DH and I took Ishita to the park together last Sunday, took along her cricket bat and ball as she loves to play with her papa, regular casual activity.
There were two little girls playing at the playground under the supervision of their maid judging by the young age and conservative clothing. So far nothing quite unusual, the little girls noticed we brought a bat and wanted to play too, but Ishita suddenly grew possessive of her toy, and more importantly her papa, no sharing him with just anybody but the younger of the two girls really wanted to play so she kept asking “Can I play?” Which we were fine with, and by that I mean DH and I, Ishita was less than thrilled.
DH who talks in Hindi with Ishita just devised a plan and talked to the girl in Hindi as well to invite her in the game, at this point the girl looked at my husband square in the face and said “Talk English Uncle”, I was baffled, DH a bit surprised asked “Why you don’t understand Hindi?” (having heard her speak to the maid in Hindi earlier), and the girl to reply in a very assertive, and a bit disdainful tone “That’s the maids language!”
I was shocked, not because there is yet another mean way to segregate people into social classes in India, because let’s face it, there are far too many already, nope, what shocked me is that this little girl was no older than 5, and she was already clear in her mind about using languages as a status symbol, clearly she didn’t come with this one on her own, and I find it sad that educated well off parents perpetrate these labels and make sure their kiddos will continue making distinction of class and possibly caste between human beings!
So Hindi is no longer good enough to be spoken by certain people because they should be above it? How insulting is that? Have DH and I missed the memo on how uncool a language that was? i mean DH speaks Hindi, I speak French, we want her to grow up knowing her parent’s respective native languages, English, she can learn in school, and she will, DH and I both did, and we are good at it.
But sadly, it seems parents in metro make the choice to speak no local languages to their kiddos and prefer English and this is becoming a big trend, I was discussing it with a friend, and that very Sunday earlier in the day another friend with whom we had breakfast pointed the same thing, the reasoning of the parents for shunning away from desi languages? English gives them the edge in pre-school and later school, if they are fluent in it, they will perform better and earlier!
BAM! It once again all boils down to the insane level of competition placed on tiny tots in the school environment, not that some pre-school would even care how fluent the kids are in one language, but certainly is a brag factor for moms to just shove into every other’s parents face at pick up time how her kid is knowing more colours and numbers than the other toddlers in the group…oh dear! The worst of all is that this insanity is probably not so far in my future. I already had a few ladies back in Bangalore and here in Mumbai asking me “Oh she doesn’t talk yet?” on a tone suggesting there was something wrong with her, well in all due respect she talks a few words, of French and English, and understands what I say and quite lot of what DH says in Hindi as well. And I pointed out these things in a casual way in a more explanatory way than bragging (lame attempt at justifying myself to stranger that should normally not go under my skin), the minute I mention 3 languages exposure all at once at age 2 and the ladies are suddenly gasping a shy embarrassed “oh” and leave the topic alone, probably perceiving my casual explanation as why my daughter can’t recite sonnets and ballads in English (ahem nursery rhymes) as a challenge toward their kids (even if there are none offered).
So yes it seems we live in a world where Hindi is now a lower class servant’s language not worth using on anybody but those below you, and a girl all high of 5 years of age reminding a grown up Uncle about it.
The move’s side effects left some noticeable trace on my body, my weight crept back to 75kg, and a puffier mid section, thanks to many days of outside food, maggi noodles, and an increase in donut intake before the kitchen less carb induced debacle. As I said I eat when I’m stressed out…while I try to be reasonable and strike a good balance between junk and healthy stuff, nothing calms murderous thoughts like a chocolate anything. So between going on a killing spree (or rather screaming my head off at anybody and make them run for cover) or staying calm and gaining a few…what would you chose?
So yes here I am, heavy, and determined once more to do something about it. Fortunately during the move we unearthed my Jillian Michaels 30 day shred DVD. Unavailable in India, i got that one through torrents download after so many of the moms in my ivillage expecting club raved about. The first time I tried it was May 2010, and in 6 days I lost 2kg. I never did the whole programme, because I fell sick, then we were moving to Navi Mumbai, and I forgot about it until settled in our new quarters in NRI complex, but the heat and humidity made me give up after 10 minutes.
This time around, I vowed myself not to give in to excuses, and while I took 2 Sundays off and a day in the middle of last week, I’ve done 7 days so far, and even on the days off I was on the move doing something else...DH tagged along after 2 days of me doing it, and we are trying to set the 25 minutes it takes to complete a level together.
Now all those not in the know, this programme is rather brutal, it is destined to push your body a bit outside the comfort zone. The first day you will be wishing to die, strongly tempted to just hit the stop button on your player, and quit….DON’T
Yes it is hard, but let me tell you it is worth it, you will have sore muscles the next day, but don’t quit, just do it again, and again and again, I’m not kidding when I tell you that you get to see results after 3 days, not in the sense of weight loss, but rather in the general shape of your body, you will notice slightly more defined muscles, a better posture, and harder stuff under the flab.
Her method is a 3-2-1 system with 3 cycles, meaning 3 minutes of strength 2 minutes of cardio and one minutes of abs, repeated 3 times, no break, no time to catch your breath, you are on the move the whole time, the warm up section is made to elevate your heart rate, and the only time you finally get your rest is during the stretching in the end. You just go go go the whole time.
All you need to do this programme is a set of weights. Start light, and work your way into the programme. Last year I took the 1.5kg weights I had, and they were heavy, they could have been weighting a ton for all I cared, but 3 days into the programme you start feeling less pain, and an increased sense of gratification at you not being the limpy flabby bits of human being you thought you were. This time I first started with the 1.5kg again, they were heavy but not so much as last year, I guess carrying a toddler around does pay off a little, when DH said he wanted to do the work out with me, I told him he could take my weights and I would take the two steel unloaded rods that he bought with his disk dumbbell set 2 years ago, the steel rods are 2kg each and I started on day 2 with them, I felt the difference in weight, and yes felt like screaming, but the next day was easier, now 7 days later, the 2kg weights are too light, I’m not getting much resistance with them, that’s how fast my body adapted to the workout, since I told DH I would wait for him to complete the 10 days of level one before going together to level 2 I need to increase the weight to at least 3kg, a thing we’ve been looking for this weekend but haven’t found yet. 7 days into it, I haven’t lost any weight, but I’m less out of shape than last time, so what is likely to be happening this time is my building more muscle mass faster, rather than spending half of the first level loosing some fluids due to water retention, but while no weight has been lost, I lost one inch all over, going from a 42-35-42 to a 41-34-41.
One word of caution though with the programme, it can be murder for the knees. I have a congenital knee defect, had surgery in one knee ages ago, my orthopaedic surgeon always told me to go easy on the high impact activities. So if you are like me, you might want to modify thing a little, her cardio routine involves a lot of jumping, jumping jacks, jump rope style skip, butt kicks and what not, while she has a lower impact version for beginners, many of the moves are still treacherous for weak joints. I for myself can do one set of her jumping jacks, but after that my keen start paining, do the second and I am ready to scream in pain, the thing to do is to replace these high impact cardio moves with lower impact ones, I do more of her punches move instead of the jumping jacks, do not jump with my two feet up during the jump rope move preferring to do an alternate skip move, and barely lift my feet during the butt kick.
In her strength routine in level one she couples biceps curls with lunges, and have side lunges in another set, they too can kill knees, I do one set the way she designed it to be done, then keep my legs static in one position that still engage quad muscles without moving my faulty knees. I still get quite a lot out of the workout without injuring my knees any further. If you are unsure about your health and joints, I would seek medical expertise before pushing yourself into these moves. What matters in that work out is for you to get your heart rate strong, and several muscle groups engaged during the strength cycle, in the end how you achieve that doesn’t matter much as long as you just grasp the concept and follow through the general idea of the 3-2-1 system.
Also since it is a strenuous programme which might have you wanting to quit, if you aren’t the most will powered person on the planet, you might want to find an exercise buddy to do it with you. I know that the reason I haven’t quit so far is that DH is doing it with me, and DH says the same, confessing that he wouldn’t have lasted more than 3-4 days on it if doing it alone.
All in all we are getting fitter, and having fun doing it as a couple activity.
I was coming back from the playground, and down the stairs that lead to the park when I almost stepped on this:
And fortunately I had my phone so I snapped a picture, and then back home decided to look online to identify my huge caterpillar, and huge it was, about the length and diameter of my forefinger, I kid you not. And once you pass the gross factor (eeek I almost stepped on that!) I must admit it is kind of cute despite the size.
So I Googled “green caterpillar identification India” and it didn’t take me long to find my big guy, to all interested, this is an Oleander Hawk Moth Caterpillar, it likes to eat leaf from big fragrant flower plants, and sure enough it was near to a flower bed having all kind of flower plants, and it eventually turn into one of the biggest, most intricately patterned moth on Earth if I believe the info I found on that big bug.
I had no idea one could find that type of caterpillar in the middle of a city in India, that too in an apartment complex super landscaped green space.
Mumbai is a city that has seen too many terror attacks and bomb blast, India seem to barely get over one blast that another one occur somewhere else. And with each attack the medias go on a field trip: Who is to blame, is the Government too lax?, are our intelligence agency efficient, has the police done its job, could this have been avoided? Who is to blame.
The finger pointing game starts between governments agencies, political parties, political figures, no one want to accept even a dollop of responsibility.
While the finger pointing game is on, media congratulate the resilient spirit of Mumbai, life goes on, interest die, and in an effort to show that they are doing something, some official bodies increase security in hot spots, put billboards to remind citizens to be alert and hope no other calamity will strike…
But wait let’s rewind a little bit shall we? The part about the billboard to raise awareness about citizen alertness.
That one actually implies that all of us, and yes that’s you and me included have a part to play in making our cities safer, and by far the most sensible advice of all.
It’s pretty easy to do your part as a citizen, start by reporting suspicious unattended luggage. There I said it, it is easy!
And apparently according to an experiment conducted by the Hindustan Times with the findings published today in Mumbai’s HT cafe supplement dated Tuesday September 20th 2011, page tree (epaper link here), not so much, the journalists did leave a huge black bag in several hot spots location, including on the seat of the local train which has been the scene of a bloody attack on July 11 2006, in all six location not one person noticed, or cared, in the train one guy even grabbed the bag, shoved it aside so he could get the window seat, same scenario at a bus stand, and in another location the street cleaning staff just cleaned around it without raising an eyebrow, in front of the court, policemen passed in front of it without noticing it.
I sadly think it says it all, what if the infamously praised resilient spirit of Mumbai isn’t just perceived as such when in fact it could be just not really paying attention and caring about safety? I think I said it once or twice in the past few years, one thing that actually puzzled me about India is a screwed sense of civism, or lack of it all together. Could that actually make the job of terrorists that much easier? After all if no one seem to pay attention to big black piece of unattended luggage in places that have been the target of attacks in the past, it just proves how easy it is to leave a bomb anywhere.
In the same line of sloppy safety measures, the Mumbai mirror reported a few weeks back about a training exercise conducted by the city police itself, sending some policemen in plain clothes in shopping malls carrying a gun to put the metal detector and body search conducted at the entrance in 4 big malls, all mall security staff failed to detect the gun which was tuck into the policemen’s pants, that’s how easy it is to bring a weapon into a mall, people. Proving the point I had for years in Bangalore that these measures are just bogus and there or to give a false sense of security to people, or just be a propaganda destined to keep people fearing attack and the proof that the government cares about the citizen that elected it in it’s present form…sigh
So who’s fault is it that India isn’t safer? All of us, the government for being lax and corrupted, the police force for having a few rotten tomatoes among their rank who discourage citizens from reporting suspicious parcels, the private security staff in malls for not doing their job, and us people for just not doing our bit, reporting bags is one thing, but what about constantly making an effort to keep streets clean so that hiding a bomb in a pile of rubbish becomes less easy? And of course just doing a concrete effort at ending corruption in the first place.
And that’s what happened on Sunday!
DH and I had an original ambitious plan of first going to Marine Drive early in the morning, then have breakfast and then head to Phoenix Mills (Which contrary to the name, is no longer a Mill but a shopping mall complex) to head to Hamleys to originally get a toy remote controlled car that DH wanted to get for his birthday to play with Ishita.
As things often happen in our family is that the plans change at the last minute, we overslept…actually DH did, and by the time we were ready to leave it was 9.30 strongly going on 10am, and Marine Drive by then would have been a bit too hot and uncomfy, so we skipped that part all together, and headed to Lower Parel to the Mall aforementioned, but then again a clarification, this isn’t just ONE mall, that’s 3 all connected together around a courtyard, built on the ground of what was once a textile mill, one among hundreds possibly thousands in Parel, in the industrial era. The mills have gone, high end real estate projects replaced them be it commercial or residential.
But enough with the history here shall we? We reached there early and headed to one of the numerous coffee shop for breakfast, then looked around for a while, and headed to the famous Hamleys Toy Shop, I say famous, because I’ve been to London enough to know that that Toy Shop is one big Landmark there and has quite a name, the original is a big multi-storeyed affair, and would you believe that in all my quite many trips to the British Capital I never set foot in it, maybe I needed a child on my own refusing to just let my inner child go wild, but that’s a topic I’ll left unexplored, my inner child prefers cartoons, computer games and Star Wars. And yes when I heard the opened a branch in Mumbai (mentioned by a friend when we were living in Navi Mumbai last year) I was quite surprised, I didn’t know Hamleys turned into a franchise, to me there was only one store, the one in London. And we moved out of the Mumbai vicinity before we had time to have a look, this time we lie nearer to it, so time to satisfy our curiosity.
The shop is fairly big, well organised, and it was PRICELESS to see Ishita’s mesmerized face, she just stood there wondering where to begin: The stuffed Animals on the right, or march straight away through the craft section all the way to Barbie, not that the choice was made as she immediately got distracted by the Hamleys Teddy Mascot that was getting the final adjustment made to his costume before heading out on the balcony in the sun to wave at the crowd (poor guy), a giant moving teddy…that’s quite something when you are 2 years old, so she ran after him to the door, not quite sure what to do next until one shop assistant opened it for her to step outside, taking very cautious step she went to the teddy, with a look of sheer amazement on her face, and a bit uncertain as to what to do when the Teddy just held his big paw to shake her hand. So I just picked her up so she could see Teddy’s face and she then touched his paw, and had a big gigantic smile on her face when he pat her head, her day was made!
We headed back inside as the 3 minutes standing in the sun with Teddy were quite enough heat for the day (and I once again felt sorry for the guy inside teddy’s costume hoping he wouldn’t have to stand the whole day there and risk a heat stroke).
Back inside we found DH in the toy car section, and then roamed around the store, Ishita just feeling in heaven looking at everything, and just having fun.
DH decided not to get the toy car just yet, as Ishita might break it before they could enjoy it together. So instead he got a Rubik’s cube, and Ishita had her eyes set on the Leap Frog talking picnic basket, I got some sticky ball game so we can play in the park once the grass gets dry in our building, and by the time we paid and stepped out I was relieved to see Teddy was no longer standing there, for his health sake as it was noon and the sun was burning high.
We took some more time roaming around finding out that all the big higher end brands have an outlet there, and at the top of the most exclusive of the 3 malls there was a gourmet supermarket…that I had to see!
First good surprised is that it also sell regular local brands, and Indian organic products, but in more European Grocery store atmosphere, no pushy crowd there, it’s gathering to the upper middle class, it has a “traiteur” section with freshly made salads, and dips, a guy who makes Sushi, and yes even vegetarian sushi bento. going deeper into the store, I saw their exotic products, a section to buy all the stuff to make your own sushi, udon noodles, thai cuisine essentials, all type of vinegars and sauces, and…COUSCOUS GRAINS!
In 8 years in India, despite all magazines (and I mean even Femina which is local) came up with couscous recipes calling for couscous grains I would never find in any of the stores, not even the speciality ones. I spent 8 years experimenting with broken wheat, suji, in all brands, grain sizes and what not to always end up with something lukewarm, and the closest I came from the real thing was with organic dalia (broken wheat or bulgur wheat) but not quite the same taste. 8 Years of craving a Taboule or recycle that leftover Chole into a modified couscous with real couscous grains!
Needless to say that after such a long time, I don’t even care that the pack cost 255 rupees, I took it.
The store also have cake decorating stuff, mini marshmallow, which I didn’t buy but will once I decide to try that rocky road brownie recipe I have somewhere.
But what felt the best, is that for once, I can stop wondering about ingredients the next time I read a continental recipe I want to try. I’m sure there are other stores nearer from my place, but the point is that now for the first time ever since moving to India I know one place that have quite a few of the basics that I couldn’t find anywhere else.
After 8 years of being an expat with the desire to cook home food with the right flavours, my wish have been granted, I have my solution…YES!
When I am tensed, overworked, and flat out stressed out what I like to do is get away from it all for one hour or two, back in Geneva that meant slipping in my running shoes and go for a walk in the country side which was just a short distance away, or hop on my bicycle and go even further away. no distraction, no crowd, nobody to give me hell, just me the wind, the sound from the stream, and the chirping birds, inevitably my walk would be energetic and sometimes furious depending of the level of frustration I had to flush, and tapper to a smooth casual stroll by the time I was done rearranging my problems and solve my existential crisis.
And I was thinking about just that yesterday night after a taxing day at home and writing it down in my diary, and then later while in bed the movie “What women want” and the Nike ad came back to my mind. If you haven’t seen it,or need your memory refreshed, you can watch it here
One thing lead to another, and I started thinking how difficult to walk in India, and even more when you are a woman depending where you live. In Bangalore I used to walk as much as I could, and back before all the moving mayhem of the past year when we were living in the house we should maybe have never left, I was living about 3 kilometres from the Forum Mall, and when DH was away on assignment,I just didn’t mind walking all the way there, there were some crappy stretch on that road,but still enough trees to shade me to make up for it, and even in the hottest month of the year the walk is still possible without melting down to a puddle. Was it pleasant? not as much as I would, my stress busting walks are just me and the road, or trail or path, you don’t get that here. Apart from the obvious noise, traffic, crowd and pollution, as a woman, you have to bear with stares, mostly from men, and eve teasing, coming from moronic, brainless A-hole class younger class less chromosome XY, and while I never experienced more than sickening cat calls, whistling and howling I know some women went through more.
We indeed do not want to be judged, we want the right to just go for a run or walk without having to justify it, we want our alone time, we don’t want a guy with the brain of teenage retard to run behind and say “Nice Ass” thinking his joke is funny and making you feel you should have not bothered wearing sportswear to work out, we want to not have to earn the right to be ourselves once in a while.
When a man comes back from work, change into his favourite workout gear no one goes on telling him he should wear something more “appropriate”, no one accuse him of slacking in his manly duties, after all it seems to be commonly accepted that because he is bringing the pay check it entitles him to the privilege of not having to explain himself about how much time he spend on his pass times. He also won’t have to suffer from comments from his manly peers or hear too many sexually misplaced comments from the ladies.
Then why oh why is it so that women are told to put everybody else before themselves, and then told that walking outside after dark is unsafe, that you just can’t wear that anyway and expected to grin and bear all?
Women just want to be respected for who they are, not what society wants them to be. And pretty much like that ad says, it seems that the only one respecting that is the road under our feet.
And as for me, I’m yet to find one place where I get to walk freely in this country, and I bet I’m far from being alone in that case.
Expatriating yourself doesn’t come without a price, there are many perks, and a few pitfalls on the road, no matter what culture you belong to, and which country you plan to relocate to. There are several steps in the adjustment process as described in this article
And having been part of some world wide expat communities online, I can say that we ALL went through a variation of these phases in the order they have been described. For some the phases are shorter or longer, but this is a journey we all had to go through, and it’s hard even if it is worth it.
For me Stage one, the Honeymoon stage did last a bit longer, though only in appearance if I really dare to introspect, the first few weeks in India were indeed exiting, everything was new, I was embarking on a journey, a brave new world, a new life to figure out. You are amazed at the world around you because it is different, you want to embrace it all, and in my case do as the local do to prove to myself and to my then BF now DH that I am Indian material. The dress the food, the habits, I changed it all, and as I said at first it was fun, but about 7-8 months in the new life I really started hitting the wall, but deluded myself into thinking it was just me not trying hard enough, so I went on sugar coating the cultural shock to get the initial feeling of glee and excitement that carried me through, and maybe because my move was a more permanent affair I felt I had to just suck it up and try harder, as mentioned in my identity post, that wasn’t exactly a smart idea. But I was young, optimistic and DH and I were adjusting to life as a couple, we had challenges ahead of us, I had future in-laws to please. The point is while my excitement was indeed genuine the first few months in India, it became a big fake later on, and I clearly deluded myself into thinking there was only one way to adjust: embracing it all, no matter how absurd it is.
The Culture shock phase, that stage does indeed hit right after the Honeymoon phase, and that is the one I was in denial about. In my case that involved being so seriously fed up with dal/sabzi at every meal and craving a big fat juicy steak despite not being a fan of red meat in the first place, but reasoning that dal was nutritious and that I was living a better life, and yes not ashamed of saying that I had that period of kidding myself into despising continental food, and those spending more money to get it in India (and yes juicy steaks are available here). Or wanting to wear a pair of shorts with my kurta, but deciding it was too westernized and therefore not good, sticking to salwaar suits exclusively in an effort to blend in reasoning that it was better, more colourful, light weight more suited to the climate, and never mind that I sweat excessively in humid weather leading to ugly wet patches all over (including the back) transforming my long kurta into something that looks more like a wet mop.
The delusion however started wearing off in 2005 when I was working in a call center, as mentioned in my identity post, my colleagues were dressing as they please, I was dressing to please, and that hit me, slowly I admit, but still hit me. I think that is when I started cooking continental food again, and more importantly the stage I started questioning things, which is pretty much the end of the that phase and the beginning of the next one:
Adjusting, after excitement, shock, denial, you finally get to see into perspective, your own culture isn’t bad, it’s part of who you are, and India isn’t all pure greatness and superiority, dal at every meal SUCKS, and you don’t have to suck it up and pretend it is the way to go, roasted chicken isn’t silly bland and crappy. You come up with fusion dishes too, your wardrobe starts embracing who you have become with an equal mix of western and desi outfit, you now know that contrary to what you believed not all Indian women were wearing ethnic all the time, and you feel more comfortable in your own skin and less need of wanting to blend in, you are also more comfy with your surrounding, the culture and the language to just know what to expect and how to behave. That is the stage you separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak. That one came in 2006 after we got married, as said after realising that no matter how hard I tried my MIL was dead set on disliking me, and that therefore she might as well dislike the true me rather than the phoney desi wannabe I turned into. And yes both my culture and and desi culture are equally great and bad at the same time, the beauty of living multicultural is that you get to mix and match to suit you and your family needs, it’s like getting a box of green lego and a box of red lego, they are both great, in themselves, but when you blend them together you can create something wonderful you couldn’t do with just one box of green or one box of red. And to the purist who say you should not mix colour…well let them be, they don’t know what they are missing.
The last step is Mastery, according to the article it takes 5-7 years to reach it, and yes that is Exactly that amount of time it took me, mastery doesn’t mean you have to be totally fluent in one language, it actually means you are completely confortable in your new world, and move forward with it rather than feeling dragged along the way.
For me it actually started sinking in when I was pregnant, I was bringing a new life into this world, and I started getting really clear about what I wanted for my baby. I moved to India went through adjusting to a new place, living in with a boyfriend, getting married, realising you can’t please everybody, moved across the country numerous time, went through a miscarriage, a successful pregnancy, child birth, dealing with nasty neighbours, sweet warm welcoming people, dealing with a dog, regular couple issues, dog issues, and yes I earned my stripes, I have as much right to exist the way I am as anybody else on this planet.
One thing though that those expat articles don’t tell, you go through phases right, but there is one constant that remains: Loneliness. A thing discussed with my expat lady friends online, the one thing that is hard to kick. You get to know wonderful people along the way, don’t get me wrong, but there is something that gets to miss longer than it takes for you to reach mastery level of the expat stages, it is to form one true deep meaningful genuine friendship. And it gets even tougher to form when you are married to an IT consultant that has relocated as often if not more than my own DH has.
I still do think of all my high school friends back home, how we used to just go out on Saturdays for a shopping lunch, coffee expedition, or a movie we would go to together, or rent and watch at one’s home with snacks. Growing up together forms bonds that are though to replicate we new people the later you get to go in life. And yes most of my high school friends have kids that are around my daughter’s age, and I can’t help wondering what kind of things we would do together.
I have great friends in the online community, don’t get me wrong, they are for the most amazing friends, but they don’t get you out of the house, well unless you take your laptop outside with you, but you get the point. There are times I like many expats still feel trapped inside, with very few escapes. I had great friends in Bangalore, got to meet nice ladies in my old building, and things were falling into place again, only to get shattered once more by one more move across the country, new neighbourhood, new building, new faces, new playground and a lot to figure out again, and that never gets any easier with each moves.
If you want to expatriate yourself, be mindful of the fact that you will have moments of despair, that confusion and amazement lives side by side, and that there will be a lot of loneliness on the path.
I have no idea if I’m still in post-relocation trauma recovery or not, but I am finding myself crunched for creative time, be it to write, paint, or cook (not that I have a lot of that one to think about anymore).
I find myself drifting through the day with pretty much little control about how things will go, minutes after shaking sleep from my limbs at the default of shaking it off my brain I’m springing into action, diaper changing, tea making, and playing VJ for my daughter who can’t decide exactly which cartoon she is in mood of watching, DH needs his lunch and breakfast to be packed, then the maid comes to clean, and Ishita and I play, so much so that by her nap time I am pretty numb, not necessarily physically sleepy, but intellectually not quite there, and just in mood for indulging in mindless computer gaming, or crappy TV watching, and before I know it nap time is over, lunch is coming next, playtime, DVD, cleaning mess follows suit, and by 6pm the maid is back to cook, a time I could afford to sit down and do something, but being a private person, I don’t like to paint in front of an audience, and when I write I prefer to have no distractions whatsoever, and interruptions such as “Didi which spice do you want in the dal” aren’t exactly something I enjoy while working on something.
I have a few blog ideas that are roaming through my head at the moment, they need to make it to the black book before I forget about them, I’m also working on a painting for our living room, which is half finished and which I’m intent on getting done before the end of the month. I also want to bake a few batches of good bread and muffins for our new bigger freezer section, and yes start planning to make the Christmas tree shaped Advent Calendar out of toilet paper cardboard roll I’ve been thinking about for several months.
I’m also realising that maybe falling into a routine after a move is what takes the longest, we still haven’t figured it all out. Even Ishi’s playground outing are erratic, mostly due to the monsoon, but also because Ishita isn’t as crazy about this playground as about the one in Bangalore, there is no sand to play with, her play friends aren’t there, and well for me, there aren’t many nice young moms around to interact with, it seems kiddos here are going out with their maid or grand parents at the time I usually go out, I am planning to try getting there later in the evening when more kids and parents go there, but that means I have to wait for the maid to finish cooking, by which point I just want a time out. And by 8pm I just want to spend time with DH rather than work on one of my project. I’m stuck in that awkward situation I wish I didn’t need to sleep…sigh.
Another realisation is that I’m now really thinking it is time for Ishita to go to preschool, be with kids her age, and have a social life outside just Mommy, 6 months ago when ladies in my building in Bangalore were asking which school I was planning to put her into I was seriously thinking they were a bit crazy as Ishi wasn’t even 2, but I am now starting to see the point of it all. If there is a stage at which a woman wants to reclaim a bit of her life and do things for herself instead of everybody else around here then I must be there. Being on duty 24/7 is starting to feel a bit old, in the past 2 years I’ve never been alone, I forgot what it is like to shop alone, I haven’t gone for a pedicure, tried to go for a haircut with Ishita when she was younger, but there is nothing indulgent about sitting on high alert listening to you own child screaming and crying because she is scared of your stylist and the hair drier. The one time I went out to go shopping without her was when DH was home and Ishi was napping, all I got was one hour, as she woke up realising I was no longer in the flat (She has a 6th sense for that it seems) and DH called me on my mobile totally clueless about what to do, leaving me slightly smug I admit as I’ve been telling DH I wouldn't give him one day alone with Ishita without him begging me to come back…turns out one hour is pretty much his limit already…men!
Yes I’m about ready to have Ishita in school now, but I’m also pondering bigger questions too, namely what to I want for my daughter as far as preschool is concerned? many Indian parents I met all boasted about the fact their school introduce math early, or that the specific school they put their toddler into has them write prefect sentences by age 5-6, all kind of things that are let’s be honest freaking me out a little, I don’t want my daughter to be academically sound by the time she enters Junior KG, I want her to have fun playing with other kids and be creative, I don’t want to hear she should be talking that much by now, or be potty trained, or be able to draw a few letters. My daughter speaks very little so far, she is dealing with learning 2 languages simultaneously with a good measure of English thrown in as the cherry on the cake, she thinks the potty is a toy, and that scribbles are the best thing ever, and as a mom and the daughter of a preschool teacher myself I thought that was fine. But hearing parents bragging about their tots achievement, reading articles about how that kid or this kid has raffled honours at an early age, I am starting to fear that some teachers or principals might actually sermon me about the importance of pushing kids to get ahead of themselves. So yes I need to get Ishi in school, but I really need to find the right place.
But that probably will be the topic of a few more blog posts to come in the next few months? This one is to let you know I’m still there, full of ideas as usual, and looking for time and energy to get them out.
It all (re)started when DH’s father called him to ask him to purchase a 5g pure gold coin to gift one of his friend for Diwali, and my logical question of “Can we afford that expense?”.
Then I remembered an old idea that has kept coming and going. See when we got married in 2006 a few relatives did gift me a few pieces of gold jewellery. Nothing big, just a pair of earing, a traditional pendant on a tacky mangal sutra like chain (even though mangal sutras aren’t worn in DH’s family) a huge ring that could not scream Auntie any louder, and a mang tikka (a thing I will never wear), and big over worked traditional stud earrings (that make me look 15 years older when I wear them). All in all 10g of gold that has been sitting in a box, 10g I’ll never wear, 10g I have no sentimental value attached to, 10g that is not even shaped to my taste. 10g I'll gladly exchange at the current market value for something I would actually like. And that is what we set out to do the other day, heading to Tanishq.
First I chose myself a nice modern looking ring of my liking, the idea being that whatever remained of the gold value I brought to exchange would go toward that gold coin we were to purchase for my FIL.
Once my ring chosen, we explained our wish to use my old gold, and they nicely asked us if we were really ok with it as it meant they would melt it right away and it would be gone, I assured them it was ok, there was no chances of me regretting loosing these items. So they first took the jewellery to weight them in their current shape, and put them in the “carat meter” to estimate the caratage of gold on them, the mang tikka, ring and pendant had a tiny strip of gold welded to the back with an unofficial hallmark stating 23k gold, which I always found a bit odd considering the metal wasn’t as soft as it should be for such a high purity of gold, the earrings had no hallmark. Tanishq’s carat meter reported a purity of 19k for the earrings, 17 for the mang tikka, and 18 for both the ring and and the pendant.
Needless to say that we have a few relatives that got cheated by their local jewellers on the purity of the gold purchased. My other observation was that the gold despite being 18k was quite dark yellow, to achieve that they used more copper than silver in the alloy, which is not only cheaper, but also better at deceiving the buyer into thinking they bought purer gold, as it makes the jewellery piece not only bright yellow but also softer than on a quality 18k piece that used more silver (typically the alloy used on diamond jewellery).
If I were the buyer of the original pieces I would have been pissed, but since they were gifts I didn’t mind, and in fact I was even all that much happier to get something else out of the exchange.
The salesperson told us that of course the carat reading was an estimate, as the definitive one will only come after the gold has been turned into a nugget, and asked me once more if I was sure I wanted to go ahead with the process, made us sign a few forms upon my affirmative reply, and then DH announced he was going for a smoke, so the guy asked me to come in the melting room as they don’t melt any metal without the owner present. There they weighted my pieces in front of my eye to have me as a witness, my stuff weighted 10.87 grams (my kitchen scale despite being cheap was indeed accurate as it reported 10 grams at home), then they dropped everything in a small cylinder that was inserted at the top of a boxy kiln, they added a little powder, and in just a few minutes the job was done, the guy removed a nice little bright red melting hot nugget out of the cylinder and plunged it in a cooling dip where it turned a dull yellow covered in black patches, then the guy went hammering it, probably to get some of the surface impurities out as the gold looked a bit less dirty in the process, and then weighted the whole thing again, where the ending weight was 10.87 grams bearing me as a witness to attest that no grams were lost in the process.
Then straight to the carat meter we went. The machine did reported what I suspected, the alloy had indeed more copper than silver in it, which was why the gold looked purer than it was to the naked eye. In the end after 3 measures the average reading was 18k.
Tanishq substract 8% of the total value in an exchange process, in the end my 10g of 18k gold were worth around 22 thousands rupees at the current market rate…not bad at all, My ring took about half of that value, and we put the rest toward a 24k gold coin with DH ending up paying an additional 6k out of his own pocket for the coin.
Now according to my MIL, it is not considered auspicious to sell your gold jewellery the way we did, in the old days it was the only life insurance a woman had should her husband leave this world before her. And exchanging the old for some new stuff means there is a loss of value, as you end up paying the jeweller making charges (Tanishq took 8%).
Now of course DH and I don’t see gold jewellery as much as an investment as my MIL’s generation does, gold? Yeah sure it is a safe investment, but in coins and bars of hallmarked purity, not in the form of rings and pendant. And then as far as life insurance goes, well LIC is covering me, for a value that is far more substantial than the meagre 10g of gold I exchanged. My wedding jewellery was costume jewellery, and I have one necklace I got from my MIL as an engagement present that I actually love and would never melt in a million year…so much for the investment nature of gold necklaces huh?
And on top of it all, my so called 23k pieces turned out to be 18k and the ring I got in exchange is a 22k officially hallmarked piece from Tanishq, so in the end I wonder if I lost that much in my exchange, the market rates for 22k are higher than 18k. Not that I think I’ll ever melt that ring in the future of course, because this is more of a purchase to please myself rather than an investment.
After all I come from a culture where jewellery aren’t bought as an investment anymore.