Posted in Uncategorized

Absence creates fondness (LMT Post)

Seated by the window, I am flying back home after a two-day business trip. The aerial view of the land below is simply stunning. It is as if someone has covered mother earth with a warm blanket of fireflies on this cold winter night.

At the airport, I picked a tiny Cookie Monster stuffed toy for Ram. It seemed like the right gift for a child who never misses an opportunity to check out what Sesame character adorns his diaper. Between a Sudoku activity book and a fancy bookmark, I picked the latter for Hari. The child has been using the library receipt as a bookmark, may be this fancy toy will jazz up the reading experience for him. I chose a bookmark that said, “Real books do not catch viruses” for Da, who is an early adopter of ebooks and online reading. May be it will come in handy for the few real books he reads every now and then.

Armed with these little toys, I am looking forward to going home. I am looking forward to having a steaming cup of creamy milk mixed with two heaps of Complan. I am looking forward to sneaking into the room to curl up with my sonny boys. When I do so, I know they will instinctively curl up to me, wrapping me in a cocoon of love. And for those few moments, my heart will be full, with gratitude and contentment, and life will seem perfect as is!

Posted in Uncategorized

Toddler talk (LMT Post)

A toddler does not take his words for granted. His vocabulary is built, word by word. Through repetition. With a lot of practice.

“What is your name amma? what is your name appa? what is your name anna?”, he would have quizzed us a thousand times. The more he asked, the more he internalized what those words meant, and with time he learnt to use them in a different context. “What is your name” paved way to “What is this amma?” and “what are you doing?”

Fluency is not a feature of toddler talk, but deliberation is. Every word is chosen consciously, strung together with lot of care, and expressed with pride. For instance, when he said “You hit my shoulder amma, be careful”, he did not say it in one breath like you and I would have. It took him few seconds to figure out the words, and put them in a sentence. When I responded with “I am so sorry Ram, I will be more careful”, the child simply couldn’t suppress his smile. For you see the choicest reward you can give to a toddler who is aspiring to talk is the acknowledgement that you have understood what he is trying to say and appropriately respond.

And that’s probably why he gets very frustrated the few times you are not able to make out what he is trying to say. Like the time he pointed to the fridge and kept saying a longish “blues”. It took me a while to figure out – he is so sure about what he is saying, it’s not gibberish, he is pointing to the fridge, , and then it dawns on me – aha! blue berries. “Do you want blue berries Ram?”, and the child is merrily nodding away, “Yes, blue berries. I want blue berries.”

Anything that is experienced, is articulated. “I like it Santa song” “I feel better now ” “Snow is not hot, it’s cold” And as he savors every word he utters, it’s just not the mouth that does the talking. Arched eyebrows, wonder struck eyes, high pitched voice to name a few of the accompanying special effects.

There are no limits to the words he wants to experiment with – “Acham illai acham illai acham enbadhu illai”, he valiantly attempts to imitate after his anna.

There is thrill in listing words because it comes with relative ease “Kathrikai, inji, poondu, soorakai, pavakai…”

Want to know the best part? As he climbs on my belly at bed time and rests his tired body, I whisper to him, “I love you a lot kannama”, and he replies “I love you amma”, tinted with mazhalai.

What is not to love about this pint sized love!

Note: I updated this post as I published it before I had captured all I wanted to capture.

Posted in Hari Katha, Little Moments

Doctor appointment (LMT Post)

Some events remind you of the passage of time more acutely than others. Like the yearly visit to the pediatrician for your child’s physical. Somehow every year, the experience is a little different. Different because he is a little more grown – physically, intellectually and emotionally – than the earlier visit and it shows!

Earlier last week, Hari had his eighth annual physical. He burst into giggles when the nurse asked him to dress down to his underwear. “Ayya yo, this is so embarrassing. Will the doctor see me in my underwear?” yelped the child, grinning ear to ear, who otherwise has no qualms running around the house in his birthday suit. All that embarrassment vanished into thin air as the doctor stepped in. So much to catch up on – school, sports and nutrition. “Does ice cream count as third serving of dairy,” he asked with naughtiness glinting in his eyes. Then as the doctor examined his body, part by part, he slipped a sheepish smile, looking at me from the corner of his eye.

As I returned his smile, a flurry of images flitted by. An image of me, sleep deprived and frazzled, holding my new born who had just thrown up following a bout of cough. An image of Da consoling our infant Hari at the doctor’s office as I rushed from work to be there with him for what seemed liked a gazillionth time that first year he went to daycare. Image of toddler Hari, kicking and screaming, requiring two nurses and a mom and a doctor to examine his ears. From then on the images get happier and more pleasant because the visits, for the most part, were well rather than sick visits.

Just as I snapped out of the images, Hari was ready for his blood work. And this time, he had to do something new – pee in a cup! and that amused him to no end. “Yikes! I wouldn’t want to be the person testing someone’s pee”, he commented.

As we wrapped up, the friendly receptionist offered a lollipop and bade good bye with her trademark observation, “Look at you Hari, you are so grown up!” And I couldn’t have agreed more.

Posted in Experiences, Inspiration, Introspection

Candle Light Vigil

As I sat in the red line subway headed to Harvard, the conversation I had with Hari kept playing in my mind. The plan was to watch the first Harry Potter movie as a family in the evening. So I owed him an explanation as to why it was not going to materialize.

“Why will you not join us amma?”, he asked. “Someone did something really bad to someone in India”, before I could complete, he shot a volley of questions at me, “Who did what? and why did they do it?” “A man was very violent to a woman and hit her so badly that it caused her to die. He did that because he thought he could get away with it. I am going to join a bunch of other people to say that it is not ok to treat anyone with violence and that we should treat each other with dignity.” As I scooped the hot chocolate and mixed it with his milk, I added, “Remember Hari, it’s not ok to treat anyone in an inhuman manner nor is it ok to let anyone to treat you in an inhuman manner. And if you see someone doing something wrong you should do something about it.” I was not prepared for the question that followed, “should I help out even if it means I will get killed?” He had me stumped and I confessed that I didn’t have an answer.

As I mulled over the conversation, I had more questions than answers.

The local Indian Organizations joined hands to organize a candle light vigil this evening to honor Damini and express intolerance to the barbaric acts. I headed to the venue with mixed emotions – skepticism (is this gesture just symbolic without yielding anything actionable?), relief (in some ways, this gesture convinced me that we care, that together we can make a difference), and sadness (really, what these men did will make the wildest of beasts shudder), and helplessness (honestly, how can I make a difference?)

As I joined a couple of other strangers who were going to the vigil, I sensed similar sentiments. The gathering was filled with activists holding placards that were reflection of anger, rage and impatience. As the speaker unfolded the agenda for the evening, we helped each other light our candles. There were statements from a number of organizations – how this incident is just the tip of the iceberg, and that what really needs to happen is to address the problem where it originates – at the Dalit and the lower rung of the society where atrocities of this nature is not uncommon and often goes unreported. What originates there seeps into middle class. I concurred with the statement from AID India that made concrete demands from the Indian government.

There were heart wrenching poems and a skit. A survivor of violence sang her heart out – I am more than a victim of my back, I am sunshine. I am survivor of violence. I am also a survivor of love. She left us streaming with tears this cold winter night. Resolutions were made and pledges taken for freedom from sexual prejudices and atrocities.

The event came to a close as all of us sang “We shall overcome”, and “Hum honge Kamiyaap” in unison. The pit was filled with energy and possibilities. I felt calmer and assured.


Do something, anything. Change your attitude, spread awareness, learn self defense. Enkay has expressed beautifully how Change should come from You, please hop over and read. Empower yourself.

Do not underestimate the difference you can make. You may be a drop in the ocean, but remember that without drops like you there is no ocean. Every drop collectively can make a difference. Absolutely, there is power in numbers.