Category Archives: My Voice

We Are Beautiful

Years back, when I was in the third year of my engineering degree course, I got introduced over the phone to a close friend’s roommate. We clicked instantly, or so it seemed to me then. Soon, we began to have lengthy conversations on our Nokia 3315 mobile handsets (don’t think any of the handsets today can beat the durability and robustness of that one).  Because mobile phone technology was a new invention at that point, we usually waited for the “Happy Hours” which began at 11 PM as otherwise incoming and outgoing SMS/call charges were high enough to create a hole in our modest pockets.

We were not in a relationship. Maybe I had a crush on him, but I cherished the friendship more than anything else and enjoyed our late night tête-à-tête. We decided to meet up one day at a renowned coffee shop in the city. We met. The atmosphere was warm but he was cold. I left after an hour, bewildered and disappointed. The calls stopped after that and when I tried to reach out a couple of times, I was told by his girlfriend – about whom he never told me earlier – that he was busy and would get back. That never happened. I got the message. Weeks later, I learnt from our mutual friend that he was put off by the acne breakout on my skin and could not continue to flirt with an ugly-looking girl. “But we were not flirting! What about the friendship?”- I protested in my head. “But I am not ugly just because of my acne”- I didn’t protest. I was not beautiful, I accepted. It did prick for a moment but I moved on. Life moved on. Having been blessed with a chilled out demeanour and the immense love of family and friends all my life, I never had self-esteem and confidence issues because of my looks. But, I never considered myself beautiful for the longest time.

The Homecoming

He tenderly caressed her cheeks which had turned crimson red. Her heartbeat had accelerated and sweat ran in rivulets down her back. And then, all of a sudden, panic slithered inside her. She felt a gnawing, stomach-churning twinge and turned around to scurry out as fast as she could. But, her body seemed to betray her emotions and her legs froze.

Roshni, are you OK? What happened? I am sorry if I …”

Before Vishal could complete, Roshni zoomed past him with all the vigour she could congregate from every muscle within her and soon she was out of his vision, leaving him befuddled and disenchanted.

Roshni stood still outside the shopping arcade exuding copious tears. Dark grey clouds were looming large in the sky, as if the reason for their precipitous emergence was only to serve as a warning for her. A blazing red Swift screeched to a halt right next to her and an effervescent woman screamed from inside.

Let us stop the glorification and unburden mothers – Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day! This day is special to me for more than the obvious reasons. Call it destiny’s decree that it was on this day I saw the two pink lines which transformed my core.  Months later, my daughter sashayed her way into our lives and became the epicentre of our world with her exuberance and delightful impishness. Like it is in the case of a majority of mothers, the first few weeks post her arrival were overwhelming and every cell of my body used to be in a dead beat state for most part of the day.  And then, there came a time when I was not enjoying motherhood. I was, however, petrified to share my thoughts with anyone about what I was going through. After all, how could a mother not take pleasure in playing the role which is celebrated by one and all? Aren’t mothers the embodiment of sacrifice? There was an outbreak of questions in my head during that phase and I was too hard on myself.  I could not handle this thwarting feeling and just kept mum and carried on with my farce. But, fortunately for me, I reached a breaking point one day. And that is when one of the most important life lessons I have imbibed from my mother came to my rescue – to take charge. Hence, after shedding bountiful tears, I began to perform my own research and discovered gradually that it is quite normal to feel the kind of emotions I was experiencing during motherhood and not acknowledging them makes matters worse. In my case, acceptance and minor changes in my routine helped me to get my positivity and zeal back but I know there are many mothers out there who are having a tough grind and are struggling in their own ways to live up to iniquitous expectations. This can be detrimental to their mental and physical health, and it is a matter of concern that so many of us are not willing to even acknowledge the situation, forget acting upon it. There is also a lack of awareness about the reality of motherhood because its glorification is so deeply entrenched in our minds that we cannot think about mothers beyond “greatness” and “selflessness”.

When My Daughter Was Ready To Let Go Of Breastfeeding But I Wasn’t

It was my 2nd week post partum when the discomfort had begun. My nipples were so sore and sensitive that I had lamented about not having the strength to continue breastfeeding in the presence of my lactation consultant. And here I am, writing about my breastfeeding journey of 3 years today! I don’t know if words can do justice to this journey which has been exigent and fulfilling, with steep falls and euphoric highs. But, it’s only these words which can prove to be cathartic for me in my current state of dishevel.

More than a year back, I had penned a blog post titled “Breastfeeding – The Natural Phenomenon That Does Not Always Happen Naturally”. Breastfeeding is as natural as it is a learned activity. Though nature has designed it to happen instinctively between a mother and a child, more often than not it takes practice and a number of permutations and combinations to get the position, latch and technique right.  Like most new mothers, I have had my share of struggles and moments of self-doubt in the first year of breastfeeding. It started with nipple sensitivity and soreness, and then when that settled down after figuring out the deep latch technique through online tutorials and forums, uncertainty about the adequacy of my milk supply crept into my mind due to frequent demands of feeds from my daughter. When access to the right support and information helped curb this apprehensiveness, my little one started teething and then began the biting and clamping which led to bruising and excruciating pain. I had to pump milk using a breast pump so that I could give my nipples time to heal and my mother would feed breast milk to my daughter through a feeding bottle. All these hurdles coupled with the fatigue resulting from sleep deficit and body ache bogged me down completely at that point. I had almost decided to give up on breastfeeding. The constant twinge, the feeling of being thwarted and the frustration came out in the form of tears practically every night. Then I happened to read inspiring stories of mothers who managed to breastfeed for years in spite of all the hardships on a breastfeeding support group on Facebook. Something changed after that. Something within me gave me the courage to carry on. I tried some hacks suggested by experienced mothers to reduce the biting and clamping, and gradually my tiny tot got the message and stopped doing it. By the end of our first year, breastfeeding had become a comfortable and effortless experience for both of us, and I decided to continue breastfeeding till the time my daughter self-weaned.

Nothing will change if we believe nothing will change

// This article has been published on Women’s Web and is also available on the below link:

http://www.womensweb.in/2017/12/article-on-feminism-surprising-response/

Something incredible happened today! A man chanced upon my article on the Myths of Feminism and after reading it, he dropped a message in my inbox. He mentioned that he was someone who used to quite often mock the concept of feminism and though he did not intend malice, he enjoyed flouting at his feminist friends.

However, he admitted that he felt guilty after reading my article and realized the damage he was causing by countervailing the efforts of those contributing towards the movement. He also confessed that his own understanding of feminism was flawed and now he has resolved to actively advocate for this cause. After having come across derisive comments about feminists splashed all over social media every other day, I had to read this reader’s message several times to ensure I was not hallucinating. No prizes for guessing that I am absolutely ecstatic after reading his note to me. Through the power of my pen, I had set out to do my bit to bring about a change, albeit a small one at my level and this incident reaffirms my belief that I am on the right track. For someone who has been told innumerable times by many that “Nothing will change” as an outcome of my endeavour, this feels like a vindication of sorts.

This incident actually made me traverse back in time. It has been more than 4 years since I actively began to get involved in volunteering with NGOs. I can vividly recollect some of the things I have been hearing ever since.

“Anu, I am proud of you. But, will doing all this really change anything? Trafficking will continue to happen. Nothing will change till the mindset of people changes”.

“Why will someone change their views just because you or for that matter anyone else is asking them to? Do sensitization workshops really work?”

“Oh! It is wonderful to read what you write but those who really need to change will not change just by reading an article.”

So in a nutshell, “Whatever we do, nothing will change till the mindset of people changes.”

And then we are also cynical about the positive transformation of this ‘mindset’. Why? Humans are meant to evolve and I know a good number of people who have changed their thought process and outlook with time, including myself.

Battling the tiny terrors

//This article has been sponsored by Odomos and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/battling-the-tiny-terrors

“If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” – Unknown

Trust the tiny terrors to wreck havoc in our lives; not just within the confines of our homes, but outside too. Mosquito bites are not just bothersome, itchy and uncomfortable, but they can also be fatal. We are all aware of the rampant prevalence of mosquito borne diseases like Dengue, Malaria, Chikungunya etc. These are life-threatening ailments which are caused by particular types of mosquitoes and the alarming death statistics bear testimony to the fact that mosquitoes are now among the deadliest foes of our country.

No more labeling my child

//This article has been sponsored by Dettol and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/no-more-labeling-my-child

As a new age parent, I find myself exhibiting paradoxical behaviour sporadically. That’s because as we are evolving and aligning our parenting methodologies with the ever changing times, we are also somewhat influenced by several other factors, both external and intrinsic. More often than not, we are aware of what the right thing to do is in a given situation but we end up contradicting our own ideologies. Refraining from labeling my child has been one such aspect of parenting which I personally have struggled with for a while. Most of us do understand the repercussions of tagging our children and strongly believe that it is unfair to refer to a child as “bad girl”, “bad boy”, “arrogant”, “stubborn” etc. Indulging in attaching such labels to them is not only an insensitive act on our part but can actually leave a long-lasting impact on the child who is at the receiving end. Sometimes, the psychological damage can be irreversible. Children behave according to their age and their personalities are not even fully developed. In fact, negative labels can lead them to believe that they belong to a certain bracket and then they subconsciously start manifesting those traits. But, as the famous adage goes – it’s easier said than done, more so when it comes to parenting. In spite of acknowledging all of this, I found it difficult to not label my daughter at times in the past.

I recall an incident when I was undergoing a particularly tough day and was feeling debilitated. My daughter was having a typical toddler meltdown over an insignificant matter (well, insignificant according to me!) when we were inside the lift of our block. In a fit of anger coupled with a state of mental frenzy, I retorted with a bitter “You are a bad girl and so stubborn” comment and continued to utter these words. At that point, I just took her back home instead of taking her to the park but felt awful later on when my temper had diffused. I knew in my heart that what I was saying was extremely unwarranted and thoughtless, all the more because I did so in the presence of some acquaintances. Yet, I could not hold back those hurtful words. I wondered why. Was it because I was just frustrated? Or was it my way of justifying my inability to control her tantrum? I don’t know the reason for sure but what I do know is that it was a parenting blunder. The next day, my heart broke when my daughter repeated my words and in the midst of a casual conversation told her father that she was a “bad girl”. The twinge I felt at that moment is something I can never forget. That day onward, I sincerely began to work towards attaining a grip on my emotions and one of the things I did was to identify the triggers for these outbursts.

How NOT to create a fussy eater!

//This article has been sponsored by Junior Horlicks and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/how-not-to-create-a-fussy-eater

The other day I was whining about my toddler’s exasperating antics in the presence of my friend and I was consoled by her with just one statement – “At least you do not have to worry about food and her eating habits. That is a big thing you know.”  Well, I get that a lot, because frankly my daughter is not a fussy eater and most of my friends are aware of this. However, this does not mean that she blissfully gobbles up all her meals every day, but that has never been my expectation. I know that for most parents, a key concern is “Oh! My child does not eat” and I absolutely empathise with their situation.

Personally, food is never a matter of anxiety for me whether at home or outside, because my 2-and-a-half-year-old tiny tot is experimental and usually finds something to her liking in most situations. Partly, I would say I am fortunate but I would like to believe that this is also because of my weaning approach with her since the beginning. I would love to share some tips here which hopefully can help parents to raise children who have a healthy relationship with food. However, let me clarify at the onset that this is not a rulebook. Every child is different and hence, I would urge you to ultimately follow your own instincts when it comes to introducing your child to solids. Whatever I am penning down in this article is just based on my own experience and research – this is how I went about helping my child to embrace food and not be averse to it.

Let go – It may seem beyond the bounds of possibility in the beginning but we really need to learn to let go of our own apprehension and fretfulness if we want our children to associate food with happiness.  When I started the process of weaning with my daughter, there were days when she did not ingest even a morsel of food, and I would just let go to normalize the process for her without making it a battle of sorts. I did not want to overwhelm her and wanted to let her take it slow. I let her develop a taste for the various food items offered to her at her own pace.

I would recommend every parent to read the book “My child won’t eat”. It marvelously elucidates how we need to align our own expectations to tackle this “problem” before we expect anything from the kids. In the initial years, children have tiny tummies and hence, they do not require large portions of food. In fact, in the first year, solid food is not the primary source of nutrition (breast milk or formula milk is) and food is just a supplement to fulfill the growing nutritional needs of the child. So by letting go we are not depriving our children of nutrition but are rather helping them by not pushing too hard.

Allow them to self-feed – I think this is the most important factor which aided in getting my child interested in food. She used to self-feed certain kind of foods since the time she started with her intake of solids and because of that, she began to enjoy the process of eating gradually. Most of us think that babies cannot self-feed and worry that they might choke themselves. This is where research comes into play. Making ourselves aware can help curb such concerns related to weaning. The fact is that children without teeth can very well chew soft food as their gums are strong enough for that. We just need to ensure that the finger food or whatever else they are being offered is squashy yet firm and well cooked. Also, we need to understand the difference between gagging and choking. Most of the times kids can handle gagging by themselves and choking can happen even when we feed them mashed or pureed food. The best bet is to equip ourselves to handle such an untoward situation. There is an excellent video on YouTube which explains how to deal with a child who is choking and how to identify it. Also, I know that self-feeding causes so much of mess and it can be such a daunting task to clean it all up. But it all seems worth it today when I witness my toddler relish a meal tidily.

Down with flu? Breast milk is not the carrier of your infection

//This article has been sponsored by Dettol and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/down-with-flu-breast-milk-is-not-the-carrier-of-your-infection

The other day I was at a friend’s place to meet her 3 months old daughter for the first time. Her adorable infant was asleep with an endearing expression on her face which made me nostalgic. We settled down for our candid tete-e-tete which was primarily centered on parenting. Like most new mothers, my friend had several queries and doubts about various aspects of parenting which she wanted to clarify with me and seek my opinion on.  I could gauge that she was feeling under the weather and when I checked with her, she mentioned that she was down with the seasonal flu.  She had been coughing and sneezing since a couple of days due to which she was advised by a friend to refrain from breastfeeding so that she doesn’t pass on the infection to the little one through breast milk. She paid heed to the advice and as a result of this, started giving her daughter formula milk which was causing much agony to the baby who only wanted mother’s milk. I was taken aback when I got to know about this and immediately requested my friend to feed the baby without any hesitation. I assured her that her breast milk would not infect her daughter and also shared a few links with her with practical and useful information related to breastfeeding.

Many a times, when a breastfeeding mother falls sick, the first thought of uncertainty that crops up in her mind is whether she can safely breastfeed or not, lest she transfers the illness to her child. But the fact is that it is safe to breastfeed a child in case of most illnesses and even if one is in two minds about it, it is best to consult a professional rather than just going by hearsay and unnecessarily depriving the child of breast milk. Professionals maintain that breastfeeding when one is down with flu, etc in fact passes on the antibodies generated in our body to fight the infection to children which aids in building their immunity.

Carrying Your Child Will Not Spoil Your Child

Are you a mother to a tiny tot? How many times have you heard the statement – “Oh! Don’t carry your child all the time. Kids get accustomed to it and then always want you to carry them. Don’t spoil your child.”? I am sure each one you must have been the recipient of this unsolicited advice at least once. I have been too. It is a ubiquitous notion that carrying a baby habitually is going to spoil the little one.

Firstly, I am not sure if I understand what people mean when they say “spoiling”. Do they mean that the parents would end up carrying around their grown up children in their laps because they did so a lot during their infancy and toddlerhood stage? Or do they mean that the children would be too dependent on their parents for life? If it is the former, then it is such a preposterous thought. Have you all ever seen a grown up wanting to be carried around? What are we really trying to caution the parents about here? If it is the latter, then pray tell me, how does one make a child independent without making them feel secure? In fact, it is the other way round – providing your baby the comfort and security which they need for their emotional growth is only going to make them independent faster than when you try to keep pushing them to become self-sufficient while they are not even ready. They will certainly come into their own sooner or later depending on their environment and personality.