Friday, February 27, 2009

Shoes and Suits

The nurse handed him to me for a brief moment, his eyes crinkled as tight as his mouth was open, bawling away. As the pain of the episiotomy still lingered, I put up my hands to support him on my breast for a brief moment, before he was lifted away. The nurse pressed his foot to an inking pad and then to a form. That now sits in a shoebox, along with the newborn bracelet, the "I'm a Magee Boy" knit cap, the pair of tiny blue booties that we used to cover his hands to prevent him scratching himself, and a yellowing white body suit.
21 1/2 inches long , the fading print on the paper says. They must have uncrinkled his curled legs to take the measurement, ignoring his protests and wiggles.
It was about the size of my index finger, 3 inches long.

He pulled on his shoes, getting ready to haul his book bag to the bus, when I noticed the sock and the big toe practically poking out of a shoe tip. "Is that a hole in your shoe?"
"Yes. I need to get new shoes."
We took him to the shoe store at the brand-new outlet mall near our home.
"His old measurement was a Mens 9, so let me see if he needs the 9 1/2 or the 10 now. Where's the measuring thingummy?"
His father did a double take on the measurement. "11 1/2"
"Are you sure you're measuring it right? Ask the salesman."
"Yes, it's right. He does need a 11 1/2, maybe even a 12".
S turned beet-red. "No, I prefer the 11 1/2." He's flustered enough by the 2 1/2 change in sizes over the past one year.

I measured his shoes : 13 1/2 inches. He's come a long way since the time of the footprint.

The doctor assures me that S is almost done growing, but I'm not so sure. His pants seem to have already shrunk by a couple of inches in the few weeks since I last cleaned out the ones which no longer fit.

We take him to the store to get him a new suit to wear to concerts with his orchestra. I point out the Boys 20 section and we have him try on a black jacket for size. The arms stop about 4 inches above his wrists. We move into the Mens section and try the smaller sizes : No go. Still too short. A suited gentleman walks up to us "Can I help you?"
"What size of suit should we be looking at for him?", my husband asks.
"Try a size 38R." They go into the Fitting room sanctuary to check out a couple of different suits, while M and I wander into the Misses section, aimless, restless. M plays peekaboo among the clothing racks, heedless of my scolding. The store closes in 15 minutes, will we make a selection by then, or is this going to be like the interminable rounds of sari purchases for a wedding, hopping from store to store to store?
Finally, a selection is made, just in time for us to race to the cashiers and have it billed. I promise to take in the extra length on the pant, since the tailors would be able to get it done only the next afternoon, too late for the concert's start.
I stick a pin here and a pin there, as I adjust the fall of the pants to a height just brushing the veins on S's feet. I hand hem the excess. Should I trim it? No, who knows how much more growing he still has left in him in the next few months? I might need to let down the hem again then.

Kids grow like sunflowers, tiny at first, then taller and taller till they tower over you. It's a strange feeling: the first time it strikes you that they are no longer your tiny babies, and still are your babies, no matter how tall and big they get.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Slumdog Who?

No, I haven't seen it yet and have no intention of doing so until it gets to the DVD. Wasn't this supposed to be a direct-to-DVD release, anyway? Everybody that I've asked has seen it and either gushes over it or expresses cautious praise for it. Nobody has come out and expressed total dislike for it that I know of.
My teenager moans "Amma, I'm the only one in my whole class who hasn't seen it yet. When are you going to let me see it?"
My gradeschooler asks "Slumdog Who?", and proceeds to write this hilarious and completely borrowed version, not unlike the Bollywood productions that borrow plotlines and more from Hollywood.

(Used with M's permission)




Once a terrorist in Mumbai went to bomb a hotel, but he decided to get money first. He went to America and went to the studio of Who wants to be a Millionaire. He took a pistol, pointed it at Regis Philbin, and said "give me all your money" and saw a UFO and Indianna Jones whipped the aliens. The terrorist shot Indianna Jones and Regis Philbin and turned into Alice in Wonderland. Then he turned into the blob and scared the Simpsons to the Flintstones home. Then he watched Slumdog Millionaire.

The End

Maybe I ought to approach M.Knight Shyamalan to do the honors. After all, he does share an initial with M, and might be just the person to tackle the special effects needed to execute the above story on film.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The phone rang insistently on Thursday morning at 4 a.m. I scrambled to reach it (School delay, call from India?) It went silent, as a mantle of silence and darkness descended upon the whole house. The power was out.

Two hours later, we used the dying power of the laptop to check for any indications that school might be delayed or cancelled. There were none. M and S were hustled off on their morning routines, fed cold milk and cereal for breakfast, before they stepped outdoor to get to the bus stop.

I took off for work, as did my husband who had a morning meeting. The hope was that the power would be back by the time S got back from school. No such luck, however. The house was stubbornly darkening as the sun set, lit only by the flickering flame of a pitiful long-unused emergency candle. (Not for me those candlelit dinners with tall graceful tapers, or the scented aromatherapy pink and green beauties. I've always preferred the glare of incandescents, not yet fully switched over the CFL tubes.)

We stepped out briefly for a meal at a nearby all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. Nobody was enthusiastic about shopping afterward, so we returned back home to through darkened streets. Still at least 300 houses were without power in our area, a dark valley and ridge between pockets of glimmering lights.

A fire was lit in the dusty fireplace, generating a small quantum of light and heat, barely enough to keep the family room warm. We cleared the carpet, determined to spend the night like an adventure camping out inside our own house. Only, things are never as simple as they seem.

We started off feeling warm and toasty in our be-socked feet, under multitudinous piles of comforters, sleeping bags for the kids, but as the hours wore on, the fire dwindled to nothing, and our feet started freezing. Time for hubby to get up yet again and place another log on the fireplace. How uncomfortable it must have been for the pioneer families battling the cold in their log cabins, especially with fireplaces that needed constant tending to keep up the temperature.

The morning came, and we were too glad to get ready and speed away to schools and offices. An ambulance and police car wended their way out of the neighborhood, lights flashing. I wondered who might have had a medical emergency due to the lack of electricity, as I pulled my shoes on and walked down to the car. An hour later, my husband abandoned the cold house for the mcomforts of coffee and wi-fi at a nearby Panera, till it was time to get home before the kids got back from school.

In the evening, the same anxious wait continued. When will the power come on back? As we sat freezing, the temperature having dropped by over 20 degrees over 36 hours, my husband suggested we take up our friends' offer to host us at their home 15 miles away. The kids always loved their sleepovers there. Yet, I felt reluctant to leave the house "What if the temperature drops too much and the pipes freeze and burst?"
"It's not that we can do much in such a situation beyond watching and agonizing over it", hubby pointed out practically. "I can stay in a neighbor's or a local motel, to come and check occasionally if needed. Maybe you can take the kids to the North Hills- they're expecting their fun sleepover now. I'll go to Home Depot to get some more firewood for the fireplace." And off he went.

I sat with the kids, waiting as the minutes ticked by and it was time to leave, hoping against hope that the power would come back before our toes and fingers fell off from frostbite. At 5:30, I made up my mind. "Get your shoes and jackets on, we're leaving now."

Forty five minutes later, the cellphone tinkled from the back seat as I traversed the last 1/2 mile to our friend's house. I waited till I pulled up before their driveway to pick up the phone and check it. It was my husband's call.

"The power came back just 5 minutes ago. They were fixing transformers all up the road and when they got to the one on the top of the hill, our sector got its power back."

We stayed overnight at the friends' house, the kids having fun playing with their similar aged kids, while I chatted away at dinner time. We drove home the next morning.

Now my husband is busy going through brochures and websites, doing the research for his next big planned purchase- a 7000 W generator that can keep even the furnace going, should another power outage like this one happen. Who knows what the future will bring, with an economy in free fall and less money for essential services to be maintained, coupled with increasingly severe weather and global climate change?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Fine Line...

...between promoting reading and marketing.

An article in today's New York Times has a consumer group accusing the venerable Scholastic publishing group of selling trinkets and toys in the guise of its school reading program promotion.

"Scholastic Inc., the children’s publisher of favorites like the Harry Potter, Goosebumps and Clifford series, may be best known for its books, but a consumer watchdog group accuses the company of using its classroom book clubs to push video games, jewelry kits and toy cars.

A page from June 2008 shows books, toys and trinkets.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group based in Boston, said that it had reviewed monthly fliers distributed by Scholastic last year and found that one-third of the items sold in these brochures were either not books or books packaged with other items.

Based on a review of brochures in Scholastic’s Lucky Club for children in second and third grade, and its Arrow Club for fourth through sixth graders, the group said that 14 percent of the items were not books, while an additional 19 percent were books sold with other trinkets like stickers, posters and toys.

Susan Linn, director of the campaign, said she had received complaints from parents who were concerned that their children were being sold toys, games, makeup and other items under the guise of a literary book club that is promoted in classrooms.

"Marketing in schools is a privilege and not a right," Ms. Linn said in an interview. "Scholastic is abusing that privilege."

I've long since tired of those flyers, which come with monthly regularity in M's backpack. The ordering forms that I've ripped up and trashed over the years would probably account for a mere 1% of the paper industry's output, I'm sure.

In the early days, it was just books and the occasional 'flash card' collection, but now is growing into friendship bracelet kits, Barbie tie-ins, Hannah Montana journals, High School musical accessories and Spongebob figurines. Anything in the pursuit of a TV driven kid's attention span. The old favorites still persist, with picture book retellings of Laura Ingalls Wilder's already easily readable and well-crafted prose, simplifications (with movie tie-ins) of the Chronicles of Narnia.

Of course, I prefer to create my own reading crazes from book series well-loved and remembered from childhood. Some degree of marketing and merchandising is always appropriate to generate enthusiasm in kids who are quite accustomed to the overstimulation from TV, video games and Flash-laden websites. But to see that Scholastic (not exactly the most innocent of companies in the 'Buy Baby Buy' push) do it blatantly in their school clubs, is hardly a shocker , more a reflection of the times that we live in.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Writer's Block

What to write about? The weather? Dullsville. Just acres of snow and ice outside, slowly melting as the temperatures are expected to climb today. Ours must be the only driveway in the neighborhood that is still a skating rink- all others have been assiduously salted and cleared.
The kids? Nothing to report on their activities, just the routine wake-up-late weekend morning.
The memoirs? Maybe someday when I feel less apathetic and more reminiscent.
The dishes piled up in the sink? I know I ought to get to them, but refused to move from this cushy old armchair in front of the computer.
I'll get up only after breaking the ice and this long 2 week stretch without a blog post. What happened to all those ideas I dreamed up to write about while idling in traffic (which I do for approximately 40 minutes a day) ?
They're all gone with the wind, the moment I sit down at the keyboard. Maybe I ought to keep a pen and pad handy to dash them down, but that would result in more fender-benders than my car insurance would cover.
Oh well, at least I did get a few paragraphs worth of complaining about writer's block out of it. Here's to hoping that I get back to normal with the next post.