The bitter break-off leaves him completely devastated and he finds himself on the path of self-destruction. On the insistence of his friend Arunodaya, he takes a break from the city and decides to go to Rishikesh.

His numbness to the world wears off gradually and the fresh, pahadi air helps to recuperate his body from the self-inflicted damage. He is introduced to Shaman, who runs a bookshop for a living but could very well be a Guru with his vast knowledge and sage like wisdom. Indraneel is intrigued and fascinated by his personality. Shaman becomes his good friend and mentors him in his spiritual quest for inner peace. From late nights at work and smoking several cigarettes a day to waking up at 4am to take a dip in the Ganga and then meditate, Indraneel’s lifestyle takes a complete U turn and gradually his mind and body start reaping the reward. But he does have questions that bother him about his future and the path he should be choosing. Does he really find the answers? Will he renounce everything for his spiritual quest? And what about love? Well, read the book to find out.

In this story, although Indraneel hails from a film background, the issues he faces are easily relatable to anyone who works and lives in this crazy city of Mumbai. If you are even mildly spiritual, this book will make you want to pack your bags and head to Rishikesh to feel the sheer divinity of the place; well that and also because the author has described the place in a such a subtle and beautiful manner it leaves you with a longing to know more about it. The river, Ganga, is almost like one of the central characters of the story albeit silent yet integral to every aspect of Indraneel’s spiritual realizations. The romantic angle makes the story interesting, although I did find it filmy in parts. But then, it is the journey of a Bollywood tramp.




Want to make your children better travelers? Start with yourself

travels in new york

It’s a maxim universally marketed that having children kills the traveller in you. It is something often quoted in the “Why not to have kids” bibles and generally nodded to and sighed upon. ‘Herculean task’, ‘nightmare’, ‘horror story’ are commonly used words by people to describe traveling with kids. And then there are pre-boarding facilities and goody bags from airlines, overload of activity timetables at resorts – all aiming to subtly announce that a holiday with children is going to require supreme engineering.

When I threw open the question of how do we make our children better travelers on my blog’s forum, I received the usual formulaic responses, since no one realized it was a trick question: Plan well, involve the child, tell them about where they are going to travel, show them pictures, videos, show them the place on the map, plan their meals (or pack whatever you can),  get them excited about what they will do on the plane , make a list of activities, take their favorite toys, carry board games, carry their favorite food, favorite puzzle, favorite soft toy,  favorite movie.. and so on.

Why travel at all, I wondered? Why bother if you are going to simulate the same kind of life in a different address? When you do the aforementioned, you are raising the opposite of a real traveler. I do realize that holidays need to be planned (especially when kids start formal schooling as there are at best three windows to choose from). But that should be limited to bookings. In my experience, Air BnBs and homestays work better than hotels and if you choose locations you have friends living in – nothing like it.

In my limited experience of seven years and 13 trips with a child, I have come to realize this: The problem, very often, is not the child. It’s the adults. Because you pass on to your child how you have been programmed to travel and if you are the kind who bursts a capillary because you forgot to pack your iPod speakers, chances are, you are already raising a high maintenance child who may prove the cliché right. But this is not a post that tells you what to pack in their bag or how to pacify an irate kid on a plane. Instead I will tell you this:

Don’t behave like you are moving there. You are just travelling.  Stop being so manicured about your travels. Your child will follow suit. On my first travel date with fellow parents, I noticed that they came armed with a suitcases full of toys, dolls, books and games for a three night stay in Matheran. “Why do you need so much?”, I asked.  “Oh, you never know. It’s better to be prepared,” they said. But isn’t that what travel is about? Not knowing?

Don’t oversell the destination and what you will do there. Don’t sell the journey either. Parents have a tendency to do this. This disallows the child any room to have his own her own experiences, and they are forced to look at the entire trip through a readymade lens, which will never allow the real traveller in them to come out.

Allow the place to happen to your child.  Don’t tell them what to expect. This usually means giving at least four to five days in one location to give enough time to experience it, rather than location hopping. Improvise. If things always went as they were planned, it’s not travel. It’s stasis. I think this works better for adults too.

Travel is not about being constantly entertained and your child needs to know that.  And if you in that trap,  you are teaching them that this is how life is – a series of fun-filled, action packed time capsules on loop, where there is no time for recovery, stillness or nothingness – you are in a dangerous place. It’s a slippery slope from there.

Give gadgets a break. Try clouds instead. Or birdsong. Technology is an easy weapon used by most parents – I see it in airports, holiday destinations – each child with a gadget, adults with theirs, swiping away. It’s time to  talk to each other and not our gadgets.

Children have fewer expectations than you. Don’t build it up. The problem I have with checklist-y travel is that it is often more hectic than real life. This whole ‘things to do’, sights to see, monuments to tick off lists, photoboosk to make back home is quite sapping for adults so I wonder what happens when children are subjected to it.

Food is an integral part of the travel experience. Always make your kids try out the local cuisine. They may not like everything they try, but there might be that one thing that calls out to them. Take chances. The first time we traveled post having a child (my son was five months), I was raw, and still blemished from all the negative press traveling with kids seemed to have garnered. I was armed with a small rice cooker and supplies to cook from at the resort we stayed in. But that was the first and last time I traveled with supplies. I decided that when in Rome, we will do as Rome does. So on the next trip, my son and I went to Thailand and happily tucked into mango and sticky rice and fruit platters with prik-kab-klua, the Thai chilli-salt mix. And by the time my son was two, he was trying out gourmet meals at restaurants at every place we traveled to.

Slow down. Linger. You may never look at that selfie again, but you will always remember how it felt on that mountain, with the wind kissing your hair and your child pretending to take off in flight.

Remember you were a kid once. Go on, make that paper boat. Try and put yourself in your kid’s shoes. Remember what you were like as a child and how you liked to travel and be treated and the things you enjoyed doing.

Travel is not an old timetable in a new bottle.  Encourage your child to have a new routine. Shuffle things around. Let them wear what they want. Let them skip baths. Let them eat breakfast for dinner. What is the worst thing that can happen?

Make it about the journey. Not about the destination. We did our first long train trip when Re was 2.5. It was to a wedding at Chandigarh and the journey was 36 hours. He and I had to share a berth, as the Indian railways doesn’t allot berths to children under 5 years (yes!). In the middle of the night, I almost rolled off, as Re had occupied most of it and I stayed up all night, playing with my phone, as I couldn’t turn on the light to read a book. But it was this trip that Re and I tried pull-ups and swinging off the berth ladders.

Start them young. If you look at traveling with kids as a problem, you will always be finding ways to delay it. Instead if you look at it as an opportunity to see the world with a different lens, you will find ways to make it happen. And it’s never too early to start them. In fact the earlier the better.  

Encourage your child to be a resident, not a tourist, wherever you go. Blend in, be part of a community. Give something back. And that’s how we went gathering achhoos (wild gooseberries) in Himachal with the ladies who worked at the Bhuira Jam factory. Or puppy-sat the neighbours’ pups while they worked in the strawberry fields. Or when Re went about picking garbage in Landour, after having noticed that “humans throw things everywhere else but in dustbins”.

Travel is what you make of it, and if you have an open mind, you never know what will come along. I wouldn’t have chased ducks in the park in Irvine, California. I would have never met a “lady bird’s cousin” if I had been preoccupied with leech-proofing ourselves in our first forest trek in Dandeli when my son was three. Nor would I have enjoyed a ritual dance in the Erawan temple at Bangkok as my son fervently joined his hands in prayer even though I am a non-believer.

Bangkok with kids

Have them know that the world is a safe place. Every place has a story to tell, or it becomes a new story when you are in it. When my child saw images of the Paris bombings and asked me about it, I told him what had happened. He then said “We can still go to Paris no? The bombers must have left by now.” I said yes.

Use public transport: There is so much joy discovering a new world with the locals – these are the people who wear it easily, with whom there can often be meaningful conversations, even if you don’t understand the language.  take trains, buses, tuktuks, skytrains, subways and whatever you can manage.

Encourage them to document it. A travel journal or travel art book for drawing, doodling is far better than a toy or puzzle which has a limited shelf life. It is all we carry on our travels now and is more than enough to keep my son busy. Also there is no such thing as too many crayons.

Always check the weather and pack for it.  When they are dressed right for the weather, children are far happier and make better travelers. (it’s shocking how basic this is and how it is often overlooked)

When you take your child with you, leave your adult self behind. Children teach you the importance of being in the moment when you travel. This is harder to do if you don’t allow yourself to access the child in you

Show them how you can travel without going anywhere.  Sometimes a delayed flight or train may open up another adventure altogether. Like this time Re and his dad were doing hip-hop once in an airport. Or when waiting for a bus at Kasauli led us to an ongoing theatre performance by a group of monkeys.

Travel is about balance, and each trip is about finding something for ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘us’.  If you look hard enough, you can. Having a kid couldn’t really be the end. In fact it is a whole new beginning. Of looking at the world through a child’s eyes, and that is a brand new, fascinating world with so many more stories to tell. You just have to stop getting in the way.

(A shorter version of this post appeared in Conde Nast Traveller here

parks in california


How a fairy called Marie Kondo left me some KonMari pixie dust and it changed my life

Earlier this year, a few weeks before my birthday, I was at my friend Jo’s house in Dehradun, en route to Mussoorie for a holiday with my son. The home was lovely, and bookshelves in every corner beckoned. Until a tiny unassuming book called out to me and I was lost for the rest of the day. It was Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing.

I had, at the time, not heard of the book, let alone the fact that it had sold over two million copies in its English edition (the original was in Japanese) and that the author was so big that KonMari (derived from the author’s name Marie Kondo) was now a verb. For someone who started as a tidying consultant, that is huge. I must add here that there is a minimum six-month waiting list for her services in Japan. Of course, her popularity in the US has also led to a backlash. So while The New York Times did an article on celebrating clutter, others poked holes in her methods. It might be disconcerting to some that in a country like the US, where minimalism is not a matter of pride, KonMari has had a pandemic effect over the last year or so.

In this book, she describes her step-by-step tidying method (now trademarked as KonMari): a simple but time-consuming process of going through every single thing we possess and keeping those that spark joy.

She had me at joy.

It’s such a simple filter really. Something we can apply to a lot of things, beyond clothes and books. We know it when we feel it; it’s strong and palpable, devoid of rationality, almost like a thrill. Plus it can be a great lens through which to view other life choices too.

I was riveted.

As I flipped through the 200-odd pages of Kondo’s book, I found myself nodding and sighing, being shocked and relieved in equal measure by some of the revelations. And yet it was all so commonsensical. She draws attention to the common mistakes we make while tidying (or decluttering, as we call it). Sort by category, not by room, she urges. Bring everything that belongs in one particular category, say, books, to one place (her preference is the floor) and do not put them back until you have gone through each and every item in that category and chosen what to keep.

The criterion for keeping something was simple: Does it spark joy?

I could already visualize all my books lurking in different places—the kitchen, the living room, the hallway, the bedrooms, the bathrooms, even the drying area. Clearly, there was a lot of work to do. I was soon making notes, promising myself that I would be practising what I read as soon as I got back to Mumbai in a week. Yes, I had been KonMari-ed, hook, line and sinker.

Like most people, I struggle with clutter in my life. Although I don’t buy clothes or books often and retail therapy doesn’t do for me what it did in my 20s, I find myself overwhelmed by stuff every two years or earlier. I rationalize that it is the frequent moving (I, like most city people of no permanent address, have moved more than I would have liked to—about 14 times in the last 24 years, since I left my parents’ home). I have done more than my fair share of donating clothes, books, electronics, furniture and utensils to NGOs and orphanages. I have had garage sales and barter meets in my home. I have gone off shopping completely for long periods (two years being the last stretch). Whenever I decluttered, which was often, I followed some blanket rules: Throw away anything you haven’t used in two years (or one year, or six months, depending on how irritated you are). At times I found smart storage solutions. For a year, I also spent 10 minutes every day getting rid of things you don’t need in the house. But within a few days, there would be a clutter relapse and I would feel the same as before.

It appeared like I had no control over the way stuff was multiplying in my home.

Yes, I was tidying up (to use Kondo’s quaint word for decluttering). Except, I was approaching it the wrong way. I was focusing more on the negative (“I really have to get rid of these things”) than the positive aspect (“This is what gives me joy”) of tidying up.

And that is why Marie Kondo’s book has created a tidying revolution of sorts: Choosing what you want to keep is far harder than deciding what you want to give away. It brings to the fore the anxiety of human decision making at its worst. It’s tedious and time-consuming and requires commitment. But once done, it’s a great feeling.

In a country like India, bred on Gandhian philosophies of minimalism, where Feng Shui is a recent religion of sorts, it is shocking how much stuff we accumulate. Some of it is inherited from our parents, some is a byproduct of marriage—that big merger of stuff (also, having children reinvents clutter in ways you never imagined). Some of it is nonsensical gifting by people we otherwise love, but most of it is things we buy and hoard mindlessly. Indians also have this knack of building storage systems—overhead swivel cupboards, beds with box storage, enclosed attics, kitchen units that extend up to the ceiling, dining tables that fold into storage units—if we have too much stuff, we find ways to put it out of sight. What you don’t see cannot harm you, is the philosophy most of us live by.

For the past year or so, I have been feeling ambushed by my own clutter. It was also the time when I was going through major life changes—my separation, moving houses (again), and having my mother move in with me. The upside was: I finally had all my stuff in one place. Trouble was, I still couldn’t find things, because I didn’t remember where I had put them. And I felt I had too much.

I returned home a few days before my birthday, ready to begin the rest of my life with Marie Kondo. I followed her instructions meticulously. She recommends clothes first, then books, then papers, komono(miscellaneous), sentimental items, mementos, and lastly—photos.

Clothes and books were far smoother than I had imagined. I found myself caressing each item of clothing, asking if it sparked joy (some were a straight yes or no, a few were ambiguous but not as hard as I had imagined). The yes was always definite. The no was sometimes overridden by guilt (“I paid so much for it, I should have worn it more”). But letting go was easier than I thought.

According to Kondo’s philosophy, there should be a designated place for everything that belongs in your home. Folding is a very important aspect of the KonMari method and I realized why my closet was so noisy earlier. I just wasn’t folding right. The book doesn’t have photos or illustrations, but there are several videos on folding ties, socks, underwear, shirts, T-shirts the KonMari way on YouTube (yes!). I folded all my clothes into neat little rectangle envelopes (it was somewhat challenging for typically Indian items like salwarssarisanarkalis, etc, but I worked around those). I trained my son to fold his and he said it felt like origami. It is, actually.

KonMari way of folding The idea is not to stack up but to arrange clothes vertically so you can see the edges of all your clothes (it took me some time to understand this). In the Indian scenario of cupboards/shelves versus drawers, this can be challenging, but it is still worth a shot.

A KonMari drawerNext was books. I can finally see the coloured back panels of my bookshelves and a month later, I still don’t regret giving away any book—a thing that would happen quite often earlier, causing me to go out and buy another copy of the book I was missing.

For me, papers were the most intimidating part, as one is always holding on to them for a “what if” scenario. Since there is no way they can ‘spark joy’ to most of us, KonMari recommends brutal discarding: How many bank statements, passport photocopies, bills, credit card statements, warranty cards, user manuals and car papers can you hold on to? I pared it down to a single box of papers, stacked vertically in simple files.

After two very productive weeks of sorting, discarding, folding and organizing, I was stuck. It was komono.

Komono, which Kondo defines simply as miscellaneous, is actually the biggest roadblock in the KonMari method. It is stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere and yet is all over the place. It is the rest of your crap and it is a lot of crap that includes, but is not limited to: CDs, DVDs, make-up/toiletries/cosmetics, accessories, valuables (what was she thinking?), passports (this terrified me!), electric equipment and appliances, mysterious cords, wires, household equipment (stationery, writing material), household supplies (detergents, medicines, tissues, etc), kitchen goods (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc). But I guess everyone’s komono is different. As Indians, we have way more komono than the Japanese, I am sure.


I figured food was low priority for Marie Kondo, because in India there is no way kitchen could be komono. I also kept thinking, “She definitely doesn’t have kids.” Because she doesn’t factor in school things, toys, board games, portfolios, masks, art and craft supplies. Apparently she does have a child now, and I can’t wait to read her post-child KonMari.

I guess all the gaps in Kondo’s book can be books in themselves: KonMari of marriage, KonMari of children, KonMari at work, Digital KonMari, KonMari of relationships, friendships and more. It’s the kind of thing that can be extrapolated and applied to every aspect of your life, each time yielding the same results: Once you are clear about the noise of things that clutter your life and home, you can focus on enjoying the things that really matter. I don’t know what first-date conversations are like now, but it would be worthwhile to try and suss out a potential partner’s KonMari quotient.

If you want to start the KonMari method of tidying up, here are a few tips:

  1. Sort by category (for example, clothes, books, papers, etc.) and not by location (living room, bedroom, bathroom, etc.). 
  2. Tidy up in one go and do it alone, preferably.
  3. Gather all the items in a category on the floor, so you can see every single thing. Pick up each item and decide if it gives you joy. If it doesn’t, let it go.
  4. The focus is not what you must get rid of, but whether the things you want to hold on to make you happy. 
  5. Follow the right order: clothes, books, papers, “komono” (miscellaneous), sentimental items, mementos, photos.
  6. Have a designated spot for everything in your home (for example, bag, shoes, wallet, phone, etc.) and return it to that spot every day. 
  7. Store everything vertically, even clothes (you can, if you fold them right)
  8. Visualise your destination: How do you want your room, your closet, your bookshelf to look? Then work towards it. 
  9. After discarding, designate a place for every item and stick to that place, to avoid a clutter relapse.
  10. Empty your handbag every day. It’s where clutter starts.

I don’t know if the book has changed my life; I still have to tide over my komono, and my mother is still holding on to hers. But I am able to get more done in a day and I look forward to the next. I also feel I have KonMari-ed my life, in a manner of speaking—holding on to work, memories, people and things that truly spark joy. This little book about tidying ended up being about much more than tidying. There is a certain calmness in my cupboard and drawers and bookshelves, and perhaps some of it has passed on to me.

(This post first appeared in Mint Lounge on 3rd September, 2016.  http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/2Ox6Si3QDJnpF11nM8H0JL/Why-KonMari-is-the-new-detox.html )

Of kulith soup and kissing the clouds: a weekend at Saj by the lake

Re and I love being on the road and it doesn’t take much to galvanise us to get going. Just the magic words, “Want to go?” are enough to get us packing our bags and walking shoes. If there is rain and waterbodies involved, even better. If there is good food, nothing like it.

So when a few weeks back, we were invited to spend a weekend at the new Saj by the lake, a new boutique resort at Malshej ghat (which, incidentally was a an integral part of my childhood monsoon getaways with Appa, who couldn’t resist soaking under every waterfall enroute, much to our annoyance). Re and I preferred to soak in the gorgeous views along the NH 222 instead, pretending the mountains and the clouds were characters in a sky play.

Anyway, three hours later, we found ourselves here:

Saj by the lake

Saj by the lakeWe were told, wait, there is a whole lake behind, and we couldn’t wait to meet it

The Pimpalgaon Jodha dam created lake on the Pushpavati river

The Pimpalgaon Joga dam created lake on the Pushpavati river

There were many other things that caught our fancy. Like this entrance to our room:

Suite at Saj by the lake

And these lantern clouds at the Maati Bani restaurant, where we ate many soulful meals

Saj by the lake And this brick backdrop which called for a photo

Saj by the lake

And these funky cows

pop artAnd this lovely thencha which was more my thing

And this Kandyavarche Andey (eggs on onions) which we had for breakfast

And lots of other food which we loved so much that I forgot to take pictures of: like nachni and kulith soup, thalipeeth, mushroom masala, dudhi in green gravy, pit cooked biryani, nachni kheer, methi and paneer tikki, a lovely bengali style cold bharta with mashed potatoes .. and all this with rice, jowar and nachni bhakris.

We were told they have camping facilities so we can’t wait to come back to do some star-gazing. That night, of course, the clouds decided to hide all the stars, but we both got some down time, doing our own thing, blending in.

And many together things, long walks and lots of bird watching , cloud watching, waterfall watching and green watching. And plotting to come again, this time to star gaze.


Who said parenting means entertaining your children?

I have often heard this (even among very aware parents): I don’t know how to entertain my child. Or heard them whining when the more active partner is away that they they don’t know how to keep them busy.

I don’t get this.

Why is entertaining your child even a thing?

I got into this trap for a brief while when Re was still in his crib and had a limited geography within which to entertain himself (although my cats helped hugely).

It was boring as shit: Singing. Making faces. Speaking in funny voices. Peekaboo. The hand puppet thing. Yes, Re loved it. But then I realized I am not his playmate. Why should I pretend to be? As soon as he started crawling and then walking, he was on his own. And he found plenty to amuse himself with, mostly in the kitchen. I still have a video of him trying to sort a bunch of cherry tomatoes and talking to himself. And one of him trying to roll a chapati with a rolling pin and board and proceeding to wear the chapati as a mask.

Every time the other parental unit came home laden with games/toys, I arched my eyebrow. It was excessive and unnecessary. Collaborative games which assume the parent who’s around more often is stuck with playing them with the kid get me worried.

On the few travel dates that I had with fellow parents, I always noticed that they come armed with suitcases full of toys, gadgets, books, games. I found myself saying: but it’s just two nights. Why do you need so much? And they replied: Oh, if we keep them entertained, we can get more time for ourselves.

It never made sense.

Traveling alone with Re was much more satisfying. It still is.

Why is constantly being entertained a way of living? Why is it a norm? It is as though one is teaching children that this is how life is – a series of fun-filled, action packed time capsules on loop, where there is no time for recovery, stillness or nothingness.

If you are doing this, you are in a dangerous place. It’s a slippery slope from there.

Yes, we all want our children to have a happy childhood with a variety of experiences. We just have to stop curating it for them. I have seen friends plan reading lists for their kids, populate their schedules with every activity that looks good on paper and that they can tick off an imaginary list. It’s like every hour of their waking life has to be accounted for.

I feel like telling them: It’s your life, it’s not a pinterest board.

Yes it’s important to engage in fun with them occasionally, listen to them, keep conversations going, but by not allowing their imagination and creativity to come up with something on their own, you are actually hampering play.

We have to provide for our kids, nurture them, look after their basic needs – clothing, food shelter. I signed up for these when I became a parent, not for being his entertainer. And if I do play with my kid, it will be when I am having fun doing that. Not because of some boringass article that said, “Imaginative play with your child helps nurture their soul”. And who started this anyway? I am sure they didn’t think it through. It’s not sustainable for sure. Besides life is all about a lot of mundane things on loop and our kids need to know that and be a part of that too.

For a year now, Re has been assigned the task of arranging the utensils daily after they have dried in their rack, folding and arranging his own clothes in his shelves, feeding the cats in the evening and refilling their water bowls, making his bed, and helping us put the house in order before going to bed every night.

When I was 10, my mother handed me the keys to our house. Until then, we went to school together and returned together (I studied in the school she taught in). I now had a three hour lag from the time she left. In these three hours, I had to help Appa finish the cooking, pack his lunch dabba, pack snack dabbas for me and my twin siblings, wake them up, get them ready (this involved detangling and tying my sister’s unruly hair into two tight plaits, which took the longest time), send them to school (which was an hour earlier to mine), help Appa staple his shirt sometimes, when a button was off and he had to rush for work, and finally, get ready (which involved tying own long, unruly hair into two tight plaits) and go to school myself.

We were poor, we never had help, we all had chores to do, but we never needed to be entertained.  We also didn’t have money to afford toys. Books and play were all we had. We came home from school, ate a snack, did our homework and went out to play (I usually did my homework in school so I had more time to play). Sometimes we played physical games that involved running, jumping, getting dirty in the mud. Sometimes we played “school” and “office” and “restaurant” and “home”. Our parents never asked us what we played. They never played with us. Except Appa teaching us bridge. And Amma who taught us some fun board games from when she was a child, like pallankuzhi.

I was the queen of imaginative play and Enid Blyton with her scones and ginger ale and meringue descriptions hugely helped my childhood. I always imagined myself as an only child who had a secret room in which she hosted midnight feasts. Each time one of us announced we were bored, another chore was handed to us. I learnt to cook at age 10 because I was bored on Thursdays (our convent school day off) and since I was already souz chef to Appa, I started trying things on my own, and one day, I put a meal together and surprised Amma. Vacations were full of jam, pickle, karuvadam and sun-dried fruit projects. And then we traveled.

When I remember my childhood, I remember the cooking, I remember the baking and knitting and crosstitch and embroidery that I did as my mother’s apprentice. I remember making papercuttings of things my mom learned in her sewing class and making them to scale for my only doll, Neetu (who was named after Neetu Singh)

Most afternoons, Re is engaged in active theatre with his dolls: giving them makeovers, tattoos, braiding them, making houses for them with blocks or Lego, sometimes turning them into mermaids, having car rallies with mermaids driving cars, cooking, baking in his play kitchen, making paper clothes for them (now that he can use scissors, he often asks me for fabric swatches), and more such. Or he is sketching or painting. Hours pass by.

I may not be the ‘engaged parent’ but I know when my kid is having fun.

I often get this from people when I visit them with Re or when they come over: He is really good at entertaining himself. My response to that is: well, shouldn’t we all be?

Once in a while if Re does come up to me and say he is bored, I tell him: be bored. It’s good. Boredom is fertile.

What is fertile?

It’s a place where new things can grow.

You mean things can grow in my head? he asks.

Yes, they can. Of course they can.

The Boy Who Swallowed A Nail & Other Stories by Lalita Iyer.

So my book made it all the way to Chicago and this happened!


My shelfie this week.

I love reading Lalita’s blogs (www.mommygolightly.com) so, was very eager to read her new book. Because I knew, just like her posts every story in this book would make me smile too.
And it surely did.

In ‘Everyone Goes To Nainital’ I loved Amma who is wondering where to hang a clothesline in a hotel room.

In ‘Appa And His Weird Friends’ there’s John, the carpenter who stitches up the sofa but leaves a noisy mouse inside.

This charming collection of the adventures of Lalita’s family takes you into a quirky little world where you forget playing an adult for sometime and enjoy some innocent storytelling.

I also read a few stories to little I and she couldn’t stop giggling when I told her about Appa who once wanted to bring home a buffalo. And her biggest concern was, ‘how will the buffalo enter through the…

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Talking to kids: Why do adults suck at conversation starters?

It happens almost every single day. You meet someone you know and your child is with you. They make small talk while the child has slipped his hand in yours and is gently pulling you away. Suddenly they realize they have to ask the child something. And they unleash:

So what’s your name?

No name? You are shy? 

Why are you shy? Don’t want to talk to me?

They should have got the hint by now, but they don’t:

So are you being a good boy?

And this:

I know all about you. 

I have never understood this.

Of all the stupid questions adults ask, their conversation starters with kids are truly idiotic. Honestly would you walk up to someone in a bar and say “So what’s your name?” Then why would you do it to a kid?. Ditto for how old are you? Do you really care? Are you trying to test their Math? And what use is this information anyway?

Imagine if someone asked you, while you were drinking a cup of coffee. Ah, you are drinking coffee I see. You like coffee?

Same thing. Why would you ask a child eating an icecream: Ah, you are eating icecream?

Kids do not like small talk. They prefer being ignored than be asked : what’s your name, which school, which standard, how old are you?

How about asking kids what they like to do in their free time, what is their favorite color and why, do they like being indoors or outdoors, do they believe in magic, when was the last time they made a paper boat, do they like boats or ships, rivers or seas….

I asked some friends of this blog what were the most annoying questions their kids get asked and and here’s some of what they came up with (the list was huge, so I have only picked a few). Mind you, some of these questions have been asked post the stroking or pulling of child’s cheek, or worse, lifting them up bodily, or even worse – hoisting them in the air (as size may allow)

What if I take this TOY away..?

Look.. your Mommy is gone.. what will you do now?

Is that my toy?

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Let’s see if you can give me a hi-five!

Why don’t you sing me a song?

Smile! Let’s take a selfie!

 Who is more naughty you or your brother?

Who does mummy love more you or your brother?

 Oh.. You’re only 8? But you’re SO BIG!

Will you please give me a kissie no. Please. Please. 

Who do YOU love more? Mum or dad?

 Want to come to my house, I have toys and chocolates

I feel like saying: GET OVER IT!

It’s a child. It’s not an alien just landed from a space ship.

It’s a smaller (and perhaps less stupid) version of you.

You are supposed to know this. You have a vocabulary. Years of experience in making conversation. You went to college. You have a job. Surely you can come up with something better.

And the worst questions are usually asked by people who already have kids, so there can be no excuses technically of not knowing what to say. And why bother saying anything at all? I am sure my child won’t mind and I will be spared writing such posts.

Some day, I will make a list of questions to ask a child or make Re carry them as flash cards. I will. I wish I didn’t have to do this, but it’s been year seven for Re, and I have hardly come across people who can initiate good conversations with him. He in the meanwhile has mastered the art of ignoring stupid questions or just shrugging his shoulders and refusing to answer them or sometimes telling the said person exactly what he thought of the question.

My approach to kids (even before I had one) has always been simple. I approach them as I would an animal. In that I try and make myself as unobtrusive, yet watch what they are doing, make eye contact when I have a chance and then wait for the child (or animal) to make their move.

They always do.

For everything else, there’s always peekaboo.