Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Decade of Motherhood: :Lesson 2

Raising a child might be easy for people who have either seen something similar like people with older siblings raise their offspring(s) or people who haven't sleepwalked through their lives. For me having a child for which I was responsible thoroughly has been like roller coaster ride in an adventure park. So far. (But now, with some added experience, I can vouch that nothing is going to change.)  I just got up and took a seat on the conveyor belt without knowing anything about its twists or turns; loops or or having a clue about the time frame of zero-G suspension.

As much harassing as it has been for both of us- the baby and  me- I have gathered a lesson or two at every bend.

I have realised that as is with the roller coaster ride so it is with the child raising phenomenon. You can't do much more once the light turns green. Yes, you can fling your arms and scream your heart out, but you can not get out of the situation, unless you count abandoning your kid. (If that be the case then you can stop reading right about...here.)

I have also realised the one thing that you can do to make life easier for all the parties involved in the phenomenon- Give IN.

Yes give in to the child. Parenting, I have realised, is not about power struggle. It isn't about thinking if I let my child do this once she will order me around or that she will learn to be self indulgent or whatever else you might think spoiling a kid looks or sounds like.

In any case they are going to have their way. It might take them some time but they get there. How many expressions are dedicated to it, I ask you, like wrapped around her little finger, can make daddy/ mummy dance to his tunes, knows how to get her way, so on and so forth.

Hence, you might as well give in gracefully when asked the first time, ok maybe the second time around. Why wait for the tip of the sword to kiss your throat, I say. In other words tantrums are a real thing in a real world and you can not teach or discipline a child when she is throwing a fit because the message will not penetrate.

In the ten years of motherhood I have realised (albeit later than I would like to admit) that giving in to the child's needs, wishes or demands does not in any way underestimates our own authority over anything. Giving in to our kids just makes our tasks easier or lights up the way better.

Once you have done what they ask of you, they will be easier to handle, coerce or maybe manipulate. There, I have said the M word out loud. Before I fall in your esteemed opinion, pray tell me, if teaching them to count numbers with a handful of sweets, promised to them at the end of the task isn't but manipulation? 

I have come to equate giving in to helping them learn about choices. My daughter invariably turns up her nose to the clothes I have picked for her to wear while going out. As an ignorant mum I would struggle with her and get into an argument that would actually be saying "You, young lady, have to do as you are told". Now I only tell her if the dress she has taken out will make her uncomfortable in the long run or is something in which she might feel cold if we go into a cinema hall.

There is no heartburn this way. Often we go with her choices with a little adjustment here and there. (I have also realised that she is smart enough to carry a shrug or a jacket along if we are headed for the mall, without me having to say so)

So, I say to you give in to the child who asks for an ice cream serving at the breakfast table there will be no whining, give in to the child who wants you to read another story before they fall into sleep in your lap; a sound sleep is guaranteed and give in to the child who wants to run around the park chasing butterflies in their white overalls.

As is the norm, even I forget all about on days and that is when I have seen my children giving in to a whiny mummy.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Book Review: The Twentieth Wife








A novel set during the Mughal period bringing to life characters from your History books, and possessing all the qualities of a good romance novel (and alas just that!).
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It is not the first time that I keep colliding with a book everywhere I turn. 'The Twentieth Wife' by Indu Sundarsena and I bumped at Kindle lists, on the book blogs, some IG handles of book lovers I follow as well as on the comments and posts of the reading  group on FB. Thus, taking the hint from Providence I downloaded it on my Kindle along with  a handful of others, a few days back. I started to read it some 3 days back and finished this novel set in 17th century India yesterday evening.

The book tells the story of the woman- Mehrunnissa, whom we all have known fleetingly and as Nur Jahan, wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir. Born in to the family of a Persian refugee, Ghias Beg, Mehrunnissa is left out on the road by the desperate father who knows he can not take care of this blue-eyed child. She is brought back to him, along with a chance at a better life for him and his family by a trader who is on his way to the court of King Akbar. He introduces Beg to the King who bestows mansabs on the man and things begin to look up for the Beg family.

The 8 year old child sees Jahangir for the first time at his first wedding and decides that she must become his wife. Meherunissa, comes to inhabit the zenana of the Akbar's Padshah Begum Ruqaiyya and picks up the nuances of the imperial life. Years before, she is able to realise her dream of marrying Jahangir, she is married off to Ali Quli Khan, a mercenary from  Persia on akbar's orders. 

Most of the novel is made of all these years that Meherunnisa spends with her husband. Interspersed among the aching that this woman feels for the king, are the revolts, rebellions, of that time as well as Portugese conversion  and arrival of English merchants.

The book ends with Jahangir marrying Meherunnisa and giving her the title of Nur Jahan. The story thereafter of the Empress of India and her niece Arjumand Banu Begum or Mumtaz Mahal and her grand niece Princess Jahanara has been published in sequels completing a trilogy known as the Taj Mahal Trilogy. 

Coming to the writing part of the novel, the initial pages are tight and the story of the family on the run and the Mughal court is interesting. The rebellions, plotting and scheming, men and power struggles of the kings' harem keep you well engrossed for more than half the length of the book. Then it begins to sag and get repetitive of sorts till the end. I was hoping for some more twists in the plots but all I got was a glimpse of the courtship period of the two protagonists.

Another put off, was the editing faux pas in the book. Having been a sub, spelling mistakes, wrong punctuation marks and missing articles- they stand out and call my attention and have a huge impact on my own reading and evaluation of a book.

The book has a distinct flavour owing to liberal the use of Urdu words and that is one thing that really sets the mood of this novel. The author in a note in the book admits being intrigued by this woman who minted coins in her name, owned ships etc and hence her journey to bring her forward from the latticed curtains behind which the women of those times lived.

In my opinion she does succeed to a great extent though it would be only proper to treat the book as fiction rather than a slice of history. Read it if history and biographies are your choice of genres.

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Title: The Twentieth Wife
Author: Indu Sundarsena
Genre: Romance/ History/ Biography
Paperback: 384 pages 
Price: Rs 280 (Paperback)/ Rs 211 (Kindle Edition); Amazon.in
Language: English
Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, September 08, 2017

Book Review: The Duchess by Danielle Steele

As glamourous as the cover looks, the book is but a predictable story of a holier-than-thou heroine who falls on bad times and as is expected rises above her circumstances.

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The cover of The Duchess by Danielle Steel had me at the very first glance and I was looking so forward to reading it. I am not much a 'Romance' person but off and on I do go back to the genre to feel good about life and exhale all my pent up energies as I sigh reading the exploits of people who are affected by love (read are in love).

Just before I started this book, I had read the very fabulous and my first Colleen Hoover- It Ends With Us (Now reading November 9). I read it from cover to cover and had I been reading a hard copy I would have taken the book with me everywhere I went like a beloved person. So it was with high hopes that I started this Steele.

The Duchess is set in 19th century England where the women had no claim on any property, be it their father's, husband's or son's. The heroine Angelique Latham, a Duke's daughter, is ousted from her house Belgrave Estate, immediately after her father's death by her stepbrother who has hated her all his life. He sends her off to work as a nanny to a friend's house- Fergusons- where she immediately starts looking after their 4 children. Now it is always in the heroine's character to be charming, well educated, gentle and humane and these qualities are amplified in all the Steele heroines. (I have always found them too much doodh se dhuli kinds).

So our girls begins to get great at her job and the parents who never see their children since they have been in her care, manage to add two more to the brood. She doesn't complain, carries on managing everything very well with the help of another maid and everything is as rosy as can be. Then one day a house guest makes an advance on her which she brushes off, making him angry. He gets her thrown out by lying to the Fergusons that she had come to his room at night and threw herself at him. They throw her out without a recommendation. Now she can not get any work anywhere in England because of that and goes to Paris where also she doesn't find any job.

What she finds though is a beaten up girl, moaning in pain, lying in a gutter. Oh! she had money left to her secretly by her father so you know she managed the passage and stay at a fair establishment in London and Paris. Anyway, this girl she finds, turns out to be a prostitute who had been beaten up by a customer and thrown away to die. She, Fabienne- introduced Angelique to her sordid world of prostitution where young girls are taken advantage of by everyone- their clients (of course, eye roll), the Madam who doesn't pay them well, the goons and the police.

This gives Angelique the idea of setting up a brothel. She finds perfect location, dips in papa's money to buy a house and furnish it beautifully. Fabienne finds girls for her and Angelique spends on them lavishly to ensure that their set up is best in the town and only very well to do people pay them a visit. In about a month business is booming. Angelique doesn't take anyone to her bedroom but mingles with all the clients.

Gradually two things of import happen here. Angelique forms a friendship with a senior minister in French government and she rejects the advances of an American businessman who seems to want to own her. The minister comes to her rescue when a horrible incident takes place at her establishment. Angelique has to bring down the shutters and she chooses to escape to America. On the boat, meets a young man, is wooed by him and marries him. (No prizes for guessing who that fellow turns out to be because that leads to a mini hiccup!) All goes well for a few years, she bears a son, he dies, the brother who had ousted her is knee deep in trouble and her father's estate comes up for sale. (She was always in touch with old servants and knew all that was happening there, silly). She buys it anonymously and has her revenge.

I have never been a great fan of Danielle Steele as I find her heroines too good to be true. No shades of grey are never exciting isn't it? I would Nora Roberts right next to her but personally I feel they still are more human than Steele's heroines with an exception here and there (I am thinking of Zoya). Everything in this books easily falls in place for Angelique. She has her trying moments but her character is such that she comes out a winner without a sweat and that is what gets my goat. The book is very predictable and doesn't really hold much interest. The only thing I kept wondering was how much was the money that her father had left her and what were the going rates of the time.


Read it if you have to otherwise maybe spend the money on something more nicer and heartwarming.


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Title: The Duchess
Author: Danielle Steele
Genre: Romance
Paperback: 336 pages 
Price: Rs 400 though I was given a copy by Pan Macmillan India for review 
Language: English
Rating: 2/5

PS:The book is a 2017 release. 


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Review: It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

A book that will tug at your heart because of the subject that forms its crux and the way with which it has been dealt with. A light read that is not hollow and the writing which is Oh-so-perfect!

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'It Ends With Us' is a beautiful love story between a man and a woman and also between a mother and her child. The story takes place in Boston and the city plays an integral part in the novel. 

Maine girl, Lucy Bloom, has a passion for gardening and hates her wife beater of a father. She meets a hunk on the day her father is buried and she has almost run away from his funeral after delivering a disastrous eulogy. He has all the qualities of an Mills and Boons hero plus Ryle Kincaid is a neurosurgeon. But it is the two different things that they both want which squish the chance of them being together. So after the first very dazzling meeting on a rooftop, they both meet each other after some six months when Lucy has opened a flower shop and has employed Ryle's sister. 

In between we get to read some very interesting entries into the journal of the teenager Lucy addressed to Ellen Degeneres where she introduces a homeless boy Atlas. 

An evening when Lucy and her mother, who has moved to Boston since the funeral, have plans for dinner at a new eatery when Ryle self invites himself. The waiter who serves them that evening is none other than Atlas. Lucy excuses herself from the table to go to the washroom and Atlas follows her in there. As they are coming out after a brief 'where have you been and any girlfriends', Ryle sees them and blows a fuse. The novel gathers speed after this and some sweet and some nasty things happen as the story evolves. What is it that 'ends' and is at the centre of the book, is a sensitive topic and not an easy topic to write on but one that has been dealt with confidence and great warmth.

I would not want to spoil the fun by revealing any more about it here so I will talk about why I absolutely loved this book.

For one, this though looks like any other Mills and Boons Romance at the beginning, I loved this book because here none of the characters are actually bad people. They have flaws (except for Lucy's father) for which there mostly is an explanation. So the book doesn't make the heroine choose a guy because the other one is a rotten apple as is generally the case where more than one hero appear.

Secondly, all the while I was thinking, how could someone write so beautifully. The story reads like a dream. Know what I mean? Talk about fluidity. This must be one of the few, rare books where i did not skip pages to see where the story was going. So much so I could not even bring myself to put it down. I was just going mad thinking about how could someone write this well. This seemed to come from the heart.

So I had to hunt this incredible writer and after googling here I went to her IG account. And lo behold! I had the reason there. She says in one of the posts that she did not edit even a single word from this book...so...you see, a thing like that has to have an impact.

Sighhhh! Go read it if you are in between books, relationships or jobs. This light read is really a good read which though is light yet not hollow.

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Title: It Ends With Us
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Romance
Kindle edition: 367
Price: Rs 302
Language: English
Rating: 5/5

PS:The book is a 2016 release. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Decade of Motherhood: Lessons I learnt (I)

A lesson that has kept rearing its head time and again in my journey of motherhood, of which I am going to complete 10 years in a couple of months, is something that I refused to learn till the very recent times. It is a lesson that my mother wanted me to adopt as soon as my daughter started to talk, walk, and defy. In short, being an independent child. 

Today, it is this lesson that I wish I had the sense to adopt the first time my mother said it out loud to me. But then who would I be if not a common-sense-defying rebel! Or on the other hand maybe this is what makes motherhood such an adventure ride- the ability to gain sense and discover things which only experience can shower upon you. 

The lesson that I am talking about has been worded by so many smart and intelligent people over the ages, that I can fill up pages with their quotes, but I am going to give you two of my favourites that spell it out the best for me.

"Don't worry that the children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." 
Robert Fulghum, American author

"Children are educated by what the grown up is and not by his talk." 
Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist

Children are great at observing and assimilating. We, the parents, especially the first timers, are such naive things that we neither know this nor understand its implications. 

Eventually with time and, if luck is on your side, some kind soul points you in its direction and you begin to see the immense truth in statements like these.

When my daughter was about three, I was so over the joys of motherhood (read losing my first born, becoming a first-time parent  and staying alone in a city with a busy husband and no friends- virtual or real) that I began to treat her as a grown up individual. When she turned four and started school in a new city, I expected her to go to school in a rickshaw all by herself after waving me a cheerful good bye at the gate.  As she grew a little more, I began to expect her to take full charge of her homework and then school tests, maintaining her notebooks and finishing her syllabus. I was willing to help her with the preparation bit but I wanted the realisation that her work is her responsibility to dawn on her. This, goes without saying, failed miserably.

It led to a great deal of frustrating and emotionally sapping times. My mother by then had repeated a mantra, that today I swear by, at least a hundred times to me. Every time, in front of her, when I asked my daughter to brush her teeth or pack her bag for the next day, my mother would tell me to get up, take my child's hand and do the thing (task) with her. 

I fumed at her and told her that the child needs to know it is her job to finish packing her bag for the next day or to know how important it is to brush her teeth. Initially, my mother would try to reason with me, telling me she is but a child and that is what children do. She soon gave up and just shrugged her shoulders. Maybe my utter boneheaded-ness had gotten to her or maybe she had deposited our cause to higher powers.

Gradually, all I was doing was yelling at my one-and-only child. Because I refused to get off my backside and lead her to finishing chores, I was getting frustrated with time running out on us. Be it morning, noon or night, nothing was getting done. My child was unhappy. Her school performances began to falter and I found myself in a constant bad mood. One because nothing was getting done and secondly because then I would go on a huge guilt trip for being a bad mother who only always shouted at her child.

It was as if both of us were stuck in a bubble together but wanted to go in different directions. I was looking for excuses to be away from my child and this could not continue.

So one day, tired of all the shouting, defeated by all the heartache and spurred by maternal instincts, I did not ask her to do something that needed doing. Instead I took her hand and went with her to do it. I do not remember what it was that needed to be done but I do remember that both of us were surprised by the amount of time it took to finish the job at hand; and that there was laughter bouncing off of the walls of the house soon after that. 

It made me realise that motherhood, just like childhood, is a journey. Also, that you lose your way often in this journey of discoveries. I also realised that no two days are the same. Nothing happens by chance. It takes concrete effort to teach children anything that you want them to adapt for life and the shortest way to accomplish that is to lead by example.

If you want the child to get up early, you will have to get up ahead of them. Similarly, if you want them to turn in early, you will have to give up the lures of fantastic articles, videos and jokes online and go to bed in time. 

Cribbing about giving up your previous life doesn't help. Nobody tells you this when you plan or have a baby, but being a parent and, at that, being a mother is tough. So buckle up and do the needful, I say, you signed up for this. Willingly or not, it is not a consideration (concession?) that parenthood offers!!

Children do not need to be told what to do. They need to be shown. From seeing us, their parents, their elders, they learn faster, and better. This method also involves less heartache for all the parties involved and that is a precious something which I have learnt in 10 years of being a mother.


(An edited version of this article appeared in National Herald on August 27, 2017)