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April 27, 2011

27.04.2011

Dearest Ashu,


You turn six today! Like your Perimma remarked the other day, you are not a kid anymore. But a young girl! At least that's what the the clothing store is labeling you. You look quite grown up all of a sudden too. You talk like one most definitely. You are so profound at times that I go completely speechless. One day I spilled some milk on the kitchen counter and was cleaning it. You happened to be there and I told you, "See Ashu? It was an accident. I spilled some milk and I'm mopping it. Everyone makes mistakes and its OK!" Because you think you are Miss.Perfect and whenever you make some mistakes, you go out of your way to defend yourself and we both always get into an argument over that! For which you replied, "You have your mistakes, Amma. I have mine" and walked away. Whats the word? Yes, speechless. You are also brutally honest. Like the other day when you asked me to draw a heart for you and I did. When I asked you how the heart looked you said, "Its not perfect. But its better than mine." Sigh.



As always, we traveled a lot this year too and my heart swells with pride to see what a good traveler you are. Whether it was our week long Norway trip where I did nt include anything kid oriented just because it was our anniversary trip or the Yosemite road trip from San Jose or the camping trip or the annual trips to the US and India, the special Kerala trip this year or the local trips within Swiss or the recent Disneyland trip, I cant remember you giving me trouble for anything anywhere. I so wish you teach a thing or two to your sister though! You also spent loads of time with your Grand Parents, Perimma & Perippa and various other relatives and friends and like I repeat every year, don't forget how lucky you are that they are part of your life. Especially your Perippa who came all the way from the US to surprise you on your birthday this year armed with gifts. What a treat!



You became a Kinder Garten Girl this year and to see you so proud of your school, class, teachers and friends is heart achingly beautiful. You think your teachers know everything and even your Super-Mom comes only second to them. It makes me so happy that you are in such a healthy and cheerful environment when you are away from home. G has been with you for the third year in a row and am crossing my fingers for the next. You had a fantastic time skiing this season with your best buddy S. You danced on stage with 5 other little girls. Twice. Though the swimming classes keep getting interrupted, you love water. Another thing you love is climbing. Last year the same time, I never thought that you would do these things. I cant believe that the rather reserved five year old Ashu disappeared although I see her now and then. But that's because you are selective. Which is really brilliant, if you ask me. I wish I were like that. And oh, you eat Broccoli. Willingly.



Although you seem to be a serious girl, you can be downright silly when you want to be. Right to the point of annoying. God knows why you save those phases only for me though! While you talk like a grown up about certain things, I'm glad you have your childish innocence intact too. Like how you wanted the Ben 10 t-shirt and when I gently asked you when you are planning to wear it, you replied, "I will wear to school, Amma! I don't care if people think only boys wear Ben 10 clothes." And when we were reading some happily ever after story, you remarked, "You know, Amma? Even a man and a man can marry. Woman and woman too!" I don't know where that came from but am glad it did. You are still obsessed with being a twin and I'm dreading the day you ll start reading the St.Clare's series because that's when my obsession began. With the O'Sullivan twins. I apologize in advance, OK? It was nt in my hands. Because if I could have had two of you, I most certainly would have.



Antu and you are inseparable these days. It might sound outright silly to you but I drop whatever it is I'm doing and start listening to your conversations on the sly because they are unbearably cute! The way you look out for your sister is amazing. Whether its holding the elevator doors for her or helping her climb a chair or help her dress up, you are there for her 100%. I used to think that my sister was born an older sis. She was so mature and responsible even at a very young age. God knows why I doubted you when I was expecting Antu. You have turned out exactly like that. The other day in the park, you and I were sitting on the steps and eating a snack while Antu and a little older boy were running around in circles. Antu was following him like a puppy and both our gazes were following them. Then the boy turned a corner out of our vision and Antu followed him. Even before I said something or got up, you were up and running behind Antu. It took you only a split second to do that and I was totally amazed. How did you know to do that? Was it instinctive? I have never been more proud of you than that moment. May you and Antu always look out for each other. That's my only prayer. Happy 6th Birthday, Darling!


Love,

Amma.

April 25, 2011

Disneyland.

We went to the Disneyland in Paris and came back home yesterday exhausted and bankrupt. What a money pit! The kids of course had fun but the way Antu was enjoying in the hotel lobby and thinking that that was Disneyland, we could have easily fooled Ashu too and could have had a cheaper vacation!!! Hd and I had been to Disneyland some 9 years back and I remember how excited I was and how much I enjoyed the make-believe world! And when we planned to go during the spring break as a birthday gift for Ashu, she was ecstatic. A few of her friends have been there and she had a general idea about the place. For the past one month, we talked about nothing but Disneyland. At last the D day arrived last Wednesday and after a hearty breakfast and a packed lunch, we piled the kids in the car and took off. Eight hours and a million "Are we in Disneyland yet?" later, we arrived at the Dream Castle Hotel. The hotel lobby was like a theme park in itself with loads of coin operated rides and games and Antu screamed "Yay! Disneyland!" and dived head first into the ball pit! Like I said, we should have taken a hint and had our vacation just there!

The next morning all excited we drove off to the theme park. Ashu spotted the castle and was in high spirits. We parked our car in the huge parking lot and walked and walked and walked some more to the entrance only to find the entire world and its uncle standing in line to get in! Spring break and Disneyland! What was I even thinking?! We entered and took the sights in and all excitedly I was showing Ashu everything. Straight to Fantasyland of course and we began our marathon "standing-in-line" with the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ride. To say that Ashu was terrified would be an understatement! Such a jujube ride but she got so scared because it was dark and when the evil queen turned around, she was a witch! I think its time to toughen up the kid with some real Kollywood masala films! When we went and stood in line for the Peter Pan ride, the entire time we were waiting(which would be 45 minutes!) she kept saying "I dont want to go!" But of course she loved the ride and wanted to go again once we were done! I told her that theres no going AGAIN in Disneyland and that happens only in the hotel lobby! Antu of course was a total daredevil throughout. She wanted to go on the Carousel and even that had a 70 minute waiting time! Promised her that I ll take her on the carousel in the park near our house and ran away! We had some lousy lunch and stood in more lines and went on more rides and just before 4 pm, came back to the Main Street and plonked our behinds in the hard ground so as to save seats to watch the Disney Parade which begins at 5 pm. While the dad and daughter duo walked off to explore more, a sleeping Antu in her stroller and me with a heavy back saved seats for them while inhaling secondhand smoke! (Welcome to France!) I am sure this was Thirupathi Venkatachapalathy's plan of secret revenge on me when I got so annoyed standing in lines for hours in Thirupathi this one time long, long ago and swore I would never go there again! (Sorry Balaji!) Antu woke up in time for the parade and the sheer joy in the kids faces when they saw the parade was almost worth it. I said almost! Then we went on the most awesome ride ever - The Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. That was the only ride we went on again the next day too! After a dinner of fries and hot chocolate(Naanga Vegetarians kettelaa?) we left the place finally at 10 pm after twelve straight hours. We all slept even before our heads hit the bed.


The next day was almost rinse and repeat except that we spent half a day in the nearby Walt Disney Studios which was relatively less crowded and was loads of fun. Hd had also reserved a table for us in one of the restaurants where the Disney characters came to visit. So Ashu was in heaven and armed with an autograph book and a pen, hounded Mickey, Minnie, Woody, Pluto, Goofy, etc... for their signatures. We also met Sully and Buzz and Ashu had this fantastic idea that she can sign all their names by herself, why wait in line! Excellent point, I thought! We bought a fastpass for the Buzz Lightyear ride and went on it again taking turns since Antu was napping. There was a mile long line even to get the fastpass! We also managed to lose Antu for 10 seconds which felt like an eternity and madam was cooly walking off with another family! May be she was trying to tell me something! And the polar opposite Ashu who thought she got lost even though I was watching her and burst into tears! Sigh! What an odd pair of sisters! We "showed" the kids the Disney Store and quickly vamoosed out of it! Pagal kollai! The kids were also good as gold and did nt open their mouths. I did want to buy a costume for Ashu after seeing every other kid walking in a Princess costume or a Peter Pan costume but Ashu was very particular about what she wanted and would nt settle for anything less and lucky for me and unlucky for her, the stores there did nt stock it! Phew. Because if they did, we would have to sell our car to pay for the costume and walk back home!

The third day we drove to the city and showed the popular sights to Ashu from the car. We only stopped near the Eiffel tower to take a few pictures and then proceeded to Saravana Bhavan for lunch. Parking was a nightmare there and the customer service even more nightmarish! Hd literally had to restrain me from punching that sorry excuse of a waiter! At last we left around 5 pm and around 10 pm, decided to break the journey and stayed in a hotel on the highway and came home only the next day. We also experienced a hail storm which came out of nowhere and surprised us. Wonder whats with us and hail storms. Happened once before too. Anyway, we had a good break and the kids had super fun. Parent trap or not, we ll always have Disneyland! :)

April 16, 2011

Bye- Byes and BFFs.

S and I came to Zurich pretty much the same time a little more than 4 years back. I would nt say we clicked immediately. Im sure the prim and proper S said Hi to me so as not to be rude! :) Her daughter, another S, and Ashu are of the same age. Their birthdays are a week apart. Our respective husbands were working for the same company then. This was all it needed to become friends in a strange country. Our friendship grew with each meeting and I think it was sealed when I announced I was pregnant with Antu and she said, "me too!" She went on to have a beautiful baby boy 2 months after Antu was born. I was in heaven. We compared notes on breast feeding, sleep training, teething, ... and we were truly together in sickness and health! :)

Its so difficult to develop friendships once ones out of school and college. There seems to be a little formality especially when you see the other person as the husband's colleague's wife. I think I crossed that stage when more than a year back when I was really sick and Hd was traveling and I picked up the phone and the only person I could call was S. I decided she is my BFF whether she likes it or not! Also, shes immensely creative and talented and has magic in her hands. It would be easy to have her as a friend and admire her instead of being distant and jealous! ;)

We went on many trips together as a family and our daughters bonded. Too bad that Antu and Y could nt follow their sisters' footsteps. (Though Antu did bully the boy whenever she got a chance!) Their decision to go back to India happened very suddenly and before I could get over the shock, they were packed and ready to go. Two weeks is too less to reminisce about the four years together. Eight of us ladies went to dinner on Friday to bid adieu to S and we ended up laughing so much that my jaw still hurts. I could nt have cried even if I wanted to. Then we met them again on Sunday for lunch. Ashu wrote and illustrated a book for her BFF instead of an usual card. It was uber sweet.

Bye bye, dear Friend. You will be sorely missed. Like Ashu said, "Its so unfair!" When I told another friend that S was leaving, her immediate reaction was, "Oh God! What are you going to do?" Sigh! What AM I going to do without you, S? :(

April 12, 2011

CSA – A Father’s perspective.

(A guest post written by the husband on Child Sexual Abuse Awareness.)

It is not too long back that I realized that Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is so rampant in our society. I was horrified to hear about stories of young girls being abused by uncles and good friends from the neighbourhood. At first I couldn’t even comprehend the fact that a 4 or 5 year old could be sexually abused! Yes I have been na├»ve and I am ashamed about my lack of awareness. It is painful to note that CSA is rampant in the current world. A few weeks back there was a news of a mother making pornographic video with her 2 year old. This news really brought tears to my eyes and my heart sank.

I grew up as an only child and was brought up in a bubble by my parents. I have been so lucky that I was not even aware about such a serious abuse being faced by many of my friends during my school days. Ofcourse I was aware of the senseless brushes, vulgar looks of men and how they train their eyes on young school going girls when they travel by public buses. It never used to disturb me then when I was a boy. I just used to think yes these guys are really rogues but nothing beyond. Now I see and understand the long lasting scars that such unpardonable acts leave on people’s lives.

As a father I am starting to feel so paranoid and insecure about the world into which I have got my kids into. Their innocence and the world surrounding them makes me feel so guilty and helpless at times. How am I going to protect my kids as a parent and how to ensure that my child comes and tells me about a bad touch or a bad intentional approach by a friend or stranger? These days even when I meet with my friends in a kid’s birthday party, I get so conscious before I hug or kiss a child for his or her birthday. Even with my own kids, I sometimes get conscious and ask a question if I am really overdoing it when I hug or kiss them. Such thoughts makes me wonder..God what kind of a world I am in and why is my mind starting to think in lines that I never imagined a few years back. And what are we going to do to make this world a better place for our kids.

I think it is important to educate our children from the age of 4 onwards about good touch and bad touch. We need to constantly let our children knowhow it is important to be open to parents when a friend or a family member behaves in a weirdly affectionate way with them. It is very tricky to educate kids about such an issue at such an age. I pains me to realize how we as parents need to sensitize our kids about such evil issues at such a tender age and still how helpless we are in this world as we cannot always be around and watchful with our kids at school and public places, etc., I am not even sure if such education at tender age is going to have the desired impact on our children or it is just going to clutter or complicate a beautiful mind. At the same time I also realize that we have no other option in this world. There is no point in being in denial. We need to reinforce the importance of this matter in our children and hope that they come and tell us at the first instance when they see or face such an act.

The most worrying point is that I am still very doubtful if our kids will be comfortable to come and report such incidents to mom or dad. CSA is a real evil and unpardonable offense that occurs widely across the world. But it has been such a taboo issue that people like me are starting to realize about the wide spread prevalence of this menace only now. I would like to laud the bloggers for their efforts to put up this CSA awareness blog. Its time we spoke about it.

April 02, 2011

What a Match!

Boo and kids Venue: P's house.
Who was present? P, me and 3 more moms and kids. (Their respective husbands were all traveling.)
Menu: Dal, paneer, pajma, rice, rotis, puris, tiramisu, cake, muffins, tea,...

HD's Venue: D's house.
Who was present? The host and 3 more families.
Menu: Rice, stew, dal, salad, apple crumble,...

HD's second innings Venue: A pub.
Who was present - A friend and 100 more cricket fans!
Menu: Beer!

This information is so that everyone knows what we were doing and where we were when History was made! Though Im sad that Hd and I were nt together, it was better this way. Why, you ask? Because we both watched Ind Vs Eng in D's house and it was a tie. Hd watched Ind Vs SA there and we lost. Hd was in Amsterdam and I was home for the Ind Vs Aus and we won. Hd was in Geneva and I was home for the crucial Ind Vs Pak match and we won! So of course we had to get separated for the greater good! Im nothing if not logical! ;) So when Tendulkar got out and Hd called and said he was still in D's house, I yelled at him like I ve never yelled before and asked him to hit the pub asap as per our original plan! Im sure the man caught the train before I could change my mind! So now you know why we won! :) Good job, Team India! I am glad we lived to see this day and not carry the picture of Kapil Dev and his 1983 trophy to our graves!

So where were you?