Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nine things you do not need in pregnancy

Nobody can be as confused as a woman who got pregnant for the first time in her life. The confusion triples if she is away from home and all things mom. You do not know what to do with the newly attached file to your body. You are sick and tired all the time. You probably need to go out and work still. The parents will call and ask you to eat insane stuff, do insane things while all you wonder is how to squeeze into the office formal wear every morning. Naturally, you will drift towards the agony aunt of modern times: the internet. You will surf the baby and maternity websites. You will think that may be in these modern times I might perhaps need all these stuff to become a mother. I better be prepared. In the times of online shopping, becoming materialistic is only a matter of a few mouse clicks. You end up being an obsessive-compulsive pregnant consumer.  But do you really need all that stuff? I don’t think so. Here is a list of what you do not need in pregnancy. I was rather taken aback at the sheer existence of certain pregnancy paraphernalia.

 Pregnancy Tee shirts
A pregnant woman might do just about anything to feel casual and comfortable with her growing belly. But what are these pregnancy tee shirts? If you are already a plus size woman, shopping for these will make your spirits drown into the sea with a stone tied to the neck. They will never fit you. There is too much pressure on women to be cardstock pregnant, the ones with glowing faces and a perfect football of a bump. But to break the truth for you, pregnant women comes in all kinds of sizes just like normal women. Contemplating to buy into the store fashioned models of pregnancy perfection might land you in chronic depression. Go for those extra large men’s tees. It will have room for you, your baby, your husband and the rest of your family.

 Maternity fancy pants
This is another classic. Maternity pants? Why? Look into your cupboard. You have enough stretchy leggings, salwars with adjustable drawstrings and loose track pants already. You might not be able to wear skinny jeans for obvious reasons. Get a freaking wraparound skirt if you want to look casual and comfortable. After all, it is just a matter of nine months.

Nursing poncho
You add the word ‘nursing’ to anything in the world and put it online. You can sell it to ignorant first time mommies who are buying stuff like crazy in the whole pregnancy mayhem. There might even be nursing butt wipes, considering the customized capitalist logic. If you want to comfortably nurse, just lift your shirt/teeshirt/kurta/kameez and nurse. If you want a modest cover, use a duppatta/shawl/stole/whatever piece of cloth that comes handy. Duh! Seriously, what is happening with the common sense logic of people?

Stretch marks cream
Your skin is going to stretch like never before to accommodate a human baby; a very daring exercise which is definitely going to leave its mark. How much ever cocoa butter you apply, you will end up having those marks. The angry looking marks might fade and even out. Still they will be there like tattoos reminding you of the most life changing experience you have had. Consider taking pride in those marks. Any good moisturizer/oil will soothe your skin in tension. But ah ah, there is no magical stretch marks removing cream. If your skin type is prone to marks, it will have them marks.

 Relaxing shower gel
Any pregnant woman would love a relaxing shower. But is there a relaxing shower gel specifically manufactured for pregnancy? Hell No. Don’t buy that. If you want to relax, ask somebody to give you a foot massage, that’s relaxing!   

  Nipple wipes
Are you insane? Wipe your nipples occasionally with a clean wet cotton cloth.

  Nursing pads
The nursing pads are actually a set of pretty looking fabric sewn together to absorb the milk spilled by leaky breasts. Not all pretty looking fabric are comfortable and the nursing pad goes inside your bra, so who is to see? Fold a clean cotton fabric and use it. Try an old mulmul cloth, a piece of a well-worn cotton dhoti works the best.

 Baby record books
If you can’t think of crafting and customizing a regular scrap book into a mother hood journal, you are not going to keep a baby record book either. It will end up in the baby stuff junkyard part of your house. Trust me, you are not going to have time to keep track of what day of the week it is once the baby arrives.

Nursing bras
Didn’t we talk about this already? Oh, was that the poncho? Yes, lift your shirt and unhook your comfortable cotton bra. Remember, practice makes perfect and you get to practice this a lot. The only change in pregnancy is you might need one size bigger, or two. Good luck dealing with that!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Trip to the National Museum

The highlight of this weekend was a trip to the national museum. It does not mean that we finished admiring the museum. A complete visit of the national museum would mean many trips and many hours of walking around. With Dan, we are aiming at visiting one gallery at a time and spending whatever little time we have to admire the exhibits in that particular gallery well. This time it was the Rama Katha Exhibition, a collection of 101 illustrative miniature paintings from various illustrative painting genres all over India. The exhibition will be on till mid October this year. If anybody in Delhi is reading this, please take some time to go and see the painting exhibition. The sheer minuteness of the paintings and the amount of details the artists of yesteryear's have included inside a tiny frame is indeed breathtaking.

The galleries we missed and will be visiting one at a time some time later are,

1) Harappan Civilization
2) Sculptures
3) Buddhist Art
4) The rest of the Indian Miniature Paintings
5) Indian Scripts and Coins
6) Decorative Art and Jewellery
7) Central Asian Art
8) Manuscripts
9) Tanjore and Mysore Paintings
10) Ajanta Paintings
11) Maritime Heritage
12) Indian Textiles
.... and so much more. So if you visit the capital and go away after doing a quick India Gate and Qutub Minar, you are missing out on some serious visual splendor here.

The tale of Rama aka the Ramayana is widely illustrated in all sorts of folk, classical or modern narratives. As a research student, my Mphil research interest also loomed around the many narratives surrounding the Ramayana, specifically emphasizing on the marginalized women characters. The exhibition was a rich visual experience for the researcher and art enthusiast in me. But I am sure it will entice even the most casual visitors. In the Rama - Katha Exhibition, the miniature paintings on display showcased how different artists from different regions of India of the 18th or 19th Century took the simple narrative of the Ramayana and added motifs from life around themselves to beautify the picture. While a Rajastani piece had forts and palaces in the background, a Pahari style indulged in the lush green forests and vegetation. Depictions of kings and queens and their clothes and accesories also had such regional variations, be it a Dakhani crown or a Rajastani nose pin.
The Exhibition has variants of the Pahari style including the Basohli, Guler, Chamba, Mandi, Kangra, Nurpur and Bilaspur. Rajastani styles included were Mewar, Bundi, Kota, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bikaner, Kishangarh and Deogarh. There were Central Indian styles, provincial mughal styles, Deccani and Kalighat styles of paintings in display. One interesting fact to note from the exhibition is that while there are depictions of Rama fighting the Asuras because they perpetuated violence and all that, there is one peculiar painting which shows a lakshmana roasting a deer, and in yet another curious one making the meat into hanging kababs. This story of Ramayana has endless possibilities to be told and retold from all sorts of perspectives, the thought of which gives me goosebumps.
While the time I got was spent in enjoying the minutest details of those brilliant paintings, someone else was having a lot of fun with the lights, the empty big room, the echo of his own voice and so on. Here is the little museum enthusiast of mine.

He surely had a lot of fun. I am glad it was not some gallery with harappan pottery displayed as centre piece and all. I really do not want to think about the Mr Bean adventure we might have had  to go through.

Among the Rama-Katha exhibition, what caught the most attention of mine would be the pretty designs in the borders and details. This is definitely the most picture heavy post so far. The pictures are not of great quality because of the glare of the glass and the humbleness of our camera, but still it is worth looking at.

And to think that all the colours are vegetable colours, and in each tile sized painting, about a hundred tiny brushes were used so that the colours wont mix up and make a mess! Talk about patience and art!

Another fabulous thing was the different versions of Ravanas in different styles of miniature paintings.

The way Ravana was depicted was quite interesting as there were single headed images to ten headed mughal muslim emperor look-alike Ravanas. I was thrilled at the coincidence of getting to meet different Ravanas painted by many anonymous artists from centuries before just after doing a Ravana Illustration myself. The thought that from two or three centuries ago another person sat down with his/her brush and tried to imagine how a Ravana would look like is exciting in itself. Check out the different Ravanas we saw.

The Malwa Style Ravana 

The Chamba Style Ravana 

The Mandi Style Ravana, who also reminded me of portrayals of Mughal emperors. Probably, somewhere an artist would have thought that a villain would look like a Muslim Emperor. Or on a higher probability, a hindu king would have ordered an artist to depict a Ravana in the costume  of a  Muslim Emperor. Are Ram Images and other such valorous god images modelled on reigning kings? One doubts. 

The Ravana who proposes to Sita. 

Another Ravana discussing war strategies with his brothers. 

A sad and pensive Ravana. 

Death of Ravana, one head at a time. I wonder what the woman standing next to him is doing; assisting in head chopping?

A one chop all heads gone killing of Ravana. 

There were some other pictures which were interesting. Like the illustrated sea of monkeys or the portrait of Rama. 

It is quite rare to get a glimpse of Rama all by himself without lakshmana or hanuman or other associates.

While we went to see the Rama Katha Exhibition, we also got a chance encounter with the Yogini. The catchphrase the museum authorities gave to the event of bringing an old loot back from Paris is interesting. Bollywood film makers can actually cook up a fantasy movie with a buffallo headed animal mutation of a woman and name the flick "The Yogini Returns". Anyway, glad we got a chance to meet the returned Yogini. The statue is amazing. 

The sculpture of Yogini Vrishanana was taken to France illegally and acquired by the art collector late Mr. Robert Schrimpf. Thanks to Mrs. Martine Schrimpf who decided to donate it back to India, the national museum now proudly possess the Yogini. May be a bufallo headed giant woman freaked her out or something. Anyway, good only. 
The yogini has a club in her hand and a fruit in another. She sits atop of her vehicle, a swan who picks on the fruit in her hand. The yogini cult is dated back to the 6th to 10th centuries and is an example of the worship of mother goddesses. 

Finally to end the day, the gleeful son and mom took pictures in front of the museum. 

We definitely are excited to be with ancient vyalis or modern copies of ancient vyalis.

And with some other mutilated god. My thrilled little museum goer. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Celebrating Onam my way!

This year's onam is over. There has been a lot of debates online and offline about the correctness of Onam, politics of Onam, Food and Onam, Clothing and Onam, Caste and Onam and so on and so forth. The way we celebrated Onam might say something about our standpoint in celebrating onam or any other festival for that matter. To make it very clear in the beginning itself, we are not for the Brahmanical Vegetarian Onam where you only eat vegetarian delicacies and commemorate the birth of Vamana. 

This is how our Onam went this year. The previous day had a gathering at a friend's place. We had a good lunch. We met a lot of people, most of them we met sometime last year. It turned out to be an occassion where you could sit and relax and talk about how much the kid's have grown or in my case how much weight I have lost lugging a toddler around or how much more I will lose when the kid starts running around etc etc. It was fun. It was relaxed. It was calm. There were friends. There was cheer. There was happiness. It was Onam. 

It was also our son's first Onam. When you live away from your hometown, these celebrations of local festivals are one occassion to remind you that you have roots elsewhere. I see it as a time when I can tell my son the story of the great king Mahabali and how the cunning Vamana tricked him into giving up his kingdom. I can tell him what it means to be cheated. I can tell him how to be graceful even when you accept defeat. At a later stage, I can even tell him all about the caste system and how it was portrayed through myths, stories, and so on. It is such a powerful story I want to be told to my son. We love good stories here. 

The onam day morning was a regular work day for the adults and the kid in the household. The father went to teach, the mother sat down to do a quick illustration of Ravana, the great Asura king. I was inspired by the Asura week happening in English and Foreign Languages University to celebrate the Asura. Check out some details from the work. 

Then we cooked good food.

Here is the Onam Menu.

1. Rice
2. Sambar
3. Kappa (Tapioca)
4. Payar Poriyal (All prepared by Justin)
5.  Dry Prawns Chutney
6. Parippu Payasam (Prepared by your's truly)

It was such a good lunch, we crashed for nearly two hours after that. About the brahmanical food pattern followed so religiously during Onam, well we don't give too much attention to that.We eat Roti and Sabzi pretty much every day in Delhi. This was the day we could chuck work and spend some time to cook Rice, Kappa and a curious mix of veg and non veg Malayali food. Back home, I hear that mom made Chicken Biriyani and Ada Pradhaman for Onam. "Who can afford vegetables?" is what she asks. Point to be noted. I heard that they hired a truck to shift them to the bed after lunch.

We wore nice 'nouveau' mallu clothes aka kasavu clothes. Now we have a lot of divided opinion about this offwhite fabric with golden zari. I don't view it as a savarna costume. Check out the savarna photographs of olden times. It was either plain white clothes or no clothes. I find this fabric pretty. We spent our pre lunch minutes to dress up and take pictures.
Here is Dan in his kutti mundu. He wore it for a nanosecond and then pulled it out and walked around in underpants. That was Onam for him.

This is a blurred photograph which sums up my life right now. A messy room with toys all over, a very wiggly kid who refuses to sit still for a picture and a truck load of happiness. This was onam for me.

And now the customary family pic. Both of us posed well to the camera that was set on self timer. Dan was confused why we are sitting in this weird fashion, staring into the wall. I guess his face says it all. The best part about Onam is the leftover food in the fridge. You do not have to cook again for two more meal times. I love it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Abacus home style

Initially I thought I will buy an abacus for Dan. Something swanky like this.

Then today we were doing some laundry together and I had my little helper around. May be I will not buy that abacus now. :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Accessories for the little ladies

 The boy was teething and was not letting me work. I work from home on a million little freelance projects so that I can put the jam and butter onto the bread the husband provides while I live my life as a stay at home mom. Now a boy who is teething is a pain to look at. He is cranky all the time and needs constant attention. Remember the pain you had when your wisdom teeth were popping out. Now add that pain to a very innocent, oblivious to sharp pains infanthood. Pretty tough it must be. 

The point is, he would be even more cranky if I let him play while turn on the laptop to sit and work. He knows that when Amma does that, he has to now play alone while she types away like a maniac. We ended up not working till the bad phase of teething was over. I could always hold tiny fabric pieces and work on small little crafts while he played. As long as I kept the laptop away, he was happy. It resulted in a big batch of hair clips and brooches made out of recycled fabric. A peek into a couple of them follows. 

I gifted it to all my lovely little friends in the neighbourhood. I still have to send a small batch to a dear friend's daughter, which I will do probably tomorrow. 

Here is Anvi didi wearing the pretty pink hair clip while holding Dan. She was very happy to have the gift. I am making some more for her. 

Here is a close up view of the hair clip. Rolled Roses are an aboslute delight, don't you think? 

Daniel and Anvi Didi in the park :) 

   Here is another little didi of Daniel's rocking a hair clip. She doesn't sit still :) My efforts to get a close up shot of her wearing the clip was lost on her. 

If you are wondering how the red clip looks like, this is how! The blue one also went to her. I need to take a picture later. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Family Reads

I keep this one photograph close to my heart. Dan was hardly two months old. He is lying in my mother’s lap and peeping into her newspaper. The dude who sits next to her is my brother. My family was pampering me with all the postnatal care I could have in Kerala style. Now, my mother and my brother are the two members in my family who read minimal stuff like the newspaper, the recipe book, the sports page, you get the picture. But even if it is just that, they read and they read regularly. My father is a fairly good reader. He takes pride in spending his time reading a newspaper cover to cover. He also reads fiction. On a reader scale in the family, my husband ranks the highest. He reads all the time. He reads History more because that is his area. But outside that too he reads pretty much everything, including three newspapers, numerous magazines and journals. I remember myself as a kid who loved to read. I remember hiding under the cot and reading with a torchlight on. I read classics, trash, popular stuff, weird stuff, horrid stuff, tasteful stuff, everything. I majored in literature most importantly because it let me read. Even now, I read a lot. I read online. I read real books. My deepest desire right now, other than owning a pen tablet because I sketch too, is to own a kindle reader. It is only natural for me to hope that my kid will catch the habit too. I am sure he will, because in this house, sit and read is the most natural thing one can do unless you are into laughing out like hyenas. That we do a lot in this house, naturally.

Book Intimidation? 

We never bought too many fancy toys for the boy. But we did buy board books when he was a wee little fellow. Of course, he went ahead and pulled out the protective plastic films over the pages, tried to munch on the edges of the book, tried to eat bookmarks out of the books I read and so on. However, books do not intimidate the boy. He might tear pages off your book if you leave him unsupervised with it, but he is not afraid of doing so. And I am glad.

I am not kidding, people often get intimidated by books. My father told me about this cousin who came to our place and slept over in my room. Apparently he kept on complaining that he couldn’t sleep because of the books that filled the room. He even went ahead and advised my parents to take them all out and burn them. The horror!

We were looked at (rather stared at) with eyes of disbelief when some acquaintances came over and saw us handing board books to a four month old. Some of them even went ahead and advised us that books come later when they are five or six years old. We didn’t want to be rude, so we kept mum. But hello, our kid here. We will raise him whichever way we want as long as he does not grow up to become a sociopath. Even if he will for whatever reason, he better be a well read sociopath. I have dreams of taking him to a library and getting him familiarized with how to meander through a library, taking the old book smell in, checking out random books and fall in love with a strange book just because you chanced upon an interesting cover design or something. I want him to let his guards off and be as open minded as possible to knowledge and ideas. I am really hoping that he will never have a dislike to all things book.

In my defense, top twenty reasons why the kid might love to read too.

1.       We have plenty of  reading material all over the place- newspapers, magazines, books, notices, catalogues, takeout menus, recipes, you name it.
2.      We have a room that is full of books.
3.      We the parents are not boring people and we read all the time.
4.      The kid already senses that his parents read for pleasure amongst other things.
5.      We gift books.
6.      We receive books as gifts.
7.      We are super thrilled when we receive books as gifts.
8.     We are even more thrilled when we borrow books from people and they forget about the fact that we borrowed it.
9.      No, we haven’t. (Steal, that is)
10.  We enjoy going to the Sunday second hand book market in Daryaganj and spend hours in hot sun searching for books while dreaming about the awesome kulfi we can have on our way back.
11.   We love second hand book finds.
12.  We love first hand books too.
13.  We spend half of our paycheques on books (with no regrets).
14.   We believe that a library is a cool place to be.
15.   So is a bookshop.
16.  We are on first name basis with bookshop keepers.
17.   And librarians.
18.  We love good stories.
19.  All the love memorabilia between the parents are books.
20. When the kid turns one next month, he is going to get many new books! J

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