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When Baba Was A Little Boy… (The One About the Big Fish)

I feel I am a terrible story teller. Ask me to write one, I may dare scribble something readable, but ask me tell you a story, I completely mess it up! Grrr…so after learning how to croon thanks to the endless lullabies V is subjected to each night, I am seriously considering to learn how to tell a tale. Yes…I am contemplating undergoing a story telling workshop now. 🙂

Anyways, this post is not as much about story telling  as much as it is about story writing. It’s been two nights in a row that I started telling stories to V. Not stories that we read and I tell him again. But stories that I have made up. Stories that are borrowed from real life incidents and adapted for Baby V. I am happy to note that on both nights, I could pin him down to close his eyes and listen to the story patiently. And by the time I finished the it, little V was gently snoring.

So here I am sharing my first story. My first story that I wrote for V. 🙂

Baba & baby

WHEN BABA WAS A LITTLE BOY

When Baba was a little boy he loved to eat fish.

Each morning, Thammi would pick out a nice, big piece for Baba to eat at lunch.

Baba would play, bathe and wait for his lunch. “Mumma, I am hungry.  Can I have my lunch?” He would ask.

From the kitchen Thammi would tell Baba, “Yes, Picku…I’m coming! Your lunch is ready!”

A big, juicy piece of fish would be on his plate every day. Steaming hot and deliciously yummy!

 Baba would go chomp, chomp, chomp, eating his fish with great delight.

One day after lunch, Baba was washing his hands and mouth when he thought of something.  He went to Thammi and said, “Mumma, I am a big boy. From tomorrow I want to eat a big fish. I want to grow up faster!”

Thammi smiled at Baba and said, “Why don’t you go and buy your own fish Picku? Go with Baba to the market and you can buy any fish you like!”

Baba’s eyes lit up!

“Really Mumma? Can I really go and buy my own fish?”  Baba asked.

“Yes, my darling! It’s time for you to sleep now.  Why don’t you take a nap now? When you wake up we can talk about which fish you want to buy?” Thammi said and picked by Baba to put him to sleep.

Baba lay down on his cot and closed his eyes. And then he dreamed of all the lovely fish he would see in the market.

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When We Pretend Play

As a child, I remember us going on long drives. My father in those days loved driving and we would often make impromptu plans to drive away from town. In most of those jaunts, my favourite place in the car was the boot. We had a Maruti Van (Omni) in those days. It was large enough for the luggage, me and my toys. I loved carrying my ranna-baati, my kitchen set. Maa tells me, I would keep busy for hours. As a child I also remember playing ‘teacher-teacher’. Do kids play that today? I would place my old and used notebooks in a row, put my Mickey blackboard against the wall. I would read from a book, scribble something on the book and teach my imaginary class.

What my mother didn’t know then, and I didn’t until I became a mother myself, is that this kind of play is what is called Pretend Play.

I follow a lot of blogs on parenting and early education. Anna from Imagination Tree is a particular favourite. Reading her views on why play is important was really an eye opener. Not that I undermined child’s play, but I realized the importance of it in a holistic way. I realized V had started playing (Anna’s way) much before I read about the various kinds of play. I just started noticing his pattern.

So when he liked emptying his toys and getting into the play basket himself, I thought it was cute. Or when he crawled his way into the kitchen and toppled the onion & potato basket to drag it around the house, I felt he wanted a new toy.

Onions & Potatoes

Or when he discovered wooden fruits in the summer camp, he was all smiles to find a juicy, wooden carrot that he could splice and join again.

Wooden Veges

Wooden Veges

Or the tea party that his teacher organized in class? We, mothers were very amused that boys took a fancy for cups and saucers. But really, in this age of Master Chef, should we look at it with surprise if the boys were indeed interested in picking up the ladle. Junk the stereotypes, I say!

Pretend Play 3

Recently I picked up a few craft books that lets us cut out cardboard and make into shapes. V and I made a bed recently, and he tested it with Snoopy and his wooden lion on it.

Pretend Play 6

On another playful day, I discovered V was busy with his shape sorting box. He wasn’t using the shapes, but using the box as a house for his play animals.

Pretend Play 7

Pretend Play 8

Pretend Play 9

What I love about watching V indulge in pretend play is his concentration. He likes not to be disturbed and only wants attention if he can’t do something that he wants to. Imagination is a beautiful thing and so is play. And when you realize that they co-exist, the outcome is beautiful.

What is Pretend Play?

To me, pretend play is random play by a child using an object or toy giving it a role and function that exists in his imagination. So a carton when turned can become a room for toys. Or a bowl and spoon in the hands of a child imitates the pot and ladle that he sees his mom with in the kitchen. Humour him a little and he may even feed you his imaginary food. We do this all the time during meal times. J

Imagination is what sparks creativity. It is also what sparks invention and even favourite Indian way of getting things done, juggad! Remember this adorable Maruti ad, with a child driving his car around the house?

Yes, this is an example of pretend play too!

Why should you encourage it?

Because very simply put, a child is using his own imagination to put life and character to his play and toys. Every time your child grabs your phone, try giving him his toy phone. On days when he is not really interested in Angry Birds on your phone, he may well be interested in talking to his imaginary friends. We bought V’s first play phone from Hamley’s. We were sitting on a bench in the mall and I remember him making a fuss to get off. So I took out his phone and gave it to him. He tapped a few buttons and put it to his ear. The next thing we know is that he is walking towards the aisle, with the phone stuck to his ear and he blabbering away to glory! J

More than I enjoy watching V playing, I love playing with him more! Here is what I do or try to do on most days, see if it works for you!

a)      Get down on hands and knees

Your child may have a preferred place of play. For V it is usually the drawing room or our bedroom. On the drawing room floor, I enjoy sitting with him and playing with his toys. We look into his toy basket, pull out toys he likes and play.

b)     Pretend play yourself

If your child has not started playing on his own, then maybe it is a good idea to show him first. One of the first instances of pretend play was when we gave V a bowl and spoon at meal time and asked him to feed me. I said, “Wow, this is yummy Vihaan. I want to eat more.” He smiled and he put in a spoonful of his imaginary food into my mouth again.

c)      Give it time

He loves his cars, so I recently made him a parking lot on the floor using coloured cello tape. While I showed him how to maneuver the curves and take his car in and park, I realized he didn’t understand much. So I let it pass. He will see the fun in it when the time is right!

d)     See, learn & improvise

We happened to watch Superman one day. On the TV I mean! A part of me really wants him to grow up and love his superheroes and I want him to have his own collection of Marvel and DC Comics. But since the film was on, we sat down to watch it together. While Superman went about saving a plane from crashing, I was telling V that Superman is so strong that he can lift an aero plane. V quickly got off from the bed, ran to his piles of toys and pulled out his own air plane. So while we were watching Superman bring down the plane to a baseball ground, V was lowering his own plane on the floor. My little Superman! J

e)      Choose the right toys

The problem with us adults is that we are too grown-ups! We scoff off child’s play as easy. But we fail to look at the world as a child. And trust me, if you leave your busyness at the door and sit down to play as a child, you will realize there is a lot of fun in it. So what are the toys that spark pretend play? Do all kinds of toys make the cut? We have tried pretend play with stuffed animals (our favourite). V’s frog nowadays wears a tshirt every day. He also changes his clothes like V does. Teddy has joined the list too. Blocks are a favourite too. Though V has outgrown the activity of stacking them, what he uses his blocks now is as a glass to feed his stuffed animals. Cars are a favourite for the boys, and I recently bought him two construction vehicles. Play dough is another favourite. While until now, we are learning colours with play dough, what I really want to do with play dough is this. We have bought play dough from the market, but I plan to make some play dough at home too. You can always use some plain and simple maida or aata. Try reading this book to your child – a perfect recipe for imaginative play.

 

So does your child engage in pretend play? What does your child enjoy playing with? Do you observe your child at play? What lessons is your child deriving out of his own play? 

A part of what I will now do on this blog is to share all the fun things that we are doing as parent and child. What are the discoveries that we make and the lessons we learn. We will also share reviews, views and experiences of growing up. I hope you have fun watching us grow up!

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Dear Son, Girls are NOT meant to be Raped

Another day, another city, another girl and another rape. Why does it not shock me? Or maybe it does, but I am beyond any sensation. It worries me that my child is growing up in a world that doesn’t learn from its mistakes. It worries me to see that the world my son is growing up is increasingly antagonistic towards women.  It worries me to see the commodification of women. It worries that I may have to tell him that a man must protect a woman. I must tell him that the world is an unsafe and hostile place for women. I worry that I will have to make him a custodian for a woman’s honour and safety.

It worries me that I have a son. It worries me that I have the gigantic responsibility of answering the questions he may have about violence against women. As he grows up to songs like ‘Fevicol Se’, hear politicians say that his colleague is a ‘tunch maal’, or a society that judges a woman for what she wears and who she goes out with; I worry, that I have a lot of answering to do for him.

 I worry that I have will have to watch him closely, give him the right lessons, monitor his actions all his life. I worry that my son’s view of women is a reflection of how I have brought him up. The way my son behaves now and when he grows up will be a judgement of me.

This was the Rakshabandhan week. A prominent festival on the calendar, we had a very curious theory about it when we were in school. Some guys liked sporting a handful of rakhis. Some girls went about tying rakhis to a mass of boys. While some others joked that how so and so will not tie one to so and so; and sometimes it also became a matter of heart break when someone approached you to tie a rakhi when you were hoping she would be a girlfriend! Were heart breaks so uncommon then? I don’t think so. But not every spurned lover turned murderous and landed up with an axe in class.

You can read the rest of the post on Parentous. 

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On-board The Mommyship

…that’s what the blog is called. Just in case you haven’t noticed!

Someone very recently asked me, “Is mommyship even a word?” Now as someone who can become quite a grammar Nazi at times, I rolled my eyes and said, “No, it isn’t. I made it up you see!”

“But it’s incorrect…grammatically?”

“Umm…if I can create a baby, then maybe I am creative enough to conceive a new word for it!”

I had won the argument!

 

Onboard the Mommyship 2

 

Daughter, sister, wife and now mother…having lived through four of the major roles in life, I can safely say that this is the mother of all relationships! No other relationship tests you as much and with such greater intensity and regularity as motherhood. I like to imagine motherhood to be like sailing on a ship. You know, the one that tests you through the choppy waters of everyday challenges. There are the occasional icebergs of gigantic tantrums. And on some rare days, you can sit on the sun-kissed deck, put your feet up, read your book in peace thinking that parenting can also be a breeze.

So there…that’s the story behind the title of the ship.

There was another argument sometime back. How can a person be defined as a mother? I mean, you can be a doctor, a lawyer, an activist, social media evangelist, brand manager, television producer, but how can you describe yourself as a mother? Isn’t it all so tacky? So, a Rituparna Ghosh and only be a Rituparna Ghosh and not VeesMother. Being the latter, or rather being known as the latter appatently dilutes my personality.

I don’t think a mother can dilute her personality. It is the one relationship that takes center stage (no matter how much she dislikes it) right from the moment it begins.  And it becomes a life long fixation thereafter. It is for me too. My life has turned topsy-turvy and there have been several near shipwreck moments. The moments of doubt and elation continue, but despite all of it, I realise that I enjoy being a mother.

I may play different roles in my life, but I think this Nirupa Roy act keeps me happy the most. Nirupa Roy minus the tears and drama, mind you!  

As I turn a year older, I stop to assess my life. Do I look at motherhood as a tag? Is it the most defining aspect of my personality? Does it worry me that people may think of me?

Whatever be the answer, I don’t care. All I know is that I am my truest and most honest as a mother. If that makes me a better person, then motherhood is good for me.

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Mothering, Then & Now

This post was originally written for Parentous.

 

Bangla has a few curious words in its dictionary…words that don’t have equivalents in other languages. Take aadikkheta for example. A very difficult word to explain, I just called up Maa to give me an appropriate translation in English or Hindi. She laughed it off, saying that if she had to describe the word to a non-Bengali, it would be safe to say that it loosely translates to ‘over-indulgence’.

Now all my Bengali readers will vouch for the fact that that is just a mild description of the word. Let me give you an example to explain its usage in a common Bengali household. Take for example, me as a mother. No, wait…imagine me as a mother in my previous generation. What if I was my mother’s sister or sister-in-law? I know it’s quite a fanciful piece of imagination, but then, just during the course of this piece, imagine me in my mother’s generation.

So, it is the first pregnancy. The tiny bun is baking in the belly, but the mom couldn’t sit still. Her husband gets her a driver and a cook. She reduces her work hours gradually, takes a little stool to work so she can really put her legs up and rest! She reads up scores of books to understand what’s happening inside her belly. She takes to her bump, tells stories and sings along. She has engaging conversations with her doctor. Her husband accompanies her on every pre-natal check-up. He wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world!

By the time the baby is born the new mother who dotes over her new born son like he is Prince George and the world has been waiting for the son to rise! She would click every yawn, every wink, every smile and coo and turn and wave and bath and play like nobody, nobody has seen such a cute (read: featherless, scrawny, new born) baby! The pictures are not just for her. She would use the power of technology and BBM pictures of the baby to the father who is miles away. So much so, that it becomes nothing less than an obsession! Click, click and click…

The child grows up and it is time to leave his grandparents’ home and go back to Daddy. Normal train travel won’t do, unless it is first class. Baby and mommy travel first class and they never learn to travel any other way.

Mommy returns to work. No, she won’t depend on her mother and mother-in-law to bring up her son. The nuclear family may have its disadvantages, but she will not send her child to a day care. Yes, the child needs his familiar surroundings. So it will have to be a stay-at-home nanny for the boy.

And that is not all. The mother wouldn’t care two hoots to check if the laundry is done, but she would want to know which clothes her son wore all day long. She wouldn’t bother if the pantry is empty and they have to order out, but she would be watchful of her son, sit around creating activities for him. She would read, read and read as much literature available in terms of baby care. Engage with parents. Discuss parenting and its issues. Read blogs. Write some of one’s own. Discover toddler activities and create some for her son. She would sniff out crafts stores and art supplies everywhere she would go. She would hoard bottles, scraps of cardboard and go hunting for packaging boxes. Bottles will be used to make rolling pins. Cardboard would be used to make cut out toys; and boxes to make a garage for the ever growing stack of cars. She would discover her own perfect way of making homemade paints. She would make her own flip board to learn colours. She would buy new books for him and read to him; and let him turn pages and pull some out. She would constantly ideate on how to stimulate him, how to engage him, how to control his tantrums and how to let the discoverer in him take shape.

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If I were in my mother’s generation…this indulgence which to you and me seems the modern age recipe for mothering, would be termed aadikkheta. My scheming sister-in-law would have been jealous that my husband supports my mothering fundas and let’s lose my extravagance. My mother-in-law would have sniggered at my indulgence and with a raised eyebrow said, “As if no one has children! Are you the only mother around?” I would have been termed a bad wife for neglecting my husband and household. I would have been considered a radical for not depending on the great Indian joint-family to raise my baby. I would have been a rebel for wanting to have a career.

Maa often apologises to me. She says, “Sorry, we couldn’t do as much for you!” She also regrets that she couldn’t enjoy ‘motherhood’. She didn’t enjoy her pregnancy and post the birth of her baby, life was made tougher when her mother-in-law fired the maid at home. She would cook, clean and bring us up. She couldn’t complain. She could little more than what others decided for her and her children. Motherhood, Maa says is tougher for us, because we have to handle our careers, lives and homes.

I think otherwise.

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The Nanny Diaries

It’s 10 in the morning and I race to finish my breakfast. I’m late for work and there are several things lined up for the day. Time is running out and I make a scurry for the door. I shut the door to the gym room that is doubling up as my study these days and plug in the laptop. I settle down to work for the day.

Among the sounds of hawkers, horns and construction workers opposite the road my concentration is broken by V running around the house. Behind him is his nanny who is chasing him to sit down for his own breakfast.

I wait to hear if she’s caught him and if a battle has begun to get him to sit on his chair. No audible sounds of protest and I know everything is peaceful on the home front. I go back to my work. And then I hear her, “Look at Bonny! He is chasing a butterfly!” She’s reading from V’s book of Baby Animal Farm series. V loves all books in the series and I can almost picture him on the other side of the door… attentive, reading and munching his breakfast. He mumbles something and she says, ” yes, look he has lost his way in the forest.”

I smile. It’s time to really switch off and dive into work. I let Radha Didi read out to my son. And no, it doesn’t bother me that she is unlettered and is following the pictures to tell the story in the book!

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now. To begin with I wanted to write it on my blog, but went against it. I decided to write about it here. This is where I must share my experience.

I looked back at my posts only to realise that my status as a ‘working mom’ is on top of my mind all the time. Well, I have only returned to work and it’s obvious that this new status consumes my existence all day long! What has made my life simpler is that I leave V to a nanny who is really the centre of our home now. Today Radha Didi is not just V’s nanny, she is a housekeeper, a confidante and a family member to my husband, V and me.

But there is a back-story to how I got this incredible child carer. Last year I had a disastrous brush with a placement agency and I gave vent to it on my blog. Blogadda picked it up as a Tangy Tuesday post and made it really popular.

What began as a desperate search for a nanny, ended up in a prayer being answered in the form of Radha Didi. I don’t want this post to be about her and what makes her awesome. But I would like this to be a guide to finding a nanny.

This post was originally written for Parentous. You can read it here.