What I’ve been up to

Now that the kids are older, we’ve been doing something new with them every weekend. Over Chinese New Year, One weekend we did a hike in our extended neighbourhood. It was beautiful. Another weekend I took the kids to the India by the Bay family day, which was a series of India-themed activities. Another weekend, we decided to go fly a kite. This is not as simple as it looks because kite flying is not permitted everywhere in Hong Kong. In fact, to avoid disappointment, I identified a country park with a ‘designated kite flying area’. Unfortunately, when we got there, there was little wind. However, the park itself was beautiful, and we hung about, the kids climbing trees, then chasing people with dogs and asking if they could pet them. And finally, the wind picked up and we did fly the kite – V is a veteran in this regard, and I must say I think he enjoyed the activity the most.

***

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what comes after the PhD, seeing as I’m in the final semester. The unfortunate thing in Hong Kong is that a permanent teaching position at the university level seems unlikely the first year, and I’m probably going to have to scramble with part-time positions, and probably earn less than I did when I was a student. Which is patently ridiculous. But it is what it is, so I’ve been scrambling to put together a CV and references and teaching portfolio and what not, when all I want to do is focus on writing my PhD. And of course, writing a CV makes me feel inadequate because I feel like other people have more attractive things on their CV. Hmph.

***

Since Nene graduated from kindergarten, the playdates have eased off and I have to say I’m relieved. Well, towards the end it was helpers and kids going for playdates which suits me, but I did feel guilty about not inviting the moms over. Well, last week, Nene started asking for a playdate with his new friend, and here we go again. Of course, he had to pick a kid who lives in a big house, has a car etc. The kind of kid whose parents think using the MTR is an adventure and not a regular mode of transport, and then arranging it so we can take a car instead. The mums are always nice about it, but I feel poor in comparison. I become conscious of the size of my house, the fact that we have a cupboard in our living room that contains a mix of clothes, toys and even some food. That I do not possess matching sets of tea cups. I struggle to think of what food to serve etc. I cannot seem to present things in the proper twee way. Like buying pre-packaged cups of fruit instead of just chopping up fruit at home and putting it in an extant plastic container. I always feel like I should have done something more gracefully, while being in the end unwilling to drum up the requisite enthusiasm to actually do things gracefully. Right now I’m blaming it on my house not having enough space to be a graceful host. Bah.

***

I have finally come to agree with what V has been saying for a long time. We have way too much stuff (for our house… and thereby income… size). I finally reached my own bottomline, and began a massive clean-up. I realised the collection of books we’ve accumulated for the kids over the years had to be pruned drastically (my own collection I am selfishly hanging on to, but to be fair, I have shipped off some books to my mum, and might send others to my in laws). I sorted through, advertised on our neighbourhood and to my surprise, they were taken eagerly and quickly. Next, I sorted through and ruthlessly culled their collection of arts and crafts from school over the past two to three years. I realised that what looks too precious to dump is much easier to let go off three years down the line when you’ve accumulated a garbage bag of similar stuff. So now we’ve down to a few largish folders each. Finally, I took a critical eye to my own collection of books and found at least 10 I could let go off. Next stop, the toy boxes.

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I am coming to terms with

my paunch.

It first became apparent that it was what it was – a paunch, and not period-related bloating- around November, and I did have a minor panic attack because I had two weddings to attend in December and a dress to fit into. And it also became apparent that mild dieting (i.e. cutting out chocolate after dinner and exercise which is all I’m capable of) was not going undo the excesses of our birthday month plus the adoption of the two-samosas-at-teatime and kebab roll at lunch tradition.

Yes, the above had become a thing since a kebab franchise opened an outlet at the uni, and it was like manna from heaven, because the food on campus sucks . The only tolerable food to be found is way across campus, and so the arrival of a desi food option right at my doorstep was too much to resist and for a good month or so, it was biryani or roll for lunch and quite often if I’m honest, samosas for tea. Until I realized that it was showing quite obviously on my belly. Once period-related bloating was ruled out as an explanation, I briefly considered that I might have ovarian cancer, but seeing as I had been eating a lot of fatty food, I think I figured I needed to just face that it was my own gluttony to blame.

For the  weddings, I briefly considered wearing spanx, and even bought a pair of slimming underwear (unfortunately, I bought a cheapie one from a roadside stall manned by Chinese grannies, don’t ask. And it turned out it was small for me. That’s what you get for being delusional and not buying the large size when in China). However, my brief trial of said underwear in which my girdle actually looked like a sausage or a pair thereof convinced me that having my middle squeezed in the service of fashion was not for me. While I wanted to look nice at the wedding, I also wanted to eat at the wedding, because, well, the buffet.

So instead of investing in more expensive spanx that I would probably not wear, I bought a new dress that while not exactly hiding all the bulges made them look tolerable. My other dress option was A-line and fluid, therefore buffet friendly. I am pleased to report that I got lots of compliments and for photos I had Mimi stand in front of me covering my middle, just to be extra sure.

I was counting on falling sick after India and losing the paunch but unfortunately fortunately that did not happen (the falling sick that is). I’ve been exercising since, and I’ve cut the kebab stuff out of my lunch plan (sob!) but the paunch remains.

I’m now on the verge of making my peace with it. Instead of being constantly conscious of it and trying to suck it in at odd moments, or nitpick through my wardrobe for tops that might hide it, I am just going to let.it.go. And if the odd person in the MTR gives me their seat thinking I am pregnant, I will graciously accept in lieu of those many times when I was indeed pregnant and noone gave me their seat.

ETA: Okay, I started feeling twinges in my back and realised I cannot let the paunch get out of control because I cannot deal with the physiological effects of it. I am actually exercising, so hopefully it will stay at little poochie level.

Dare I say it?

But for the last three months or so, my period has been bearable.

Yeah sure, it’s a bloody mess and I’d rather not skip it altogether. But, with careful management (i.e. vegging in bed for the better part of two days), it is not so bad. I haven’t even needed a painkiller. Heh.

This, after actually trying to get a grip on the thing by exploring contraceptive pills. That was a very shortlived exploration because the pill I took made me lightheaded and nauseous and although I actually bought a different pill to try, I couldn’t find it in me to actually try it and risk the same symptoms plus another period when I stopped. The fact is that I have a sensitive stomach and any oral medication is likely not going to be without side effects.

The fact is that my period just arrived in 23 days and not at the most convenient time, but now that I’ve accepted that it is what it is, plus I do have the option of using a hormone to delay it if really needed, I don’t feel so bad about it.

Also, I’ve noticed that although my body feels crappy on the first/second day, my mood actually clears up. Like the world actually looks/feels better. Hormones are like drugs, yo.

Mythologies

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Although we are not bringing up our kids within a particular religious framework, I do not want to deprive them of the fabulous stories that religious mythologies offer. I think familiarity with these mythologies is a cultural and academic advantage apart from their imaginative possibilities. The danger, I think, is taking these mythologies as dogma, which I hope the lack of religious framework will prevent.

Since I was raised Christian my childhood was steeped in Christian mythology, with other religious stories being deliberately excluded, and I felt this lack later when I was fuzzy on even the basic Hindu stories that are so intertwined in the cultural life of India. On the other hand, at least I was familiar with one mythology.

When it came to my kids, I had no particular preference in terms of the order in which I introduced particular mythologies to them, but I would have assumed that I would have started with the Christian one. Instead, it so happened that we got started on Hindu mythology, following the Amma Tell Me About … series. I think it may have started when I borrowed from our local library, no less, for a presentation on Diwali at the kids’ kindergarten and they really enjoyed the story. I was also reading up on Hindu mythology myself for the PhD so our interests dovetailed nicely. The library had several of the other books in the series, on Krishna, Holi, etc. and we went through these too. Finally, the kids got me to order the whole set of 10 books for them.

While these books do a good job of concisely retelling the myths in terms of covering the major aspects of each story and the illustrations are lovely, I think the author falls into the trap of trying to use rhyme and therefore ends up using some unwieldy words. Using rhyme in children’s books is a fine art – it is hard to use age appropriate language and not seem like one is stretching oneself to fit the sentence into the rhyme scheme. Also, the morals at the end of each book reduce the complexity of the myths. For example. Rama is associated with “goodness and virtue”, Laxman with “loyalty” and Sita with being the “ideal companion and wife”. You can see why I have a problem with this right? Sita is, as is typical for women, reduced to being an adjunct to Rama. Which to be fair she mainly is, but the original myths allow for her to assert herself particularly when she refuses a second agnipariksha, a part of the myth that is omitted in this series. In fact, when Nene was glorifying Rama as the ideal, the best, etc. I just couldn’t resist telling him that even our heroes make mistake and mentioned Rama sending Sita back to the forest and putting her through an agnipariksha. To say he was shocked would be an understatement. I’m happy that he got at once that this was less than ideal behaviour on Rama’s part without me having to explain.

***

Once while having lunch with a friend from Mainland China, she brought up religion. She is being increasingly drawn to religion – something she didn’t have access to on the Mainland – as a panacea for what she terms her ‘political sickness’ (i.e. her sense of disgust, sadness, bewilderment at the social injustices resulting out of the political system in China, which have been worsening over recent years).  We are both moving in opposite directions: She grew up with no religion and now coming to it as an adult; I grew up steeped in religion and have moved away from it as an adult.

She asked me: How do you teach children good values without religion?

My answer: Harry Potter.

When I think about where I got my values, it was, yes, partly religion but also my parents’ role modelling and Enid Blyton books. The latter, I think, played an even stronger role in shaping my value system than Christianity did. I had a very Blytonesque belief in honesty, loyalty, “being plucky” etc. While I’m not entirely comfortable with her British upper class assumptions anymore, I believe Harry Potter provides the ideal substitute for today’s children.

In fact, much of the underlying mythology of Harry Potter is Christian but refined for our times. Harry Potter also is remarkable for evading absolutism and showing that every character has shades of grey (making it more like Hindu mythology in that sense).

A while ago, I rewatched the series and the kids tried to watch with me, but it proved too scary. Recently, though, Nene asked me to read the books to him. And so began a new tradition. Every day for the past few weeks, we’ve been reading a bit of the books. We’ve finished The Philosopher’s Stone and are now on Chamber of Secrets. The kids even watched the first movie and enjoyed it because they knew the storyline. We did fastforward past the scariest Voldemorte part even though Nene begged us not to. I’m more ambivalent about Chamber of Secrets, even the book, because the voice in Harry’s head is kind of scary. I probably might stop at the second book, though Nene is not going to be happy.

Still, I’m happy that we have started on this particular mythology.

***

In between, I found that Mimi was getting a little impatient with the Harry Potter story. It is kind of complex for a five-year-old without tolerance for scary parts. She had been asking me Jesus for a while, so I suggested to her that we could read the Bible instead.

In comparison to the exciting happening in the Hindu myths, the Bible stories seem tame and hadn’t caught  my kids’ fancy. I had tried reading to them from a children’s Bible gifted to us but without much success. Last year, during Easter, when they got curious about the festival, I decided it was high time they knew at least the basics, and read them out the crucifixion party. They enjoyed that story, but I think they were more transfixed by the blood and gore aspect of being nailed to a cross than the edifying moral of personal sacrifice. Which wouldn’t come through unless one knew the whole story. Further attempts to read from the Bible did not bear fruit. Then this December when we were in Goa, we visited a mechanical crib – which is basically a large-size crib set up in a compound with moving elements – and I explained to the kids the story as we walked through and they were very fascinated.

So, last week, I decided to skip the Old Testament and start with the Christmas story. So far, Mia has been pretty interested. Again, I’m not 100 per cent pleased with the Bible I have. The pictures are good and the length of each section ideal, but there are some aspects of the story that I’m not sure about, plus it has a tad too much sacred language (well, okay, it’s a Bible, but kids who are not brought up in the faith might be nonplussed at “the Lord God Almighty” type phrasing).

***

Recommendations for mythology retellings appropriate to six years olds are welcome. I’m looking for stories that stick to the major original tales, not reinterpretations for the moment. Though retellings that focus on the women in Hindu mythology would be welcome. Also Muslim religious stories for kids? I remember reading someone has recently done one, but not sure there’s an illustrated version. Of course, we should do A Thousand and One Nights at some point, but that’s a different genre I think.

 

 

 

Back to the grind

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During the meetup with Nene’s kindergarten friends, I got chatting with the other two mums. One of them has gone back to work outside the home  part-time. The other expressed her desire to and yet she’s not sure whether she can manage it. These are both highly qualified women – one is a PhD, the other is a accountant who worked for a Big Four firm – before they chose to put their careers on hold to dedicate themselves to raising their children. I am the odd-one-out, both in terms of age but also because I never seriously considered staying at home full time to raise the kids.

Among the reasons, we discussed for going back to work was the satisfaction of doing something unrelated to the kids and the home and also the professional validation that is lacking no matter how well one does one’s job as a homemaker. The money does not seem to be a major consideration for these two women, but I think being paid something, even if it’s not a big amount is important too.

I said that I never considered staying at home because anyway I’m terrible at domestic duties. One of the mums dismissed that saying that if I had to do it, I’d do it well. Her theory is that people who are not doing a good job are just not trying. I’m not so sure. I think people have talents and some things are harder for some people, not to mention some things just don’t interest some people. Being able to have a choice is of course a privilege but even among those that don’t have a choice, there are some people that possibly just can’t do some things to satisfy high standards. For example, my helper E always told us she’s not a good cook, and although she cooks for us, and has got some recipes down well, time has proved that indeed cooking is not her forte, not for lack of trying.

However, if I’m honest, my decision to keep working through pregnancy and after maternity leave was because:

  1. I like going to work. The job I was doing before I had kids didn’t make me want to eat my own hand at the thought of going in on Monday. The job I have now is my dream. So.
  2. I don’t think I could domestic and/or child-related things 24/7. It is just not my interest.
  3. I like earning enough money to say I can support myself, even if right now my income significantly falls short of what would be needed to run a household.

Not doing these three things would mess with my sense of security and mental stability. So.  In our case, we need the money too (as do most families with kids in Hong Kong.). Going back to work is not something I feel guilty about, and I’m pretty sure I’d feel this way regardless of whether our financial situation required me to work outside the home or not. I’m fortunate to have great help with the kids and right now enough flexibility to participate in their stuff and this is not everyone’s situation. But it’s mine and for that I am grateful.

 

 

Chinese New Year

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Chinese New Year is the biggest local festival, and it took having kids for me to really get into it. Before that, like most expats, we’d plan a trip overseas for the long holiday. One year, even before the kids, we stayed home and realized it was actually quite nice.

This year, V booked his company holiday home on Lantau island for a two day staycation. Lantau is my favourite Hong Kong getaway, but I was a little miffed because I wasn’t sure winter was the right time to go to a place famous for its beach. Well, okay, hiking trails too but given that our kids are young, how much of that were we going to do?

Turns out, quite a lot.

We ended up getting the longer, slow ferry out, but the advantage of this is that the deck is open and the kids spent the entire ride gazing out to sea, the wind blowing through their hair.


 

Landing in Mui Wo, we fortified ourself with some McDonald’s before shopping for provisions to take with us to the flat. Seeing as it was going to be the CNY weekend, we weren’t sure what would be available the next couple of days.

The next morning, we went for a little hike, following a buffalow trail and landing down near a rocky beach.

 

Then, we did a little BBQ. I’m not a great fan of BBQs in general mainly because of the effort it takes to start the fire and then the varied to substandard quality of the food actually produced as a result of the effort. This time was a case in point because we purchased meat from the little shop at the holiday home and it was not stellar, not to mention that the fire took ages to start. So much so that V who had insisted on buying two days worth of provisions ended up giving up on the idea of doing another BBQ (thank God!).

After that, I drummed up the energy to take the kids to the beach. I thought it would be warm being post-noon by then, but it was actually overcast and quite cold. Nene ended up being completely disobedient and racing into the freezing water, as a result of which they really couldn’t spend much time on the beach since once he got out he found it too cold.

That evening we went to Mui Wo and the kids had a really good time in the local park. We then wandered around in search of a restaurant. The local Chinese joint was packed, so we landed up in Kitchen, and I highly recommend it. The Ceasar salad was one of the best we’ve had ever, the pizza was great though the burger was a little on the dry side.

 

The next morning, we did another hike and meandered into a little village. I could see V’s eyes lighting up because it’s exactly the life he would like to lead and he can never believe it’s possible in Hong Kong.


Then I proved my supermum capabilities by taking the kids to the beach. This time, they stuck to the sand, though they did get wet in the end. It was super pleasant sitting near a group of buffaloes and just watching the ocean as the kids played. I’m definitively an ocean person, I’ve decided.

And then it was time to go home. As usual, the kids fell asleep just as it was time to leave a transport option – Mimi in the ferry just as it was about to dock in Central forcing us to take  a cab and then nene in the cab just as we reached home. En route, we discovered that neither V nor I had taken a key and we had no idea how we were going to get into our house since our helpers were off for CNY. Turns out they are smarter than us and left the door unlocked (which is not such a big scandal in an apartment complex like ours). But in the confusion, we ended up leaving Nene’s schoolbag somewhere… turns out it had been left in the lift lobby itself and not the taxi, so we were able to get it back.


The highlight of Monday was watching the lion dance at our apartment. I can never get over the excitement of that. It’s my favourite part of the festival.

On Tuesday, I had planned a playdate with Nene’s besties from kindergarten. They had not seen each other since they went into primary school so I wasn’t sure how they would get one, but they really enjoyed themselves, so much so that we got them together again in the week.

And that was our CNY weekend. The four days flew by quite nicely and productive and I have to say I actually feel like a new year has started on 1 February.

 

 

 

Gratitude

A couple of years ago, I started doing a gratitude challenge on Instagram. In addition to helping me focus on the good parts of each day, when I analysed what I had been grateful for over the month, there were some surprising results.

This year, I decided to do it again. This time, I must admit, I didn’t reflect on my day as much. Because the challenge overlapped with my India holiday, I lost track. I also tended to focus on the prompt and to take pictures to reflect the prompt, because it’s not necessary to stick to the order of the prompts. I think the whole thing was more haphazard this year, but also one thing was evident to me.

I am most grateful for my children. They are a huge source of happiness in my life. Their presence, the charming things they say, the way they enable me to see the world with fresh eyes and push me out of my comfort zone, getting me to do stuff I end up enjoying but that I would otherwise not have tried or been too lazy to actually do.

As a person who was never into kids, this is a huge and unexpected change in my personality and life. It is why I encourage people to have at least one kid, one’s situation allowing for this of course. By this, I don’t mean that I go about evangelizing the need for people to have children, but if someone who is ambivalent asks my opinion on the subject, my answer is usually positive. I agree that I am fortunate to have great help in raising my children, but had that not been the case, I would still advocate having one child, again if one’s general life situation allows for it.

I am sure there are people out there that regret their decision to have kids, and that these narratives need to be told and heard too.

In my case, though, despite the stresses that children put on my body, my finances, my marriage, my lifestyle, my emotional and mental wellbeing, overall, when I do a cost-benefit analysis, the sheer joy, breath of learning and general fun they bring to my life trumps the negatives.

PS: The second thing that I seem most grateful for is my job, the opportunity to do the PhD. The third is probably living in Hong Kong. This is just my overall impression.

Mine 

[To Mimi, on her fifth birthday]

Mine. That’s what I named you. 

You were the baby girl I always wanted. Even though I really did not expect to be expecting five months after your brother was born. I did not know then you were the baby girl I always wanted. 

You were mine, and then I became yours. You claimed me, loudly  intensely, entirely. You would brook no argument. Mine, you said, my mummy, only mine, always mine. 

Okay darling. 

I surrender. 

***

Our resident diva, nothing about you was expected. Your arrival, the way you stubbornly sat in my stomach and refused to turn, the way you decided for me when and how you would arrive, your stubbornness as a baby, how you would refuse to be distracted when you wanted something. Your curls, your temper, the tempest of your emotions, the thunderstorm of your love, your intense concentration, your determination to be pretty and to dash my theories with your pursuit of the feminine. 

In so many ways we are similar. Our tastes – we can only eat those particular fish, we only like chocolate and not much else sweet, we prefer salt. Our passion for animals – how you can spend ours lavishing attention on one particular puppy. Our love of fashion. Our touch-me-notness.

And possibly our drama. I was never so dramatic, I like to think. But lately I see your storms mirror mine, at least in their vocabulary. 
It took French feminism for me to understand you, to understand us. Dare I say it, I understand you best. I can see the emotions battle on your face and these days I know where they come from. 

You test me every other day, and if I can conquer my emotions around you, I will be well on the road to sainthood. I’m not there yet, but I am trying, always trying.

Always yours. 

Best India trip ever

While I love the idea of the kids going to India, meeting family and friends and partaking of all the crazy, it has hitherto always been an experience ranging on painful to tolerable with bouts of illness thrown in. Hence the term India Boot Camp, whereby I usually lose about 5 kg from the running around and serious illness post the trip every year. Last year was the exception – we found that the kids were able to do stuff independently and were actually enjoying themselves, leaving us time to breathe if not exactly smell the roses.

So we had positive expectations of this year, which I tried hard to temper because there’s nothing like an India trip proving to be a disaster (as I should well know). To add to the chaos fun, I had a cousin each on either side of my family getting married in Goa, so we had a third destination to the usual Bombay-Bangalore extravaganza.

***

We flew in on Cathay Pacific after ages, instead of the usual Jet Airways. Usually the Cathay tickets are uber expensive, but we booked well in advance plus V was able to get his ticket on miles thereby offsetting the additional cost. The huge bonus of this flight is that it lands in Mumbai at 10 pm, which is easier on everyone all around. Plus, the flight was really good – the food, the entertainment, and even the service (Cathay air hostesses are notable for their hauteur on the India sector, but I found them fine this time).


The experience was especially remarkable compared to Jet Airways which used to be my favourite airline, but has degenerated so badly. Not to mention that they completely screwed us on our domestic flight, by cancelling the direct flight from Bangalore to Goa, rebooking us on one that flies through Bombay (!) thereby ensuring that we would have missed the wedding we were going to Goa for, then refusing to book us on an earlier day unless we bought the tickets at full price (we had got all four tickets on miles, thanks to our advance planning), and finally trying to suggest that we pay a cancellation fee for getting out miles refunded (!).

***

My parents had a 40th wedding anniversary celebration in Bombay. I had been quite a grinch about the whole thing initially because I didn’t see the point of a party. We would have rather taken our parents on a nice holiday instead, but that couldn’t happen owing to the two weddings, plus for some reason my dad who is usually antisocial was in the mood to host his friends. In the end, it was rather sweet.The day started with mass, where we were sitting on the front row and Nene loudly asked: “When’s the party starting?” While I am no longer a church-goer, I used to enjoy the occasional service when I did attend, but not anymore. I felt like a sober person at a party where everyone else was drunk.

My parents had booked a room at a restaurant for the party, which turned out to be great. Initially, we had decided to do it at home simply because my mum thought there was too much work involved in organising an event. In this case though, nothing had to be organised except the cake for them to cut. It was a gathering of about 40 people, and I think everyone had a good time – well, at least my parents did. Maybe one day I will post the speech I wrote for my parents here, as a tribute to them.

***

I must concede that the Bangalore leg is easier on us than Bombay, because my in-laws have a yard. Also, my FIL has splurged on these little motorized vehicles for the kids that they entertain themselves by driving around endlessly. Our niece who is the same age as Nene practically stayed over the entire time, plus there is another older cousin living next door so we were basically around to remind them to eat, sleep and take the occasional toilet break. Which is how India trips with kids are supposed to be, according to me.


We stayed over at both SIL’s houses this time. One had a huge party for over a 100 guests or “just our first circle of friends” as she put it (my own first circle of friends is about 5 people). Christmas was at the in law’s place and while drama ensued over the work to be done, I was not involved (in the drama, not the work. Since my kids are older, I have self-appointed myself chief washer-upper at the in-laws place, seeing as I am kind of unfit for other traditional duties). One day we went to this indoor science-themed play area called Explorium on the outskirts of Indiranagar. It was pretty cool, though the kids discovered the upper level on 15 minutes before we were ready to leave (as always happens).


I did not eat an Andhra meal, partly because I was traumatized from the last time we went to Nagarjuna and I had to fend off Mimi’s meltdown. But I ate a superb breakfast every day (idli, dosa, appam and stew, iddi appam, neer dosa) cooked by a cousin’s wife. We visited the FIL’s farm, which I’ve decided is lovely what with the acres of trees, cows, geese, emus, and sundry animals, except the family as decided it’s probably best to sell it. I feel like the husband would do well as a farmer.


The only off note was that V got into this weird phase where he would refuse to help me when I asked him to help out with the kids and basically was on a mysterious and extended sulk for four days which lasted through Christmas. Apparently, I was speaking rudely to him, but you’d think he might just raise that issue instead of like going on the silent treatment, which I then reciprocated in kind. Unproductive and sad. The problem is that we aren’t used to working together I guess and have effed up communication strategies. It got better in the second half of the trip.

***

Then began our Goa leg. On the one hand I was looking forward to it. On the other, we had the whole extended clan down and I was wondering how we would balance meeting up and spending enough time with parents and the sister who I see only once every two years. In terms of actually bonding with immediate family, I had figured renting a house in Goa in which we could all stay would be easier (though crazy expensive at the time we had to be there) than squeezing into our parents flat in Bombay.

In that regard, it was a success. The house had some issues, but by the end of it, sister was musing about us investing in a holiday home in Goa. We had enough space, though we still managed to wake each other, because every sound carried in that house, plus there was a rooster that started crowing at 5 am and never stopped thereafter.

The beach was a short drive away – we had hired a car and my dad drove down so we had one handy – and we went every single day. After day 2, V was like “are you planning to go to the beach again?” and I was incredulous because what else do you do, especially when you have kids? I pointed out that when we had kids we went twice a day, only breaking to eat and nap, but he was not impressed and threatened to go to Margao (which is the opposite side of Goa) in pursuit of some sausage bun which he had eaten around 15 years ago. I thwarted that plan, and got him choriz buns from Infantaria and he ended up eating all three (well, he enjoyed them so much that I let him have the last one and then discovered Infantaria had packed three instead of four so there was none for me boo!). We were also at the beach by 10 am while other cousins would only traipse out of bed at 12 pm, so we missed a lot of shack bonding but we got enough time to mingle because there was a party every.single.night. Not complaining though maybe it got a bit much for V.

The weddings themselves were fun. The first one was unexpectedly more fun than the second maybe because the kids were well rested, and there was confetti and I believe that confetti must be a mandatory component for weddings with kids because even though confetti is just balls of thermocol, it provides so.much.entertainment. Also the band was great and the kids danced non stop. And by extension so did we. It’s been a while since I danced with V, which is a shocker considering we pretty much met and cemented our relationship on the dance floor.


The second wedding, the kids ended up getting sleepy one hour into it and though the saving grace was that we were staying at the resort itself, we weren’t entirely comfortable leaving them in the room by themselves, so we had to traipse up there every 20 minutes or so, until V got fed up and went to sleep. Unfortunately, I missed the whole masala section which is the thing I love dancing to at weddings.

It was nice catching up with cousins but I also think I’m not as connected to them as I used to be. Or maybe I’m older and other people’s foibles irk me more than it used to. It still was nice though. Cuter still was to see the second (or third) generation of cousins making a connection and using the three days with each other to roam around in gangs of various ages making mayhem. Goa was where my sister’s daughter Sisi and my kids really bonded, though it did mean Mimi was a bit left out or cast in the role of monster again.

***

And then it was back to Bombay. Although I had only two days, it was quite action packed. We did a family lunch at Saltwater Cafe. I had heard so much about it, and was ready for a break from the Indian food. However, I thought the food was good, but not amazing, though the ambience is nice and the service friendly (considering we had three quite raucous kids, though they were outshouted by the gang of ladies behind us).

In the evening, all the ladies and Nene ended up getting mehndi done. Sisi had been promised a henna tattoo in India, after my BIL came to collect her from school just as she was to get one there in San Fransisco. But in Goa, the ideal place for the henna tattoo, my sister realized Sisi was to be the flower girl for the weddings and so best not to have a henna tattoo. They have literally one day in Bombay to find someone, and a friend’s mum came through with a contact of a lady who would do it. Since she specialized in mehndi we suggested Sisi get that instead of a ‘tattoo’, and when we saw how intricate and beautiful the work was, all of us wanted one.


That evening my sister left with much pressure to visit her in the US.

The next day was dedicated to last minute shopping. V convinced me to go with him to Bandra market, and I have to say I enjoyed it. There are so many old school shops there. I ended up picking up activity books for the kids, hair clips for me, and sports bras from a lingerie shop run by men. Then, I spent an hour (or more) in Cotton World challenging myself to put down some items. I really should venture beyond just that one shop. Also, this meant that I didn’t have to time to buy gifts for anyone, and the spicy banana chips I love.

The thing is that our flight was scheduled for a 11 pm departure, which meant we left for the airport around 7.30 pm, which I am fine with because at least the kids walk through the airport awake instead of being channeled along groggily.

I must say I am more and more impressed by Bombay airport. First of all, it looks lovely on approach. Then the shops are great, and not crazy expensive luxury brands only. They have a kids play area, and even two golden retrievers for children (or people?) to pat! The food choices are good. The toilets are clean. The drinking water fountains work. On arrival into the airport, the corridors are lined with amazing art. This is the first world in India, and it starts at the approach road to the airport which auto rickshaws are not allowed to ply on. It is unreal, but I appreciate it’s execution because money is spent on many things in India, but the result often falls short.

***

At the end of our trip, we had heavy bags. Among them was the bag of medication I took for the kids that was relatively untouched. I am sitting on the couch eating the one packet of spicy banana chips my dad managed to find in the house and I had a lunch of Goa sausage. I am – touch wood – healthy, if tired and afflicted by a painful tonsil.

It has been our best holiday to India ever.

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