Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for zonked

Yeh kahaaaaaaaannnnnn aa gaye hum.... 

To the end of the A-Z marathon 2016!

I'm zonked out all right.

And as I wrap up for the month, a few thoughts crop up in my head.
  • Yaaaahooooooo it's over! :D
  • Oh no, it's over... :(
  • Why is it that I can effortlessly (well, most of the time) write 26 posts in a month, and yet I struggle to write like 26 more in the remaining 11 months? That is a seriously sad statistic.
  • My search history this month is full of 'words that start with...'
  • This is my third year doing the A-Z marathon. Compared to the last two years, I definitely had fewer panic attacks this time. However, it was not like I breezed through all the letters. At times, I'd be cutting it too close. (In my world, cutting it too close means sitting at the comp at 10 am and not knowing what to write for the day.)
  • My sis-in-law keeps pointing out how unfair it is that I have a great source of posts in Xena, and so such blogathons are so easy for me. I won't deny that. A lot of the posts are indeed outsourced to Xena. So I have advised my sis-in-law to promptly make arrangements for procuring a child. (This has to be the best reason to have a kid, yeah? The A-Z blog marathon.)
  • At times, panic-inducing (and rather embarrassing) questions would pop up in my head in the middle of the night, such as "Errr... did I write W today? Wait, W does come after V right? Riiiiight????"
  • There were times when I would be out of ideas and would go through all possible words starting with a particular letter. Take 'T for transformer', for example. However, I had nothing beyond the title. I have a picture of Xena with her transformer, but I possibly couldn't write a post that went, "This is my kid. She is playing with her transformer. It is not a doll dressed in pink. The sight of this makes me happy. Kthxbai." Or when I thought of 'P for pani puri', the post would have been something like this. "I love pani puri. As I've mentioned 83984739875 times on my blog. Kthxbai." 
  • The list of posts that never got written is rather long. Some are just heart-breaking. Sample this. There was a pigeon's nest right outside Xena's bathroom window, but it was too out of the way for her to see it. So I used to climb on a stool, extend my hand out of the window, reach as far as I could with my phone and take daily photos of the nest to show Xena. I photographed the nest over months, from the time it was being built to the time two little eggs popped up to the time they hatched and two little pigeon chicks made their appearance. I observed them getting fed by their parents, growing, huddling when it rained, hopping out of the nest closer and closer to the ledge but not really having the courage to take the plunge. It was the sweetest little project Xena and I were doing together, and I thought once the chicks flew away, maybe I'd write a photo post - 'P for pigeon' or 'N for nest'. However, tragedy struck. Another pigeon couple wanted to take over the nest and viciously attacked the chicks, until they were bleeding from their heads. The parents tried to defend the chicks for a while, but soon, they gave up. It was horrible. I would spray water to make the attackers go away, but when I'd come back from Xena's school, I'd see fresh injuries. One day, the smaller chick simply disappeared. I try to tell myself that it flew away, but deep in my heart, I know it wasn't ready. It was probably pushed off. A few days later, the other chick disappeared too. I was so put off by the whole thing I decided not to do the photo post. How on earth do you end a post like that?
  • I hope readers will forgive the (sometimes horrendous) typos and mistakes in several of the posts. I can't even blame autocorrect. It's me. Sometimes, my thoughts tumble out of my head onto my keyboard so rapidly that there simply isn't enough bandwidth for pausing and reading. And after you've written a Mahabharata of a post, its sheer length is so daunting that proofreading goes out of the window. 
  • Of course, I had the usual doubts about some of the posts. Gosh, I'm gonna get mega-judged for this post. Gosh, does this photo post have too many photos? Gosh, is the quiz too easy? Gosh, what if everyone hates Fan and never ever trusts my reviews? Was I objective enough or did I let my love for SRK get the better of me? (I suspect it's the latter.) 
  • But then there were also instances when after I typed something out, my head felt clearer. I was very impressed by the Konmari book all right, but only after writing the K post, the motivation to Konmari the heck out of my place really shot up. Similarly, after writing the O post where I talked about how I want to judge less and rant less about ranters, I feel myself making a conscious move towards achieving these goals. 
Thank you, bewdas and bewdis, for being there with me again this year. I have finished replying to all your emails, and over the next few days, will be replying to all the comments on the posts. And after that, I (and the bar) will go into deep hibernation.

Only for a while, I hope.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for you

Yes, you, my dear readers, my dear bewdas and bewdis!

A big 'Aao thakur!' to those of you who have been frequenting the bar for years (some for almost a decade even) as well as those who are relatively new.

You guys get a lot of info about me from my posts, but I don't know much about you, unless you reveal it through a comment or an email. But as I discovered last year through my 'T is for traffic' post, my blog stats are a good way for me to find out a little bit about you.

Where do you live?

All time (Who is reading from Ukraine??)

This month (Close race between the desis and the Amreekans)

How did you get here?

All time

This month

Which posts did you read the most?

All time (Veshtiman surfaces again...)

This month (omg my gyaan beat Konmari's!)

What were you searching for when you landed on my blog?

All time (the veshti wins the bronze!)

This month (Emraan Hashmi does look good in specs, hehe! In fact, ten years ago, I'd written a whole post about it. Yikes!)

So there -- all your little secrets are out! You can delete your search history all you want, but you and I will always know that you were googling stuff like 'veshti' and 'Emraan Hashmi' when you landed on my blog. Muahahahaha!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for xièxie nĭ

"Lăoshī, even I know the song now! I can sing almost half of it!" I proudly told Xena's Chinese teacher.

We were in the middle of a school excursion at the Botanical Gardens. She stopped in her tracks, gave Xena a suspicious look and asked, "What song?"

"The latest one. She sings it all day! The one that goes... (and I actually started singing) 'Mummy mummy, xièxie nĭ'..." [Mummy, mummy, thank you...]

"WHAT?" She looked distraught.

Then she turned to Xena.

"Xenaaaaaaa..." She exclaimed. "Why did you tell herrrr???"

"Tell me what? What's going on?" I was lost.

"It was supposed to be a Mother's Day surprise. We have been rehearsing for days. I had told the kids not to tell their mommies that they were learning this song." She looked crestfallen.

I didn't know how to console her. I could not un-know what I knew. So, erm, we went our ways.

Much later, perhaps having realised the gravity of her actions, Xena turned to me and said rather seriously, "Mama, there is another surprise Mother's Day song. But I can't tell you what it is, ok?"

"Ok." I said thoroughly amused. "But why not?" I teased, expecting to hear, "Because it's a surprise!"

"Because I don't know it yet. We will learn it next week."

I controlled my laughter with much difficulty and not knowing what else to say, gave her a big hug.

Xièxie nĭ, my baby, for always telling me everything.

Pliss to be continuing such behaviour in the future too.

The original song can be found here

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for wit

When the three of us are having a meal together, no devices such as phones/iPad/laptop are allowed at the table. That's a time for conversations and catch-ups only.

The other day, I was in the kitchen, making uttappams for breakfast, while Viv was at the table with Xena, trying to coax her to finish her milk. (It usually takes her about half an hour to finish a cup of milk.)

Suddenly I heard unmistakable cricket-ground sounds.

"What's happening?" I asked from the kitchen.

"Mama, Daddy is watching cricket. He's not supposed to, but he just wants to watch and watch and watch!"

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. He's a watchman."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for vacation

So Viv has finished his work at Las Vegas, done his darshan at the casinos and has apparently won $15 (I asked him to stop right after; I'm not sure what happened though), and is now on vacation.

With his dad.

Gosh, this has to be the most silent vacation ever.

Viv and my dad-in-law are the quietest people I know. Viv has started to talk more over the years (possibly under 18 years of my influence), but I'm not kidding when I say that my dad-in-law could get by an entire day on just 10 words.

We have been meaning to take his dad on a US holiday for a long time. Everyone on both sides of our family had holidayed in the US, but for some reason, my dad-in-law had never been there. We decided that this would be a great time to take him on a US holiday, because Viv would already be there, and sis-in-law and mom-in-law are also going on vacation soon. No, we did not consider the idea of everyone going on the same holiday; sounds a bit crazy, but we might do it some day!

Though I'm very curious to know how this holiday pans out, I do hope that they get a chance to have some father-son bonding time. My dad-in-law was initially quite reluctant to go on the trip only with Viv, because personally he prefers my company to his son's. Ok, I'm kidding. No, I'm not. The truth is that he would prefer Xena's company over anyone else's, but it was simply not possible for all of us to go on a US holiday at this point.

So last week, my dad-in-law flew into Singapore for a day and boarded the flight to LA the next morning. Viv and I were discussing what a pity it was that he had to travel for almost an entire day without any company. And then we both burst out laughing. Because we knew it wouldn't be much different even if Viv had been sitting right next to him. Of course, we made sure to put him on Singapore Airlines so that he would have enough entertainment for 20 hours.

In November 2013, Viv, his dad, Xena and I had taken a 16-day Aussie road trip together and it was a total blast, with the highlight being us surprising his 'unsurprisable' dad with tickets to the Ashes. I still remember our drive on the Pacific Highway and how after Xena fell asleep, there was complete silence in the car. Somehow to keep the atmosphere lively and Viv awake, I made my dad-in-law talk continuously for half an hour, which was a miracle in itself. He gave us a detailed account of the story of Balika Vadhu, which my in-laws used to religiously follow at that point in time. To my utter surprise, Viv not only followed the plot, but was asking questions long after I had switched off.

The latest WhatsApp reports from Viv tell me that the road trip has commenced and that father and son are enjoying themselves. The two chatterboxes -- Xena and I -- may not be on this trip, but I do hope that father and son have enough to talk about.

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for united

When it comes to resolutions, I believe in sole proprietorship. Joint ventures are not my thing, because from my experience, they rarely work out. It may be tempting to think of having another person working towards exactly the same goals for company and motivation, but after a while, things go downhill.

I usually do not get into the 'Let's do this together and we will achieve it'. My motto in such cases has always been "Bhaiya, tum apne raste, main apne raste." It works for me because I'm generally not someone who needs any cheering or company when it comes to resolutions. I make my resolutions, and I work towards them, and I achieve most, if not all. Another reason for not getting into the whole 'let's motivate each other towards this goal' is that I would drive the other person completely mad. If I have agreed to play badminton and my baddy partner sends a message saying they overslept or are too tired to turn up, I will still turn up... not at the court, but at their home, drag them out of bed and thwack the living daylights out of them with my badminton racquet. Yep, I'm scary like that. And that's why I'm very anti-social when it comes to 'together-goals'. As I say, I am my own company and I am my own motivation.

Which is why, when Viv's cousin was discussing resolutions for 2016 with his and his sister during our December India trip last year, I chose to remain silent. I became silent-er (if that's even possible) when the discussed steered towards taking a united approach to resolutions. Oh dear lord, no. I was about to make a quick exit when something she said caught my attention.

SMART resolutions.

Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Timely.

So instead of saying vague stuff like "I will drink more water" or "I will drown my sorrows in H2O", you say, "I'll drink 2 litres of water every day." Instead of saying, "I'll get fitter", you say, "I'll lose X kg in Y months." or "I'll run 5 km every day." Instead of saying, "I'll Skype more with parents.", you say "I'll Skype with them X times a week." These goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and have a time frame.

Now that she had my attention, I slunk back in my seat. Of course, setting goals is one thing, having a plan to achieve them is another, and actually achieving them is a whole other ball game. What she was suggesting was for us to have some kind of accountability about where we are with our goals after regular intervals. In essence, set SMART resolutions, share them with one another, and every month, be accountable about your progress.

The idea appealed to me very much. I did not have to share the same goals with someone, or work together with someone to achieve them. I could continue doing my own thing, but with a big difference. SMART goals and accountability.

So I signed up.

It's been four months into 2016, and I have to say this united approach has been working very well for all of us, as is evident in the emails we send at the end of the month, summarising our progress. Of course, it's not like we 'succeed' at every item every month, but it has helped.

It has helped me catch up on my travel blog -- I had several trips that I had not blogged about, and because I set specific targets (Jan: Chiang Mai; Feb: Telunas, Yercaud; Mar: Perth), I was able to complete all. This was so much better than 'Be more regular with travel blogging.' I would have never gotten to going back and blogging in detail about trips that happened years ago.

I also set a strange but important goal -- 'Go out for something -- anything -- without Xena once a month'. Because my day and life pretty much revolves around her, this weird resolution really helps me stay sane and preserve my sense of self. So I went for a dinner with a friend in January, had a Xena-less ladies' night at home with two old friends in February, had breakfast outside on a weekday (!) in March, and went for a movie with a friend in April.

I've already blogged about my resolution to learn to cook one new dish a month, and make it a part of our regular meals.

The biggest success, however, has to be in the field of my explosive headaches. From time to time, I suffer from these insane headaches that just won't go, and sometimes last the whole day and the next. They drive me crazy, but I had kind of learnt to live with them. I never thought 'prevent headaches' could be a new year resolution until I got into this SMART resolutions business. So I asked myself, "Why not?" and set a target 'Limit painkiller consumption to not more than 1 a month.' You see, the only way for me to get by my day when I get one of these mind-splitting headaches is to take a paracetamol tablet, so there is no question of cheating on this resolution by getting the headache but not taking the painkiller. I would not be able to function. It is that terrible. So the only way for me to was to really look into preventing it. And thanks to this resolution, I have really looked into all possibilities that trigger the headaches -- anaemia, being out in the sun, not having a substantial breakfast, long gaps between meals, not drinking enough water, not enough sleep -- and I've somehow worked out a way to (mostly) prevent them by taking measures. Because there are so many variables, and any random combination can cause the headaches, I'm still struggling, but at least I do what is in my hands. If you get persistent headaches, you are alone in it. No one else can help you. People can show sympathy, give you food and drinks and medicine, massage your head, help with your chores, give you a break, but the problem has not gone away. It will come back. They can't prevent it for you. Such things are between you and yourself. And only you can truly help yourself.

Of course, some resolutions take their time, but tracking them on a monthly basis shows me where I am. For example, I'm supposed to teach Xena the Hindi alphabet by the end of the year, and so far she has only learnt the vowels and three consonants. So I know that I need to gear up a little more. Another resolution is to take a course and learn something new by the end of the year, but so far I have not found any courses that have interested me enough and can fit into my schedule.

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really glad I got into this united resolutions thingie. And for someone who's as 'hardass-lone-wolf' as I am on myself when it comes to resolutions, this has softened me a little. Into seeing how others can help you. In weird ways.

If you let them in. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for tickled

The kind people at Indigo Airlines had given a play 'passport' to Xena during one of our flights in India last year.

Recently, she dug it out and started, erm, filling in her particulars. She even drew in her passport photo, in which she looked like Mickey Mouse in a dress.

All the fields were familiar to her, except one.

"What is blood type?" She asked.

"Err... Blood type is... the type of your blood..." answered my sister-in-law, as she thought of a simpler and better way to explain it.

There was no need, however, for Xena had already figured out what the answer was and written it down.

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for sisters

Ten years ago, I visited the US for the first time. The occasion was super special -- my sister had just given birth to my niece baby Aish. When she saw how head over heels in love I was with that little bundle, my sister tried to convince me for the 3983948th time to move to the US because she badly badly wanted us to live near each other. "So that our kids can grow up as siblings, not cousins." She'd said. I was 26 and not even married, but her statement made me all misty-eyed. 

Xena met her first cousins for the first time when we visited them in 2012. The three of them had a great time playing together. Of course, Xena was just 1.5 years old so she didn't remember much when we came back. Given everyone's busy schedules and the sheer distance between Singapore and the US, we were not sure when all of us would reunite. My sister's dreams of the kids growing up as siblings seemed far, far away. 

Last year, they made a surprise trip to Singapore. The cousins were reunited -- at an age where they would actually remember stuff! Given that her son is almost the same age as Xena, I kind of expected the two of them to get along like a house on fire, and the very dignified 9-year-old that Aish is, to maintain her distance from the 'babies'.  

However, I was in for a big surprise/shock. Not only did the two girls completely ignore him, they shut us out as well. They would be in the room, playing together and chatting for hours like a pair of giggling teenagers, while he would be standing outside, bawling, "No one wants to play with me!"

We tried our best to console him and get them to include him, but it didn't work all the time. I didn't have the heart to tell a 4-year-old the truth -- that it was not him; it was just a sister thing. Secretly, it warmed my heart to see the two girls interacting exactly like my sister and me, when we were kids. 

Recently, Xena asked me if she could send a message to Aish because the time difference and the kids' routine kinda makes it difficult to Skype. So I recorded her message and sent it via WhatsApp to my sister. The responses had arrived by the next day, and here's the full conversation. 

Xena - Come here, please. Just come and stay here forever. I miss you. Please. Can you come here forever and don't go back to the US?
Aish - I really miss you too. But we will meet soon. Not like we're never gonna see each other again... 
The boy - I wanna talk too!! Hello. I ate a bean. It tasted good. And I like cake and I like noodles and roti. I got a new table and a new bed and a sofa... (*my sister laughing in the background*)

Yep, the brother-sister thing is not the same as the sister-sister thing. Definitely not the same.

I'll end this post with a picture clicked during their Singapore visit. Xena, wearing a dress that once belonged to Aish, was upset about something but I can't remember what, and Aish was trying to cheer her up. I don't know what it is about the picture, but it melts my heart every time I look at it. 

Sigh... Sisters... :')

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for review (Fan)

"Let me know if you want to watch Fan with me if not I'm going without you Raja Sen gave it 4.5 stars." This was my almost breathless message to Viv, who's in the US now.

He watched the trailer and asked me to carry on.


But to be honest, I don't blame him. I wasn't too impressed with the trailer myself. I'm the kind of SRK fan who loves him for reasons other than his stardom and prefers to watch only his good movies so that I can continue loving him. Whenever he does a bad movie (and we all know how many there are), I have to go into hiding, especially if I was foolish enough to watch said movie. Ra.One was a big lesson to me on how I should never watch a movie just because it has SRK. It took me forever to recover from the catastrophe that the movie was, which is why I smartly ducked when Happy New Year and Dilwale released.

And that's why when I saw the Fan trailer, I had my reservations and wanted to wait for the reviews. I usually agree with Raja Sen's reviews, so when he gave the movie 4.5 stars, I jumped. And immediately picked up the phone and messaged the one person who would care about at SRK movie as much as me -- my dear friend Starbreez, who despite not being Indian, has watched 94 Hindi movies to date. (Asking Viv was a mere formality; he doesn't watch too many Hindi movies but he does appreciate the really good ones, so I always ask him but rarely go with him.) Starbreez has got a really hectic schedule, but she's always sweet enough to make time for SRK and me (in that particular order). So last night, two SRK fans (though not in the creepy way shown in the film) watched his latest offering 'Fan'.

Here are some random thoughts about the movie. (Spoiler alert: Stop right here, if you have yet to watch the movie!)

  • Oh, the layers in the movie! That for me, was the highlight. I could write an entire post about the layers of each aspect of the movie. (Don't worry, I won't.)

  • The concept is rather brave and also rather easy to screw up, so kudos to Maneesh Sharma and his team for having the conviction to pull it off. On the surface, it's quite the masala movie, but if, like me, you find yourself unable to shrug off the movie a day after watching it, you will uncover the nuances and the tiny details that show how much thought went into it.

  • After a long time. it was refreshing to see SRK step out of his comfort zone and do some real acting. It was clear that he had put a good amount of thought and effort into it, unlike sleepwalking through the role like he does in his usual movies. Not that Fan is in the same league, but after Swades and Chak De, if there is any other movie where he's had to keep his nose to the grindstone, it has to be this.

  • Having said that, I have to admit that this movie will be truly enjoyed by those who already have a positive mindset about SRK as a separate genre of movies. Non-SRK fans or neutral folks might not like it all that much.

  • I liked the fact that they did not glorify the superstar. They showed him to be quite grey -- arrogant, stubborn, insecure, unkind with his words even. It felt like a true and realistic portrayal. When I'd seen him say 'Why should I spare you even 5 seconds?' to his devoted fan in the trailer, I'd found it quite arrogant and cruel, but in the movie, I could totally see where it was coming from.

  • Double roles are really challenging, and I can't think of a movie other than Tanu Weds Manu Returns, where the distinction between the two roles was so clearly etched out. Gaurav was Gaurav and Aryan was Aryan, and kudos to SRK for playing both so brilliantly. I was completely bowled over by how he well played Gaurav as a mix of pathetic and creepy, and the rawness he imparted to Aryan's character. I have to say I was more excited about how he would play Aryan -- how much of himself he would reveal and how much he would hide. And he didn't disappoint me.

  • Going by the gazillions of lookalikes that SRK has, there are so many ways to look like him. I was quite curious about how the makers decided on this particular look for the fan, how many iterations it took, and how they managed to bring together prosthetics and VFX. I found this really cool video with all the details. Now I have a better understanding and appreciation of how much time, patience and coordination something like this takes. The mind boggles at the thought of poor SRK sitting in a chair continuously for 4 hours for make-up, for 70 days. I also laughed out loud at the anecdote the Hollywood make-up artist Greg Cannom shared. He told SRK that SRK was his second most favourite actor in the world. When SRK asked him who the first was, Greg answered, "Everybody else."

  • It must take real courage to play yourself on screen, not in a cameo, but in a full-length role, and kudos to SRK for doing it so well. In fact, I cannot think of any other superstar who could have pulled this off. The only other stars with this kind of fanatical adulation are probably Salman Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, but I cannot see either of them being able to do this. Sallu wouldn't have bothered to put in any effort as usual, and would have reduced the movie to a caricature. (It would still have crossed 100 crores though, so it wouldn't have mattered to him.) AB is too old to have played this, but even in his younger days, I can't seem to imagine him in this role, especially as Gaurav.

  • I have often wondered what it must be like inside SRK's head. The constant bombardment of adulation, hatred, judgement, harsh critiques. Fans who just want to meet him whether he wants to or not. Smiling for photograph after photograph, no matter how tired he is. Crowds pushing, shoving, grabbing, touching. Answering really idiotic and irrelevant questions at press conferences. Waking up to the works of media monkeys who write anything and everything. Money aside, is it really a life to covet? Watch The Inner World of Shah Rukh Khan and The Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan for a behind-the-scenes peek into his life.

  • An SRK movie without a single song? That really took me by surprise. In a good way.

  • Random thought that occured to me when he was jogging - SRK has a really fit body at 50!

  • Of course, the movie is not without its shortcomings, but I'll keep them to a single bullet point. Some of the chase sequences and fight scenes were long, tedious, unnecessary and too unrealistic. Deleting them off would have made the movie tighter and crisper. Some reviews found the second half not as good as the first, and I think the long chase/fight scenes contributed to that. Also, SRK as Gaurav did ham it up in some scenes. Another point which bugged me a little bit was Aryan's stage act towards the end. It's believable for a lookalike fan to ape a star, but for the star to ape a lookalike he's only met once was a little hard to believe. But I let it go as I guess they were trying to show that Aryan was a keen observer and a really good actor.

  • I actually liked the fact that the movie did not have a 'happy ending'. I feel like there could not have been any other ending for a movie like this. It had to be this way to underscore the 'you won't understand' sentiment that both the fan and the idol feel about the situation. And I liked the fact that contrary to what I thought would happen, Aryan never said 'sorry', all the way till the end.

  • My favourite scenes from the movie were rather unusual -- most were close-up shots of Aryan. The little lines of worry on the forehead, the intense eyes, the staring into space, the sudden smile in the mirror just to check that he was ready for the big show, it was all beautifully done.

  • And finally, I quote Raja Sen, for summing up the movie in the best possible manner:
    "Take a bow, Shah Rukh Khan. Not only for a phenomenal, genuinely groundbreaking performance but for being bold enough to give us the sight of a boy wearing painted-on abs while aping you dancing in a song where you, according to rumour, wore painted-on abs. For a glimpse at a worn out 50-year-old man -- massaging his temples, and stretching at the lines on his face -- before turning on the high-wattage smile and stepping out to market his myth."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for quiz

Just like any sane person who has embarked on the A-Z blogging marathon, I started this post by googling 'Words that start with Q'. After dismissing queen, question, quest, quick, quaint, quilt, quotation, quality, quantity, quora, quail, quantum, and many others, I hovered over 'quiz'. It brought back memories of the time I used to design A-Z Bollywood quizzes for bewdas to solve. I had done seven of them, but the last one was in June 2014. I figure there is no time like the present to do another one!

So here it is, the latest quiz in this series, and the theme is 'National Award winners'. Can you identify A-Z?

Once upon a time, A and B were part of a strange song from film C, involving many strange things - a bike, sunglasses, extremely tight jeans, beggars, clowns, policemen, policewomen, yellow raincoats, and a rather unforgettable polka-dotted red dress paired with red tights. They must be thanking their stars that they moved on from such things, for both went on to win the National Award twice. B won her second one for the 'realistic film' D, directed by 'realistic director' E, who went on to direct other 'realistic films', one of which F, got a former beauty queen and current Hollywood aspirant G, a National Award. F also starred the quirky H, who won consecutive National Awards for the films I and J. Starring opposite H in I was game-changer name-changer K, who won a National Award for the biographical film L. K also starred in a supernatural thriller M, playing fourth fiddle to Bollywood A-listers N, O and P, none of whom have won a National Award so far. N is married to royalty Q, who did win the National Award for film R, starring opposite P. R also featured a member of parliament S (also known for a multitude of 'I'm a Punjabi and PUNJABIS DON'T KEEP CALM' roles), who won a National Award for a Bengali film. S is married to T, who despite being armed with a Padma Shri and a Padma Bhushan, has never won a National Award. T was pitted against two-time National Award winner U in the film V, which took the audience by complete surprise with its unique storyline. T also had a prominent role as 'daddy cool' in W, one of the most popular films of all time, starring X whose first name starts with U's last name. X, whose superstardom is often compared to that of four-time National Award winning actor Y (also known for his 'my-son-will-retire-but-I-won't' attitude), has yet to win a National Award. X's pairing with the bubbly-until-annoying Z is immensely popular, but even Z has never bagged a National Award. To close the loop, Z is married to A

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for painting

"Beautiful place," said an acquaintance who'd visited our newly renovated home. "Now all you need are some paintings on all the bare walls."

I smiled politely at her. There would never, EVER be paintings (in the plural no less) on ALL the bare walls as she had pointed out.

I don't hate paintings, but I probably lack the aptitude to appreciate them. A few weeks ago, Viv and I went to an art gallery (Why on earth, you ask? Because they had a children's art workshop that Xena was going to love). We did roam around a little, looking at the various paintings on display. I spent a very very loooong time (about 13 seconds), looking at a particular painting that was priced very affordably. Only $112,000. Two words came to mind at the end of the 13 seconds. Preschool artwork.

So in our home, we have a grand total of one painting. Come to think of it, it's not even a real painting. It's just a giant photograph that comes in the form of five vertical strips that we have hung on our living room wall. I believe that more than the 'painting' itself, I liked the whole 'cut up into strips' concept. Viv and I took three days to decide which one to buy though. I wanted to go for something that would match our brown couch and yet have a splash of colour to liven things up (aka a nice-looking landscape) but he wanted a picture that would mean something to us, e.g. a place we had travelled to or a picture that we had taken. So we reached a compromise and got ourselves a beach landscape that matched the couch and had a splash of colour.

We agreed on a beach because we love beaches and have gone on a lot of beach vacations together, though we have never dared to take our DSLR along on one. Some day, if we ever repeat our Telunas island vacation, I'd like to go there armed with the DSLR and come back with a stunning picture to print in a bigass size and hang on the living room wall.

The only time I've ever coveted a painting was one that I saw literally displayed on the road at the Chiang Mai Sunday street market. It showed the profile of an elephant's head peeping into the painting. For some reason, I found it remarkable. 70% of the painting was just white space, and the elephant's head and trunk were simply made up of splashes of colourful paint. We couldn't bring it back with us because the thought of owning it struck me too late. Anyway, it was too big for us to have brought it back in our luggage. After getting back to Singapore, I tried to check if I could find it online and have it shipped to me, but all Google gave me when I typed 'Chiang Mai elephant painting' was pictures of sad elephants being forced to make paintings using paintbrushes held in their trunks.

Anyway, I tried not to get too obsessed over it as I'm strongly opposed to the idea of repeating holiday destinations (mainly because the world is so big and there is so much to see), so it's unlikely that we will go back to Telunas or Chiang Mai or New Zealand or the other gorgeous places that we were foolish enough to go to without a giant camera. However, because the world is so big and there is so much to see, I'm sure we'll find something along the way that will nicely adorn a wall in our home.

Meanwhile, here's the most beautiful painting in my life at the moment -- my new iPad cover that I had to wait two whole months for because it was out of stock and I wanted this and only this. Viv's reaction was "Hmm...", but I love it to bits. In Konmari's words -- it sparks joy in my heart.

Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for old

I celebrated my 36th birthday last week. It's not one of the landmark ages, such as 30 or 50 or 60, but somehow lately I've been feeling older (of course) and also a little wiser. I have spent most of my years feeling either young and foolish, or old and foolish, so it's a surprise to myself that I'm feeling old and wise for a change. Life is so unpredictable that one cannot simply wait to be 90 before sharing pearls of wisdom picked up along the years. Obviously, I'm not qualified to give gyaan such as 'read a lot of books' and 'never forget sunscreen' when I don't even follow them myself (*gasp*), but there are some things that the years have taught me or those that I strive for, which are worth sharing.

So here is all the gyaan I have for you 'young people' (aka anyone who is 35 and under):

1. Get fit. No, seriously. It will pay off in the long run. The later you start, the harder it will be. One of the age-related things that I'm slightly proud of is my fitness level. I'm fitter at 36 than I was at 30. However, I don't meet my own fitness standards yet, so there is work to be done still. Which is a good thing. Makes me get off my ass and on the cross-trainer.

2. Money is not a bad thing, but don't let your life revolve around it. I quit my first job after three months as I couldn't bear the thought of living my life as an engineer. After months of struggling, I finally found my calling. However, I had gone from a sizeable monthly salary as an engineer to almost a third as an editorial assistant, aka the person whose main job was to photocopy stuff. It took me years to crawl my way up before I reached that figure again, but not for a second did I ever regret the money lost. I was just so happy to be finally happy that the money didn't matter. Similarly, when Xena was born, I quit my job as a manager to be home for her. For several years, I earned a sad fraction of my old salary, holding the honourable title of 'freelance editor / starving writer'. But I honestly believe that it was the most worthwhile thing I've ever done for my kid. I can earn back the lost money later, but if I miss her childhood, I can't earn that back.

3. Don't invest any more time and effort in bad/selfish friendships than you already have. Life is too short for constant negativity. And though a 'katti forever' might sound like something only children indulge in, sometimes it's better than holding constant grudges, especially if you don't communicate about them.

4. You can try to put yourself in another's shoes, but it will never be the same as them being in their own shoes. So stop judging. I'm still struggling with that. For instance, I've never had any patience for people who complain about having no time to do what they want to do, but I'm making an effort to stop ranting about the ranters.

5. Be civil to everyone. Even those you intensely dislike. No matter how they treat you or talk behind your back, you must maintain your level. (My dad used to say this all the time when I was a kid, but only in adulthood have I realised the stark truth in his words.)

6. If you can forgive, forgive. If you can forget, forget. You have to do at least one of them to be able to move on. By the act of forgiving, you release the other person of the burden. By the act of forgetting, you release yourself of the burden. If you can do both all the time, well... prabhu, aapke charan kahan hain?

7. Spend time with your kids. Listen to them. They have a lot to say now, and they won't later.

8. Family is family. Nothing else has your back the way family does. And that includes the in-laws.

9. Learn from mistakes, but harbour no regrets. They do nothing but pull you down.

10. Peace of mind is tops. Nothing is worth losing your peace of mind.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for new

So one of my new year resolutions for 2016 is to learn to make a new food item every month. Of course, it sounds easy on paper, but there is a condition -- it has to be something that I can incorporate into our regular meal plans. This makes it tougher, because it's not a simple case of getting a random recipe off the net and making the dish once, no matter what the outcome. That I keep doing all the time anyway. This resolution requires me to expand the range of meals I cook for us, so I have to pick something suitable and healthy, and make sure it's sustainable, repeatable, and erm, edible.

So these are the new dishes I have made so far and incorporated into our regular meal plan.

January: Idiyappam

Xena had a few strands of idiyappam at someone's poonal we'd attended, and the fact that her face didn't show absolute disgust was enough for me to find out how to make the damned thing from scratch. My mom-in-law got me an idiyappam press, and I looked up the recipe. The first few attempts were disaster because you need to carefully control the water temperature and flour:water ratio, but now I've mastered it. It's become a part of our regular meals now, and Xena actually likes it. She doesn't "hate it", she is not "ok with it"; she actually likes it!

My friend S gave me an awesome recipe for Kerala-style vegetable stew and this combo was a hit with both Viv and me. 

I made this batch of idiyappam with water in which I had boiled some beetroot. It gave the idiyappams a nice pink colour and hopefully some beetroot essence went into my veggie-hating child's tummy. Of course, she refused to touch the sambhar I'd made with it, and had the idiyappam on its own. 

Since she was refusing to eat the accompaniments, I wanted to up the nutrients of the carb-only idiyappams. Melted cheese to the rescue. She didn't mind it at all!

February: Dhokla

With concerns over Xena's protein intake, I revisited the thought of making dhokla for her. I'd made the Gits kind long ago, and absolutely hated it. So I thought I'd try the Eno kind, and found this really easy recipe. The dhoklas came out absolutely great. I made some imli ki chutney with them and it really was the icing on the... err... dhokla! Now dhokla is a regular breakfast item in our household.

Of course, the batch made for Xena was devoid of any seasoning, coriander leaves or chutney. Sure, the taste was compromised, but she ate it and that's what mattered. 

March: Bread

Once I had an oven, I went a little crazy making cakes and muffins and cupcakes and brownies. I used to to with the idea of baking bread, but the resounding success of the other items and the fear that I might end up with a brick instead had held me back. This year, because of this resolution, I decided to go ahead and do it. This recipe looked simple enough and I tried it out. I was happy with it, but I could be happier. So I will keep experimenting, until I completely stop buying bread.

Xena helped me bake the loaf. She even ate half a slice as soon as it cooled. 

April: Whole wheat pizza

My sister used to tell me all the time how easy pizza-making was, and how you don't even need to buy pizza base, you can totally do it from scratch at home yada yada yada. I never paid much attention because I didn't have an oven. So when I did get an oven, you can imagine what a great listener I suddenly became to her.

I use this recipe to make the pizza base. As for the toppings, it is free and easy. Xena puts whatever she likes on hers, while Viv and I prefer our toppings to be 90% jalapenos and 10% 'whatever; doesn't matter'. I started off by following the recipe exactly, but gradually started using a mix of wholewheat flour and bread flour. As I wrote in this post, Saturdays are family-Scrabble-with-pizza nights and the pizza is homemade.

We have also had several pizza play dates with Xena and her friends making the base and 'decorating' it with the toppings.

Xena rolling the dough

I helped her make this heart-shaped pizza base.

On goes the sauce...

And in goes the cheese... in her mouth I mean!

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I made 100% wholewheat flour to make the pizza base, and used zucchini and olives for the topping. Xena ate almost the entire palm-sized (my palm, not hers omg) pizza by herself! I was so thrilled because in effect, I had just given her a thick chapati with veggies and protein, a combo that she's never ever had or shown any interest in. This is SO going to be a regular from now on!

Friday, April 15, 2016

M is for memories

I'm sure everyone on Facebook, including the great Zuckerberg himself, has a love-hate relationship with it. Some aspects of FB annoy me so much (top of the list is when friends of mine like their friends' photos that are publicly visible, bombarding my newsfeed with 209423804723 giant photos of people I don't know), while others are so endearing. Lately, my favourite has been the 'memories from this day' feature, which regularly pop up super old photos and videos of what was happening in my life on this date years ago. I was so thrilled when a photo of me from 8 years ago popped up and Viv remarked, "You look the same." Because Viv doesn't lie (no, not even to compliment), this really meant something.

What really makes my day are the photos and videos of Xena that pop up. Of course, I have every single photo and video of hers saved in my photos folder, but these 'memories' on FB give me a clear view of exactly how she was when she was 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and when I compare them to the now 5-year-old Xena, I can't believe how much she has changed.

A few days ago, this video popped up from the time she was 3. Other than the hilarity of the 'remixed' stories and the eight instances of 'suddenly', one more thing struck me, and not in a good way. I 'suddenly' realised that her Hindi was sooooo much better than it is now. Rather, she used to speak soooo much more Hindi compared to now.

Before we sent her to preschool, I used to talk to her in Hindi all the time. Because she'd be taking it as a subject in primary school, and her preschool only offered Chinese, it was important. However, we also wanted to make sure that when she went out there into the big bad world of preschool, she didn't pick up Singlish before picking up English. Not to mention the fact that English is a complicated language with more exceptions than norms. So we straddled both English and Hindi, and somehow she was turning out okay in both.

Lately, however, I hardly hear any Hindi from her, and this video supported that view. Even when I ask her something in Hindi, her natural response tends to be in English, until I prompt her. These days, I just say, "Kyaaaaaaaaa?" when she responds in English, and then she giggles and quickly switches.

I've also bought some bilingual books for us to read together and they have been a great help. I suppose that now I'm quite happy with her English (she still makes some mistakes, but they're so endearing I'm almost tempted not to correct them - "Mama, close the windows. It's raining so hardly!!"), I need to get our focus back on Hindi.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for late

Often, we find out certain things rather late in life. A lot of it happens when you're harmlessly scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed and something like this screams at you -- 'You've been doing/eating/cutting/pronouncing XYZ wrong YOUR WHOLE LIFE!

Some of it is useful, such as the fact that the original Swedish way of pronouncing 'Ikea' is 'ee-kay-ah'. It's the Americans who started pronouncing it as 'eye-key-ah'. It really bothers me sometimes because I feel like I'm one of the 3 people in the world who say 'ee-kay-ah' and I often get 'tsk tsk' looks from the 'eye-key-ah' sayers.

However, many of such articles contain just nonsense. I've often wondered why on earth I should peel the banana from the other end and why my way is 'the wrong way'. The explanation offered that 'this is how monkeys do it' does nothing for me. Please. Monkeys do a lot of things, including picking lice from each other's hair and eating it. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see an article soon with the headline 'You've been fixing your head lice problem the wrong way YOUR WHOLE LIFE!'

And this is why when I came across a TED talk about how we have all been tying our shoelaces wrong our whole lives, my first reaction was "Riiiight..." I only sat through the talk because it was only for 3 minutes. I sat there, cynically, waiting for the speaker to say 'this is how monkeys would tie shoelaces', but to my surprise, I found myself getting interested. It was such a simple trick that even using the word 'trick' seems excessive.

Once the talk was over, I went outside and grabbed my gym shoes. I tried out what the speaker had said in the talk and I honestly couldn't believe my eyes. Not only was it a more secure knot, the 'bow' looked so nice and straight and 'in place', resting perpendicular to the length of the shoe. I've been tying my shoelaces like this ever since. Even though it took me a while to put my instincts aside and remember to tie it 'the other way'.

I've tied the shoelaces on my left shoe the conventional way, and the ones on the right shoe using the new way. Can you see how much nicer the 'bow' on the right shoe looks? And yes, since I started tying them this way, my shoelaces have never come undone. 

I've decided to start Xena off on tying shoelaces using only this way. But I was so excited I decided to venture beyond shoes.

I have this dress that I love, but I'd always hated the vertical way in which the bow near the neckline would rest. I would tug and tug and tug, but it would go right back to that lop-sided state.

So I tried the new shoelace tying method, and I couldn't believe my eyes! The bow was horizontal and perfect!

The talk is from 2005 and many of you may have already seen and implemented/dismissed it, but I thought I'd share it anyway because good things need to be shared. I, for one, was both embarrassed and amazed that I'd been tying my shoelaces 'the wrong way' MY WHOLE LIFE and found out 'the right way' so late!

Well, I guess... better late than never!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K is for KonMari

"Dude, you fold your clothes before you put them in the laundry basket??" I said, with a strange mix of fear and mockery in my voice.

"Yeah." He said matter-of-factly.

Oh boy. You may know a guy for almost a decade, but only after you marry him and live under the same roof that you find out certain weird things about him. I knew he was a very Monica-ish virgo, but this was a little too much even for that.

So yesterday, after 18 years of knowing him and 9 years of being married to him, when I folded my clothes before putting them in the laundry basket, I remembered this incident from 2007 and smiled. Nope, it had not taken him years and years to convince me. In fact, it was not him at all.

It was her.

Marie 'KonMari' Kondo.

For those who know of her, yes, I'm a convert now (at least on paper). And for those who don't, well, she's a Japanese organising guru who was featured in Time's '100 most influential people' in 2015. The KonMari method of tidying she has come up with consists of gathering every single possession, one category at a time, keeping only the things that spark joy, discarding the rest, and then choosing a place for everything you decide to keep.

When we renovated our home last year, we wanted to change many things. We wanted a cosy, bright, tidy home with clean lines and a happy aura. We gave our contractor very specific instructions on what to do (all shelves should be up on the wall and not take up floor space, storage spaces to be maximised as much as possible, so countertops are bare and tidy, convert all wardrobe doors to sliding doors, etc.) and we knew what we had to do (throw, throw and throw stuff, have a designated place for everything and keep things as tidy as possible, make sure nothing in the house is 'jugaad'). We also changed some of our practices. We started folding socks and underwear (even Xena's!) properly and storing them upright in baskets in drawers. Instead of keeping the laundry basket with the dirty/sweaty clothes in our room, we built a separate laundry area for the washing machine, laundry detergent and the three laundry baskets. Things were so much better than before.

Almost a year has passed. However, I can't say I'm entirely happy with the upkeep of the tidiness. Xena's table, for instance, quickly gets covered under toys, piles of books and boxes of crayons within a week. Our very tidy office-like workspace begins to get cluttered sooner than the weekends arrive.

In search of better ways to keep our home tidy, I stumbled upon Marie Kondo. I tried to find her books (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Spark Joy) in the library, but they were reserved with a long waiting list. I placed a reservation for them anyway, and finally after a month, received the email asking me to pick up the books. Despite my crazy schedules, I devoured both books within a few weeks. And I can safely list them as the most influential things I have ever read in my life. The publishers were not kidding when they decided to use the phrase 'life-changing' in the title. It's not a marketing gimmick. It's the truth. I don't think I have nodded this hard after reading something on every single page of any book ever.

I used to think of tidying as the process of putting things in place and making everything look neat. For example, if Xena and I are tidying her desk, we will make neat piles of the books, put stray crayons in the crayon box, keep the toys back in the toy box, and make sure the desk looks neat. KonMari's definition of tidying has discarding at the core. Her definition talks about what we should be doing before we apply our definition of tidying. So when we're tidying the desk, we should not just be making sure things are in neat piles or stacks or boxes, we need to be assessing each item to see if we really need it. Simply putting things away creates the illusion that there is no more clutter. But it's still there. In drawers and boxes and cupboards. It's there weighing your home down, weighing you down. I'm generally not a hoarder, and I'm pretty merciless when it comes to discarding, but reading KonMari made me realise that I've not even scratched the surface of true tidying.

Of course, she doesn't recommend a discard-fest every time your room looks messy. What she says -- and this is brilliant -- is to tidy at one shot, whether it takes days, weeks or months. "Tidying is a special event. Don't do it every day." Because once you have tidied up, with discarding at the core, you have gotten rid of stuff you don't need and you have a place for everything. Which would make the regular cleaning up -- just that -- cleaning. For the place would already be tidy with no clutter around, and everything in its place. In her words, "If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you'll see important results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after."

So what is this 'right method'? This is revolutionary. She refers to 'tidying by room' (which is what I do) as a fatal mistake. The more I think about it, the louder it rings true. For example, when I tidy by room, I pick up stray magazines from the coffee table and put them on my work desk in my room. Once the living room is done and I'm tidying my room, I pick up the same magazines from my desk and put them inside my cupboard to clear my working space. I do not for a moment think whether I need the magazines, whether they serve a purpose, whether they should really be there in the first place. I have tidied up by room, and every room is now 'fixed', but what I have done is essentially moved stuff from one room to another and hidden it away where it can't bother me anymore with its presence.

KonMari recommends tidying by category. So, instead of putting away the books that you find in each room, you take out every single book in your home and put it all together on a surface like the floor. Yes, every single book in your home. Even those neatly stacked away in the bookshelves. It might be tempting to just look at the titles while the books are still in the bookshelf, and then decide whether to keep them or not, but true assessment and discarding will only happen when you take everything out and put back what you really want to keep.

A simple example is Xena's crayons. In every single room, whether it's my desk, or her desk, or the dining table or the coffee table, or the guest room, at the end of the day, her crayons can be found everywhere. If I take up Konmari's suggestion, I could put together every single crayon in the house in a big pile (I'm not even kidding when I say I'm sure the number will cross 200), make just one complete set for Xena and donate the rest. How cool would that be?

So how do you assess what to discard? The Internet is full of tips on how to discard stuff -- by age of the item, how frequently you use it, whether it's in style, whether it still fits, whether it's taking up too much space, etc. etc. Her method is really simple -- keep the things that 'spark joy' and discard the rest. It is not about frugal living or reducing your belongings for the sake of it. It's about surrounding yourself only with things you love.

Usually, when going through my wardrobe during my spring-cleaning sessions, I look for stuff to discard. It's a confusing and annoying process. What I should be doing instead is taking every single item of clothing out, picking up each item in both hands and asking myself if it sparks joy. If it doesn't, it goes to the 'donate' pile immediately. I cannot think of a better way to sort through stuff. Sure, it sounds tedious and painful, but imagine living in a home where every single item is a loved possession, where every item's existence is a choice you made because it sparks joy in your heart. I'm getting goosebumps just at the thought of it.

The KonMari sequence for going through stuff is clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items) and lastly, mementos. Go through each item in each category and discard all the stuff that has outlived its purpose. She also has really practical tips, such as not letting anyone see what you're discarding. "It's extremely stressful for parents to see what their children discard." I was laughing and nodding my head at the same time when I read it. Also, she says 'some time' = 'never' when it comes to books that we keep under the 'I'll read it some time' category, so they should be promptly discarded. She's also quite heartless when it comes to gifts that the recipient doesn't like or use. She considers gifts not as objects we need to keep or use, but as a means of conveying someone's warm feelings. If we look at it like that, we will be able to discard such items without guilt.

One of the things in her philosophy that touched me deeply was her respect for inanimate objects, whether it's in the way she recommends thanking an object for its service before discarding it, or just treating your possessions with love and respect. For example, she is strictly against keeping socks in a state of tension in the drawers. It is their only time to rest before they gear up for a hard day at work, so they should be in a relaxed state. Other than the philosophical aspect, it's also good practical advice because balling up, or tying your socks together is not good for the elastic. And it also made me appreciate Viv's habit of roughly folding his clothes before putting them in the laundry basket, in stark contrast to my using it as basketball practice.

Marie also talks about the 'click point', which happens when after reducing your stuff, you come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you. Once you reach that point, you will be physically and emotionally incapable of hoarding. Your place and heart will become lighter and you will become happier. I'd always thought happiness was all in the mind and had nothing to do with the stuff around you. But I can't deny the joy I feel when I come back home after picking up Xena, and it's clutter-free and greets me warmly.

After carrying out the KonMari method of tidying, I can only imagine the spike in one's decision-making skills. On a deeper level, if we can learn to let go of the material things that do not bring us joy, I'm sure we can learn to let go of other things that do not bring us joy -- regrets, negative relationships and negative thoughts.

Viv is off to the US tomorrow for three weeks. Xena and I will begin a KonMarathon of our possessions first. I've asked Viv to get a copy of the book and read it while he's there if possible, for I believe that this is a massive undertaking and he needs to really understanding the philosophy of the KonMari method if/before we get into it. Once, he's back and has finished reading, we can tackle the rest of the house. Or maybe I can start donating some of his things already; let's see if he notices when he gets back. Heh heh heh!

This has been a looooong post, but I badly wanted to write it to condense my takeaways from the books. I'm not sure how many readers have made it to this point, but if you have, congrats and as a bonus for you, here's the essence in KonMarie's words: The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J is for jewellery

My J post in the A to Z blogging challenge last year was on jewellery too, and I'd ended it with how Xena wanted to get her ears pierced when she turned 5. Well, she turned 5 last month, and we kept our promise. We took her to B*Dazzle, and she stayed calm through the process, even though you could see she was beginning to have second thoughts. They used a mild local anaesthesia and the double-gun method to pierce both ears simultaneously. The 'guns', manned by two staff members, looked like plastic staplers, except that once they had counted '1, 2, 3' and 'stapled' the earlobes, the ear studs were in place, locked from the back too. It was over in one second. No blood, no sweat, no tears. Awesome.

When I'd gotten my ears pierced, I was about the same age as Xena. It was at a gold jewellery shop and I believe the guy just took a gold wire, pierced my earlobe and twisted the two ends of the wire to lock it. And of course, he had to do it again for the other ear. Yikes.

This was taken just seconds after the piercing.

A close-up view

They're just tiny studs, but they have suddenly made my little girl look so grown-up. 

The happy bunny has got her wish!

Of course, she's super excited about her new ear studs and goes around showing anyone and everyone who'd care to listen. She has also come up with some 'statements' about them.

"Mama, the back of the earring looks like the Hindi letter !" (I'd never thought of that, but she was right. I've been teaching her Hindi letters at home, and she knows up to .)

"Mama, I'm Elsa. If I touch my earrings, I will get magic in my hands. Then I can throw it and freeze everything like Elsa!"

The other day, we were passing by a garden, and the gardener was using a hose to water the plants. We got a few tiny drops on us, and she exclaimed, "Oh no, the water touched my earrings! Now gardener uncle and the hose and the water inside will all freeze! I can't unfreeze them!"

But the last one is the most hilarious. It needs a bit of context though, so here goes. Xena likes to open the fridge and read labels on the packaging of food items. She has noted that the items for Viv and me, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are labelled 'low-fat' and the same items for her are labelled 'full-fat'. In her head, she'd probably understood 'low-fat' to mean 'for adults' and 'full-fat' to mean 'for kids'.

Yesterday, she was talking about her experience at the jewellery shop, and declared, "Mama, you know, we bought these earrings because they were the only small ones in the shop. Everything else was 'low-fat'.

Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for intricate

Xena is is now old enough to sit in one place for about 30 seconds or so without fidgeting, which means my itchy fingers can get to work and braid her hair. Though I can do a super neat French braid on my own hair, there is nothing like having a guinea pig to practise my skills and imagination on. So every morning, while she takes her usual 328974839247 minutes to finish a cup of milk, I try to do something different on her hair.

Her laoshi (Chinese teacher) is just as obsessed with her hair as I am, and so she often goes to school sporting one hairstyle and comes back with another! As I unravel her hair, I try to decode what laoshi had done. Sometimes, I'm successful, and sometimes I have to ask Xena, "How did laoshi make the twists not un-twist?" "I don't know Mama, I was sitting on laoshi's lap, listening to the English teacher read a book. I don't know what laoshi was doing on my hair." On some levels, it's kinda hilarious. Like laoshi and I are sending some kind of daily encrypted message to each other.

If you're as enamoured by braids as me, you would not have missed the viral post going around last month about the Aussie mom who makes the most intricate braids for her daughter for school every morning. The stuff she does is RIDICULOUS. INSANE. CUCKOO. Here is her FB page in case you're keen on more heart attacks. I bow down to this goddess of braids. And she has filled me with inspiration to try to rise a little higher in my efforts at braiding Xena's hair.

I'm still at a very basic level, and I wish I had more time to Youtube and learn more braid-y hairstyles. Hopefully I will get there one day, but meanwhile, here are some hairstyles I've been doing on Xena's hair. These are relatively simple compared to what I eventually want to do, so the captions should be instructions enough if any of you want to try these out.

Hairstyle 1: A basic fishtail braid. Xena calls it the 'coconut-fishtail', since it's an extension of the coconut hairstyle I'd mentioned in the previous post. (Coconut-fishtail. Sheesh. Sounds more like a curry than a hairstyle!)

Hairstyle 2: A twist braid. I finally figured out how to prevent the twist from un-twisting. The secret lies in the direction of the twist!

Hairstyle 3: A dutch braid

Hairstyle 4: My first attempt at a five-strand braid. Hopeless. I swear you need all tentacles of an octopus to do this neatly!

Hairstyle 5: Two Dutch side braids leading to a fishtail braid at the back

Hairstyle 6: Side parting with a regular braid going from the right and pinned securely on the left. I added the bunny hairclip because it was Easter celebration day at school. 

Hairstyle 7: Single Dutch side braid leading to a Dutch braid at the back

Hairstyle 8: French hairband braid - I made a side parting and French braided the front section of each side...

... and then I took both the French braids and tied them together under the rest of her hair, to create the 'hairband' look. 

Hairstyle 9: No mood to braid today!

Hairstyle 10: French side braid leading to a regular braid, but made at the side so it stayed put in front of her shoulder 

Hairstyle 11: Centre parting with two thin regular braids on either side, loosely leading to a Dutch braid at the back. 

Hairstyle 12: Criss-cross beaded ponytails

Hairstyle 13: Dutch braid with the front section of hair, and a regular braid on the side, going over and covering the parting. The next picture shows you how it looks from the side.