Oh baby, don’t grow up so fast.

arjun-and-momma-in-goa

Arjun, my almost two year old boy is at an age, where he can make sense of the little things going on around him. He can explain , argue, try to convince or throw a tantrum as the last resort. Many times he says things to us which we have previously said to him. When I hurt my finger with a kitchen knife, he came running with his baby lotion and told me to apply it and it will get well very soon. When his father coughed during a meal, he quickly pointed out that he should take smaller bites and eat slowly. Stuff that we tell him sooner or later comes back at us. He knows which clothes I wear to work and which clothes on the weekends. So last Saturday when I wanted to go meet a friend for lunch, I told him I am going to office and you take a nap with your baba. He looked at my jeans and gleefully exclaimed that I am not wearing office clothes, so I can’t go to the office. It’s hard to say anything to that when you feel half proud about your child’s supposed intelligence and half stupid to be so simplistic that a 2 year old has already figured you out. But that’s what it is. Many times we have to talk in spellings now, because he knows his mother tongue Marathi very well, and can also pick up on most commonly used English words. Often you will find us talking like this – ‘Should we take him s-w-i-m-m-i-n-g in the evening?’ or ‘Don’t bring that a-p-p-l-e in front of him till he finishes dinner’ et cetera.

But this baby boy is wary of loud places and crowded rooms. Any new people make him nervous and he starts saying he wants to go home. When I took him to a Mentor Me India meeting a few weeks back because no one was at home to baby-sit him, he cried non-stop till I quickly called an Uber to go home. But as soon as I showed him that an Uber was on the way, he stopped crying. A fellow mentor asked him that if you understand what is happening then why are you crying? Arjun replied with a wail to ensure that I don’t cancel the cab. He was uncomfortable there for whatever reasons, and he was communicating it to me in the best way he could. Now so many times it happens that I want to literally and figuratively run out of a place. Especially dark rooms with small windows. I have yet not been able to articulate why. Then how can I expect him to do that? But nevertheless I feel exasperated at times and wish he was more ‘social’. More like me than his dad who also needs a lot of alone time.

Currently Arjun’s grandma has gone to the USA for a few weeks to spend time with her granddaughter. Naturally he is quite upset that his beloved ajji can’t be seen anywhere. Without any frame of reference of a month or a week, I was worried how to tell him that she will come back soon, but after many days and many nights. He cried for the first two days but now he tells himself every morning that ajji has gone to US to bring his cousin Sara to Mumbai so that they can play together. Suddenly he misses her less, because it’s for a special cause. It is so that he gets back not only ajji but also Saru-tai, his cousin. Poor baby Arjun is set for another heartbreak in a few weeks, but for now he is waiting. And valiantly assures me that ajji will come back soon when I say that I miss her too.

These new generation kids are really smart I tell you. Making sense of the world faster than us. My two and half year old nephew can unlock any cellphone, take selfies and photos. And if there is no password, he can even play his favourite Youtube videos! My friends’ similar aged son can identify cars whizzing by. His toy cars include a Lamborghini, Bugatti, Ferrari etc. And I can’t even recognise my white Activa scooter without seeing the number plate. I often wonder how can we match up to these kids? How do we keep them stimulated without binding them to dozens of activity classes? If you have any tips, I am very keen to hear.

And of course things are not so sensible every day. There are times when Arjun is crying unconsolably because he wants to wear the same soiled diaper from the dustbin or he has had a bad dream at 3 am and wants to go to the park right now to see the horse or some other absurd idea at an ungodly time and I want to disappear from this life. Wake up in another era when I had my brain to myself and was not muddled with concern, worry, and a whole another individual. But then that’s why parenting is a two person job (mostly). Akshay takes over and asks me to shoo away when I am running out of patience. It true that it takes a village to raise a child. If it were just the baby and me I would have gone crazy long back.

End of this month little baby turns two, he just switched from rear-facing baby car seat to front facing big-boy seat. I cling to his baby ways of doing things, his sweet smell, the way he asks me to pick him up and hold him, the way he wil hold my face in both his hands and prevent me from talking to anyone else. Because it won’t last long. Soon his non-stop chatter will turn into reserved one-word sentences. Cuddles will be hard to come by and the grown up air will surround him. I better enjoy each moment now, and go give him a nose-to-nose Eskimo kiss. Right now.

Xoxo.

Rutvika

 

 

Feminism : Its just about women having choice

with-sapna-bhavnani

And that there is my first writer crush! Long before Sapna Bhavnani appeared in Big Boss or in movies, she used to write a kickass column in Bombay Times. Way back in 2002 when I was a 16-17 year old girl trying to figure out the ways of the world. Internet was patchy then and articles which came in newspapers had to be saved – cut and paste manual way- if you wanted to re-read them. And thats what I did. For 2 years, every Monday I would look for the BT and read her wonderful words. What a delight to read those emancipated ideas of freedom and doing whatever the heck you want to. Sapna Bhavnani did not disappoint me. When I finally saw her talk in person at a Feminist Conference last Monday, I felt a flutter of joy. Things which I believed all those years back are still true.

And yes, you read that right. I was at a Feminist conference organised by SheThePeopleTV. 20 people from different areas of life talking about feminism. What it means to the world and to each one of us at large. I was enthralled. So many things that we see around us were put into words. Everyday, everywhere we see patriarchy in different forms telling women what they can and cannot do. You telling yourself that certain things are a woman’s domain and that to keep your family intact you have to do those things, or not do so many of them. As a society there are certain rules to live by, but the minute those rules change for men and women, there is misogyny. I am myself guilty of many Feminism Lite things as Chimimand Ngochi Adiche says in her article, I was accepting equal rights for women with conditions. But I can’t raise my son with that thought. He has to know that women and men are equal and he should be respecting them and their choices completely.

the-feminist-conf

There were some eye openers for me in the conference. How we women act as gatekeepers limiting the stuff we or our husbands, partners can do. I have forever remembered my mom telling my dad that he does not do the housework as it should be done.  And what is the definition of how it should be done? Its the way in which she does it. It resulted in him helping her very little with the chores at home, that led to a feeling of resentment in my mom that she had to do everything. She also used to give me and my brother rigid instructions on how to do a particular thing. Micro-managing. But what was really happening is that she was preventing anyone from helping her, by setting the standards so high. The same thing happens when my friend refuses to leave her baby with her husband saying ‘he won’t feed her well’, or ‘he won’t clean her bum neatly’. And well and neatly are entirely decided by her. So if women want more freedom, more opportunities they have to stop being their own hurdles. Stop being their own gatekeepers. My dad can clean the house as much as mom can, it’s his house too. My husband can and does take care of our child as well as I can. He is an equal parent. When I realised all these things, it made my life so much easier. And isn’t that the truth? Stereotyping that women can cook and men can understand technology better, woman needs to take care of the house, man needs to earn a living for the house etc. etc. only limits the opportunities we have.

But increasingly, as I read more, as I see and understand more, the angrier I get at how women and their rights have been marginalised for so many centuries. My husband, hopefully in jest, asked me if I am turning into an angry feminist. I told him that I already am a feminist. My mom is a feminist, my mother-in-law is one and even he himself is a feminist. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here doing what I am doing. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to get education, to work or even to get an evening off for myself if I did not have the choice to do the things that I want to, that I wish to do. He is my biggest supporter. We work together in our family business, he is the CEO and I am the CFO in our company. When any banking or financial decisions have to be made he never second-guesses my action. Point blank tells the people looking at him and talking to him to talk to me as I will be making that decision. He urges me to find time to write, or to do another baking course in Le Cordon Blue in Pairs and that he will take care of our child. My parents in law, are equally encouraging of both their daughters-in-law as much as their sons. And they take pride in our achievements. So yes, all of these wonderful people around me are feminists too. They believe in equal opportunities. They believe that their daughter, wife or daughter-in-law is no less than any male counterpart and I hugely respect them for that. Its time that they start taking credit for it and pushing other people to do so by example.

But its always going to be a mixed bag. How do we ensure our girls and women are safe on the streets? Do we tell them to not go out alone at night, to wear appropriate clothes etc or do we tell them to do what they want to do and that we will take care of it if something goes wrong? My 12 year old mentee, Gauri – how do I explain her that she is as precious as her male cousin when all she sees around herself is that the girls are considered worthless? How do I tell my son to react if someone makes fun of him when he is baking a cake? Or if a girl hits him, who do I tell him to do? All of these are complicated questions with no simple answer. But as Chimimanda Adichie says, I have to consider the premise. And believe and make other women believe that they matter. Equally. Not ‘if only’ or as long as’ but that they matter. Full stop.

Of course all of this is for a us, urban, educated, independent women. So many women around us are still trapped in their own homes, suffer and continue to live with abusive philandering husbands, in dead-end relationships, abort girl foetuses, get their daughters married off at twelve, fifteen and never know any life outside of that. But there is hope. When my grandma started working 65 years back in a government organisation or my husband’s grandma got a graduation degree 60 years back, there has been hope.  And things will continue to improve, one bit a time.

Xoxo,

Rutvika

Strawberry Cream cheese Tart

For three years from the age of 20, I had a rigorous internship or articleship as we called in our Chartered accountancy course, based in my hometown Mumbai. It gave me several opportunities of travel all over India for audit including 2 months in Delhi each year. All of us interns, roughly in the same age group, we used to love it. It meant being away from home at client sponsored fancy hotels and visiting local tourist spots on the weekends. And at that age, partly because of ignorance and partly because of the courage youth provides, I was fearless, unabashed.

Once in Delhi, about 5 years back, in the midst of a very hectic working schedule, we interns needed a break. And all we could do was go for a late night movie post work. Of course our seniors were not happy with the idea, but nevertheless we went for the movie. 11pm to 2 am, in the freezing cold of January. Nothing happened, we were safely back in the hotel and it was just a movie night out.

We were thrilled at how we ignored what the seniors said and went for the movie, came back unscathed. But in hindsight it seems we were so stupid.

I remembered that night after watching the documentary India’s Daughter. That girl was gang raped in Delhi at 8.30 pm in a moving bus. And we were so foolish back then that the three of us walked backed from the movie theatre at goddamn 2 am. Was luck on our side? Yes. That must be the reason we returned safely.

I thought that the documentary was well made and it deserved to be seen, however shameful it makes us feel. A lot has been said and written about it and I have nothing more to add. But it makes me introspect my daily life and those of my friends, sisters and nieces. In this day and age, we women are not safe and it is prudent to be wise and act accordingly.

When I saw all the angst and long discussions about the rape incidents in India, it made me more worried about the short term. In the long term as further awareness gets created, we can hope to reduce such incidences, but for now, what else do we do but be careful? In principle I agree with liberal ideas of I will do what I want, but in reality it is not practical.

Somewhere it makes me sad that my subconscious has accepted the dangers because it means I have less energy or zeal to fight the negative elements. But pragmatism sets in as you grow older and now I want my young sister-in-law staying away from home to be safe. Even if it means she has to curtail her activities. I want my cousin to be conservatively dressed and not attract unwanted attention. At the same time time it makes me genuinely sad that I don’t have the guts to tell them ” Do as you wish, don’t be afraid of nothing in the world”, because the world is not so simple. Life is not in black and white.

In Paris when I used to come back home late from school, I used to get scared while walking back from the metro station, because there used to be a couple of drunkards on the streets and metro station. I once asked my host Danielle, if it was safe, and she replied; “Well just dont be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

That’s what it is. Wherever in the world, take care and dont be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And a little caution never hurts.

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And while the last of strawberries of the season are still in the market, I made this Strawberry Cream-cheese Tart from my blogger friend Saee’s Youtube stream MyJhola. It is a delightful dessert made effortlessly and the video on Youtube explains it very efficiently. I slightly tweaked the recipe to make it a tad bit sweeter and used chopped strawberries for that brilliant red color.

Strawberry tart

Strawberry Creamcheese Tart

What you will need :

  • 12-15 Digestive biscuits
  • 2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 225 gms or 8oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 tablespoon strawberry jam
  • 2 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 10-12 strawberries, cleaned and cut into slices

What to do :

  1. Crumble the digestive biscuits and mix it with the butter. Pulse in the mixer a couple of times till there are no crumbs.
  2. Lightly butter a 8 inch springfoam pan and spread this mixture on the pan and press gently with your fingers. Refrigerate for half hour till it sets.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the cream cheese and add the strawberry jam and icing sugar.
  4. In another bowl, whip the cream to form soft peaks.
  5. Now carefully fold it into the cream cheese mixture.
  6. Take out the biscuit base and fill it with this cheese and cream mixture.
  7. Spread with a layer of sliced strawberries.
  8. Let it set in the fridge for half hour. Serve cold with some mint leaves.

Strawberry cream tart