Letters to my Mothers

I’m a little fed up of every website I visit doing a ‘countdown’ to Mother’s day, asking me how I’m going to show my mother ‘the appreciation she deserves’ or all the special packages on offer. I know we ask ourselves this question every Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day and so on, but really, why do we need a specific day to show love and buy a gift and pamper and appreciate? On the other hand, I figured I would take this opportunity to thank and appreciate the two mommies in my life, because, hey, everybody loves to be written to and complimented and appreciated. (Ok, fine, I’m too weak to fight these traditions and get sucked right into them, so why do I even bother to pretend!)

Mummy gave me life and Aai gave me my husband who makes my life………well, he makes my life. Mummy and Aai are as different as chalk and cheese. Mummy practices tough love and pushes me to better myself, to always aspire for bigger and to go after my dreams. Aai is the safe receptacle where I come and rest. Mum orders me to fly higher and Aai gives me a nest to drop down to. I feel lucky to be able to constantly learn from two such different Mothers and glean the best parenting values I can for Rumi.

A letter for Mummy

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Dear Mumma,

How often I’ve written letters to you after yelling at you and fighting with you. I promised to stop and begged for forgiveness, only to scream my head off at you again in the next half an hour! You’ve held my hand and rubbed my back and championed me through those tumultuous teenage years into my marriage and my journey as a Mother.

Growing up in our joint-family, I spent more of my childhood with my grandparents, uncles and aunts than I did with you! I loved lapping up all the adoration and grew up as the apple of their eye, but I wonder whether it was hard for you as a new mom when you hardly got to spend time bathing, feeding or even sleeping next to your own baby. You taught me a valuable lesson then Mum. You taught me how to be completely secure about love, about ‘sharing’ those we love freely with others. You let me soak up all the love that I was receiving and to be grateful for it, without ever letting your feelings of possessiveness come in the way. This may seem like a small thing, but I can imagine now, what it cost you, every time I threw another tantrum because you had asked me to sleep next to you at night.

When I turned fifteen, you sent me away to Germany for a year. How you managed the finances in our middle class household, I do not know. I only remember your determination and firm belief that it would benefit me and you fought like a tigress for it. Now that I have Rumi, I know how hard it is to let our children go, and I am filled with admiration at how you pushed me to go, in a time where there was no WhatsApp and no Skype and no cell phones too! I remember making a call to you once a month and crying but you would not have any of my tears. Make the most of it, you would say firmly and hang up. I don’t think I could have survived that year had you not been such a bully, but survive I did and it did indeed shape the course of my future! Years later I read about the concept of tough love, which you have always practiced with us.

Through my teenage years, you were the coolest Mom ever. All my friends stayed at our place. On those nights that we drank till we puked, you put out buckets for us and rubbed backs. You were the first to give me permission to go out for the night or to even take a trip. Sometimes in my anger, I would accuse you of not caring enough. But it was your implicit trust that always acted as my conscience. Thank you for trusting me so much Mumma.

I just love how you after all these years of being a homemaker, you went out and got your first job as a teacher. I love how you act on stage and participate in plays. You go out and do all the things you love and show me by example how important self-care is, even after and especially after you become a mother.

Even when it annoys me when you don’t listen to all my petty complaints, I understand what you’re saying: ‘stop complaining and go and do something about it’. Because that’s what you’re always doing, hustling and bustling and solving problems and cleaning up. We laugh at how you can’t sit still, how you insist on cleaning the fridge even when you come visit us (Do you forget that your daughter is 30?)

But how do you do it all with a cheerful dimpled smile all day long? God knows how exhausted and grumpy I get after a day’s worth of housework. How are you not grumpy Mumma? How?

And I can’t even thank you enough for all that you do for Rumi. From fulfilling all her little and big wishes to running behind her pushing her tricycle all day long to buying an air-conditioner so that she sleeps better, she is constantly in your thoughts. With your stories and poems and theatrics and laughter, you make the best grandmother ever. We simply adore how you just pop up every other day because you miss her and how you whisk her away to give us a break. Seeing her tied to you on the bike with a dupatta, I am reminded of my childhood when you would tie me behind you as you took me on various errands. With your sense of humor and imagination you made mundane errands seem magical and exciting to me.

I love how you laugh at my funny Marathi pronunciations (although I have got awesomely better there!) I love how you tried your best to read your favorite Pu La Deshpande books to me in the hope that I would find them as funny as you do (Sorry I never understood them Mummy.) I love how you always actively tried to learn more about our interests and be involved and come running whenever a Shakira song played on TV and dance with us.  Remember how we danced to ‘Sexy back’ on my birthday party on the terrace? It was the first time Abhiraj came over and he remembers being impressed by it so high-five Mommy!

Thank you for being the Nanu that you are to Rumi and the Mother that you are to me. Thank you for everything.

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A letter for Aai

 Dear Aai,

When I met Abhi, little did I know that my relationship with him would also gift me another Mother who would love, cherish and uplift me just as much, if not more than my Mum.

I first got a glimpse of your grit and gumption when I heard the story of how you completed your PhD thesis days after Abhi was born. When I recall the pain, discomfort and exhaustion in the days after giving birth to Rumi, I can’t even imagine how you managed to sit up at your desk and patiently type out all your knowledge on the Chandogyapanishads with a newborn at your side, and a toddler in his Terrible Twos to look after!

With your trademark humility, you attribute this to all the support you had from Pappa and the family, but I know how difficult it must have been for you. But with your sweet smile and gentleness, you make the hardest things look easy Aai.

In spite of being on your feet from dawn to dusk, if we ever ask you about being tired, you laugh and say “Not at all!” and express gratefulness for a day well-spent. We all know that we can come to you with our secrets, hopes, longings and grievances and that we will always find peace, love and acceptance. Putting your own ego, expectations and wishes aside, you always show willingness to do that extra bit to make us happy.

You’re so wise and so knowledgeable but I have never seen a more humble person than you, always willing to learn something new. And I love how you always find something to smile about in even the toughest situations. No matter how tired you are, you always find some joke to share and laugh about and even if the joke is lame, your loud laughter never fails to make us smile.

You give our house the feeling of home. When I see you open the door and smile, I feel a great sense of peace and contentment, and I really feel like I’ve come home. When I sometimes borrow your gown to wear, it smells of you, of your talcum powder and of the incense sticks in the Devghar and I feel a sense of peace washing over me, knowing that you are just on the other side of the door, waiting to listen to all my trivial anecdotes about the day, willing to stand on your tired feet and make me a hot paratha instead of letting me eat the cold chapattis.

Thank you for so much Aai. For making me feel so happy and comfortable that when I went to Mum’s after Rumi was born, I actually cried and became homesick for you!

Thank you for how full of grace and compassion you are, how you accept each and every fault and mistake of ours and love us even more for it. Thank you for raising wonderful sons who have watched you full of gentleness and empathy and grown into a big-hearted, loving men themselves.

And thank you for the grandmother you are to Rumi. From teaching her those wonderful Shlokas to immediately making ‘Sabudana Khichadi’ because she asked for it, to tirelessly running to the kitchen and back with a glass of water for her, even though she hasn’t asked for it, you infuse Rumi’s life with the same kindness and grace with which you’ve filled ours.

Thank you for everything.

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On extented breastfeeding

I’ve been wanting to start guest posts for some time now because there are many interesting, wise, brilliant mommies (and daddies) out there with some wonderful insights that we can all benefit from. Yesterday my friend Gau, one of the most gorgeous, intelligent, articulate and empathetic people i know put up an Instagram post that fired me up and i just had to share it! Here is her post:

This picture was otherwise only meant to be a #latergram post from a recent trip to continue documenting our nursing journey. I normally let some amount of naysaying slide and don’t preach the virtues of extended breastfeeding to an immature audience. Something happened a couple of days ago that made me extra protective of a bond I care so much for. I went to a doctor for a small infection and was prescribed some broad spectrum antibiotics. I forgot to ask earlier so called her up from home to ask if the meds were breastfeeding friendly. Here’s a snippet from our unpleasant conversation:


Me: Doc, I’m breastfeeding and wanted to know if it was safe to take the meds you prescribed.


Doc: (incredulously, because she had met my son earlier in the day) How old is your child?


Me: 2.7 years old


Doc: Then you can stop feeding him now. They say it’s useless to feed a child that old and you should stop now.


Me: I do not agree and even if I did, I can’t stop tonight which is when I need to start the course.


Doc: No but it’s useless and yes the meds are safe.


Me: Thank you and good bye!


Now I know that not all of the anti (extended) breastfeeding brigade goes around giving unsolicited “useless” advice to nursing mothers and not all doctors are morons. But the most basic facts of life have become so mangled and mired in hate or ignorance that right now I feel compelled to put in my two cents across to whoever is listening.
It is perfectly normal and natural to nurse a child until they self-wean (that is around the age of 6 or 7 years when they lose their baby teeth and along with that also their ability to latch). It is recommended to breastfeed a child for a minimum of two years – this has proven benefits for both the mother and the child. Beyond that age, breastmilk does not become useless overnight. A child nurses because it needs milk but not only for that. A mother’s milk is better for the child, even nutritionally, than another animal’s that is meant for its own young one. Human bodies are dynamic – under normal circumstances, a mother will continue to produce milk for as long as her child nurses. As the child grows, it finds emotional stability and security in this nursing bond with the mother. This aspect of the breastfeeding relationship is most underrated and least understood. The same people who encouraged me to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months later told me that breastfeeding after a certain age is “addictive” and I’m spoiling my son. If you hug your child 20 times a day, every day, you’re not spoiling them, are you? You’re also not cultivating bad habits to last a life time. To use the oft repeated yet meaningful line – children don’t spoil, they just grow up.
While I’m proud and thankful to be nursing my child for this long, I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. Another reason to be supportive of extended breastfeeding rather than discourage mothers by saying all the wrong things. Just as in any other relationship, the success of this one depends on the well-being of both the mother and the child. A mother may want out at any point and lead the way to a gentle and peaceful end of the relationship. Abrupt weaning can cause a lot of grief to both the mother and the child. There are support groups to help mothers in their breastfeeding journey – Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers is one such group and I’ve had the good fortune of meeting some amazingly strong and committed mothers (even fathers) here.
 
This post is about extended breastfeeding and nursing in public is a natural progression of this extension. 🙂 You can’t feed behind closed doors for three years, you should never have to. But more on that later.

This is the link to her Instagram account:https://www.instagram.com/gauriddg/

I weaned my daughter off prematurely at eight-and-a-half months because of a work related trip to Germany and it still makes my heart ache. Even in that short period, i experienced how unfriendly our society and conditions are for breastfeeding. And this is not just breastfeeding in public which is nightmarish in itself, but also support from near and dear ones at home who are quick to wonder “whether breastmilk is enough” and encourage us to switch to formula before really allowing us to take our time in learning and enjoying this beautiful, natural process.

Power to women like Gau who inspire and educate us with tales like these!

If you have breastfeeding stories of your own, i’d love to hear them.


My muse turns three!

My muse turns three!

It is something all parents constantly say and you don’t really fathom till you are a parent yourself: time flies when you have a child! Why, it seems that only yesterday we drove to the hospital for my c-section, i lay on the table feeling very cold and hungry and my doctor announced “It’s a girl!” I can’t believe it is already three years since i cried out of fear that i would never be able to look after another human being and deluded myself into believing that “It will obviously be easier once she starts walking and talking”.

I feel very special and very lucky and very humbled to be given this chance to love and nurture and help raise Rumi. She inspires me to be a better me every single day. She makes me want to reach for the stars, she makes me slow down and enjoy every single minute that I have, she makes me happier than i ever thought i could be (yes, Chandler does say it to Monica but i could not have put it better!)

Thank you Rumi. For you, with your wild mop and high pitch. For your sweet tooth and sweeter smile. For that strawberry shaped beautiful birthmark on your cheek and for that withered, drool-covered thumb. For letting us love you and for bringing to my life such showers of happiness and contentment as i would never, ever have dreamt possible. 

Happy birthday! (Baba just told me, you’ve been with us over a thousand days now, WOW!)

Some of my favorite photos from the past three years: