Monday, May 14, 2018

Thinking out loud..

Sometimes I come back to my blog after a break, a couple of weeks or a month, and I feel like, "Hey, do I know you?" It's the exact same feeling when you are fighting with your husband who you have known for a decade now. True, right? :-)

These days, I often go back and read my old posts and think about the time when I was active and wrote often and had an opinion abut everything, including parenting. Now, with my 4-year old who is oh-so-headstrong and opinionated and questions with a "why" on almost everything she is told to do, I am at a loss. I am no longer sure of anything. I am always second guessing my decisions. I try to be patient and answer all her questions so as not to just make her obey orders, and yet sometimes, the questions are never ending and I am forced to shout "Do it because I told you so". And thereafter the guilt trip starts...

Some days, she would be my little girl, sweet, and obedient. And just when I have let my guard down thinking, I finally have a grip on this thing called "parenting", she brings out all her secret moves. Crying, moping, giving me a silent treatment (yes, at 4!) and being a total nuisance about EVERYTHING. And what do I do? Move away from her even though what I really want is to give in and see her smile. And thereafter the guilt trip starts...

I am all about balance. My priorities lie half way between "being at the top of your class" to "not knowing a thing" and "Never hit the child" to "Spare the rod, spoil the child". So I just nag her enough to do a little bit of reading and writing everyday and letting her play the rest of the time. And sometimes, when the whining and crying while lying on the floor of the grocery store go out of hand, she does get a nice whack from me. And then she says, "you don't love me". Thereafter, the guilt trip starts...


And then, at the library, a lady asked me if I was planning to have a second because "she is so cute, and obviously wants a sibling". I have learnt to deal with this incessant question. I say a firm NO because "she is more than two handfuls". But what I really want to say is, "Hey you! Do you know I had a 16hour+ labor to bring her into this world? And without an epidural, mind you. And then she just wouldn't sleep the whole night for the next 1.5 years. And then we had to potty train her, get her off her pacifiers and feeding bottles. And then by that time, she was cool enough to ask endless questions. And sometimes, I have to shout at her and whack her because she needs to become a good person. I am already on a never ending guilt trip. You think I want to add to that??!!"

But, of course, I don't say this because people would think I am crazy. More importantly, a crazy mother.
On that note, Happy Mothers' Day! Or may be, "Happy Guilty Person's Day" ;-)

Picture courtesy: Google

Friday, April 13, 2018

Don't Wake Up - Book Review


"Gillian has always encompassed the vast space between pretty and ugly. In fact, she is painfully aware that there is nothing remarkable about her, until her husband Ricky experiences a mysterious fall that leaves him in a comatose state. As doctors and nurses rush to assure her that Ricky will recover well, Gillian thinks of the years of cold silence and manipulation that have overshadowed their marriage. As the coma persists, Gillian dreams of a different life, one her marriage has denied her, and hopes Ricky does not wake up. Nonetheless, his eyes open to reveal a man who claims to remember nothing of his former self. Gillian, convinced that this is only a furthering of his past cruelty, seeks to test this new Ricky. She invents a family they never had, and fills his head with stories of an imaginary life. Ricky becomes a father, and an orphan, eagerly accepting magazine-clipped photos and an urn filled with cigarette ash as evidence of his once-happy life. But, as Ricky persists in his assertion that he remembers nothing of their real past, Gillian begins to question how far she can go in punishing a man for sins he cannot remember committing."

The book starts with pretty much what is described in the blurb. Gillian pretends to be sad for her husband who is in coma after a fall, but is secretly relieved to be rid of him. She likes going back to the house, watch mindless television and eat ice cream for dinner. But one day, her husband, Ricky wakes up. But he does not remember anything after the first 16 years of his life. She is secretly sure that Ricky is playing mind games with her, only to catch her red handed as soon as she makes a mistake. But turns out, that's not the case. Gillian discovers that not only does Ricky not remember anything, he is a totally different man from what he used to be. Gillian remembers him as cold and distant whereas the new Ricky is warm and caring and wants to know all about his old life.

The thing that worked for me was the brilliance of Gillian's character. It is complex and layered. The way it progressed from a happy child to a pregnant teenager and subsequently, an unhappy adult is totally comprehensible and spoke for many of her life's decisions. The narrative keeps going back and forth, but definitely keeps one hooked.

A couple of things didn't work for me. Gillian keeps insisting on the fact that Ricky was manipulative in the marriage, but has only incident to share for it. And somewhere down the line, I got an impression that maybe she was so clouded in her own grief of losing her child, her sister and her parents, that she was a little too preconceived about her relationship with Ricky. Also, Ricky's character was never delved upon in the book, except from the protagonist's view. And so, one forms an opinion about him based on that. But by the end of the book, I felt like I would have liked to know what was going on in Ricky's head as the years rolled by and their marriage kept falling apart and none of them did anything about it. I never got to know if it was Ricky, a philanderer and alcoholic who destroyed the marriage, or Gillian, who was too cold and hurt to care or both. Also, the sub plot of Ricky donating money for causes that are close to Gillian's heart seems like a cliché and doesn't add to the book in a meaningful way.

The ending of the book is a little abrupt and yet not bizarre. It takes you by surprise, and yet not! It feels like "not a happy ending", but a right ending as if this was real life. By the end of the book, I felt sad for Gillian and her life journey hitherto. I would definitely like to read another book from the author, Shauna Kelley.

My rating for the book: 3.5 stars (a half extra star for brilliantly carving out Gillian's character)



Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Wife - Book Review

After finishing “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Morarty, I was really looking forward to a book that would hold on to its own. You know how sometimes you read a book so amazing, that anything you read after that does not match up. I wanted to pick up something that wouldn’t disappoint me. And so, I went to the library searching for my next one. Since March is being celebrated as Women’s month at the library, they are showcasing some of the better women writers and their books. And that’s how I chanced upon the book, “The Wife” by Meg Wolitzer. Also, let me confess, I didn’t find the blurb as exciting, and solely picked up the book because I loved the cover. It’s a simple cover, and yet I was drawn to it. And for once, I have to say, I am glad I judged the book by its cover. 

“The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. Just like our marriage." And that’s how the book starts in the words of Joan Castleman who is on her way with her husband Joseph Castleman to receive the Helsinki Literature Award., one of the highest literary awards The book then transports you back to 1950s when Joan was a student in one of Joe's class.

Joan takes you on her journey and her marriage of 40 years, back and forth in the book. The secret that she reveals at the end of the book is not really a secret because she drops enough hints through the narrative, and yet I found it difficult to come to terms with it. There were times when I could not connect to Joan or her character until she delves deeper in the crevice that existed between male and female writers back in the 50s and 60s, and how the feminism movement had not yet started.  I loved her take on marriage and how she subtly defines some of the characteristics of husbands, without sounding like a cliché. Her writing is sharp and satirical. It’s also funny, but in a very empathy arousing kind of way. There were times when I thought she was weak, and sometimes she would just turn that opinion on its head. The characters are complex and very well written.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. And even though the book is set in a time different from today, yet you could find it touching a chord with something in your marriage. Like this one passage from the book that reads,” Everyone knows how women soldier on, how women dream up blueprints, recipes, ideas for a better world, and then sometimes lose them on the way to the crib in the middle of the night, on the way to Stop and Shop, or the bath. They lose them on the way to greasing the path on which their husband and children will ride serenely through life”.

My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The bathtub

I told her to read her a book till I was back from my bath. Nothing out of the extra ordinary. That was our routine for the past few weeks. She had finally started reading on her own. I made use of that to take a relaxed bath. That day was no different.


I ran a warm bath. To be true, I liked the water hot. As I stepped into it, I could feel the warmth of the water almost physically straightening my curled up cold body, taking away my stress and calming me. I always promised her it would be a quick bath. But it was hardly ever quick. Once you hit a tub of warm water, your reflexes slowed down automatically. Your hands didn’t move fast enough. Your brain neither.

As I finished soaping myself, I unplugged the tub to drain out the water. And that’s when it struck. I felt a hand on my naked butt. I think I froze for a second. I was all alone in my bathroom, in my bathtub, closed from the only open end with the shower curtain. There was no way there was anyone in my bathtub, leave alone a hand.

I turned and saw it. High on adrenalin, I fathomed “it” was floating in the water. Upside down. Head under water. My shriek caught in my throat, I did a double take. And just as quickly as it had appeared, the adrenalin relaxed, and a silly nervous laugh followed. It was her doll. She had left it in the tub, yet again…

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tourist in my own city

Life in Philly is good, but also terribly cold all the time. The idea of a snowfall sounds so great and romantic and maybe playful, but after the first time, it's really more of a nuisance. It gets bitter cold and the sidewalks get slippery and you are under house arrest until the weather clears up a bit.
Living in downtown has a lot of advantage though. Most of the must see places in the city are at a walkable distance from our place. But since most of the Indian families live in communities located away from the city, we don't get to make as many new friends as we would have liked.

The Philadelphia Free library is a measly 10 minute walk from our place. If there's one place that has held our (my daughter's and mine) sanity, it has to be the library. Stuck in a new city with perpetual cold and snow and no new families or friends to meet, we have spent many a afternoon scouring the library aisles. Their children's section is a huge floor dedicated to the kids. They have a huge collection of books for every age. Apart from that, they not only have story reading and craft sessions that the kids really enjoy, they also have lego sets, puppet animals and faux veggie-fruit-kitchen sets for the kids to enjoy. And let me not even start with the number of titles they have for the adults. It's been close to 4 months here, and I have yet not explored everything there is.

And because the snow and cold make sure we aren't doing any outdoors activity, we have visited quite a few museums in the city. The main difference that I find between the museums here and the ones back home is that these guys definitely know the art of presentation. We may have a lot more history, art and culture to showcase, but we definitely aren't able to package it as well. If you are ever in this part of the country, do plan to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art (showcases art from classic to abstract to modern), Academy of Natural  Sciences (famous for dinosaur fossils and life size replicas), National  Museum of American Jewish history (shows the history of Jews living in America through the World Wars) and The Franklin Institute (Museum of science, biology, including a telescope for star gazing). Leaving you with some pictures...

LED screens clustered together to look like ruffled papers @ American Jewish Museum

A huge sandstone book that doubles up as a slide for kids @American Jewish Museum

That's us! :)

That's a "thin" human brain slice @Frankiln Science Institute

Simulated dinosaur eggs for the kids @Academy of Natural Sciences

That's a real fossilized dinosaur egg colony @Academy of Natural Sciences

A life size replica of a human heart. It has an entrance and an internal staircase with red walls and a maze that showcases  the process of blood pumping @Franklin Science Institute


That's a REAL "mummy" @Academy of natural sciences
My beloved Library :-)

That is a complex network of neurons, which are connected to intelli light and sound system.
The best part: everyone is allowed to get on it and understand how it works.

That's my little paleontologist at work @ Academy of Natural Sciences
And so, until spring arrives, and until we can go out of the city to explore the mountains and the beaches, I will continue being a tourist in the city that I live :-)