Why 40 is so sexy

Just weeks before I enter my 40th year on planet Earth, I chance upon a research that claims that humans are most productive in their 40s. As those in their 20s and 30s snigger at that, let me sit back, put my feet up and take a sip of my wine, before listing down my reasons on why forty is so sexy. 

1. We are more confident than ever before. We still second-guess. We do get nervous. But experience counts. Having taken numerous, life changing decisions affecting not just us but many around us, has given us a sense of bravado. I mean how much more difficult any decision can be, after deciding to carry a human for 9 months and then spending a lifetime providing and worrying about it. Seriously! If you can decide to do that and live not to regret it, then, just bring it on baby!

 2. We respect ourselves more. And hence find it easier to say No. Youth meant trying to fit in. 30s meant trying to please others. 40s mean putting our own desires before others. That, by no means makes us selfish. Just, unapologetically assertive about our own wants. 

3. We value our time more. That is partly because people in their 40s probably have more birthdays behind than ahead. Time is of essence. Which makes us set our priorities right. We neither have the time nor patience for things that don’t matter. We do what pleases us. So, If I rather sleep early on a Saturday night instead of partying late or spend a Sunday reading a book rather than attending a boring luncheon, I do so. Without missing a beat.

 4. We respect and value others more. Which also makes us less clingy. Recently, I whole-heartedly encouraged my husband as he took to golf. Everyone I met thought I had lost it. Haven’t you heard about “Golf Widows”, I was told. I have and I don’t care. If his heart is there and he wants to follow it then by all means. I cherish my space and I respect his.

 5. We seek more. With more active years behind than in front the quest to know, to experience, to satisfy curiosity is sharper than ever before. We want to invest in experiences. When I meet someone, who has read and traveled more than me, I am like a child who has found a box full of treasures. I listen to them in enchanted silence, with twinkle in my eyes. Nothing enthralls me more. Any new experience – material or spiritual – is welcomed with open arms and with an open mind. 

6. We love grey. And not just in our hair. Life has taught us that black and white are overrated. It’s the grey in life that makes it bright and colorful. So, we not only accept the unconventional but embrace it with grace. We live differently from our mothers or grandmothers. We are more aware and spontaneous. It’s easier for our kids to shop for bras or discuss pre-marital sex with us because we don’t just claim to be young at heart. We are.

7. We become calmer and more patient. Stems from the fact that we have unveiled a secret that we were not aware of when we were young. (How I wish!) We now know, that “All will be Well”. That no matter how low the lows, the ups will follow. That it’s okay to just wait out the bad days. That if life throws lemons and we are unable to create lemonade, we don’t have to sweat. Just don’t lose faith. Just don’t lose hope. Just stay positive. If it’s not a happy ending, it’s not an ending at all.

 So, I am looking forward to the naughty forties. After all, Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in her 40s. Just days after her 40th birthday, Anousheh Ansari became the first Muslim and first self-funded woman in space. Aretha Franklin, at 45, became the first woman performer to be inducted in the Rock and Roll hall of fame and Susan Boyle had never sung professionally till the age of 48. It seems, there is still hope for me. I look forward to discovering, learning and accepting more every day. 

Forty, here I come!


Why Traveling with Kids is Not a Pain

Nowadays, social media, especially parenting groups are full of posts from moms worrying about traveling with their kids. I have an 11 and an 8-year-old and over the last decade, our family, has together traveled across 10 countries and 18 cities through Europe, Middle-East and South-East Asia. From long-distance flights, cruise, speed train, ferries to self-drive through countries, we have done it all. While I am not claiming that we have cracked the code, every trip has taught us something new.

A child who is not hungry, uncomfortably dressed or tired is an absolute pleasure to travel with. So here are my tips to ensure a happy family vacation.

1. Food: One big worry for every parent is Food. And it’s tougher to manage if your kids are vegetarian like mine are. I remember running to the pediatrician with my then 18-month-old after returning from a short trip to Singapore because all she had eaten through the trip was milk, bread and fruits. Only to be laughed at. Personally, I have ruined few vacations, fretting over food, before realizing that I am attaching too much importance to it.

There are only 2 worst case scenarios in this situation. A. The child goes hungry. B. The child eats more junk and less healthy food.

So, my hack – Get them used to staples like milk, fruits, yogurt, potatoes and bread. I am yet to see a breakfast buffet, restaurant or super-market from Thailand to Russia where these products are not available. A child that eats these products can never go hungry. And if he is a non-vegetarian add eggs and chicken. Universally available and nutritious. So worst case scenario A taken care off.

As for worst-case scenario B, is it really a “concern”? Or rather, is it really a concern worth worrying over on a holiday? I mean you are out for max 15-20 days or less in a year and even if the kid does pile on the cookies, ice-creams, chips and the pizza (of course I am presuming it’s an indulgence that is not going overboard) will it adversely affect his/her health? After all, you have another 350 days to compensate for the “bender”. Isn’t vacation all about relaxing and spending some quality family time rather than running after kids?

P.S 1: We have managed to find Indian restaurants from the northern most part of Scotland to the beaches of Hua Hin and back lanes of Valencia. Just be ready to spend more because Indian food outside India is considered exotic and is more expensive. If you and your kids are extremely finicky about food, simply book an apartment rather than a hotel room and cook in.

P.S 2: Don’t let them miss meals or go hungry, even if they want to. A kid that skips meal will be hungry in a few hours and will get cranky. God forbid if you are on the road or in a tour (like visiting a museum) where either food is not available or not allowed. Also, making frequent stops for food is not only irritating but also eats up on time that can be otherwise spent exploring.

P.S 3: Carry a few light snacks like cookies, fruits or dry fruits in your purse. They don’t take much space, are easy to carry and can come to your rescue with a crying, hungry kid.

2. Clothes: Getting this right is important. But once again, let’s work backwards and imagine the worst-case scenario. You get it wrong. It won’t be the end of the world. Hop in to the next mall you see. Or be adventurous and visit local street markets. We over packed on sweaters, thermals and jackets when we traveled to Russia but were greeted with some excellent weather and had to unnecessarily lug the weight around. Next trip to Spain we packed light and were congratulating ourselves on a wise decision till we reached Barcelona. Unexpected rains and my daughter was freezing. 20 Euros and a thick jacket later, the smile was back. 

P.S 1: I download weather apps and check weather forecasts few weeks prior to the departure date. Checking with friends who live in that part of the world or have recently visited helps. 

P.S 2: Traveling light makes travel effortless especially if you are traveling with kids. Or covering multi-city/country, intend to rent a car or fly budget between cities. Cars have limited space for luggage and you might even have to fit in a car seat. Budget airlines charge for every kilo. Sometimes the air fare is cheaper than the cost of luggage on airlines like easyjet (for travel within UK and Europe). Keep a small budget aside to buy clothes locally, if required. I know a lot of people who shop before traveling. Shopping from India is not as much fun as to shop in a new city. And it’s a myth, that abroad, clothes cost more. They don’t. Every city has multiple shopping options from beach or flea markets for the budget traveler to branded stores for those willing to splurge. In Bali, I picked up colorful beach wear for peanuts from the local street market, used it and then just discarded it there. 

3. Medication: There are no hacks here. And no compromises. I don’t even want to imagine the worst-case scenario. Simply put. Prepare and pack. I have a list of must-takes and add-ons depending on the weather expected and location. Anti-allergic, crocin, anti-biotics that the kids are used to, I carry it all. There is no way I am stressing about my kid’s health in a foreign land with no known doctor around.

P.S: There is none. Just pack everything and then some more. Whether it’s the midges of Scotland or bugs of Thailand, it’s better to over-pack on the mosquito repellants, anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizers than to repent later.

4. Schedule: Believe me, food and clothes are less hassle than planning a schedule that doesn’t tire an infant or child. After many hits and trials, we have devised a schedule that works best with our kids.

a. We take night flights: And ensure kids sleep on the flight. That way when we reach our destination the kids are fresh and excited about being in a new place. We accidentally stumbled upon this trick. My son used to suffer from motion sickness and his pediatrician advised us to travel at night when the child is sleepy. Plus, he recommended a medicine that made him even more drowsy. As a result, my son would sleep off in the car instead of suffering from constant puking through the journey. I have adopted the same technique for all flights. (Also, night flights prove to be cheaper and help save the cost of spending an extra night in a hotel)

b. Plan ahead: In sharp contrast to our pre-kids’ days, when my husband and I used to travel at-the-drop of the hat, today vacations with our children are meticulously planned well in advance. Everything that we are very sure we want to do is pre-booked along with notes on how to reach, what to carry etc. So along with booking the Harry Potter tour at Warner Bros Studio, we also booked our return train tickets from Central London to Wartford and researched on shuttle service from Wartford junction to the studio. Pre-plan to relax later.

c. Location, Location, Location: Both kids were under 5 years of age, when we traveled to Hongkong. I chose a hotel next door to a luxury mall with a huge play area. In Dubai, we stayed at the Kempinski which is within the Mall of Emirates and we could just take a lift to Ski Dubai. In London, we booked an apartment in Covent Garden. The kids had no problem walking almost 10-12 km every day because at the end of the day we used to simply relax at the Apple Market or at the open cafes of Covent Garden a step away from the apartment. When you are around activities that interest kids especially at walkable distance they are happier and so are you.

d. Local transport and activities: Kids enjoy boats, ferries, trams, trains, double-decker buses more than we imagine. Often parents choose expensive taxis thinking this will be more comfortable but kids yearn for new adventures. Let them explore and enjoy new activities. Not only will you have fun together, it will be easier on the pocket.

e. Engage and Involve the kids. As the kids grew, we started involving them in everything. From packing to planning the itinerary. Though the final veto still stays with us. They can choose the clothes or a book or game that they want to carry (if it doesn’t occupy too much space or weight) While planning a visit to UK, my son made a Microsoft presentation to convince us to visit Manchester and tour Old Trafford (since he is a huge Manchester United fan). He worked out the costings and logistics and planned the itinerary. The more involved they are in planning the vacation, the more they enjoy it.  

If there is something I have learnt from my travel, it’s that kids are more flexible and accommodating than adults. Seriously. They pick up the negativity from the adults. They whine when they overhear parents cribbing. The more you fret the worst it gets because your child pick up the vibes. I have seen children happily savour local dishes till they overhear their parents complain. Immediately the kids also change tack. So how you travel with them will set the benchmark for how they will travel with you. A parent with a positive attitude will find a happy-go-lucky little travel partner.

From culture to history, no book can teach what actual experience can. Family bonding, patience, self-confidence and ability to interact with people from all walks of life; traveling is one of the greatest teachers. So, go ahead and plan your next family vacation with zero stress!

This blog was first published by me on my own blogpage on Mycity4kids  https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/article/why-traveling-with-kids-is-not-a-pain

From one generation to another…with love

Dear Siddhi & Riddhi, 

As I struggle with parenting challenges everyday of my life I can only hope that one day when you are past judging me as a mother, you will accept, respect and love me. What I learnt from your nanu and nani, I interpreted it in my way and passed it on to you in the way I raised you. What you learn from me will be interpreted and passed on by you. That’s how each generation hands over the baton to the next.

To Aspire: Your nanu and nani are simple people. But they taught me and Mamu to Aspire. Like many within their families, they did not look for excuses and blamed circumstances. They never let their past govern their present and future. Against all odds, they both excelled in their respective studies and profession. And built a better life for their family. This hunger for better (which is very different from more) is still very much present in them and me.

Remember, first create a want, then create a need and finally create a path to get what you want. 

To find solutions not problems: We were a middle class family who could never even imagine sending their kids abroad for studies. So when I said I wanted to go, they didn’t tell me they couldn’t afford. They just said. Yes! You can. If you work hard and get a scholarship. That’s the approach I have lived my life by. Look for solution and not problem. 

Remember, Every problem has a solution. Sometimes the solutions will find you, sometimes you will have to actively seek it and sometimes you will need help to solve your problems. Never shy away from taking support or professional help. It won’t make you weak. Rather, strong. 

Family & Friends comes first: I am yet to meet 2 people who would do anything for their family like they used to. Even people who never reciprocated or showed gratitude were welcome with open doors and heart. I have seen my mother mix water in dal for her own family after unexpected guests had dinner before leaving. And till date, I open my home to family and friends with genuine love due to this. 

Remember, Friends can be family and family can be friends. Choose both wisely and then keep your heart and home always open for them. They will be your biggest stress buster if nothing else. 

Humility: Nani could not be rude to a rickshawala who was quite obviously fleecing her. Nanu treated his man Friday at work as his younger brother. This was so ingrained in us through example that I took it as a way of life till I grew up and met people who did not. 

Remember, no matter where you are and what you do, always be kind to others and treat them with respect. 

Hard-work & Discipline: it’s my father’s favourite word. Till date. Even before Dangal was released we had our very own hanikarak Bapu (nicknamed “zalim singh” by mamu and me). But he made us what we are. Today, I see so many talented people not succeeding only due to lack of discipline. He would take us to appear in competitive exams at far flung exam centres and wait for us outside for hours in the sun. Mom would try to balance his discipline with her love but we could see the hard work they would both put in. Financial Discipline: nani retired as a bank manager. She was aware on how to use various tools and opportunities to save, invest, earn and spend. They took loans to build their house or buy cars but they knew how to repay smartly. Nani invested in gold but also knew when to sell or replace that investment. It’s important to earn before spending. Or atleast know how you will earn to pay for your expenses. Never spread beyond your means was their motto. 

Remember, you both are intelligent and talented. But without discipline and hard-work both will get wasted. So harness your energies and never give up. 

Cherish experiences over material luxury: if you have even wondered where your mom got her travel bug from, blame it squarely on your grandparents. Once mamu and I returned from school to find nanu and nani standing outside our home. Our school bags were dumped in the dicky and off we drove to for a 5-day trip across Himachal pardesh. There was hardly any state in India that we hadn’t visited. Hardly any mode of communication – bullock cart to ferry to Rajdhani to aeroplane – that we hadn’t experienced. These experiences, as you must have realised by now, are the biggest gift parents can give to their kids. 
Remember, Earn, save but also spend. Luxury should play second fiddle to Experiences. Once basic comforts and financial security is in place, spend only on experiencing wonders of the world. That, I believe, is the biggest gain from being born in human form. 

Chore-sharing: much before “Feminism and Gender-Equality” became buzz words, your grandparents taught them to us through example. Nani was a full-time working mom and those were days when there were no full-time didi’s to help. It was nanu who woke us up, got us ready for school and took us to the bus stop while mom managed the kitchen. There was also a time for almost 4 years when nanu was transferred to Chennai (then Madras) and nani single handedly managed work, 2 kids, household and still did not let our studies suffer. 

Remember, It’s not just important to know and do household work to help your spouse but also to reduce your dependence on helps and gadgets. I have never been scared of a help leaving because I learnt from my parents to do things on your own. 

As a mother, I understand that a lot of things parents do are out of genuine love for their kids (and are not to be considered as sacrifices). So I will not go on and on and undermine your grandparents little acts of love and support. Hope I can teach by example and do even 1/2 of what they did for me; so that you can carry the baton far and wide. 



2. Yes! He is watching!

I have often heard comments about my overtly positive and open attitude. I have often been judged for being “too extrovert” (whatever that means). I don’t think so. I have spent a lifetime fighting demons within. A childhood and worst teenage, where I was repeatedly made to feel “useless and a nobody” just because I was over-weight, had taken its toll. My self-confidence was low, self-esteem non-existent and I was, simply, lost. Unknown to my family, I was falling into a major depression full of self-pity and loathing. The fact that despite all that I have spent the rest of my life with positivism and without fear can be blamed squarely on God. I will not dwell on my relationship with him coz it’s too personal even to be discussed with self, let alone to be penned. Suffice to say that I feel confident every day and every moment of my existence only because of my firm belief that he is watching over me.

The first manifestation happened when I met Monica Massi. MM (is in relation distant but in reality, close). I met her for the first time when I was just stepping out of my teens into adulthood. While I was shy and tongue tied, there she was glowing with confidence. Her laughter was unbridled and her hugs warm. She was genuinely a happy person who spread joy wherever she went. She never judged. Which was news to me. The thought that there existed people who did not judge you on your looks, weight and height was genuine news to me. And that’s what changed my life. Just like that. Like a click. I just changed. I decided to be like her. To choose happiness over self-pity. To care more about what I knew about myself over what others think about me. And that’s why I feel God is watching. Because he sent MM.

Again, many years later, I stood at a cusp where I had to choose between a career and being a stay-at-home mom, at a time when I was not ready for the choice – emotionally or financially. In hindsight, if I had chosen the latter, it would have been the worst mistake of my life. The day I woke up with no visible respite and hence with the full intention to throw in the towel, with a heavy heart, I stood before God and said Help! As if straight out of a Karan Johar movie, the door bell rang that exact moment and Chandini entered my life. Over the next 6 years, I worked outside my home and she worked inside – managing my household and kids. And then came the day when I knew I had enough of the corporate life and wanted to spend more time on self and kids. Again, I asked God for guidance. That very evening, Chandini told me of her intentions to return to her village in a few months. And that’s why I feel God is watching. Because he sent Chandini and then took her, at the right time.

There have been many occasions where I have asked God for help. He has always extended. There have been moments of self-doubt where he has spoken to me. Why? I don’t know. Must have been something to do with my past lives. Many years later when I read My Gita by Devdutt Patnaik I understood it better. I don’t believe in hell and heaven after death. I believe that hell is also here and so is heaven. They are both hidden in our experiences. In our choices. When we choose positive thoughts we choose heaven and when we choose negative thoughts we choose to live in hell. And that’s when God steps in and guides us towards heaven. But only If we are ready to let him guide us. 

1. When my daughter brought him home

I hate lizards. Who doesn’t? Not counting crazy people like Bear Grylls, I have rarely met anyone who likes lizards. No, not rarely. Never. Lizards give me the creeps. Those creepy, crawly, slimy creatures who once ruled the world (as dinosaurs) but now hide in wall-cracks. It’s not just that they look awful, they also make me realize the fragility of life. How, one day, you could walk the Earth as the most dreaded specie; and then some asteroid hits and a few million years later, you are the lowest denominator on earth.

So, one fine day we visit the dentist for Riddhi’s annual check-up and on our way back the dentist offers her a goodie box full of small toys to pick one. And lo and behold! My eight-year-old picks a red lizard. No amount of pestering can make her change her mind. This is what she wants and either I order her or that’s what she takes. And I control. Not because I want to. But because the dentist is watching.

It’s been more than 9 days. Wizard the Lizard is part of our life and household now. My daughter has a pet. She brings it to the dining table. I cringe. She wants me to pet it. I refuse. I go to wake her up one morning and find Wizard next to her pillow. I almost die. Wizard cracks her leg and Riddhi wants me to repair it. I send her to her granddad. Riddhi tries her best to make me like Wizard and I resent, resist and refuse. She keeps her patience and so do I. I should be given a bravery award this Republic Day just for not throwing that damn thing in the garbage while my baby was away at school.

My brother who shares my Herpetophobia wanted to know why. Why I was not throwing away that red lizard which teased me with her ever-growing presence in my daughter’s life? I could always cause an accident. Blame it on the didi who cleans our house. When you really get down to it, there are many ways to “do it”. It’s not as if I haven’t in the past. There was a time when my kids were young and could easily forget the loud, noisy toys which tended to just “disappear”. And I made it easier by getting new, quieter toys to replace these “disappearing” toys (while assuaging my own guilt). But that era was gone. I could see the bond between Riddhi and Wizard which I knew I could not replace with a stuff cat or rabbit.

It was almost like she was preparing me as a mother for what the future may or may not hold. What does a parent do when their kid gets a friend or worse a BF/GF home to whom the parents take an instant dislike? Do you hold your patience and wait for the love to outgrow? Do you watch and wait and hope for the break-up to happen soon? Do you, on the sly of course, plot and plan or plant ideas in your kid’s mind? More importantly, who am I to judge their likes and dislikes from the prism of my own judgement. I am not God. May be the imperfect friend is perfect for them. Even if not, how can I control and influence? Sooner or later, they will make their own choices and the faster I learn to let them do so without interfering, happier I will be. I can only trust my own upbringing. That when the time comes to choose, they will choose wisely.

So, Wizard and I have made peace. I ignore him when Riddhi is not around. And I barely but politely acknowledge him when she is around. Just enough to not make her feel bad. Just enough to not make me feel bad.

Check out this interesting blog post When my daughter brought him home by Shuchi Bhatnagar. 

 Read Here : https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/article/when-my-daughter-brought-him-home