School Diary – VIII

Please read the previous chapters of Pari’s school diary before continuing for better understanding.

This Monday was determined to be special and a turning point in our lives, with Pari starting her kindergarten in a new school. The new school I had picked for Pari, had ticked off most boxes on my mental list of a good school and I believed I was in control for this new journey. But, no-matter how much you prepare yourself, life has a way of surprising you in ways you least expect it to.

The morning dawned with me and Pari waking up at almost the same time. I had briefed her about all she should expect, in the preceding days so she was pretty cool and prepared about everything. The new school starts an hour earlier than her previous school, but we being a (hyper) punctual family reached the new school reception area almost 30 minutes ahead of time. We had kept a safe margin for the traffic because the school is around 12 km from our home, still we were among the first to reach there.

Pari was pretty excited. I could read it in the spring in her step and the cheerful smile that was plastered on her face. It helped me immensely in calming down. At the reception, we happened to meet her school’s Headmistress and Pari wished her “Good morning Ma’am” loud and clear without waiting for anyone (including me) to prompt her to do so.

While the headmistress (whom Pari had met twice earlier & had loved the way she had gifted her a big bar of chocolate on those occasions) looked impressed and went to talk to her for a little longer, in my head I knew, Pari was ready to take on this school in her stride. I had never before seen her so charged up, liked that day.

Unlike most schools I have been to or known, Pari’s school administration had insisted on parents accompanying the kindergarten students, to help them adjust in the new environment and allowing an open yet brief interaction with the class-teacher. As a parent, I quite liked this approach because I could see a positive impact of this, both on the students as well as their worried parents. This can also be attributed to the fact, that in Pari’s school every class has a maximum of 15 students per section with strong emphasis on individual attention to every child.

Meeting the class teacher went on smooth and I quite liked her. Pari didn’t take long to find a chair in red (her current favorite color) to seat herself comfortably in the class. I can never forget the calm look on her face with which she happily waved bye to me and her grand-father. It was then, that the school photographer approached us for a family photo in Pari’s class on her first day in school. I actually loved this idea. In my heart I always wanted to take a picture of this special moment, but didn’t attempt it for the fear of upsetting the school discipline early morning.

All said and done my father and I marched out of the class towards school entrance. One thing I noted then was, I was very calm with a (never-known-before) feeling of peace enveloping me. However, my father was a little shaken with an unmistakable teary eyed look. It wasn’t him alone, I had seen many parents with tears in their eyes on our way out.

It was then, something in my head wondered, maybe I was not motherly enough to react emotionally on this important point of my child’s life. These thoughts plagued my mind all along our way back home but a little voice in my head kept arguing this line of thought, saying ‘being in control of one’s emotions’ isn’t a bad thing.

While we had dropped Pari at school, she was to return back home by the school bus. The number of the bus she was to take had been tagged on her school shirt and I had personally spoken to the bus driver and the helper explaining our bus stop where I’d be coming to pick and drop Pari.

Then followed a hectic day with lot of work waiting for me to be completed. Though I was busy all morning, at the back of my mind I was worried about Pari’s bus trip in the afternoon. The prime reason being, Pari has severe motion sickness. This was going to be her first ever bus travel without me. Besides, the school serves lunch to the students hardly half an hour before they leave for home by bus. Having eaten minutes before a long bus trip can play havoc for someone with motion-sickness. Words cannot do justice to my anxiety about it.

Some lessons in life are best learnt, facing life as it comes. Over-thinking doesn’t help a bit. My father and I reached the designated bus-stop well ahead of time. We waited impatiently for the school bus to arrive and when it finally did, the driver informed me that my daughter wasn’t on board.

My jaw dropped to the floor and a huge pang of anxiety churned my stomach. The helper nanny in the bus informed me that Pari was aboard another bus and also told me the location of the bus stop where we can pick her up explaining to me what had led to this. Needless to say my father and I darted to the new bus stop, pretty upset by the fact that the school administration hadn’t considered informing us about this change.

There were a couple of grocery shops in the area of the bus-stop. On enquiry with the vendors, they told us that the bus had left around 5 minutes back. Here, I’d like to mention that Pari’s school bus follows the rule of not dropping the child on the bus stop in the event of no-show by the parents to ensure child’s safety. I was well aware of this policy having talked at length with the bus coordinator at the time of admission.

Luckily, a few days before the session started, when I had met the staff and had a word with the bus coordinator, I had taken their phone numbers and saved them on my mobile. I at once called the school and explained the situation. I was assured about Pari’s safety and was requested to call up the bus driver.

The driver responded and the helper nanny in the bus told me that Pari was on board, panic struck and crying. But, she calmly told us there was no need to worry as they would be taking care of her. I was informed about their current location and we decided upon a meeting point on their way where could pick Pari.

The situation was very much in control, theoretically. In the meantime, my mother called up worried asking about what was taking us so long in bringing Pari back. When I told her what happened, she was broken and her voice cracked up. But, we had no time to talk for we needed to dart to the spot where we were meet the school bus.

My father and I reached the spot in next ten minutes. In the peak afternoon rush hour  with the sun shining bright overhead, a zillion school buses were in sight, except the one we were waiting for. I have no idea what had gone into me that day. I was very calm and composed. Though I was worried about the well-being of my child but still I was as normal as I usually am with no trace of agitation, frustration or anger.

After sometime the bus arrived. I will never forget the sight of that moment. Pari was seated comfortably in the front seat with the helper nanny by her side and my little girl was smiling. She was more than happy to see her grand-father and myself. She happily waved goodbye to the driver and the helper after our brief chat.

Pari’s smile convinced me she had been in caring hands. Most amazingly, the child had traveled over 25 km in the bus all by her own, on her first day in a new school and managed to enjoy the ride without any sign of motion sickness.

We soon returned home to find my mother standing on the road waiting for us to bring Pari home safely. She was in a bad shape having cried and been worrying crazy.

Later in the afternoon all the confusion regarding the bus number and bus stop was cleared by having a word with the school headmistress. Though she apologized profusely, the one thing that had been bugging me all day was why I was so calm and composed all through the chaos.

In retrospect when I see the events of that adventurous first day in school, I think, my determination to stay calm and peaceful guided my will-power to make it happen. I felt as if I have aged ten years in that one day and my child too has grown up to become a confident child I had never known before.

The song on my mind: Samjhaawan Unplugged ~ Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania

Padharo Mhare Desh

“Behind every attractive room there should be a very good reason.”~ Sister Parish

It’s been almost a year since we moved in our new home but we are still far away from being done with the interior decoration. It is fascinating how the amount of energy, ideas and time it takes to plan a house during construction is equal to what it takes to decorate the house tastefully.

While we have been gradually working on the ‘Rajasthani theme’ to decorate our home, the one area we are yet not happy with, is our drawing room. It’s not the dearth of handicrafts or color schemes but lack of consensus on the final look that has tempted us to try many arrangements over time.

With our family roots in Rajasthan, being inclined to its royal, colorful culture comes naturally to us. But when working on interior decoration of an area as prime as the drawing room, creating a subtle blend of culture with strokes from the modern palette can be quite challenging. Of all the places in the world, the pink city, Jaipur is our favorite. With fond family memories spanning over generations, it’s passionate, playful, pink color has found place on our walls, linen and more.

This has been our starting point in working on decorating our drawing room. There is no dearth of colors in Rajasthani handicrafts, but evolving a creative confluence of the same can be pretty tedious. The prime reason being, going overboard while shopping for handicrafts, creating a clutter than an artistic outcome, is pretty easy.

With a wedding in the family in the coming months and my parent’s milestone anniversary round the corner, I took up the task of tastefully decorating our drawing room.

In the past, we’ve requested our friends and family visiting Jaipur to bring along handicrafts based on our requirements. However, in matters of art and craft, one has to pick each product themselves to be fully satisfied. Despite, our love for Jaipur, visiting it often only for shopping isn’t a feasible option. But, luckily I struck gold.

How?

Check out the pictures before I spill the beans. Please click on the pictures to enlarge.

In colors of passion this majestic Diwan-set gifted our drawing room a vibrant touch blending well with the curtains.
In colors of passion this majestic Diwan-set gifted our drawing room a vibrant touch blending well with the curtains
Meet the colorful musician figurines and (L to R) H.H. Maharaja Sardar Singh ji of Jodhpur,  The regal architecture of Rajasthan and Maharani Sita Devi of Kapurthala.
Meet the colorful musician figurines and seated on the sofa are ( from L to R on cushions) H.H. Maharaja Sardar Singh ji of Jodhpur, the regal architecture of Rajasthan and Maharani Sita Devi.

While the varied styles, designs, patterns and color combinations have brought alive the rich cultural and traditional heritage, the intricately crafted figurines have added to the personality of our drawing room. From my three year old to the elderly, no one misses out on being enticed by their charm.

Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh (Left)  The beautiful hand-painted marble vase and Maharaja Sawai Sir Tukoji Rao II Holkar (Right)
Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh (Left cushion), the beautiful hand-painted marble vase and Maharaja Sawai Sir Tukoji Rao II Holkar (Right cushion).

The digital print cushion covers have been an instant hit. From their plush fabric to royal elegance, their presence has brought home a royalty with a hint of modern craftsmanship. They’ve amplified the rich feel of our small drawing room. But there’s more to it.

Recently, my elderly aunt (my father’s eldest sister) visited us. She was amazed by these cushion covers because she could recognize each of the Maharajas and the Maharani. She had many anecdotes to share about their lives, Rajasthan’s glorious history, chivalry and beauty that have added another dimension to our love for these handicrafts.

The tie and dye, block prints and batik have adorned our abode for generations. This time around we chose to be different. These assorted handicrafts have packed in the look of ‘Diwan-e-khaas’ to our drawing room in a budget that’s left me determined to shop more.

The cuddly monkey curtain holders are Pari's favorite, the strings of birds are symbolic of Rajasthani handicrafts and the Bani Thani of Kishangarh etched in Marbe.
The cuddly monkey curtain holders are Pari’s favorite, the strings of birds are symbolic of Rajasthani handicrafts and the Bani Thani of Kishangarh etched in Marble add charm to the corner of our drawing room.

The elegant Marble vase never fails to bring a smile to everyone who sees it. It is an exquisite marvel of painting on marble with splash of colors and intricately crafted peacock. Marble of Rajasthan is world famous. The marble of the Taj Mahal too came from Makrana in Rajasthan.

I have shopped for decor items and handicrafts online many times before. But on a couple of occasions, though purchase was easy, the products didn’t match the pictures shown and the quality wasn’t satisfactory. Besides, returns were such a hassle that I had come to dread shopping for home decor online.

However, Flipkart is different. I have been a regular Flipkart customer since 2010. From kitchen appliances to mobiles to tablets to bed sheets, the list of the items we’ve shopped from Flipkart is endless. This was why trusting the ‘Home Store‘ came easy to us.

Scrolling through Flipkart’s well-classified catalogue to find products is a breeze, more so on the mobile app. The biggest plus are the handicrafts arranged regionally, as per color scheme and the area of your home with helpful suggestions on every page. It took me less than five minutes to reach a vast, vibrant, colorful collection of Rajasthani handicrafts that I knew my home would love.

The bright 'Pink' adding tint of joy to our drawing room
The bright ‘Pink’ adding tint of joy to our drawing room

Not only the aesthetics and the mind-blowing discounts but the litmus test of online shopping, return of the products has been tried in this venture. The Diwan-set I had initially ordered with hues of dark orange, was not liked by my aunt, she suggested going for something bright. We quickly browsed through Flipkart’s exhaustive collection and requested a return of the product.

The commendable bit was, the return was organized in matter of minutes. I was constantly updated about when I should expect a pick-up and the refund was received within hours of the product’s return. This, I believe is a huge plus because there are occasions when we change our mind or need to seek a replacement because of any reason.

I am impressed with the express delivery, careful packaging (especially of the figurines and the marble vase) and the quality of all the products. My wish-list is on a surging rise since my first purchase. With a family wedding round the corner, we already have a long list of gift items to be shopped from the home store.

”Surround yourself with quality, not clutter. Buy it once, and buy it right.” ~ Marni Jameson

Our drawing room after a makeover with the exquisite collection of the Flipkart Home Store
Our drawing room after a makeover with the exquisite collection from the Flipkart Home Store

If you are thinking that the downpour of compliments that came my family’s way with the new setting of our drawing room were the only reason of my jubilation, let me add a cherry to this cake.

On shopping from the ‘Home Store’ I also bagged Make My Trip discount vouchers  that will give me a massive discount in my next travel (flights as well as the hotel stay). With Pari’s summer vacations round the corner, my family is already busy making plans for a royal getaway while I am loving welcoming the ‘Rangeelo Rajasthan’ in our home.

I highly recommend you to go and check out the Flipkart Home Store. I am sure; you’ll find classy products to compliment your lifestyle or a perfect gift for someone you love, in no time.

“If you buy stuff you love, regardless of the era or price, your home will be a true reflection of you.” ~ Sarah Norwood

* Padharo Mhare Desh in Rajasthani/ Marwari means ‘Welcome to our land’.

In Control

Tomorrow is an important day of my our life. Pari starts her journey in a new school, in a new class, with a lot of firsts going to be marked in history. But that is to happen tomorrow. This post is a quickie to record my crucial first.

Today, I am as calm as a summer sea. It is very unusual for a worrier like yours truly. Over the years of my existence, I have worried too much in anticipation of every big or small event of my life. This has on almost all occasions done more harm than good. I was tired of worrying endlessly to the extent, that finally I decided to do something serious about it.

I have finally taken a baby step in this direction.

I was well aware I’ll go nuts today, worrying and preparing for Pari’s big day. So this time I made all arrangements one day in advance. Bag packed, dress is ready and everything else is set since last night.

Action is the answer to the problem of over-thinking.

This very small step has kept me cool all day. I have been able to focus on work normally and I am looking forward to tomorrow positively. It is quite unlike me, but something I am absolutely loving. I am geared up to hit the sack early tonight. This is not going to be a one night affair and I am sure it will surely give a boost to my productivity, health and peace of mind too.

Being optimistic is good, but taking a decisive step to make things happen is the real point when tides of worry ebb.

With this happy feeling of accomplishment, I am all set to embark on an important chapter of my life.

Wish us good luck!

The song on mind: O mere dil ke chain ~ Mere Jeevansathi

Meandering through life

It is quite strange of me to itch to write a post all evening, yet not being able to finalize a topic till its almost 11:00 p.m. I think after failing for months or maybe years at end, this month I want to try to post more often. Though I don’t want to commit to it officially, but yes, in the back of my mind, I want to return to blogging regularly. I want to be back to my sane self which exists around my blog. Lets keep this post random, covering as many or as few points I can recall to jot down at this hour.

1. After mulling over for years at length, I have finally found the reason why drinking alcohol in any form has never interested me. It is entirely a personal choice and I have no issues with people who enjoy drinking alcohol (responsibly). But somehow, I could never get myself to enjoy alcohol. Not even the finest of wines or champagne. Beer has been a strict no-no because I can’t stand its odor, let alone the bitter taste.

Coming back to the real reason why I despise alcohol or any form of intoxication for that matter. I dislike losing myself, my self-control at any cost. Even when at some point in my struggle against depression, I was tempted to drown my pain in alcohol, I chose to face it, fight it in full consciousness. Today, I can confidently say that I am at peace with my choice.

2. Apathy is a very strong emotion (if I may call it) or feeling. While it is a sign of closure, it penalizes us by stealing any emotions towards a particular person(s). In my struggle to bring my derailed life back on track, I feel I have lost interest in life itself. Very few things please me and they too fail to register a lasting reason to rejoice in my overall dull life.

I know it sounds funny to hear that life of a parent of a 3 year old can ever be dull, but in my case it actually is on many occasions.

3. Romance has always been a genre very close to my heart. Right from school days I was a sucker of romantic books and movies. But the unfortunate turn of events in my life have left a huge void in me. All my love for romance seems to have wilted away. Today I fail to enjoy a romantic book or a movie. No, I don’t feel self-pity or the pain one feels after a break-up. I feel nothing. This strange numbness steals from me the rush one is expected to experience while reading or watching an enchanting love-story.

Even the evergreen romantic classics that have been my favorite all my life, fail to interest me any longer. I am not sure if this is a phase of my life or the after-effects of love ebbing away. But one thing is for sure, it sure has made my life dull, because books, music and movies no longer feel the way they ought to be. I sincerely hope this numbness is a mere phase that shall pass over time.

4. The one thing I strongly miss in my life (after divorce) is companionship. In the course of time while my marriage fell apart, I not only lost a spouse but also all my friends. Some on account of geographical distance but most because they couldn’t help judging me. It is unfortunate but a blessing in disguise. I believe, hardships in life are the true measure of friendship.

While each of these points reminded me how much more I have to write about each one of these, I am glad to have finally made a start (an overly overdue one) today. But the most important realization is, how empty I have become on the inside with a major chunk of emotions in my once spirited self, dying a pre-mature death.

The song on my mind : Ye kya jagah hai doston ~ Umrao Jaan

School Diary – VII

Please read the previous chapters of the series here to know about Pari’s journey so far.

Last week, on Pari’s last day in her school, I was very disturbed and shaken for reasons unknown. While Pari was fully aware it was her last day, she was pretty cool about it unlike me. My mind was clouded with the fleeting memories of the year gone by and how my child had grown in this eventful year.

But as is the rule of life, one must go on, I swallowed the lump in my throat and decided to look forth to another promising academic year ahead. It was quite unusual for me, because I never got this emotional about an institution earlier. When leaving school and college, I was sentimental, but this time, it was not about me still I struggled to get rid of the goosebumps the goodbyes sent my way.

In hindsight, I feel, it was probably because I used to visit the school daily, used to interact with Pari’s teachers and was involved closely in all events at the school. The week-long school vacations helped me overcome it all while I prepared for my child’s journey in the new school.

In part VI I had talked about the dilemma of choosing the school for Pari. I had finally decided to send her to school A. At this point I wish to mention, my parents played a key role in taking this decision. With admission formalities sorted, Pari starts her school coming Monday.

Almost all preparations are done, but I can feel the butterflies in my stomach already. Besides the anxiety of Pari going to a new institution, my major point of worry is that her school is around 12 km from our home. Though there is an excellent bus service, but this mother’s heart is plagued by the fear of the unknown or more correctly, angst of a new beginning.

I might be jittery on the inside, but I am pretty confident Pari will make the most of this opportunity because she has grown to love her new school and almost every aspect of it she has been introduced to.

It is amazing how after becoming a parent, I have come to enjoy being proven wrong. I love losing at the hands of a child and being told that my fears are unfounded.

Here’s wishing my little darling a happy learning phase ahead.

Song on my mind: Zindagi har kadam ek nayi jung hai ~ Meri Jung 

Gourmet Grub

There has been a lot of talk and a lot is being written about gourmet food lately. While I have been trying to follow recipes from many celebrated chefs over the years, this is one department that has failed to form a clear picture in my mind.

Wikipedia defines Gourmet as, a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, which is characterized by refined, even elaborate preparations and presentations of aesthetically balanced meals of several contrasting, often quite rich courses.

I have been playing around this definition in my head from a very long time. The reason being, while it highlights the exotic character of gourmet food, it actually gifts us the liberty to fit in any food preparation within this definition to certify it as gourmet.

While I was juggling this idea, my cousin visited us. She is an explorer at heart and has traveled far and wide to be deemed an expert at fine dining. However, there was a minor glitch. She can’t cook anything except instant noodles and heavily relies on takeaways.

Our conversation started on the lines of discussing fine dining in the countries I have been fortunate enough to have traveled. As our conversation slowly turned towards gourmet food and steered to my intention of trying those exotic recipes at home, my sister got up from the couch.

I was a bit startled to be honest (for I take immense pride in cooking up recipes by the best chefs in the world in my kitchen twisting them to suit the resources at hand and seldom failing). She was in no way ready to be convinced that gourmet food, cooked at home, can remotely taste as it does in an exquisite restaurant.

I was ready to take up the challenge, but there were two major roadblocks. One, I had no clue what should I cook and second, once I had an exciting recipe at hand, will I be able to find the needed ingredients.

What started with a cordial discussion over gourmet food ended up with me taking up a challenge where I was left panic stuck. That was when I decided to look for an online supermarket. It was amazing to note that all the fancy ingredients international chefs use are conveniently available online in India.

My sister agreed to help me choose her favorite ingredients. So the only onus on my shoulders was to cook up a meal that tasted at par if not better than what she has been eating at her favorite restaurants. In the heat of the moment, I agreed.

We ordered quite a few ingredients in our online grocery shopping spree. But now that the ingredients have landed on my kitchen bench, I am too confused what to cook with them. I am tired of browsing online, because I simply can’t find a convincing recipe yet.

This is the real reason for this post. I’d love to hear from you what simple yet lip-smacking recipes can be created using the ingredients below. They include a Thai Coriander paste, Jamie Oliver’s Italian Herb Pesto, Light Soy Sauce and Rice Vinegar (for Thai cooking).

My Gourmet Cart
My Gourmet Cart

I have a reputation to keep and yes, a challenge to win. Your recipe suggestions and links to recipes are most welcome.

The hearty breakfast

We are a morning lover family. Waking up before the Sun rises has been more of our passion than a habit or a family rule. This is why mornings are among the most productive hours of our day, making breakfast an important meal to keep us going with gusto.

In the limited time mornings allow, there is no room to experiment new recipes (mostly) nor for risk to stir up a dish only to watch everyone skip it for it’s not tasty. Though there exist a zillion recipes that can pass for a healthy, tasty breakfast, finding the handful that matches the liking of everyone in the family is a must.

The biggest challenge has been making Pari have more than milk for breakfast. She is a fussy eater who leaves no opportunity to avoid eating on pretext of one excuse or the other. Cooking the same breakfast everyday being a strict no-no. Not eating proper breakfast sparks in her the vicious circle of lack of attention, fatigue and crankiness all day.

The other aspect being, my parents love food from all over, but demand it to be Indianised to suit their palate. This basically leaves me with just two options. Either cook a different breakfast for everyone in the family or cook parathas, poori, fried eggs and the like. This solves the problem of one type of breakfast suiting all palates to some extent, but ruins my diet plan leaving me frustrated in the long run.

To beat this, I switched to eating corn flakes in breakfast. I cook up an Indian breakfast for my parents and serve myself corn flakes with variety of fruits to keep it exciting. This was when our neighbor showed us what Guptaji’s family is up to. 

Aunty has been trying most of exciting recipes and I was amazed to note that all these recipes can be made in matter of minutes, taste delicious and gift variety to breakfast to keep the family looking forward to it. The Walnut Corn flakes Choco balls are a pure delight so are the Corn flake Coconut Ladoos.

Inspired by over 100 recipes, I tried a few and was happy that now I had happy reasons to eat corn flakes in breakfast with tasty modifications to beat monotony. But the treat doesn’t end at this.

Guptaji’s family has cooked up tasty surprises keeping liking of the whole family in mind such that I just can’t stop adding corn flakes to food all day while trying the sumptuous, healthy twists in the traditional recipes. The Cornflakes Chana Chaat is one of them. The corn flakes pack in a healthy kick to this tangy delight.

The major reason of my jubilation is, because Pari tasted these in our neighbor’s home first, she couldn’t act her fussy self and had to eat a decent serving in the presence of other kids who are in love with these recipes. That’s where I struck gold. Competition made Pari want to have more of these recipes.

This treasure trove of quick-to-make recipes made by Guptaji’s family, has come as a savior for my breakfast and is giving me endless ideas to stir up tasty snacks that my child eats happily. As for my parents, they are enjoying the mouth-watering Indian delights packed with the goodness of corn flakes.

Jo breakfast se kare pyar, wo Kellogg’s wale Guptaji ke ghar ke nashte ko kaise kare inkaar? (It roughly translates to: How can someone who loves his breakfast say no to the breakfast prepared by Guptaji of Kellogg’s fame?)