Sleeping and praying is very cute, but MY BLADDER IS NOT A COUCH. Please get off it pronto! Having to pee every half hour is kind of inconvenient. You could consider a swim upwards instead every now and then.
Sleeping and praying is very cute, but MY BLADDER IS NOT A COUCH. Please get off it pronto! Having to pee every half hour is kind of inconvenient. You could consider a swim upwards instead every now and then.
These two posts – Priya Ramani on why she doesn’t feel Indian (via Chandni) and OJ on her childhood – got me writing about something I’ve been thinking about for some time. My Indianness or lack of it.
OJ’s post conveyed so eloquently how some communities identify less with the Indian mainstream than others. Till I started working I never thought much about my Indianness or lack thereof. Studying in Christian institutions had somewhat insulated from the mainstream of Indian culture so that while there were many non-Christians in these institutions, the minority Christian way of life was also normalized. It was only when I stepped out of this world that I realised that I did not really share many of the things that bound other Indians together and that seemed to constitute Indianness.
Much of this, I realised, was due to the fact that I was Christian and grew up in a part of Bombay that used to be dominated by Christians. We have two churches and four convent schools within walking distance from my house and at least another four a 10 minute drive away. My world was even more insulated because I grew up in a colony in which all the flatowners were Christian. There were and are only two non-Christian families in my building.
Everyone spoke English, including the baniyas down the road and some of the maids. The ones that didn’t speak English were used to communicating with people who spoke really bad Hindi.
Language is the main thing that makes me feel not-quite-Indian. Even in Hong Kong, I get asked what language I speak at home and have to contend with surprise when I say English. I have to explain that I’m the minority and that the majority of Indians can speak at least one language (and often two) that is not English and that the privileged class can speak English as well.
I can speak only English comfortably. It is the language in which I dream and in which I communicate with all my family members. I learnt both Hindi and Marathi in school and my marks were decent, but it is testimony to the inadequacy of the Indian education system and the power of my photographic memory that a child can score the highest marks in Hindi in secondary school without being able to construct a single grammatically correct sentence on her own. None of my close friends who grew up in the same area can speak Hindi or Marathi fluently. Maybe if you had a live-in maid, your Hindi improved. We rarely had a live-in maid and our Maharashtrian part-time maid who my mom requested to speak to us only in Marathi decided she’d rather learn English (which she did!).
I have often been asked how come I can’t speak Konkani because I’m Goan. Most of the Goans I know who do not live in Goa communicate primarily in English. Generally their parents speak a smattering of Konkani, if at all, and probably their grandparents were fluent.
My maternal grandmother grew up speaking Portuguese in her family. She could also speak Konkani but generally it was spoken in the marketplace, not at home. When she was 14, the Portuguese were ousted and she was put in a boarding school in Panchgani where the medium of instruction was English. She couldn’t speak a word of English and they thought she was dumb. Now, she barely remembers Portuguese. She married and moved to Hyderabad where she picked up the quaint Hindi that Hyderabadis apparently speak (I thought this Hindi was normal until I realised people from other parts of India make fun of it). My mum speaks English, this same quaint Hindi and used to be able to speak some Telugu.
My paternal grandparents spoke Konkani fluently but again communicated with each other and their children in English. Having grown up in Parel, my dad spoke some Marathi but years abroad means that he lost that language.
Basically, even the relatives I know in Goa speak English to each other, though they are fluent in Konkani for speaking in the streets, and they do know Konkani songs and can understand the mass in Konkani. Maybe it’s a class thing – the privileged classes in Goa spoke English as part of their general Westernisation.
A Westernisation that includes dress. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who primarily wore Western attire. My grandmother was married in a sari, a fact she seems regretful of. She did wear saris when she was a younger married woman but eschewed them completely as she grew older. My mum has a number of saris but she too seemed to prefer Western dress (until much later I convinced her otherwise). At festive occasions, there were more women in dresses and saris. None of the children ever wore Indian dress except occasionally in an almost costumey way. For example, I owned exactly one ghagra choli as a child.
Our food was a mix of Western and Indian. Meat – chicken, mutton, beef, or at least fish – was the staple at every meal, but generally in a curry form. We also had a lot of Western-style baked dishes. If my dad didn’t eat a meal with meat in it, he either asked where the main course was or ate twice the amount he usually would. My mom instituted vegetarian Friday dinners (comprising Maggie noodles) but the bhaajis she generally cooked were terrible. Probably the most Indian thing about me growing up, was that around the time I was 12, my dad was diagnosed with high blood pressure and gout, and red meats were banned. Since I didn’t like fish and chicken, I thereafter ate dal, rice and vegetable every day for lunch.
Thinking back, it was considered somewhat infra dig to speak Hindi, wear Indian clothes or watch Hindi movies. Growing up, Doordarshan was the only available thing on TV. Chitrahaar and Chayageet were my mum’s favourites and we watched them too, but apart from that, I grew up without watching much TV, unless you counted Didi’s Comedy Show, Lucille Ball and the children’s summer special of such stuff as Giant Robot and The Invisible Man. There were a couple of Hindi programmes like Udaan and Fauzi that I liked. I think I figured out what was going on without understanding the language because really, my Hindi never improved.
I am convinced that you can only learn a language if you are: a) surrounded by people speaking it and have no other alternative to communicate b) go for a class where they assume you know nothing, teach from the very basics upward systematically and practice practice practice. You can then supplement with movies and TV but you cannot gain fluency in a language simply from intermittent TV watching. Thanks to b) I can speak better French than Hindi and it is my default second language.
So I do not share the nostalgia for the classics of my generation. I have not watched Sholay, Mr. India, Roza, Kayamat Se Kayamat Tak etc. The first Hindi movie I watched was Tridev, then Dil, then Maine Pyaar Kiya. I started watching Hindi movies in the theatre with friends when I was about 14. Nevertheless, New Kids on the Block and Kylie Minogue was my coming of age music; Madonna, Michael Jackson and the jive music that is ubiquitous at Christian weddings are the songs that take me back to my childhood.
Goan Christian weddings are very different from Hindu ones. For one, they last only a day. The number of guests is on average 400 and they sit at tables around a dance floor not in lines facing a stage. A wedding without dancing and alcohol is not a wedding at all. Sometimes there is something called a ‘rose’ before the wedding. I have attended only three of these related to weddings in my family, two of which were when the bride was not Goan but East Indian. There is a set of Konkani, filmi and Portuguese (?) songs played at Goan weddings which are an inextricable part of these weddings, and the words of which I do not understand but which I love.
I knew nothing about Indian classical music despite my father’s occasional attempts to force us to watch the recorded performances on Doordarshan or maybe because of them. Instead many of the girls I grew up with can play the piano. My knowledge of Indian festivals is sketchy. We celebrated a sanitized version of Holi and Diwali in our building – with water balloons and no colour, with firecrackers but no bombs.
I knew nothing about Indian mythology because this was a no-no as a Christian. The world was divided into Christians and non-Christians, who were divided into Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Sikhs (I guess because they looked different owing to their hair). The idea that there are widely divergent kinds of Hindus escaped me until I reached college, and then I discovered it very academically in sociology class. Till then, I was very confused about why everyone seemed to have different explanations about how Ganapati came about his head.
In college, I began to reclaim some of the lost Indianness that had seeped out of my community. I discovered Indian fabrics and prints and started wearing salwar kameezes and a bindi. I caught up on Hindi movies. Working as a journalist I began to feel the stress and the idiocy of not speaking Hindi and Marathi. I began to learn by eves-dropping on other people’s conversations and making conversation with myself in the shower. My Hindi improved but it was never stellar.
At some point, though, I stopped feeling guilt over my alleged non-Indianness. Partly because I realised that a big essence of Indianness is the very plurality that makes me different. It this heterogeneity that allows people who practice different religions, speak different languages (including some of whom speak only English), eat different kinds of food (some even beef), and dress differently to jostle with each other under one label. That even in the so-called mainstream there were differences on various parameters so that I was not always the only outsider. And that gradually some broad experiences began to be common to us all despite ourselves. For example:
1. cricket. Love it or hate it, you can’t escape it. And you probably were roped into the odd game with this kids in your building.
2. the helpful instinct. If someone asks for help, or sometimes even if not, we will offer it. Believe me, this is not normal elsewhere. Maybe it stems from having no governmental support and thus having to rely on ones neighbours, whether at home or in the street.
3. closely bonded families, upto first cousins, sometimes second.
4. food with some degree of spice and inability to comprehend/truly love food without.
5. hindi movies. they may be formulaic but come on, can you really resist them?
6. knowing all neighbours within a wide radius and generally having to invite them all to your wedding.
7. calling anyone older aunty and uncle
8. fondness for bright colours
9. having eaten fruits like magoes, chikoos, jackfruit, whether you like them or not.
10. being familiar with other religions and considering these variegated practices normal.
9. readiness for a good gossip, even the men
10. shaking your head in that quintessential way when you mean yes instead of nodding.
11. if you’re a girl, being sexually assaulted at least once in your life.
12. train travel.
13. having older relatives who shout on long-distance calls.
14. remembering a life before computers.
15. school uniforms and doing stupid PT drills. Standing up and chorusing ‘good morning miss’ when a teacher enters the class.
16. being slapped/spanked by your parents. Are there any of us who weren’t?
They say babies can hear what their moms are thinking. If you’ve been hearing anything lately, don’t be distressed. I love your father very much and I’m not seriously planning to run off to Portugal (or LA?) in search of Christiano Ronaldo. Mainly because: a) his taste in women runs to the skanky and your mom is a class act b) he doesn’t know I exist. So our little family is safe.
I hope babies can only hear and not see what their moms are thinking. If you can see anything, close your eyes. Some images are not for -6 month old viewing.
Apparently so. And there are a ton more of them running around than one might imagine as the coverage of the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden to her former fitness trainer Daniel revealed.
It was interesting to me how they collected so many royals in one place. Of course, you’d expect all the European royals to be there considering they are all related and godparents to each other’s children etc but the Crown Prince of Japan and royalty from Jordan were also invited.
Those of you who are familiar with the British royal family will know that royals have their own way of dressing. It’s almost like a genre of its own where the emphasis is on stately though sometimes a little over the top, grand enough to stand apart and consistent. The older royals at least tend to find a style that works for them and stick with it (like Queen Elizabeth). Generally, they don’t tend to do high fashion and possibly this is because they are not always stick thin enough to fit into those clothes, or maybe they are older.
At the wedding, they had some conventions to observe too. No black for the women, sleeves, sashes, and tiaras. Some of the men had uniforms with lots of insignia.
My picks at this wedding:
Margarethe II and Prince Henrik of Denmark – both of them looked like fun. Clearly a genuine smile is the best accessory. Plus, loved the colour on her. Some people felt that these dresses looked like prom dresses from the 80s but as I said, royal fashion ticks to a different beat and also, why should she be condemned to wearing a sheath just because she’s old.
Queen Silvia of Sweden – this woman must’ve been a stunner when she was younger. Her dress was perfect for mother-of-the-bride.
Favourite dress: Infanta Elena of Spain in the bolero thing. The colour was awesome and the bolero was both very Spanish and somehow added a fashion element.
Hottest royal: Carl Philip, brother of the bride. Is he still available?
Royals I didn’t like:
a) Letizia of Spain – my first instinct is to find her pretty but she is really too thin.
b) Raina of Jordan – have always loved her but her dress was really disappointing. She neither did couture nor royal dressing and thus just fell flat. Or maybe the misshapen sleeves (more obvious in other pictures) on her dress were added on as an afterthought. 100 points though for having a husband who is not intimidated by the height of his wife in heels.
Thought the bride and the groom looked great. Her dress wouldn’t have been my pick but it was very Swedish in a minimal Ikea sort of way (hee!). I liked the veil and the long train and ooh, the carriage. Their story is also rather sweet, with a nice role reversal to the fairytale that is appropriate for Sweden which was picked as the best country for women to live in.
On such occasions, there will be the handful of commenters who think they are saying something completely earthshattering by mentioning that the monarchy is irrelevant or that the queen looks like the sweet old lady down the road. Well, to the latter, the royalty are human beings after all so obviously they look like people. And it’s heartening to see that they come in regular sizes mostly and actually go grey and have lines on their faces as they grow older unlike some of our regular celebrities.
Now, to the former. There are very few of us who actually believe that the monarchy were the appointees of God and should be ruling over us. Despite this, a greater number of people can’t help finding the royal lifestyle a tad exciting and looking at pictures of royal weddings fun in the same way that one follows celebrity events, marriages etc. It’s like looking into a fairytale, except with real people.
Of course, one might claim that celebrities actually do something to earn their way as opposed to royals who (it is assumed, though not necessarily so) funded by the state.
My attitude to royalty has changed over the years. First, let’s remember that many of these people actually work. I have also come to realize that people need idols, icons, someone they can set apart from themselves and put on a pedestal. These people are sport stars, actors or even beauty pageant winners. Miss Universe contestants seem to be very similar to royals in their arguable functions (goodwill, humanitarian work etc) though they have to go through a contest and are funded privately.
Many countries also have ceremonial heads of state like the President whose function is very close to that of the monarchy in some countries. That is, given the President’s function, which could just as easily be absorbed into some other role or position, is it really necessary to keep them in such style. But they are, because these countries felt there was value in having a ceremonial head.
A royal’s function could be similar – brand ambassador, diplomat, fundraiser for humanitarian causes. They already have a vast network of contacts, influence and social cache which could be constructively used by their countries (think the King of Thailand).
The downside is that it is hereditary so no guarantees if the heir to the title is capable. However, many of the assets of being a good royal can be instilled through training – for example, they have to learn several languages and the history of different countries in addition to etiquette etc. Moreover, a fair bit of nepotism seems to be the norm in all societies even democratic ones – with children from political families having an easier run as also the kids of business tycoons. The fact is that every society has its exclusive cream, even communist societies in the real world; just that the royals solidified their position thousands of years ago.
So, in my view, propping up a royal family might not be such a bad thing IF the country can afford it. If they get too snotty, Parliament can always nip them in the bud. In the meantime, we have pretty pictures to look at and royal scandals to amuse ourselves with.
I live in a barbarous barbarous land! Fie on evil capitalism!
You’d think watching the World Cup would be a basic human right. But no, cable TV providers bid for the rights and then offer exhorbitant packages. If you refuse to sign up with them for 24 months, no World Cup for you.
Thus it happens that I am reduced to watching the World Cup through stupid (but useful) Internet streaming on the laptop, with inevitable hanging just as a goal is scored. Suddenly, I find myself warmly appreciative of Doordarshan despite snowy reception and appalling commentary.
After a couple of days of sulking and turning up my nose (“it’s like watching impressionist art”) at the live streaming channels poor V has gone through the trouble to find, my eyes have acclimatized to the small screen, pixilation and buffering. What’s the point of 32 inch TVs (or whatever the size of ours is) if it can’t be availed of during the greatest sporting event of the year. Bah!
A weird phenomenon has beset me this year. I find myself unable to support any of the favourites. Ok, I do have a tendency to root for the underdog but in previous years, I’ve chosen underdogs that have some chance of winning. This time, the arrogance, tendency to play rough and general drama of the big guns has put me off. Instead I am thrilled by the spunk of the unknowns who manage to score where they had been written off (North Korea!) and even win (Serbia!).
Up until four years ago, I was a diehard Italy supporter. I cried when Roberto Baggio missed that penalty. I still have a crush on Paolo Maldini. I know the tune of the Italian national anthem.
Unfortunately, when they finally won the World Cup in 2006, I was pretty disillusioned with them. I don’t think Zidane should have headbutted Mazeratti but the Italians were behaving like sleazeballs, even to my Azuri-prejudiced eyes. I hate it when people fall all over the field pretending they are injured and doing drama. So I no longer have a favourite this time.
Moreover, I’ve noticed that all the big teams seem to have some of these characteristics. They are arrogant (I noticed an Argentenian pushing a S.Korean player and mouthing off rudely, although play was not on yet), unnecessarily rough (Germany against Serbia, who you’d think they’d be confident enough against not to have to push and trip up) and generally doing the falling-about-acting stuff.
So I’d like for S.Korea, Japan and a couple of the African teams (sadly, I think S.Africa was unimpressive except their goalie, so maybe Ivory Coast) to go on to the knockout stage even though their chances of winning are slim. Because it’s such joy for them to buck the bookies and score, or frustrate the favourites by not allowing them to score.
Among the South Americans, I can’t support Brazil or Argentina, exciting as they are to watch. It’s just too boring. I thought Paraguay was good.
Update: Unfortunately, just watched the Portugal-N.Korea match yesterday and have tragically re-fallen-in-love-with Christiano Ronaldo. I thought I was so over him but sadly I am not. His boyishness is just up my street, despite his overgelled hair and general cockiness nowadays. Please note that I spotted him when he was a complete rookie playing for Portugal for the first time in the semis of the Euro Cup in 2004 (and insisted that my colleague who was making the front page of the newspaper I used to work for use a pic of him on it despite his incredulous “you think this guy is cute? he’s so gay!”) before everyone jumped in and turned him into the metrosexual playboy he is today. But yeah, I am so not over him and thus compelled to support Portugal henceforth, if only for lustfilled reasons. Ok and there’s another guy in the team who has the same last name as me so maybe that’s a rationale too (although I spent half of yesterday match shouting “down with the evil colonisers!”)
Conversation with V:
V: Are you going to leave me for him?
Me: No. He has a girlfriend.
V: Hahahahaha. Even if he didn’t, what makes you think he’d go for you? Portuguese women are sooo hot.
Me: He’s not into Portuguese women. He’s dating some Brit supermodel type.
V: What an idiot.
Heartbreaking update: It seems Christiano Ronaldo is dating Kim Kardarshian. How could he have such bad taste? Hmmm maybe I have a chance after all. Ok, somehow that sounds wrong.
PS: Do not make fun of N.Korea. They were very good in the first half, passing in formation and all and conceded only one goal. Although they kept slipping and falling down in the rain. The Portuguese side must have had some porto during half time because they came back full of pizzazz. It got very embarassing after that but nevermind, remember N.Korea was good in the first half. And they did score against Brazil… so there!
So, I’ve been dabbling in superstition and old wives tales to try and figure out whether the beeb is a boy or a girl:
1) This traditional Chinese chart predicts the gender of the baby based on the month of the conception and the age of the mother at delivery. Have tried various combinations (Western age, Chinese age) and it always comes out a boy!
2) According to this old wives tale, if you find yourself looking beautiful during pregnancy, it’s a boy. If you skin sucks, it’s a girl because she’s leeching your beauty away from you. I look like crap so…
3) According to another traditional belief, pregnant women get a dark line from their pubic area upto their navel. If the line stops at the belly button, it’s a girl, if it goes up to your breast bone, it’s a boy. Mine goes all the way up.
Chinese tradition says that if you want a boy, the husband should eat lots of meat… something to do with food that is acidic or alkaline. A more scientific Western belief is that if you conceive on the day of ovulation, chances are it’s a boy because male sperm swim quicker but die quickly. If you wait a couple of days after ovulation, better chances of a girl as female sperm swim slower but live longer. Too late for that kind of planning!
So, which do you think it is?
Spoiler alert for those who haven’t watch it yet
I haven’t read a single review that hasn’t panned Sex and the City2. Weirdly, almost all these reviews have been by men, and I’m not quite sure how many men really get Sex and the City. That said, most women who have watched the movie have ditched it as well.
Nevertheless, as a fan of the show, one cannot NOT watch it. Besides, I’m one of those who gets morbid satisfaction out of the how-bad-can-it-be question. Case in point: when I was around seven, I decided to test whether the dark green solid looking stuff in the drain outside my aunt’s building was really solid (or as common sense dictated for stuff in a drain, liquid after all) by tapping it with my foot. Unfortunately, I fell into the drain and solved that mystery once and for all ie- it is liquid with a layer of semi-solid goop on top.
Now, back to Sex and the City2. It was better than the drain. Much.
I think the bad reviews helped. I went in fully prepared that it would be obnoxious and bone-crushingly boring. Pregnancy-induced pukiness has made me less tolerant of bad entertainment and last month I walked out of my first movie (Robin Hood).
However, I thought SATC2 was pretty good timepass. Look, there was always only a slim chance that the movies would live up to the promise of the series. And after the first movie, that chance got even slimmer. So, let’s not look for anything earth-shattering here and just aim for entertainment, pure and silly – in the I-have-a-couple-of-hours-to-kill and don’t mind spending them looking at pretty pictures and the occasional laugh.
On that count, I felf SATC2 delivered. I didn’t feel like walking out at any point. I looked for (not at, because I don’t wear a watch and had forgotten my mobile at home) my watch only once. I tsk tsked at a couple of points but I do that routinely during mainstream Hollywood cinema.
Now, for everyone who is going to go up in arms and tell me how stupid it was, I am fully aware of its flaws:
1. The dialogue was hammy. The final line, which is normally something semi-profound in the series, was decidedly damp. People are always going on about how brilliantly and cleverly the TV series is scripted and so the lines here felt like a letdown. Let me say here that when I first started watching the series I thought the aphoristic one-liners were somewhat forced and that women didn’t really talk like that, or at least spout that many clever little quips in one half hour. But it sort of grew on me and I realised that those lines were really rather smart. So, yeah, the dialogue in this movie doesn’t sparkle in the style of the series. But Samantha still managed to draw plenty of laughs.
2. The bigger problem I thought was that the dilemmas of each of the women were not really convincing. People moaned about the first movie too – but at least there, the women were dealing with serious issues. Carrie had been ditched at the altar, Miranda was overworked, adjusting to suburbia and her husband confessed to an affair, Charlotte had adopted a child and was adjusting to motherhood and Samatha was well, herself. Here, the main dilemma – Carrie’s disillusionment with her marriage – seemed rather silly. Every marriage goes through this, the realization that you’re going to be those people that spend evenings on the couch in a stupor, or at least that’s what one of you wants to do while the other wants to go out. It’s a cliché. You work through it. You don’t kiss an ex. If you do, you deal with it maturely… you don’t decide you need a conference with all three of your friends at once, as if this is an episode of Friends that must end in a group hug. I found myself repeatedly wanting to tell Carrie to snap out of it and grow up, and she’s the character most people identify with. Then, there’s Charlotte’s child-rearing and nanny issues. Legitimate, but even she acknowledges that other women have it much much worse. Miranda is overworked (again!) but then she quits, so there’s no dilemma there. Samantha has hormone issues, which is turned into a joke. So, the main denouements aren’t convincing and even the characters seem to know that and spout their existential angst unconvincingly.
3. The Abu Dhabi thing. Yeah, it was a bit weird but I figured that the Abu Dhabi tourist department had paid them a huge sum and so I let that go. I didn’t find that section as bad as everyone went on. People seem to have forgotten the last movie had long sections in LA and Mexico. I did think that as an ad for Abu Dhabi though, it was not that great. The women seemed to be gushing excessively over stuff that was just a-okay.
4. The insensitivity towards Muslims. I didn’t find much to talk about in the first half of the movie. In the second part, yeah, there was stuff that was kind of stupid. But I didn’t find it more offensive than the way mainstream Hollywood deals with Muslims generally. I was disappointed that they didn’t find a more intelligent way to deal with Muslim culture but it was standard Hollywood tripe. If one boycotts this movie on that ground, practically every other Hollywood film with a Muslim in it should be boycotted too.
5. Insensitivity towards the recession. Well, this is a film about glamour. If they didn’t have the opulence and the pretty clothes it would fall apart. The fact is that rich people do live in a bubble. And we like looking into that bubble. However, I do not believe even rich people walk around in six-inch feels in their own apartments. Therefore, Carrie needs to get some designer flats.
6. The women looked old. Well, they are old. Carrie could do with some flesh on her bones but most people insist on their Hollywood actresses thin. I thought the other three looked fine. I guess I’m the only person in the world that finds Miranda attractive.
So, all in all, I had a good time watching the film. I might even watch it again, as part of an SATC marathon on DVD. Parts I liked:
1. The gay wedding in the beginning. Lisa Minelli looked like a hag and could be dispensed with but apparently she’s a gay icon and her part wasn’t that long. I loved Stanford in his white suit. I loved the choirmen and the swans but not Carrie’s crown (her hats in this movie were way off).
2. Samantha and the yams.
3. The bit where Charlotte and Miranda talk. Those two have never come across as particularly bondy and I thought that part was sweet.
4. The part where Big (can never get used to him being called ‘John’) comes home in the end. I don’t think Carrie deserved a diamond but Big’s speech got me a little teary-eyed.
5. That Carrie and Big did not solve their problems by having a baby. For some reason, I had thought that the baby question was the biggie in this film. But it wasn’t, thank god. There are enough baby questions in my life right now.
I leave you with five (more succinct) reasons to watch the film.
One of the side effects of pregnancy – apart from becoming indifferent to chocolate and being unable to watch Glee – is huge waves of homesickness and nostalgia. Obviously I miss Bombay and have found myself reading blogs that are Bombay-based but of no relevance to myself (like brown paper bag and Finely Chopped) and then wanting to do the things mentioned in those blogs like some exotic fruit facial or restaurant in Lower Parel when there are enough good facials and restaurants right here. Nowadays, anything Western makes me queasy – including looking at people’s holiday snaps of Europe or the US. It’s all very weird.
But my other big nostalgia is for Goa. The other day, I stood in my balcony and faced the bit of seaview we have and just wanted to be in Goa. I don’t know whether it’s the Goa holiday in Feb but I’ve never felt this much nostalgia for Goa before. Now, I find myself wanting to hark back to the family holidays of my childhood when all we did was swim, eat and sleep. I want to drive to Goa with my parents and do exactly that, stuff that we began to think was boring as we grew older.
As kids, we went to Goa every summer holiday. I know it’s become somewhat anti-cool to like Baga these days but that’s pretty much where we went every summer. Actually, we used to stay in Calangute at the Tourist Hotel which at the time was cheap, clean and in prime position right on the beach. Meals were had at Souza Lobo’s next door – my staples were milkshake and fat sausages for breakfast and inexplicably hakka noodles for lunch (as a traitor to my race, I had gone off fish). Mornings were spent on the beach, evenings with the gang of relatives who would drop by.
My dad has family property in Goa and a tumbledown house that he considered doing up before my sis and I categorically stated that we would not stay anywhere that was not walking distance from a beach. Instead, we’d pay a visit to my dad’s village and gaze at the brokendown house and my dad would narrate some story about his childhood and how they used to play in a river nearby (which we never saw and which never held much water with us compared to sand and ocean). Then we’d visit family there and be treated to a very Goan lunch – sorpatel, poie, sausages, fish curry. They even had a pig in a sty waiting to be slaughtered. If we happened to be there at the time of the village feast, there was one long, sweaty never-ending Mass to attend.
We’d also do a trip to my mom’s family, who have a huge very traditional Goan house and acres of land around it. The defining moment of those visits would be when my grandaunt would offer us mango phool, a disgusting hairy drink which my sister and I would take all of two hours to glug down. Once we decided to walk across the fields to the church (despite having been told to take the road by my granduncle) where there was a feast going on, and we realised how very big the fields were, how scratchy the burnt grass and how hot the sun.
Probably my most memorable childhood holiday to Goa was when my dad’s brother took me along with his family. Driving down through the ghats, the tyre of his jeep came off and once we got over the shock of almost having crashed and died, we realised we’d have to stay in this village called Rajapur or something. We stayed in a laaj (lodge) and ate missal pav and mangoes for two days until the jeep was fixed. The village became an annual stop-off for my uncle’s family after that.
That holiday was my first in Baga and I loved it. We’d get up at some unearthly hour and go down to the beach to appease my uncle, come back, crash, go swimming in the hotel pool, eat lunch, crash, go swimming some more, have tea, play cards, go for dinner. For two weeks, the routine never varied and I learnt how to consume a big glass of milk for tea too. On that trip, I actually visited some of the historic Goan churches and realised there was more to Goa than eating and the beach.
Then my aunt bought a flat in Candolim and we started staying there. Those holidays were marked by more homecooking, which I never appreciated then even when it meant huge mussels and prawns, and the freshest beef I had ever seen. We were teenagers and spent our days reading or playing cards (specifically teen patti). We did one trip with all of my cousins after someone’s wedding, the highlight of which was: a) parasailing b) wearing one of my cousin’s bikini tops and a pair of shorts and roaming around while my oldest aunt looked disapproving but didn’t say anything.
At some point, one of my mom’s close friends moved to Goa and we’d spend a mandatory couple of days there in a house of five kids, four dogs and two cats in Donna Paula. This was always super fun.
I’ve had few grown up holidays in Goa. One was after Std X when my sister’s huge gang of friends who had just finished Std XII decided to do a trip together. My mum and another mum were the chaperones and I fell majorly in love with one of the boys. Unfortunately, I was seen then (and now!) as a little girl. A big tradition was having an enormous breakfast at Infantaria everyday, at which everything the girls left over was wiped clean by the boys.
Then my own gang of girls went to Goa after our Std XII; again my mum and another one are chaperones. Weirdly, I didn’t enjoy that trip that much. But we did have some fun memories.
And then there was my ‘honeymoon’. I somehow got caught up in a plan to go along with my husband’s cousins right after my wedding. I was pretty cross about the whole thing even though V finally arranged for us to spend a few days alone in South Goa (which turned out to be very nice). Anyway, this was the first time I had been to Goa in peak tourist season and I was gobsmacked. It looked like a different place, packed with goras and yuppie Indians who looked like goras. Everyone and everything was super hip. I was kind of put off because everyone (who was not Goan) kept taking charge and saying things like “let’s go to Titos” “let’s go to Mambos” as if it were their place. Bah!
Finally, there was the latest trip which happened five years later. I loved it partly because we kind of reverted to what I used to do as a kid ie- eat, sleep and chat a lot. Except that we attended one wedding and had one night in a bar, which was a very low key, non-hipster one.
Now I want to turn back time and go back to Goa with my parents, stay in my aunty’s flat, eat the home-cooked food I used to turn up my nose at, swim and sleep a lot. So simple and yet so not to be.
1) Buying books on pregnancy. If I could have got a free copy of What to Expect from my sis I would have taken it. But that was not to be and now I’ve figured that there’s enough information on the Internet. Especially since the things I really wanted to know, related to all the scares that came up during my first trimester, might not be contained in a book for general use. On the Net however, there are discussion boards of women swapping tips and sharing stories, and one can cross check what they are saying on more reputable sites. Contrary to popular opinion, that all the babble on the Net would add to my anxiety, I found the stuff shared by these women largely reassuring, especially for the most serious illness. Or maybe I saw reassurance because I was looking for it.
2) Planning a baby room. Partly because there is no room for a baby room. Also because from what I’ve seen the baby room is seldom used in the first few months. Ditto for buying masses of stuff for the baby, which again I’ve seen is seldom used. I’m planning to get basic stuff (what exactly, I’m yet to determine… I’m thinking cot, strolley… erm what else?) if possible secondhand. I’m not even that enthu about shopping for baby clothes – I think I exhausted that urge buying my sis and cousins stuff because they outgrow it so fast. All secondhand clothes are welcome.
One of V’s friends who had a baby last year said he could not convince his wife to get anything secondhand and challenged V to ask me if I would be ok with secondhand baby stuff. I was like yeah, as long as I can be reasonably sure it’s safe. So particularly if I know the person who is giving it to me, I’m fine with it. V then asked me if I’d buy a secondhand handbag and I said no! Hahaha! But basically my logic is, the pleasure of handbags is their newness. Whereas a baby wouldn’t know or care about its stuff so why waste money on it. And babies have this weird habit of rejecting the shiny new thing in favour of some tatty old thing anyway.
3) Being paranoid about diet. I did start out trying to be as healthy as possible. But then I started puking. And I realised I needed to keep some food down, and I was better of eating things that stayed down even if they weren’t in the approved list. My doctor’s advice anyway was simple: cut down on tea and coffee (not eliminate!), eat stuff that is well cooked through and wash raw veggies thoroughly, don’t eat too much fish. For the first trimester, I ended up having a carb heavy diet with some protein, fruits and veggies just weren’t doing it for me but I managed to keep down a vitamin so hopefully whatever I didn’t get from my diet I got from that. Now I’m going to try and be more healthy. But the more I read up on what to eat and what not to, the more cross I get. It seems like everything is bad. The other day, I was proud of myself for eating eggplant and then I googled it to see what nutrients I might have got and apparently eggplant is bad. I also intensely dislike the mothers on these forums who go “no no, that is bad for baby” with no proper evidence at all.
Warning: I might have a couple of pregnancy-related posts coming up because there are things I wanted to post about but help them in because it was all a Big Secret.
One of the points in the comments on this post was about how people are always patronizingly talking about “cheap” solutions for the poor. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with making available alternatives to people at different price points and there’s always going to be stuff that is beyond the reach of many because it falls into the luxury bracket. But also that ‘cheap’ need not always mean ‘poor quality’.
For example, take the Hong Kong public healthcare system. Whenever debate about the US healthcare system came up, I was kind of amazed because in Hong Kong, which is supposed to be as capitalist as it gets, we have a public healthcare system which works very well and I’d think middle class and even upper middle class people would be happy to have such an option. I am covered by insurance from my workplace and my husband’s workplace and yet, I don’t grudge the public healthcare system (which my taxes are going towards even though I may usually opt for private healthcare) because I have the option of going there and I think it’s useful. For example, a friend of mine who was diagnosed with cancer had her entire chemo treatment in the public system and said the care was excellent (and free of charge).
It might surprise some that many women in my income bracket and above opt to deliver our babies in the public healthcare system. This is because:
a) many insurance plans do not cover maternity and delivery. Therefore one would be bearing the entire cost oneself, which is steep. However, not unaffordable. I could afford it. But I choose not to. Because the public healthcare system is good enough. Compare the costs – HK$100,000 (approx) for private delivery HK$300-600 for public delivery.
b) In case of complications with the newborn, the mother and child are transferred from the private hospital to the public system because the public system has the best equipment!
So here, the cheap alternative is actually of extremely high quality. The only difference is that it’s no frills. In the public system, you don’t have a nice seafacing room and nurses who will fuss over you. You don’t get to elect to have a c-section (which is a good thing, I’d say) unless the doctor deems it medically necessary. You can opt for an epidural but it will be given only if available (this kind of sucks, but again, an epidural is not essential to a healthy delivery). You don’t get hazaar sonograms to gush over – you get a standard two but if there are complication in the pregnancy you will get more. You may see a different doctor from a team of three or four on each visit so you don’t know who will deliver your baby (again, not ideal but people who have gone private have experience having a stranger deliver because their doc informs them they are on leave at the last minute).
Now let me share my experience of the public system so far (this might only be interesting to women in Hong Kong):
Pregnant women have to register at a maternal health clinic based on where they live. I do not live in one of the expat hubs in HK and was concerned about whether the clinic in my area would have English-speaking staff. But they did. There was a little confusion over the phone as I struggled to make myself clear but once I went in, the nurses who dealt with me could speak decent English. You register, get your blood pressure and pee checked, then do an interview with a midwife who asks you all sorts of questions about medical history etc.
Then you see a doctor. My doctor seemed young but very confident, spoke great English and had a good bedside manner. She quickly spotted the cervical polyp and explained what it was to me with a chart. She took a look at the report of my past infection and took a swab for checking to make sure I didn’t have it. She tried for a heartbeat with a Doppler machine but didn’t find out and told me not to worry as sometimes they don’t hear it till 12 weeks. I wasn’t worried because I had seen a private doctor a week ago and seen a heartbeat.
I was given to understand that visits in the public system are very quick but the doctor gave me enough time to explain all my issues such as the bleeding, infection etc. She then deemed that I was a complicated case and transferred me to the bigger hospital for future visits. In a different room, a nurse took blood samples for standard testing.
Within a week, they called back to inform me that my mcv levels were low and that I might have thalassaemia. So they asked that V come in for testing. He went in and gave a blood sample and they explained to him about thalassaemia and the risk factors of one or both parents having it. Anyone thinking of having a baby, please read up on thalassaemia and maybe get yourself and your partner tested. I was familiar with the condition because I had actually done a story on it when I was a journo. Indians have a higher proportion of people with this genetic blood condition. I had actually been tested for it and came out negative but with a mirror condition which I don’t fully understand.
All the tests conducted were free of charge at the public clinic. What is not free for women under 35 is Downs Syndrome Screening, which I opted to do. It is only done at the main teaching hospitals. Again, the process was very smooth. First a midwife attempted to do the scan but couldn’t get a clear picture. I am fine with this because it’s a teaching hospital and how are people going to learn otherwise? Had the midwife got a picture, it would have been checked by a senior doctor. The only issue is time but normally you account for a whole morning or afternoon for these procedures. Since the baby was being stubborn, I was asked to walk around and try again later. The second time was with a doctor. She looked really stern but when she started checking me she was super chatty and clearly trained in the UK based on her accent. She tried numerous things – shaking my belly, making me lie on my side, and finally a vaginal sonogram – to get a clear picture because she didn’t want me to waste time coming on another day. She told me at once that everything seemed fine but I had to wait for a report that did an analysis based on my test. I opted to hang around and collect the report in a couple of hours. All clear.
My next visit was in the bigger hospital in my area, which looked fancier than some private hospitals in India. One issue with the public system is that you have to bring in your own pee in your own container. It’s a pain to find containers to collect pee in but maybe that’s why they don’t want to bother doing it. Anyway, apart from that it’s pretty quick. The doctor who saw me was again young but very confident. She advised me to have the polyp removed. I hesitated, she told me it wouldn’t harm the baby or hurt and it didn’t. Having a vaginal sonogram is more uncomfy than having a polyp extracted from your cervix! They send the polyp for testing (again free).
I told her about my infection and she took another swab for testing (also free). She looked at the earlier thalassaemia report I had and explained that sometimes if it’s very mild, it may not appear on the basic screening. I asked her about the bleeding and taking progesterone and she said she didn’t believe it would help. I believe it helps and was happy I had taken it, but I understand that there are two schools of doctors on this issue. She checked for a heartbeat with a Doppler and said it sounded normal.
My next appointment was scheduled for six weeks when they would do an ultrasound. In the meantime, I can choose to see a private doctor just for added comfort but I’m still dithering. So far, I’m quite comfortable with the public system.
So far, the cons of the public system I could see are:
a) They will not see you before 10 weeks. But since miscarriages often happen during that period (and that’s the reason they don’t see you), this can be a trying time. I visited a private doctor every two weeks or even every week during that period. Though really, if you’re going to miscarry during that period, there’s little they can do about it. The only thing is, they can check you and reassure you that the baby looks fine. Also, taking progesterone for bleeding is an option but the medical community is divided on this. As I said, I believe it helped me but I could have gone to a private practitioner who didn’t believe in it and then the result would have been the same. In fact I had to suggest it to my doctor based on advice from a doctor in India and he agreed.
b) They do not do ultrasounds on every visit. But ultrasounds are not necessary on every visit. They do keep you going and reassure you but they are a luxury.
c) The visits tend to be spaced out. Again, more frequent visits are more for comfort and reassurance and if you experience discomfort, you can always try for a quicker visit or go straight to the emergency room.
I have heard grouses about waiting time in the public system but I have waited as long or longer to see my private doctor. I have heard concerns about how attentive the doctors are but I found them very caring and communicative (so far, fingers crossed). In a way, repeating your medical history to a new doctor is good because that way, they are reminded of everything right there instead of you hoping they read your info carefully and remember your issues from your last visit. Your husband is welcome to go with you and I see a fair amount of husbands there.
So overall, I’m happy with my experience of the public system and I don’t find it lacking or of poor quality despite being cheap (ie- free!).