Thursday, October 13, 2011

When do birthdays stop being fun

Ashvin and I have our birthday during the same month – his excitement and mine towards the event are pretty different. He cannot wait to be five and a year closer to ten !! I am indifferent to say the least, another year less to live if I think too much into it. That is another thing growing ‘older’ takes away from you – the sheer joy of your birthday.

The first birthday that I can recall was my third (or fourth – well, many many birthdays ago). I could barely wait as I had been promised a walking doll. We were at my grandma’s place and I had spent the last few days searching high and low for it. I woke up with nervous anticipation that day – not sure if I would get it but very hopeful. My mom never told me where she hid it and I accepted the story of a plane dropping it with a parachute that morning without too many questions. The doll was everything I had imagined and much more. She walked and her eyes opened and closed. She was big and beautiful. It was a wonderful birthday.

Cakes we had growing up :)  cake photo from here
For the next few years birthdays were about parties organized at home – in a room decked with balloon we played passing the parcel and musical chairs, there was cake decorated with icing and little silver balls (that must be banned by now for some health issue for sure). You were treated special at school – standing in front of class as everyone sang for you before you doled out candy. Everyone was nice to you on that day.

By college the birthday parties and games were replaced by friends arriving at midnight with cake and birthday bumps. Birthdays were something you still looked forward too. Parents still gave you a gift – the popular slightly expensive electronic device of that time – and you could weasel out of trouble by using "it's my birthday" as an excuse with professors.

As you hit 25 (in the US) your car insurance rates drop and you still throw birthday parties or fake surprise at the ones carefully planned and executed for you.

Then somewhere along the way they stop being as much fun. You get a hundred wishes on facebook and seeing 74 new notifications does bring a smile to your face. You still feel special on that day but somehow the cake gets fattening and there is no gift that you hold your breath for (as you have usually bought all you wanted when you wanted them). 

So, as age has sucked the joy out of my birthday I have spent my energy  hiding the very special extra large Lighting McQueen car in a place Ashvin will never find. I am going to spin a story on how it appeared and watch his face light up as he sees his cake with extra frosting. I am going to make sure he enjoys every birthday cause I have realized you don't have that many - that many that you actually look forward to.

The design on the cake Ashvin wants this year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Chuck E Cheese’s Birthday – It is not about you

Last year Ashvin wanted his birthday party at Chuck E Cheese’s (Seattle). Personally I do not like that place but kids seem to love it. For me it is a little too crowded with below average pizzas and too many flashy lights but kids seem to love that too. Ashvin really wanted his party there. When he first mentioned it I tried my best to talk him into other options. I talked about the zoo and the bouncy place; I tried to sell every idea besides Chuck e Cheese’s. Ashvin however is a pretty adamant little guy who is very clear about what he wants. He stuck to Chuck e Cheese’s. Seeing how tortured I was Peeyush gave me some pretty good advice – “It is his birthday. It is not about you. It is about him”

It is hard but crucial, as a parent, to remember this. It is not about you. It is not about you when they throw a tantrum and embarrass the life out of you in a store. It is not about you when they want to wear their Spiderman pajamas to school every day for a week. It is not about you when they want their hair spiked in the front, or insist on learning Mandarin and not French (that you wanted them to learn). They are individuals and not mini you. They are going to have their own wants and make their own mistakes. You should be there to guide and provide a safety net so they can takes risks as they explore and grown into confident happy beings.

So, we had the birthday party at Chuck e Cheese’s. Ashvin was thrilled. He wore the blow up crown and played every game there. He was elated when the chuck e cheese’s mascot – the big rat – came over and danced with him. I can’t say I liked the rat or the pizza but the happiness on the little one’s face was priceless. It was definitely not about me but it was his best birthday ever and a parent what else could I want. (Anyways, I had had the first two birthdays, the ones before he got a mind of his own, and those with their pretty flowers and fruity cakes were definitely all about me J)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Making Money

I came home to a twelve year old almost in tears and a four year old busy drawing in a corner. Ashvin (4) had accidentally dropped and cracked the screen on Ankit’s phone.

I consoled Ankit the best I could – buying a new phone was not an option so he’d have to just deal with a cracked screen. As we walked along Peeyush said something about not giving kid’s phones in the first place. I was all the way up the stairs when I realized that Ashvin had not left his corner. I had bags in my hands so I walked over to the bedroom planning to have a talk with him in a bit.

Before I could call him Ashvin appeared with bits of paper in his hands. Rectangles and squares with numbers written all over them. “This is money”, he said. “I made money so you can buy bhaiya a new phone.”

These are the times I wonder if he is just innocently cute or super intelligent and playing with us. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I love my body

I was working out the hotel gym today. After a long time I was on a treadmill with a mirrored wall in front of me. The gym was empty and I started my run. I want to run but I suck at it. That does not stop me from trying. Some fifteen minutes into my run I wanted to give up and was mad at myself. Mad at wanting to give up. Mad at not being able to run faster. Mad at not being able to run longer. Mad at my stupid legs and my stupid lungs. Then I looked up and saw my face in the mirror.

It is rather funny to be cussing at yourself while you are all sweaty, running and  listening to Pitbull in an empty hotel gym. Try it. I was smiling before I knew it. And as I looked at myself there – all sweaty and running and trying and wanting to do something I was lousy at - I just loved myself.

I had felt this love before – during a really hard acclimatization walk during my Everest Base Camp trip. It was my first high altitude trek and hardest uphill walk I had ever done. I had some bad menstrual cramps that day but somehow crawled my way to the top. Up there I was ecstatic. I loved my legs and thighs and lungs and every freaking thing about my body. I remember saying that to myself again and again (as I could not explain my sudden love for my thighs to the guys there) – I just loved my body.

Being a fat child leaves its share of mental turmoil way into adulthood. I had wanted to be thin for the longest time and mentally criticizing a lot of things about my body had become a part of life. Somewhere along the way I got some sense kicked into me and I focus way more on being healthy and strong now. Every now and then though the little disparaging voice gets a little strength. Today I am glad there was a mirror – a real literal mirror – to give me a reality check and remind me what amazing stuff this body is made of.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thailand should take over India - or at least lend us their king for sometime

In the last month I have visited Bangkok in Thailand and then Udaipur in India. This is little rant - I enjoyed both trips but was amazed by the huge different in cleanliness and infrastructure support in the two countries. 


Bangkok roads - Photo from here
When people grumbled about things in India – lack of decent infrastructure, corruption, and trash all over the place – I’d tell them to stop grumbling and find ways to fix it. This was before I visited Bangkok.
My first impression of Bangkok as I drove from the airport to my hotel was of pleasant surprise. We started off on a really nice six lane highway, the road from Bangalore airport is similar so I did not pay much attention but when the ‘nice’ road continued for miles I started to pay attention. It was weird in a way to see houses and flats that looked like Indian homes besides a road that looked like it belonged to America.
Once in the city we travelled extensively using the skyrail (metro) and the river boats. They were frequent, clean and on time. From the hotel terrace we could see bad traffic during the heavy commute hours but they moved on decent well-constructed highways.
Junk on the terrace of the much visited
Udaipur Palace. Something tourist see daily.
The streets are way dirtier than this.
During our visit we also noticed how clean the streets were, there were many trash cans and people did not throw rubbish all over the place. Alleyways and backstreets were remarkably clean.  The food with the roadside vendors looked clean and appetizing (well besides some fried worms – they were all clean though).
The reason I rant on is because I am a little pissed with the state of affairs now that I have seen Bangkok. Bangkok is not a rich state. It is not an IT hub or an economy much talked about. It, like India, is young in a way – Siam had become Thailand, and was still unstable since the change from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy in 1932” However, it does have something done right and a lot of it seems to be due to a good King. Most people there worship him and I would too. He has done something for the country. So while I agree we should do something besides grumble when we are disappointed by things, I must say getting a dictator or King of some sorts might get this country somewhere. Electing politicians that focus on using their four years to amass all the money they can is not getting us anywhere for sure.