To the Mother, who stays home

dsc_2946…. I feel for you.

May be you chose to stay home. May be not. But you are here. And let me tell you, how fortunate you are, to be able to witness the wonder that childhood is. And you get to see it every single day.

They grow up too soon.

The other day I found an old video of when my son was one and half years old (he is five and half now). He was trying to tell us that he wanted to be taken out. With his plump baby legs, he would make several rounds from us to the shoes’ rack, and try to explain that he wanted to be taken out. He took out our shoes; he got his own shoes and tried wearing them.

That video really wasn’t much, but I watched that video in a loop. I watched it hiding from my husband. I felt silly doing that. But even thinking about that video makes me cry. I can’t explain it. I was there when that video was taken. I have always been around. But I felt that he has grown up too fast. He is just five and I already miss his childhood.

So, that’s the reason I feel you are fortunate. I am thankful for every single day. I try to make the most of it. Every single day is unique and special. Kids grow up every single day. The other day he used to scribble all over the walls since he didn’t know how to write, now he spells words like ‘hypothetical’ and ‘exquisite’.

It is truly thrilling to be where the action is, to be present on the moments when he makes big leaps, when he shares tiny details about school, when he asks me to hold him close. I feel privileged because I have the luxury of time to do all that.

I know sometimes you regret not having a career, sometimes you look at working mothers and feel that perhaps you could have the best of both worlds too. But we choose what we believe in. And sometimes fate chooses it for us. But making the most of it is in our hands.

Don’t tell me you don’t feel that little flutter in your heart when you catch your sleeping baby smiling. It is so precious.

I have peace in my heart that to this piece of my heart, I gave my all. I did not hold back, I always gave my all. I tried every single day to be my best, be the best parent I can be. Many times I have struggled. First three years were extremely challenging, I will not try to sugarcoat them. I used to take each day at a time, always reassuring myself that the time will pass. And the time sure passed too quickly. He is on the threshold of being an independent boy of 6, which makes me want to hold onto this time much more.

He surprises me every single day. He is not the sum of both of us; he is astoundingly so much more.

I love being with him. At his age, he wants to grow up fast; to become taller, to become stronger but I tell him, “hold on kid! It’s nothing what you imagine. Growing up means a whole lot of responsibilities. It is not as if you have your way when you grow up”.

Sometimes I just trick him to sleep. I lie down and listen to everything. I will listen to all that he would be doing. Reading books, or writing and slowly just climbing next to me saying ‘Mamma, I’m sleepy’ (he would never be caught saying those words). I will hug him close and wrap him in my blanket. It feels so precious. I take in that moment, and feel gratitude for it.

So, dear mother, I feel for you, about your career and all, but believe me these moments are too special.

Life without TV

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My favourite part is when I tell people we don’t watch TV and they can’t believe it!

We haven’t been watching TV for over 6 years now. I remember I used to come back from office and park myself in front of the TV with a cup of tea. I would watch programs after programs but always have that empty feeling of non-productivity. I would lament about not having enough time to do any of the things I loved. I loved reading but I wasn’t reading enough. In fact, both of us used to come back from office and watch useless programs for hours. We needed to change something.

We decided we had to get rid of the TV (I mean the connection). And we have never regretted that decision. What also sealed the deal was having a baby. I didn’t want an onslaught of cartoon shows to make all our lives miserable. And it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Advantages of not watching TV

Couple time: When we stopped watching TV, we would play board games and have tea together. We would chat for long hours about our work, life, goals, etc. Time slows down when you are not watching TV.

No Boredom: It’s true. I have observed that kids who watch TV are easily bored otherwise. The reason is that TV offers a different kind of stimulation which cannot be matched by anything else like reading books or playing board games. I have never heard my 5 year old say he is bored. He always finds ways to entertain himself. He will write, create some variations of the games or read, or ask us to play with him.

Creative pursuits: When you are not sprawled in front of the TV in all your free time, you feel the energy and inclination to pursue your creativity. My husband keeps surprising me with his creativity – from a World Map on one of the Walls to a wooden book box for our son; from a little reading table for him to learning to make several Indian sweets like Kaju katli, Gulab Jamun, Boondi Laddoo and so many more things; he has been amazingly prolific.

Freedom from Advertisements: More than the programs, I am wary about the ads. Our son neither knows Chhota Bheem or Doremon, nor does he know KinderJoy. I am neither pestered for fancy merchandise of popular characters, nor for the latest chocolates or wafers or theme parties. TV is full of misleading messages like when you add certain powder to your milk, you will be stronger; when you eat certain noodles or cornflakes, you will be healthier. Actually, in a lot of ads kids are shown making faces at healthy food and milk, which influence kids in a wrong way. I do not add anything to my son’s milk, not even sugar. He loves it. And we eat healthy breakfast.

Freedom from Unnecessary messages: Since my son is at an impressionable age right now, I am uncomfortable with a lot of things that is shown on the TV. He does not have the experience or maturity to differentiate between real and make-believe. There are issues like gender stereotyping, violence, crime and poor self-image. Even music channels are no good. The less said the better about the lyrics and obscenity.

No dependence on TV: I was always clear that my son will never eat his food while watching TV no matter how much of an effort that may be. It’s easy to feed little kids while showing cartoons but I have seen what a vicious circle that is. I never fell prey to that situation. Also, you pay more attention to your food when you are not eating while watching TV.

Bonding with kids: The only thing kids really need is bonding time with parents, everything else is secondary. When there’s no TV, you play with your child, you talk to him, you bond. You have the opportunities to connect. You can’t expect kids to answer abstract questions like ‘how was your day?’ You need to sit with him, ask him ten different kinds of things to actually know how his day had been.

Freedom from Screen time worries: From 0-2 years of age, kids should have zero screen time; and after that, not more than 30-60 minutes. But that rarely happens in reality. I’m free of such worries. Sometimes we let him watch animated movies but that’s about it. And that also goes for laptops, computers, mobiles or tablets. With no screens around, we don’t have those daily power struggles.

Stimulating discussions: Our bedtime discussions are about galaxies and planets, instead of daily soaps.

Peaceful Mornings: Our mornings never start with blaring sounds of music channels or news channels. We exercise or have tea or chat or read newspaper.

Saves money: We still have our old CRT. We neither graduated to LCD, nor do we have any intentions of getting an LED TV. Technology becomes obsolete very frequently. I’m glad we are not shelling out money every two years to upgrade; and add to that the money saved for DTH services.

Disadvantages?

None so far. Yes, our parents sometimes threaten that they would not visit. But on a serious note, I am yet to find any disadvantage.

Here are a few perceived advantages of watching TV:

Educational and Informative: Some people say that kids learn a lot when they watch educational programs on TV. If you can control their TV viewing, it’s great. I didn’t want that headache and unnecessary power struggles. I also do not believe that they learn more from TV, they learn far more from reading, playing and doing things.

Feeling left out: Also called peer pressure. Personally, I’m quite happy in my ignorance. We also get the argument that kids might feel peer pressure when they grow up and they might feel left out. I would never stress out about a hypothetical situation. I will cross the bridge when I come to it.

News & latest updates: With internet, you get all the news anyways. It is like checking email 10 times in a day. It is really not required. You can check and respond to emails even twice. It is a myth that we need to be connected all the time. It actually makes you less productive.

One of the major reasons for moving to a TV-free life was to set an example for the little one. You need to practice what you preach. Moreover, if there is anything you really need to watch, there is always the internet.

And honestly, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. You do not miss something that you never experienced. We CHOSE to give up TV, while our son NEVER experienced having a TV at home. THIS is the life he has always known. Our lives do not revolve around TV programs neither do they fill our silences. Boredom is a boon for creativity and imagination.

So, if you are planning to go TV-free; I will say, go for it. It’s truly life-changing. There’s so much to do in life, why live vicariously!

Top 3 Goals for 2017

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Experience has taught me that too many things on your to-do list never works. So, in 2017, I’m going to focus only on 3 goals.

RUN

2 years back I decided that ‘things change only when you change things’, and started running to keep fit. Running is more about improving your metabolism rather than lose weight.

Pinkathon 2015 was the first event in which I had participated for 5K. And this year, in Pinkathon 2016, I comfortably ran 10K. I also participated in a few other events in between.

I enjoy 10K because it does not require any special kind of commitment or training. I try to run 3 times a week, and one of the runs is 10K or more. I always thought 21K is not for me but now I’m getting comfortable with the idea. I have every intention of ticking that off my non-existent bucket list this year. I know it is not difficult for someone who has been running for 2 years. My goal is to run consistently and increase distance gradually.

READ

I have stopped buying books since a long time now. I got myself a Kindle last year, but unfortunately my reading hasn’t increased. I used to review books on my book blog but it has remained neglected for some time. With my reading and reviewing goals this year, I aim to breathe a new lease of life into it.

  1. I plan to read 35 books in 2017 and review them.
  2. I also plan to review 24 children’s books this year.

 

WRITE

I have started working as a Freelance Content Writer as well as Editor / Proofreader. It was always my dream to pursue writing as a career. For a writer, it is important to create a discipline in writing, so I intend to write daily.

Why write daily? Writing is like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you become at it.

So, what do you want to accomplish in 2017?

 

 

2016 – Retrospective

I had written about my Must-Dos for 2016, and here’s what I have been able to achieve in the last one year:

  1. Run More – I, certainly, ran more than 2015. I was largely into 5Ks during 2015. In 2016, I ran a couple of 10Ks in events and found some friends to do Sunday runs. I did have a lull period of a couple of months due to a health scare but the main thing is to bounce back through vacations, guests or illnesses. This year, I will hopefully do my first Half Marathon (21K).
  2. Travel More – I traveled but not more than 2015. We went to Ooty and Diveagar in 2016. We had traveled to Delhi, Rishikesh, Jamshedpur, Ranchi, Pondicherry, Goa, Lavasa in 2015.
  3. Write Daily – I did not write daily. In fact, I did not write much. This year Writing is one of my biggest focus areas because I’m pursuing writing professionally.
  4. Read More – I did not read more books. I read almost the same. I had read 14 books in 2015, I managed to read 12 in 2016 but I did finish the tome ‘A Suitable Boy’ and it was underwhelming.
  5. Declutter – As someone who is working towards a Minimalist lifestyle, I made a lot of progress. I have been actively decluttering since more than 2 years and continued to do it through 2016.
  6. Buy Less – I did not buy any book for myself. I bought a few books for my son about 6 months back on his birthday. I bought some clothes for myself after much planning and deliberation, but that was almost a year ago.
  7. Disconnect (from gadgets) – Finding balance in using gadgets still eludes me. I don’t want to be connected all the time, it actually comes in the way of being mindful about activities which you are otherwise pursuing.
  8. Drive More – I started well in January by driving everyday to school but it just fizzled out after January. I need to look out for opportunities to practice more.
  9. Learn to Make – I learnt to make a lot of things. I learnt to make Ghee and haven’t looked back. The aroma of home-made Ghee is something else. I baked whole-wheat cake umpteen number of times and also tried my hand at Nankhatais. I tried besan ke laddoo. I started using organic shampoo for my hair.
  10. Learn to Meditate – I had absolutely no progress on this.

I learnt that it is important to focus on only a few things and be more specific (quantify goals). I hope to have a more productive and more fulfilling year; even 2016 was great! I survived, right? I am healthy and happy. I have people I love. What is there to complain? I am actually grateful for all the wonderful times I had in 2016.

Wishing you all a Very Happy New Year! Hope you find Happiness and Fulfillment in everything that you do 🙂

The Role of a Spouse

What is the role of a spouse?

How do you know you’ve met the right person? How do you decide you are going to work in perfect tandem over the years?

After 9 years of marriage and 13 years of knowing each other, after our own experiences and observing other people; I can only say, nobody can know for sure how a marriage will be! I didn’t know. Actually, I never thought that far. I just decided I wanted to get married to this person. Perhaps that was my first life-changing decision.

And I come back to my question, what is the role of a spouse?

Now when I think in retrospect, I feel every brave decision that I have taken is because of the knowledge that I have the unconditional support of this other person. He has been the wind beneath my wings. And perhaps that is the reason those decisions which other people consider brave haven’t felt that way. That kind of unconditional support can truly liberate you.

He is the one on whose shoulder I cried on when I did not do well in a subject. He is the one I confided in. He is the one who waited for 3 hours (till 3 am) outside my creative agency, when I had to put a catalogue to print. He is the one who held my hand when I went into labour. He is the one who wakes up no matter what time he slept, to drop me off for runs in the morning. He has always been that 2 am friend to me.

When I wanted to work, when I wanted to quit; when I didn’t want to have a baby, when I wanted to have one; when I wanted to choose a certain style of parenting, when I wanted to choose a certain school – he has always understood, no matter how unpopular or unconventional the choices have been.

The right person can totally bring the best in you by just letting you be, by just being there when you want to take decisions, and by not pointing out ‘I told you so’ when you fail.

That is the role of a spouse – to keep you grounded, to set you free!

Organic Shampoo – Putting an end to Hair fall and split ends

Hair fall and split ends are some of the most common hair woes. And it would not be wrong to say that we have learned to live with them. But when I spotted a few grey strands, it freaked me out completely. I definitely don’t want to spend the rest of my life coloring my hair. You just have to Google to find out how chemicals in shampoo and conditioner (or other hair care products) are damaging our hair. They just create a superficially good looking hair and we feel we cannot do without them, but actually keep on damaging the hair.

I had been toying with the idea of making organic hair shampoo for a while now. As a teenager I have used reetha or aritha (soapnuts), amla (indian gooseberry) and shikakai (acacia concinna) for my hair. My mom had told me that if I kept using those, I would never have grey hair. But which teenager thinks about grey hair? Thirty-somethings do!

So, mom’s words came back to me when I started searching for natural hair cleanser. Twenty years too late, but I decided to return to the ancient wisdom of using amla-aritha-shikakai for my hair. I wanted to use them in their original dried, whole form, but I found the powders at the grocery store next to my house.

How to make the Organic Hair Cleanser with Aritha-Amla-Shikakai powder

Important: My hair is thick in texture and dry; and much to my dismay it is wavy and prone to getting frizzy.

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Aritha-Amla-Shikakai Powders

Ingredients

Reetha (Soapnut) powder

Amla (Indian Gooseberry) powder

Shikakai (Acacia concinna) powder

I bought each of them for Rs 30 (100 gm pack).

How to make the hair cleanser

  1. Take enough water to cover your hair. I have below shoulder length hair. I take 2 glasses of water.
  2. Put it to boil in a container. Take it off the flame.
  3. Add 2 Tablespoon each of Aritha Powder, Amla Powder and Shikakai Powder. Mix it well.
  4. Cover the container with a lid and let it cool down.dsc_0581After it has cooled down, strain the mixture. When it cools down, the powder settles at the bottom of the container. So, just slowly pour the water from top and strain it. If you use the water without straining, it will leave your hair tangled.
  5. Slowly massage your hair while applying the amla-shikakai-aritha concoction and wash after 5-10 minutes. Make sure you protect your eyes, because it hurts.

Note:

  • The best way to use aritha, amla, shikakai is in whole, dried form. It is easier to strain. Just soak them overnight in an iron vessel, boil them in the morning and strain after it cools down. It promises black hair.
  • You can even store this concoction in refrigerator for 4-5 days.

For conditioning

I take a mug of tap water and add half a lemon. After I have cleaned my hair, I wash it with this lemon water; keep for 5 minutes and rinse. Since the time I have started using lemon water, I have found that my hair, which is naturally wavy, has straightened a lot and also it is much more smooth. It looks lovely.

Now everything is not hunky-dory in using this organic wash. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros

  1. My hair fall and split ends issues have been sorted. My hair fall was scary. Every time I would wash, comb or even touch my hair, a bunch would come off. I was losing a lot of hair all the time. I always had hair on my clothes and all over the floor. Now when I wash my hair, I am thrilled to find only 1-2 strands. The same thing happens on combing the hair. I am glad that I (re)discovered this. I have been using this for 4 months now. I have minimized usage of regular shampoo to only about once in a month. You would ask why! Read the Cons.
  2. Now I have no split ends. I used to have them all the time. Since I’m not using any chemical on my hair, my hair is healthy and no splits. I can actually feel my hair has become thicker and longer.

Cons

  1. The biggest issue with this is that it cannot wash off oil from hair. I love oiling my hair atleast once in 7-10 days, and I tend to put too much oil. So, sometimes I have to use regular shampoo, or wash twice on consecutive days.
  2. It does not give the smooth and silky feel, which a shampoo gives. But since the time I have been using lemon water, I feel the smoothness has improved a lot. I also feel that lemon water actually helps straighten the hair naturally.
  3. It is not the most user-friendly way of cleaning your hair. It takes effort!

What next?

I’m planning to continue using this; but I am also looking for a mild shampoo to wash off oil from hair, and also to use during travel.

People also use Cooking Soda for washing hair and Apple Cider Vinegar mixed in water for conditioning. They did not work for me though.

I cannot recommend this Organic Hair Cleanser enough. It truly is too good to be true. I hope people try this and see for themselves!

Experience: Trip to the sleepy beach town – Diveagar

We usually look for warmer places to visit in December. We have been to Kerala during this season and a couple of times to Goa. Since the time we started driving to places, we discovered that having a car can totally turn around your experience of any place.

Looking for beach towns near Pune, we came across Diveagar. It looked perfect for a 4 days’ trip – it is known for its clean beach, we could reach there in 4.5-5 hours’ drive and it is one of the less explored places near Pune. Though we came across quite a few bad patches, the overall drive was pleasant via Tamhini Ghat.

The Resort

MTDC’s Exotica Beach Resort is full of greenery, and is for anyone looking for an idyllic place. It is located right next to the beach. It is perfect for a rejuvenating and relaxing trip. Actually there are very few resorts in Dive agar. Homestays are the more popular options, and cheaper too.

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Exotica has just 20 cottages. Each cottage has a parking spot in front of it (which is a major plus point). Cottages are small and basic but clean. Each cottage has some space around it, some have hammocks, some have sitting space etc. There are some cottages with sit-outs too but we opted for the one without sit-out since we have never actually used this facility anywhere. The staff is helpful and we did not have any problems.

The play area was quite a favourite. Since we went there during weekdays, we had almost all the place to ourselves. I and the better half rediscovered badminton after quite a long time. It was so much fun. Our 5 year old tried his hands at Table Tennis and Carom. There were swings and hammocks, or you could just sit and read newspaper or books. We spent quite a lot of time lounging there.

The resort is a quiet place, filled only with the tranquil sounds of nature like those of waves, crickets, birds, etc.

Note: I read a few bad reviews about this resort and frankly, most of the details were not wrong. It just highlights the fact that each one of us travel with different expectations and perceptions. For example, the cottages were not out of the world, they were basic; but the overall experience was great for us.

The Food

The resort had a decent (though repetitive) breakfast buffet but their menu generally missed the local flavors. They had the standard Indian fare which is available everywhere, the Paneer Butter Masalas and the Chicken Chillies! Though we are not into sea food, we wanted to taste the local flavors. So, we would have our breakfasts at the resort but have all the other meals outside. Even outside, the best food options are the lunch homes offering authentic Konkani style special thalis. We tried food at Patil Khanaval and Rane Bandhu. Both these had been recommended by someone at the resort and they were, apparently, quite popular among tourists. The Chicken Thali was delicious and the food in general was reasonably priced. Both days, we spent less than Rs 300 a meal for 2 people.

The Beach

It was a clean beach. In the name of water sports, there was parasailing attached to the jeep and All-Terrain Bikes. There were no shacks like Goa. There were 2-3 food stalls that sold usual snacks like Dosa, Misal Paav, Vada Paav etc. The beach would be deserted by 6.30-7 pm. And we did not find it safe to venture there at night.

We also planned to visit Shrivardhan and Harihareshwar but dropped the idea since we were staying next to the beach and saw no point in hopping to other beaches.

The Place

Dive agar is actually a village. We went for a long drive around the village and in the outskirts. The drive was captivating, with houses on one side and the beach on the other. The beach is flat, and we found quite a lot of kids playing cricket. There is hardly any crowd. If you step out at night, not a soul is visible. We did see a slew of cars while returning on Saturday though.

We missed visiting the beach early morning during this trip. Since I wake up early at home, I really kept the alarm away during my trip, and woke up late every single day.

We also visited the Murud Janjira Fort. It was a different experience too. One needs to take a ferry ride, along with the vehicle, and then drive to Rajapuri, from where a sail boat takes you to the Fort. Read more about this monument here.

Diveagar is strongly recommended for a relaxing and peaceful weekend trip. The operative words here are beach, place near pune, peace….you got the drift, right? Do not expect anything else.