Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Too much to say, too little time

Much has been happening:

Friends visited over the weekend with their 5 year old daughter, and we saw a side of Moppet we had never seen before.

Our first Halloween had over 60 assorted bumble bees, fairies, witches, sprites, superheroes and other nameless ghouls visit our house trick-or-treating. I had more fun than Moppet did though. I think some of the cackling witches were a bit too much for her.

Moppet's Papa claims he has irrefutable proof that our daughter is actually a Klingon.

My father-in-law is here for a visit - last minute plans that suddenly came through. As a result, I have had to transform into dutiful DIL at a moment's notice, and I'm sorry to say I'm badly out of practice! ;-)

At some point, I will post pictures and news, but with Moppet and her Grandpa and an infuriatingly always-on-the-blink internet connection, I'm not quite sure when. (So no third degree on why my next post isn't up yet, ok Dadda?)

See you when I do, folks. Be good!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A weekend by the River Kwai - II

So where were we? Ah, the sights.

Our first stop was the Bridge on the River Kwai, made famous more by the movie (a largely fictitious account) than by its own real and fascinating history. Yes, it was built by prisoners of war in extremely hard conditions, and yes, it was a vital part of the rail link (chillingly called the Death Railway) that would have given the Japanese quick overland access to Burma.

But in actual fact, the POWs didn't themselves heroically destroy the bridge before it could be used. It served its part in the Death Railway for almost 2 years and was then destroyed by Allied aerial bombing, with hundreds on POWs standing on it, a last desperate measure by the Japanese to prevent the attack.

The bridge that stands on the River Kwai today was reconstructed from the original spans of the destroyed bridge. Together with the war museum nearby, it offers not only a fascinating glimpse into the past, but also a sombre reminder of the horror that is war.

On then to more cheery sights, like the magnificent 7-tiered waterfalls of Erawan. The picture is of level 3, which is as far as we got, because the climb got steeper and more slippery with each level and while I thought I could still manage carrying a wriggling Moppet up it, I had doubts about my ability to get back down without breaking either of our necks.

So we settled instead on taking in a dip in the lovely green-blue pool at the foot of one of the falls and then walked back through the national park with hoardes of butterflies flitting across our path as we walked.

The last place we visited was the controversial Tiger Temple. Controversial beause while the monks say that their tigers are tame because they've been reared by humans and are simply used to being around people, there are others who claim the animals are drugged and ill-treated and used only for money-making purposes.

I'm no expert, but I thought the temple appeared to have decent facilities, and the 'donation' asked for is supposed to go towards a new sanctuary for the rescued animals which we saw was under construction. We went to see the tigers in the tiger canyon, and were allowed into the tiger pit (for want of a better word) one at a time, escorted by two volunteers. One to hold your hand, ensure that you make no sudden movements and guide you round the tigers, and the other to take your picture.

I went first, and my guide carefully positioned me behind the first tiger who you can see in the picture - a young fellow, little more than a cub really, who appeared to be sleeping (or drugged? I don't know). I laid my hand gingerly on his back and waited. Encouraged by the fact that he showed no signs of wanting to eat me, I stroked his back, feeling his fur, rough and springy under my hand. As my guide took me from tiger to tiger, I got bolder, kneeling closer and stroking them with both hands. None of them seemed to mind.

Except one big fellow, stretched out on a rock with his pal. The guide led me behind the rock (they always position you behind the tigers) and I leant down and gave him a friendly scratch on his hind leg. THWACK! His surprisingly strong tail lashed me on my thigh and I nearly fell off the rock in shock. Thankfully, he wasn't interested in eating me either, and with my hand no longer on his leg, he seemed to have no futher objection to my hanging around. I wasn't so sure though, so I hurried on to the next tiger, and then scooted out of the pit. Moppet's Papa would later tell me that he got whacked by the same tiger when he tried to touch his paw. Maybe he was just in a don't-touch-me mood that day, who knows?

So in summary, we walked the Death Railway, bathed in the pools of Erawan, and managed not to get killed by an irritated tiger :-) Enough for one weekend, I think!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A weekend by the River Kwai

A not unsuccessful weekend, overall. Moppet was surprisingly well-behaved on the drive to the resort. With a steady supply of otherwise controlled snacks at hand and her moos playing over and over again, she was quite happy to sit in her car seat for the 3 hours it took to get there. The measure of her contentment can be gauged by the fact that she only twice attempted to assassinate her father by aiming her plastic shovel at the back of his head as he drove.

The resort was lovely. Small, with only 10 cottages, it is cosily nestled right on the bank of the River Kwai. The Thai-Dutch couple who run the place were just the right level of friendly, enough to make us feel at home, and yet not overdoing it so much as to be intrusive. Their 20 month old daughter shyly came out to meet Moppet, but then lost her nerve and buried her face in her father's legs.

The mom also came by for a friendly chat with her infant daughter in her arms and completely put me to shame by how gorgeously in shape she was, barely 4 weeks after having her second baby. Of course, that meant I spent the rest of my time around her with my face going red from holding my breath and sucking in my jelly belly (Yes, you can say it, I'm pathetic!). Other than that self-imposed discomfort, our stay there was extremely pleasant.

Moppet got into the groove of things right away. Here you can see her as she explores the cottage and pronounces it satisfactory, lounges on the veranda with her Papa, and impatiently bangs the salt shaker on the table while waiting for lunch at the open-air deck overlooking the river.

Since this was going to be my do-nothing weekend, after I had cleaned and changed Moppet, I banished her to the verandah with her father, while I threw myself on the bed and stayed there. Moppet was quite happy to potter around near the cottage with her shovel and pail, chase down some hapless ants, swallow the odd pebble or two, and make faces at me through the french windows.

On our way back to the cottage after lunch, she spotted the pool and decided she had to take a dip. Because I was looking forward to going back to do-nothing mode, I dissuaded her by pointing out that she didn't have her swimsuit on, and was astonished when she quietened down immediately. Wow, this was something - a new and improved, mature and understanding Moppet. Elated, I practically hopped and skipped back to our room, dreaming of a nice long post-lunch siesta.

Ha! As soon as we reached the cottage, the new and improved, mature and understanding Moppet headed straight to the open suitcase and rooted through it, pulling its contents out onto the floor until she found her swimsuit. Waving it in my face, she kept up a constant refrain of pool? pool? pool? at increasing decibel levels until I finally realised that there could be no siesta.

So off to the pool we went and spent a happy hour or so splashing about and waving hi to random passers by. Refreshed and relaxed (more so than if I had had that siesta, I think), we headed back, decided there was no way we could let Moppet's Papa have the siesta we missed, rudely woke him up, ignored his grumbling, and dragged him off to see the sights.

Up next: The sights, and how I got whacked by a tiger.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Gangsta Bunny takes a trip

I believe this is what is referred to as a hoodlum.

Don't let the fluffy white bunny and the girly pinkness fool you. This is a bonafide member of the baby mafia, on a mission to rule the world.

The shovel is to give me a decent burial when I give up the ghost, as I no doubt will in short order, given the accelerated aging that I've been subject to ever since I made the acquaintance of Gangsta Bunny here.

In a bid to reclaim my lost youth, I am taking a trip this weekend to a little resort on the River Kwai. A weekend to relax and do absolutely nothing. Just sit out on the verandah of the cottage, drink in hand, and enjoy the cool river breeze.

Oh, and did I mention what I'm taking along on this relaxing, do-nothing weekend of mine? One small but very potent hoodlum, and one exhausted and therefore highly irritable husband.

Was that a snigger I heard? Stop that! Let an old woman dream, it's all she's got.

Have a great holiday weekend! See you all Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Another insanely early morning, another dull grey airport. Three times in as many days, in as many cities. But at least this time it was home.

Throwing his luggage into the boot of the waiting taxi, he gave quick instructions on where he wanted to go. Home. He leaned back and closed his eyes.

He missed his little girl. He called her every night - he needed her to hear his voice, to know that he was there, even though she couldn't see him. At one and a half, he didn't know how much she really understood, but she seemed to recognise his voice on the phone. "Papa?" she'd say in her clear baby voice. Then happily, "Papa, papa, papa!" That's all she ever said on the phone when he called, and he didn't quite know if it made him feel better or worse.

He loved his family and he loved his job, but there were days when the sheer weight of all the demands on his time and energy felt like a giant hand pressing down on him, pushing him down, down into the ground.

He became aware of voices, and opened his eyes. He noticed a small screen, attached to the dashboard by the front passenger seat, playing a movie. He was horrified. Did the taxi driver have a deathwish? Here they were, just getting onto a high speed motorway, where a split second's inattention could cause a deadly pile-up, and the driver was watching a movie?! He curtly told the driver to switch it off, and turn on the radio instead. The driver complied, and he closed his eyes again, trying not to think of the long day ahead.

It could not have been more than 5 minutes when the voices started again. He sat up abruptly and saw that the screen was back on. "Didn't I tell you to turn that thing off?" he asked the driver, angrily. The driver bowed his head in apology. "I'm sorry, sir" he said, and pointing at the front passenger seat, he added, "Baby."

He saw her then, peeping round the side of the front seat, big frightened eyes staring at this loud, angry man in the back seat. A little girl, not much older than his own. He slid across the back seat to get a better look and saw that the passenger seat had been set up as a sort of play pen for the child. There were some rolled up blankets, a few plastic toys, a bottle of water, and a bowl of food. And of course, the small screen, still playing the movie.

She didn't make a sound throughout the journey. Just sat in the front seat, and played quietly by herself. Was this her life, he wondered. Did she spend her days riding in the cab with her father? Did she have no other family? No home?

He didn't ask, of course. He couldn't. He tipped the driver a little more generously than usual. He wanted to say - for your baby - but he didn't. Instead, he smiled at the small face looking out of the side window, and waved as the taxi moved off.

And then he went in, where the little owner of another pair of big bright eyes squealed in excitement on seeing him and jumped into his arms.

He was home.

(This is a fictionalised account of a true incident)

Monday, October 15, 2007

And another one!

Behold, I am a Schmoozing Super Power! (Except with a much nicer arm) Fuzzy and Timepass have both given me this award because they think I'm a schmoozemeister. Thank you!

The creator of this award refers to schmoozing as the ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.”

But in my mind, this is an award for community involvement, and the people I'm passing on the award to are all wonderful folks who take time out of their lives to support and brighten the days of so many bloggers they've never even met.

So anyway, without any further ado, here are my favourite schmoozers:

Tharini: She has such a welcoming way about her. She was one of the first people to find my blog and leave kind, encouraging comments - which when you're just starting off as a blogger, just gives you such a delirious high. In many ways, she's the glue that holds this mommy blogging community together.

JLT: Sometimes I read a post and end up not leaving a comment because I don't know what to say, but JLT will always find something nice and genuine to say. She's on a blogging break at the moment, being snowed under with life and work, and I miss her warm friendly presence in the blogosphere. Come back soon, JLT!

Poppins: Because she twisted my arm and said give me an award or else! :-D No, seriously, Poppins is one of those bloggers who notices little things in your posts that most people miss. She will take the time out to leave long comments or if it's more private, send an email, passing on information, advice and support. That's really something special.

All the folks at Saffron Tree: I don't know many of them, and the site is not about networking or 'schmoozing' at all. It is about sharing information and opinions on children's books, and I think it is such a wonderful contribution to the community. Thank you all so much for taking the time to share.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It takes one to know one

This evening, Moppet and I were playing with her little doodle pad. I was drawing things on it and she would yell out what they were. I'm no artist, as is obvious from the recreation below (although I'm a bit better with a pencil than with the mouse) but Moppet was able to identify almost everything I drew.

It was great fun. Some of the things she liked so much that I'd have to draw them several times before she'd let me draw something new. We played in this fashion until I ran out of stuff that I could draw that she also knew the name of.

And then I had a brilliant idea. I drew me. Like this.
It's a decent likeness, really. I mean, just the curly hair is enough!

So I proudly show her my artwork, expecting her to say Mama. She takes one look at the picture and gets super excited. She does a little jig around the room and then comes back to jab her finger on my carefully done self-portrait and declare:



Sigh. She's right, isn't she?

Wockabye baby

Suki has given me this hot pink Rockin' Girl Blogger award and I cannot tell you how wonderful that is because of all the people who could've given me this award, she is the most qualified. For one, she's a real teen, an age that I can barely remember. Two, she is wise beyond her years (how else would she have recognised my true girly rockingness?) and three, she really, really rocks.

So it's official people. In the words of Moppet (who has some trouble with her rs) Mama wocks! (Ok, it might sound like mamawask to some of you, but believe me, what she's saying is that I rock. I know because I'm her mommy and I'm telling you so.)

This award has done the rounds, and there have been a lot of deserving winners. I'm not sure if any of the bloggers I'm passing this award onto have already won it, but what the heck, a second one won't hurt, right?

I mean if you're already an Oscar-winning actor, and they give you another one what are you going to do? Say thanks, but I already have one? Of course not, you get up on stage and wave the bald headed little fella around, and thank your mummy and your daddy, oh and most of all you thank your peers (ahem, me!) for validating you.

So here are my wockin' girls:

Dotmom: She's brave, she's smart, she's cleverly funny. You don't get more rocking than that.

Fuzzy: She's the twin I was separated from at birth. Really.

Kiran: Don't let her claims of being overweight and over-the-hill fool you. She's just faahbulous, dahlings!

Boo: I don't know how old she really is, but 'girl' fits Boo perfectly, more than any other blogger I know. And of course, she rocks, so she just has to have this award.

Terri: Now Terri's Mom is probably going to go all Aamir Khan on me and give a lecture on how awards mean nothing, but I couldn't resist. She rocks. And so does Terri. (Ok, call it Rockin' Doggie Blogger if you like)

Monday, October 8, 2007

People don't sing when they're feeling sensible

...said W H Auden; a perfect line for Moppet's Papa and me. We're sensible - even practical - about us, and our relationship. We're not romantic at all. Really. Remember the proposal?

But we do have our moments - completely uncharacteristic, slightly goofy, sometimes cheesy, almost-romantic moments. The song story is one such. It doesn't quite qualify as 'our song' - we don't have one - but it's the most likely candidate for this tag.

Now, Moppet's Papa guards his no-nonsense, no-time-for-romance image fiercely, so for the few people who know him that are reading this - please know that this was a very, very, rare occurrence, an aberration, if you will and there have been no further slips in this regard.

It was at the Marketing Fair at B-School, a weekend affair where folks come and play specially designed games that are supposed to work as consumer research. Then we crunch the collected data and draw out (or make up ;-) deep-sounding insights and conclusions and present fancy reports to the sponsors and profs. It is set up as a fair and along with the various project booths, there are the usual food stalls, fair games, a jukebox etc.

So there I was in my booth when suddenly I heard Moppet's Papa's voice blaring out through the loudspeakers with a sweet little message and a song dedication for me. I nearly died of shock. I know that this won't seem like a big deal to many people, but it really was for me because Moppet's Papa is a very private person, and what he did that day was so completely out of character that it could only have meant one thing - he was crazy in love! Certainly not feeling sensible! :-p

Oh and the song? I Want You by Savage Garden.

Tagging anyone who has a song and would like to share it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The middle name tag

The intrepid Dotmom has handed me the middle name tag.

The three rules to be followed are:
a) The rules must be mentioned in the beginning of the tag.
(Um, why? They'd work just as well at the end, wouldn't they?)

b) You must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.
(Well, I don't have an official middle name, although I do have a christian name that exists in no official record but my baptism certificate. Having spent a large portion of my life denying knowledge of that name to my husband and friends, you don't think I'm about to tell you, do you? I thought not. So I'm taking the easy way out and choosing Moppet. Also, I'm in a nostalgic mood today, so I'm going to match off the letters with random details from my past)

c) At the end of your blog post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

(Oh dear, I think I'm one of the last people doing this tag. Still, tagging:
Orchid (whenever she comes out of hibernation),
Parul again (just kidding!),
Enigma's Sunita (I know, that's cheating, but I don't know anyone else with an E)

Ok, now that we're done with the rules and stuff, let's get down to business.

M - Maruti 800. Suzi, my first car and first true love, was seven years old when she was given to me on my 18th birthday. She was a very basic model with no air conditioning and no sound system, so on early morning drives, I would just wind down the windows and sing loudly as I drove, feeling the cool breeze on my face and hair. Heaven!

O - Oleander bushes. When I was a kid, my family lived for a few years in a small oasis town in north Africa. In the Sahara. All the buildings in the campus were set around squares lined by Oleander plants in pink and white. Although it was drilled into our heads that they were poisonous, I liked them. They brought colour and life to the dusty grey environment of the campus. It was a happy, carefree time in my life, and seeing Oleander plants always brings back lots of warm childhood memories.

P- Petticoat. What I wore when I went swimming with my granny and cousins in the river (it was more like a large stream, really) near our house in Kerala. Petticoats are thin cotton shifts and are usually white, so once they get wet, they're pretty much useless as body covering. But this was a village, the times more innocent, and it didn't matter to anyone, least of all the bunch of us, splashing, jumping and dunking each other in the stream.

P - Pageant. Yes, I was actually crowned Miss (my school's name) in class X. I got a cheap little crown and a sash and everything! It was at our farewell party, and I had put my name down as a joke, mainly to clown around on stage. I was shocked and hugely embarrassed when I won because I was (and am) under no illusions as far as my looks go. Today, being marginally better groomed, I'd say I'm average looking, but back then as a teenager, I was all bones and teeth and hair, certainly nothing like any beauty queen you've ever seen! Embarrassed as I was, I knew why I had won - they liked me. The judges were a mix of teachers and juniors from school, and I made them laugh with my silly answers to their questions and my refusal to take the whole thing as seriously as the other girls did. I learnt that day that there is such a thing as 'inner beauty', cliched as it may sound, and that there are still plenty of people in the world who can see it.

E - Egg puffs. I've never eaten any as good as the ones made by Real Bakery in Hyderabad. Just thinking about them makes my mouth water. I have searched high and low in every city I've lived in since, and eaten a lot of substandard egg puffs as a consequence, but have never found anything that came close to the Real one.

T - The Mask of Zorro. The first (sort of) movie date I had with a guy. It was pouring that day, and we got drenched just getting from the open car park to the cinema hall. And despite being so wet that any movement in our seats would produce embarrassing squelching sounds, we still enjoyed the movie. And I remember we had hot drinks and snacks at a little cafe nearby afterwards.

Ah, those were the days.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Moppet @ 18 Months

In the two months since my last update much growing up has happened. New words are added to Moppet's vocabulary so regularly that it is no longer newsworthy, yet it was barely 4 months ago that her first word had me jumping for joy.

She sings as she goes about her day and the song goes like this:
Taa ta TAA ta TAA ta taa
Owwa owwa waa ya waa
AAPPA aappa waa saa yaa
Daa ta daa ta daa ta taa

If you're scratching your head trying to figure that out, don't bother. Only a fond (and slightly demented) mother who hears it being sung about 50 times a day would be able to recognise it as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

These days, she modifies the first line to match with whatever it is she's doing while singing. So if she's having a bath, the first line becomes Baaya BAAya BAAya ba (baaya = bubble), if she's being dressed, it's Baata BAAta (baata = button) , if she's colouring, it's Paal PAAal (pal = pencil), if she's riding her bus, it's Baasa BAAsa BAAsa bas. You get the idea.

Music has become a major obsession. At playschool, if the music is not playing when she arrives, she will pull one of the teachers to the CD player and get her to start it up. It's the same thing at home. If the track playing is not to her liking, she gets one of us to skip through the tracks until we get to one she approves of, her approval being indicated by vigorous bum wagging and hearty thigh slapping.

Her favourite song is Pal Har Pal from Lage Raho Munnabhai. I have a feeling she likes it so much because she thinks it's an ode to the other great love of her life - the pencil, which she calls 'pal'. She's usually found with a pencil in her hand, and while I try to make sure that colouring happens only on designated sheets of paper, I'm resigned to the fact that the defacement of my cream papered walls is imminent.

I tried to substitute the pencils with washable crayons but she enjoys chewing them too much. Have you ever removed tiny waxy crayola flakes wedged between sharp little teeth in an uncooperative mouth owned by a squirmy toddler? It is a hugely character building exercise.

She has to do everything we do, in exactly the way we do it, whether that's picking out books in the library or sitting up in bed and 'reading' them like her Papa. Including, ahem, reading on the pot.

She's quite happy to sit and do her business on the potty, but never volunteers the information that she needs to go, even if specifically asked. However, having learned from experience that walking on our polished wood floor with wet feet can be hard on her butt, she has taken to calling me imperiously - Mama, susu! - to be rescued from her self-created puddle. My entreaties to tell me before rather than after the event have fallen on deaf ears. Karma, no doubt. My mom tells me that despite being an extremely chatty baby, talking in full and complex sentences, this one thing I would only ever tell her after the fact.

Just my luck. A daughter who has taken almost entirely after her father, and the one thing she gets from me is this?! Sigh. Although there might some hope yet. A strange thing she's started doing is answering 'Mann' when asked her name. It is nothing like her name and she knows it because her answer is always followed by a huge grin and a chuckle when she sees our bewildered expressions. I do believe it might be the beginnings of a cheeky sense of humour. Hurray!