of trepidation

I’d like to still be pregnant when this post ends, so I’ll make it as short as I can.

My baby’s coming in two months, time’s flying faster than I can keep up, and I’m freaking out. I am so not prepared for this! And by ‘not prepared’ I don’t mean financially. I don’t care how much or how little I have, I know we will survive.

And no, I’m not even worried about not being prepared emotionally. I practically raised my younger brother, though he was one of the people that went and watched Prem Ratan Dhan Payo – a Sooraj Barjatya movie with three doorknobs (Salman, Salman, and Sonam) in it – I must’ve gone horribly wrong somewhere!


Anyway. I am worried that I don’t know how (and if) I’m going to teach my baby about spirituality with the shit that’s going on in the world in the name of religion. I see people all around me, intelligent people who have two helpings of brain but only half a helping of heart when it comes to accepting other faiths, and I don’t know what I can do to prepare my kid for the sheer stupidity of this all. Paris. Israel. Love jihad. Beef ban. All of it.

Besides, Mister, mom and I have three different perspectives on god and spirituality. Mom has a mandir in the house where she must pray every morning and evening with the utmost reverence. Mister is a yogi and his way of approaching divinity is through meditation and soul searching. Me? I’m just a creature of convenience. I don’t believe in idol worship, but I will accompany Mister and Mom to a temple if they’re going, sit there and think about where the world is headed. Where I am headed. But I will let them be.

Of course I want my kid to be spiritual, but how will I even handle this when he/she starts to get curious?

Like I said, I’m freaking out. How would you handle this?


of being driven by justice

How many of you have ever driven on the roads in Delhi? Those of you who have will agree that it is fucking terrifying with the complete disregard for traffic rules. Because rules are for children. This is war, and all that matters is victory, not the bloodbath that leads you to it.

Most drivers are egotistic, homicidal/suicidal maniacs. They will pull out of their driveways in full speed, not caring that there’s moving traffic on the road, and then start driving on the wrong side of the road without so much as blinking (pun intended).

People just assume that they have the right of way. They will flash their headlights at you, and honk until you give them space, even if they’re in YOUR lane. If you don’t move, or flash back at them, the will keep coming at you until you swerve and hit someone. So you end up moving.

And then there is the complete irreverence for human life – pedestrians have nowhere to cross the road, because cars will only stop ON the zebra crossing, a quarter of an inch from where the signal is. No sir, we won’t let anyone pass, not even ambulances. Let them die if they must. Cop cars, however, are free to do as they like. Thulle se panga? No way.

Don’t even get me started on the incessant honking.

Now I’ve been driving for only three (or four?) years – and I know that I am better than most newbies. I know I can easily take on most of the “No if no but, only Jatt” Pajero owners and people with political party flags as they try to stick their cars into the barely-enough space between my car and the next, close enough for me to count their nasal hair.

But I don’t, because I try to obey the rules and be what my ex used to call a “smooth” driver. No jerky movements, no surprises, no rule-breaking. Unless it’s an emergency of course, like when someone’s injured or dying, in which case I’d take just a few nanoseconds to get where I want to be, regardless of how many rules had to be broken. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Now since I conceived, my driving has become slower and more deliberate. I barely drive over 50 km/h (which, btw, is the speed limit here). This slowing down has sensitized me to things that I probably wasn’t bothered by earlier, and the innate sense of justice that I inherited from my father (yes, he did teach me something good) has come to the surface, and I’m unable to push it down.

Which brings me to what happened this morning.

It was drizzling, and I woke up feeling like a cow; bloated, slow, and nauseous. I didn’t want to, but I had to drive to work. I reluctantly pulled out of my driveway, and headed out onto the main road.

Just as I turned, a blue-gray Swift appeared out of nowhere in front of my car. This guy was trying to overtake an RTV that was moving slowly, and had ventured into my lane. Now I did have space on the left to maneuver, but I didn’t stop. Of course I did this only because I knew there was enough distance between us for the guy to slow down – I wouldn’t have risked my baby. Truth be told, I was done being “nice”; done giving way to errant drivers who zig-zag their way into my lane, assuming that they can bully me. I needed to be “just”. So I stopped. He had to, too. He stood there, staring at me through his windshield. I stared back in defiance. The road in his lane was absolutely clear by now, and he could just have backed up and gone his way, but he was just being cocky, so I started honking manically.

Eventually he had to back up, but he pulled over to my side, rolled his window down, glared at me and asked: Aapka steering ghoomta nahin hai kya? Does your steering not function?

Mere steering ki fikr chhodiye, apni lane mein gaadi chalaiye, itni zillat nahin uthani padegi. You should stop worrying about my steering wheel, and instead focus on driving within you lane. That way you’ll never have to be embarrassed, I said, victorious.

He drove away without a word, and I instantly felt better for having stepped out. Justice had been served.


Pregnancy (ke) Side Effects

When I announced my pregnancy to the world, little did I know that I was opening myself up for unsolicited advice and the vilest of comments. There are basically four types of reactions I got, which I thought should document for posterity.

You? A baby? Seriously?

This young girl in my office tells me, Ha ha.. your life is over. Congratulations! This, btw, is a twenty-something equivalent-of-bonehead who has never been married.

Another reaction from someone I share my workspace with was Really? I never thought you were the family type of girl! This, mind you, was the same person that once told me I didn’t look vegetarian “because you are so outspoken and you drink and like bikes also”. The worst was this – Wow, I thought you were too old to have kids! Did you have to get some special treatment? Bitch please. I’m 33, not a fossil.

Let me tell you how it’s done.

You should put up pictures of bal gopal (baby Krishna) in your bedroom, she said, and I laughed so loud I spat out the coconut I was munching on. I’m not putting up pictures of a random baby in my bedroom hoping that my kid will look like them. Well-meaning relatives and colleagues have been directing advice and criticism (mostly criticism) my way. You shouldn’t be sitting/eating/breathing like this is now part of my life, whether I like it or not.

You have no idea how much your life is about to change.

There were people who wanted to make sure I realized the gravity of the situation. I got comments ranging from What if you have twins to Labor is painful, you know. More painful than you can imagine to beware, you’re going to put on a lot of weight, don’t panic.

Clearly none of these people understood how anxious I already was about the changes that my body is going through.

Your troubles are nothing compared to what I went through, so stop whining.

People are hell-bent on telling me horror stories from their childbirth experience. I have heard heart-rending details about how a woman who had a tattoo on her lower back got an epidural and some infection spread, leaving her “weak and immobilized” for a whole month. Another well-meaning woman  described in great detail her breastfeeding experience. And believe me, she kept saying the same things over and over again, and it’s worse than listening to Arnab Goswami’s relentless badgering on TV.


What about you? Have you been on the receiving end of such “advice”? Or worse, have you ever given such “advice”? Do I seriously look like a drifter or “not the family type”? How would you react to these things?

Kayso I’m gonna be a mom!

When I discovered I was going to be a mom, and that mine was going to be a high-risk pregnancy, the first thing I did was to document all the things that were about to go wrong with my life.

  • Curtailed movement. Less travel. US trip canceled.
  • Turning into a cow = massive wardrobe crisis coming up.
  • Sleepless nights.
  • Boobyache. Varicose veins. Restricted movement.
  • Giving up alcohol = social life finished = dying of boredom.
  • Less No sexytime. No alone time.
  • My mother telling me now you’ll see with an evil gleam in her eyes.
  • Career set back by a hundred years.

Shit. I don’t think I thought this through, I said as soon as Mister got home, showing him my list. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. 

No, you didn’t. There are some things missing here. Let me help.

  • More shopping, less work.
  • Bigger boobs.
  • Someone to blame your farts on.
  • An opportunity to raise a good human being.
  • Your brains + my charms + our collective good looks = one hell of a baby.
  • Having the only thing that beats the crap out of the law of diminishing returns.

Suddenly, life seems uncomplicated and happy. I think we’re going to be okay.

If you have a child, how did you take it when you realized the seriousness of the situation and its impact on your life? Is it true that children change you? Do you know of anything else that beats the law of diminishing returns?





of life, changes, and fears

I blacked out as I saw what I saw. I had to sit back down because the memories of my little brother that came crowding in left little energy for anything else.

I’m nine. My sister and I have just returned from school, and mom’s not home. We wear our lehengas, pretending to be princesses. Soon enough, there’s a bad fight. We’re rolling around on the bed pulling each other’s hair and screaming. Just as I break the rubber band that holds her ponytail, the doorbell rings. A wave of terror shoots through me. Within a minute I have straightened the bed, tucked my lehenga away and changed into regular clothes. My sister just stands there, holding the broken rubber band and crying. She is six. I marvel at how hair stays put in the shape of a ponytail even without the band. That makes me laugh.

I wait for the bell to ring again. It does. I open the door very gingerly, fully prepared to say we were sleeping. I don’t have to. My clearly overjoyed grandfather stands there. He ordered us to go with him. Bhaiya hua hai. You have been blessed with a baby brother. He doesn’t give us enough time to change or wear our slippers. Soon we’re in the hospital, and my mom is embarrassed. One of her children is wearing a school shirt with a lehenga and has on her head the remnants of a ponytail. The other one is not wearing any footwear.

We demand to see the baby, but he’s been transferred to the nursery. It takes a lot of pleading (me) and fighting (my sister) with the nursery staff before we actually get to see him. And when we do, I can’t look away. He is pink and his skin is peeling off in places. My sister asks the staff, iska chhilka kyon utar raha hai? I laugh and the staff tells me to be quiet.

Once he is home, mom becomes obsessed with him. So do I. Knock before you enter the room and don’t talk so loudly become our standing instructions to my sister. We start buying nursery print bedsheets and curtains in the hopes that he would like the colors. I draw colorful things for him. I pay more attention in crafts class so I can make him stuffed toys.

Soon he’s crawling all over the house. Once, he hides behind a curtain as we frantically search the house for him. Dad finds out and blows his lid. He screams at mom and amid the chaos, I find him tucked behind the Mickey Mouse curtain, sucking on his thumb.

When he learns to babble, he starts calling me eeya. None of us knows why. He calls my sister didi, but I’m always eeya to him. It’s like we’re communicating in a language that’s ours alone, and I like that. As soon as he is old enough to run errands, my sister and I send him to the market to fetch us aam papad and anardana churan on the sly. If he isn’t caught smuggling, he gets 10% of the contraband.

When I’m bored, I make him wear a dresss and my sandals and perch him up on a table to dance to Rang bhare badal se. He complies. He is an obedient kid, and I think I’m a pretty good mom. Then one day, after I am married, he tells me he has a girlfriend. I don’t tell him this, but I feel like he’s slipping from my grasp. The husband doesn’t get it – isn’t this something to be happy about? I tell my him he can’t possibly understand and that it feels like I’m losing my child. No you aren’t, my ex-husband says. Some day he’s going to get married and have children, and you’ll still be his eeya.

That thought brought me back to the present moment.

I have to call Mister and tell him was suddenly the only thought in my head. Calmly, I dialed his number. The phone rang for the longest time, but he didn’t answer, so I called again.

He answered the phone, and I started fumbling because I didn’t know how to say it.

Hey baby, can I call you back? I’m in a meeting.

Sure, I said, relieved. I sent him a text instead.

It’s a positive. We’re going to be parents.

Should I have broken the news to him (and to you) differently? How would you do it?