Screen-time Struggles!

I started giving my kid my iPad and mobile phone to watch when he was about a year old. This was the time when he started showing pickiness in eating. It was a harrowing time for me, like any other parent. I wanted my kid to eat more. I asked myself (against all the blaring sirens in my head): What could go wrong?

Well, what started as an innocent curiosity, became a full-fledged addiction.

I was happy in the beginning. He was eating better when he was watching his favorite nursery rhymes. He started learning the nursery rhymes by heart. He also learnt the alphabet, the numbers, the shapes and colours in no time. When I needed him to remain distracted, even in public, I could just fish out my phone and put on a video, and he would stay glued to the screen.

All the while, I heard, read and witnessed horror stories of children turning into little monsters due to excessive screen-time. But I kept denying that I had a problem. My kid wasn’t a monster (yet).

Fast-forward to when he turned 2 1/2 years. The following factors opened my eyes:

  1. Worse eating: Despite the initial spike, my kid’s eating began going on a downward spiral. He was pickier than ever. He would cry for the screen even to eat his favorite food. When he went to the day-care centre, he wouldn’t eat properly because he couldn’t get his regular ‘distraction fix’.
  2. Temper Tantrums: Even though I took his temper tantrums as normal behaviour during the “terrible twos”, I knew that it had to be curbed in some way. Going out with him was an absolute nightmare. He would throw tantrums in the middle of the road! He would fall on the ground and writhe like a snake. Imagine being that parent, when all those judging eyes are on you! Apparently, the screen started losing its charm with my little fella when it came to behaving in public places.
  3. Impatience: This goes hand-in-hand with temper tantrums. But impatience is a much larger issue. It was affecting his patience to play, to learn new things, to overcome challenges etc. He would just give up after trying a little – a scary thing to watch when he was just two years old.
  4. Warnings from people: Friends and family started showing their disapproval when they saw me giving my son screen-time, expecially during his meals. They told me that eating shouldn’t accompany bribes, especially something as addictive as screens. I saw how parents who caved into their kid’s screen demands suffered as a result of it.
  5. Speech impairment: My main concern was his speech impairment. He knew nursery rhymes by-heart, but never spoke very many words outside of it. He struggled with expressing his needs. He couldn’t say some of the basic words that his peers could say. He was ‘babbling’ a lot – while this meant that he wanted so badly to talk, he didn’t have the vocabulary to express his thoughts.
  6. Other developmental issues: What does it mean if your toddler screamed and cried for screen-time when he was bored? That he doesn’t want to play with normal toys. Playing with normal toys develops motor skills, eye-hand coordination and creativity. He had reached an age when he should start learning to brush his teeth, to put his clothes on and to eat by himself. Screen-time was a huge barrier to all this.

One fine day, I took the giant leap of taking away his screen-time altogether. I was expecting a hurricane to hit, but only a small storm swooshed over us. He became a little confused for two days. But then he came back to normal.

Of course, this meant that I had to get creative… a hell lot more creative. By goodness’ grace, I found out that my toddler gets competitive when it comes to food. Sly me! I would pretend to eat his food, and he would cry and snatch it away from me, and eat it himself. For now, that seems to work everytime.

Slowly, but steadily, my toddler and I were overcoming all the cons that screen-time brought with it. His apetite is improving, and so is his temper, speech, creativity and motor skills.


Home daycare or daycare center?

Last month, I took my son out of a daycare center and put him in a home daycare. The decision was solely based on my husband’s work shifts. I had joined school and was having mostly afternoon and evening classes. My husband was leaving work only at 6:00 pm, while the daycare center demanded that we pick our child up at sharp 6:00 pm.

Our friend suggested that I look for home daycares where, even though they worked only till 6:00 pm, they were able to look after my child for half an hour more. We searched and luckily found one which was close to where my husband worked.

When we first visited the home daycare, we were met by a pleasant lady. She had her ECE license and had been working with daycare centres for the past 8 years. She had a beautiful home, a great play area and a good activity schedule. My son immediately took to her and her home.

Now, after one month of sending him there, I have noticed a few changes in his behavior:

1. Better manners

There’s been a considerable decrease in bad manners and tantrums ever since we shifted him. He says thank you, please and sorry so much more often. He responds with compliance when we say please. He is more cheerful, calm and well-behaved in public. He doesn’t yell things like “Mine!”, “Stop it!”, or yell names of his classmates ( as he might have heard his teachers yell).

2. Fully potty trained

The potty training process has accelerated since he was shifted. He is now able to tell me when he wants to go. His teacher reports that he was having only occasional accidents. When he was in the daycare centre, I remember him coming back every other day having had a pee or poo accident. Maybe he was not confident enough to tell his teachers there when he wanted to go. I wouldn’t blame him. He might have been confused amongst all the cacophony.

3. Better eating

As a parent, I am guilty of having indulged my son in videos while he ate his meals. I just wanted him to eat more. Needless to say, he became hooked. It came to a point where he wouldn’t eat even his favorite foods without a video. I tried many times to get him off the videos in the past, but it always ended in huge tantrums. In the end, I would give in to his demands. But I’ve found out that, after shifting him to the home daycare, I was easily able to get him off the videos! Like I said, he is in a calmer disposition now after the shift. He now eats better. He even demands his breakfast first thing in the morning. Although, he doesn’t eat as much as I would like him to, and I just know he never will.

4. Better health

This year’s summer went by without us getting a single ice cream! The reason was that my son was always sick – sicknesses he always caught from the daycare centre. Because daycare centres have so many kids coming and going out everyday, chances of contracting sicknesses from another kid was pretty high. My son always either had a cold or a fever. But now since he has joined the home daycare, he hasn’t had a cold ever since. Not even a blocked nose. All this despite the cold weather.

5. Better speech

My son’s vocabulary has increased a lot. He is able to say complicated words with the right pronunciation. When he was at the centre, he was learning words – but mostly undesirable or useless ones. Now he learn words which have utility in his day-to-day life. Names of meals of the day, names of foods, names of the clothes that he wears etc.

6. Happier child

The real reason behind all the five points above is because he is happier at heart now. He loves going there, he loves seeing his teacher. He has never thrown a tantrum since joining the home daycare. The teacher’s family are warm and friendly and consider my son as one of their own. Their house is clean and has great facilities. Whenever we go to pick him up, I see how caring the teacher is towards him. It warms my heart to know that he is in good hands.

My experience with home daycares are of course not comprehensive. I wouldn’t be able to speak for unlicensed daycares, because my son goes to a licensed daycare where standards are strict. I’m aware that my experience might be a lot better than other parents’ because of how good my son’s caretaker is.

Taking on the Terrible TTT

TTT stands for Toilet Training a Toddler.

For me, parenting is one dreadful prospect after the other. And potty-training is one of the worst. The thought of toilet training my two year old gave ME irritable bowels for almost a year.


I had already been making my boy pee in the bathtub when he was 18 months old. I used the bathtub because apparently running water would make him want to pee. I slowly started to condition him to pee to the ‘shhhhoo’ sound, which I would make with my mouth. So peeing was almost okay. (Gradually, I had him peeing into the toilet bowl. But this came much much later. Almost a year later. Till then he was pretty much peeing in the bathtub.)

In the beginning, he would indicate that he wanted to pee by holding his ‘wee-wee’. He wasn’t much of a speaker at 18 months. I had to be constantly watching out for this indication. If I ever ignore, he would pee in his pants.


Encouraged by this development, I wanted to have him poop in the potty. Honestly, I was tired of washing off poop from his pants and his body. Sometimes there would be too much poop, sometimes he would poop four times in a day. I had even stopped diapering him at home as part of his toilet training.

Not only was I tired, I was wary. All the other kids seemed to have been introduced to potties way earlier than my kid. My mother would say that she got us all pooping in potties at six months!

At 18 months, my son saw his first potty. We got an expensive one, which in hindsight seems like a total waste now. At that time, a lot of changes had been happening in our lives. We had permanently left Dubai. We landed in India, and were suddenly surrounded by lots of people. We were living in a house with lots of space, and a huge back and front yard as opposed to the tiny flat in Dubai. My son was totally distracted. He wasn’t eating well, because his primary focus was to play, unleash his curiosity and enjoy his new freedoms. This was probably the worst time to get him to sit on the potty.

We struggled badly. He hated sitting on the potty. It came to the point that he would suppress back his poop, and he would get constipated. My mother-in-law, seeing my anguish, suggested that I take a break from this routine.

Fast forward 3 months. We landed in Canada, and we were slowly going back to our ‘life in a tiny apartment’ mode. For the first 3 or 4 months in Canada, my son was pooping in his diapers. By this time I was thinking of enrolling him in a day-care program so that I could go back to school or look for work. I knew that it was high time he took to the potty.

We bought a second potty. The first two days, we got him familiar with the potty. I showed him some potty training videos. And voilà! He started sitting on the potty without a problem! It was unbelievably simple!

Nevertheless, we still have accidents. He still isn’t very excited about the potty, and if he had his way, he would still be pooping in his pants. He is yet to tell me when he wants to poop. Its been more than two months since his introduction, that he has been pooping in his potty, except for a few times when he has been out.

He now goes to a day-care where he is actively potty-trained in the toddler program. In September, he will officially be a pre-schooler. Hopefully he will be good on his own before he reaches school.

Life Update – Moving To Canada

On 27th January, 2017, we made a great leap. Like, literally. We will leapt over half of the earth, all the way to Canada. After almost 1 1/2 years of patience, preparation and prayers, the moment had finally arrived.

My mind is still whirling. I’m both excited and anxious. Its like visiting another planet. We even landed smack dab into the middle of a Canadian winter. Everything is going to be new, and we have start from square one. But at twenty-six, am I too old to learn new tricks? *nervous laugh*

I’m a second generation ‘Gulf’ kid. Hordes of Indians migrated to the GCC to make fortunes, and to help their homelands prosper. I am truly thankful to this endeavour by our forefathers because it has given us many valuable things. But three years in Dubai, the hedonistic capital of the GCC, had got me yearning for more meaning.
And so, we decided to take this risk. The risk of leaving behind a comfortable life to tread unknown waters. The risk of being so far away from our beloved parents and family. This is for us and our children to come. I think it is now our generation’s time to endeavour, looking for better oppurtunities.

The journey to Canada was full of hiccups and if it weren’t for our excitement for landing here we would have been burnt out completely. A day before our connection flight from Kochi to Delhi, my husband and baby boy contracted viral fever. Then the Air India flight from Kochi was delayed by two hours which made us miss our Air Canada flight from Delhi to Toronto. We had to stay in Delhi to catch the next Air Canada flight the following day. Owing to this, we lost our booking for infant meals and premium leg room seats which would have been crucial for the long flight.

The worst was to come when we entered the flight. It was a 14 hour flight and our baby decided to cry for fourteen straight hours. I cannot explain how harrowing it felt to see him cry like that. He had never cried so badly on any other occassion. It got so severe that we had people coming up and asking us what was wrong and to do something to stop the baby from crying. We were so helpless, we tried everything under the sun.

Miraculously, when there was just half an hour left for landing, he stopped crying. He returned to his playful self and hogged down a packet of biscuits to satisfy the hunger that he had raked up during his 14 hour crying fit. He drank a whole bottle of water. We were baffled, but we were so relieved.

Our landing process went by swiftly with no hiccups. The officer who processed our landing papers, with a disarming smile and an open demeanour set our first impression of Canadians. We proceeded to the luggage carousel, and found out that one of our bags was missing. The baggage official assured us that our bag was with the aircraft, and will be sent to our place of residence later.

We got onto our Uber to our hotel, where we slept like logs after our tiresome flight.

I hope that the optimism and perseverance does not run out too soon because there are surprises hidden everywhere. The game plan now is to keep navigating around these surprises and to hope to reach a time and place where we know Canada by heart.

Changing Hands

With great difficulty, they lowered Fathma’s corpse into her grave. Nobody who attended her funeral had a tear to spare. Except for little Khalid, Fathma’s five year old son. He stood there leaning next to his grandmother, sobbing quietly. 

Fathma, who was just 25 when she died of cardiac arrest, was morbidly obese. She was the youngest of eight children to Hashim and Haleema Al Buraidi, and was 12 years younger than her preceding sibling. Her father was a renowned Saudi socialite, her mother was the only daughter to very rich parents.

The Al Buraidis’ home was a sprawling mansion, situated in one of Riyadh’s affluent communities. The house was always swarming with all sorts of important people, and all sorts of houseworkers. While Hashim Al Buraidi tamed politicians, businessmen and lawmakers in the living room, Haleema ordered maidservants, gardeners and drivers. It was draining work, trying to uphold that small empire that either of them had very little attention to give Fathma. She was raised by the many nannies that came and went in her family.

At eighteen years, she was married to Abdullah. After being married for barely a year to her, Abdullah sought a second wife. “She is like a buffalo, both on the dining table and in bed,” he once joked to his friends at the shisha joint. Fathma was three months pregnant at Abdullah’s second marriage. 

There were very few desirable adjectives that one could use to describe Fathma. She lacked the poise and elegance of what was expected from an Arab woman of high descent. Other women refused to shake hands with her because she was often spotted digging her nose in public. She never sported a smartphone; she never owned a social media account. She was unaware of the modern forms of dandyism which had so clutched the Arab society by its underbelly. 

She lacked the fierce possessiveness that was required of married women. That is why she never protested when Abdullah told her that he wanted to marry a second woman. She agreed with readiness, which other women did with reluctance. 

She was devoid of ambition, even when patriarchy was the softest it had ever been to ambitious Arab women.

Then what is her story, one might ask? Her story begins with the birth of her son. Khalid came out after nine hours of labour. Fathma experienced a genuine sense of wonder and could feel a huge wave of emotions wash over her when she held him for the first time. Khalid was subject to some outstanding acts of diligence from her part, which surprised everyone who looked on.

Despite her adoration for her son, she was a lax mother. She was well behind in her duties as a caretaker, so much so that her mother hired a nanny to cater to his infant needs. Her own sheer size made it laborious for Fathma run behind him when he became a toddler. Khalid grew without any kind of discipline, and had very brash manners. Lightweight as he was, he could spread destruction wherever he went. His Indonesian nanny would curse her own life while trying to wrangle him away from fist fights with other children.

Fathma was blissfully blind to Khalid’s unruliness. She was selective in how she wanted to coexist with him. She loved playing with him under the lush bougainvillea that grew in the courtyard. Even though she could barely move, she laughed and cheered behind him as he did his somersaults and his sprints. 

“My sweet son, you are a hero! You will become the next.. What’s his name? Hussain what?” She would ask Momina the nanny. Momina would give her an empty smile.

When Khalid cried for reasons that were varied, Fathma would cry with him. She even demanded Abdullah to buy him a smartphone so that he could play and watch videos as much as he wanted.

She shared Khalid’s best moments, and stayed out of his worst. Which was why Khalid associated his mother with all that was merry. Even when he wreaked havoc with other people, he was sincerely at his best boyish behaviour with his mother.

The day that Fathma died, Khalid felt a kind of eerieness engulf the house. Though the adults customarily kept the news away from him, he came to know of it from his six year old cousin sister Dalal.

“Your mother died today. She died because she was fat. I think she is going to hell because my mother says that she is an idiot” Dalal said matter-of-factly. Needless to say, Khalid sprung on her and attempted to decrown her of her hair.

Momina rushed over and pulled him away. He fell limp into her arms, crying. Khalid, for the first time ever, cried in the arms of someone other than his mother. His mind was too small to grasp the permanence of death, but he felt like something had been taken away from him.

After the funereal rituals were over, Khalid sat quietly under the bougainvillea, picking mindlessly at its dust covered flowers that almost touched the ground. The gassy smell of eucalyptus wafted through the afternoon air. A friendly pigeon fluttered down by his side. It cooed and danced around him, until a shadow that approached from behind scared it away.

Abdullah had slowly walked up behind Khalid, the afternoon sun forming a blazing crown over his head. Khalid looked at his father intently, his expression a mix of confusion and hope. Abdullah studied his first born; they were mirror reflections of each other. The high forehead, the handsome nose, thin lips and enormous ears. 

The stillness of the scene sent Abdullah into a moment of deep thought. He had two other children from his second wife, but neither of them bore such resemblance to himself. Now when he has seen Khalid up close, he feels for the very first time that he has sown a seed. A sense of pride emerged in his heart, inadvertently tinged with narcissism. 

“Come,” he said to the child.

He held Khalid’s hand, and made his way to his car. 

Preordained Ties

“They say everyone who looks into their family history will find a secret sooner or later,” Yusuf said simply, looking up from his book. He had been engrossed in reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code this whole weekend. He finally had gotten his hands on the popular book. Only ten years too late. 

As I lay down his favorite biscuits with tea, I took a long look at Yusuf. He had his teeth clenched. I briefly remembered how gripping the book was.  

I went back to my laptop. I opened my email folder and found the email I had been anticipating for the past one month.

“They’ve replied,” I said. I was afraid to make apparent the excitement in my heart.

“What’d they say?” he asked.

It was the adoption agency. They sent a mail asking us to meet with the orphanage head next week. As bland as the email sounded, I liked to think that the orphanage was happily ready to give us the child. But of course, that would be reaching too far at this stage.

The following week, we dressed up and left our flat in order to reach the orphanage an hour earlier than our appointed time. 

Yusuf was driving. I was lost in thought. My stomach was rumbling. I was tensed about how our meeting would go, and all the things that could go wrong.

“Maybe we should start looking for our birth parents,” Yusuf suggested.

“Don’t be silly.”

“Why not? It would be good to speak of a family lineage to the child when we get him.”

“Wonderful. I can’t believe you are saying this.”

He looked perplexed.

“Okay, let’s assume they are still alive and not dead already. Firstly, why would you want to search for people who didn’t want us in the first place. Secondly, how will you search among one billion other people?” I asked, without containing my annoyance.

“You can’t make such judgments. Just because we ended up in orphanages doesn’t mean our parents didn’t want us. Maybe they couldn’t afford to look after us. Orphanages are meant to give safe environments for children. And to your second question, we can always segregate the population according to age. And maybe narrow our search down to the locality of our orphanages.”

“Yusuf, we both are living examples of the fact that lineages don’t make a person who he is. It is the experiences and the people around him who makes him who he is.”

“Yea. I’m just curious, though.”

“Also, nobody has social security numbers here like in the U.S. You just can’t go to a database and find people,” I said. I was trying to crush his every last hope.
Yusuf was adopted by a travelling couple from the U.S. An american man of South Indian origin and his Irish wife had come to meet him at the orphanage. He was seven years old then.

The man had a hearty smile, and kept looking at his beautiful wife. The first impression Yusuf had gotten from her was that she seemed nonchalant about the whole deal. The three flew back to U.S. after fetching Yusuf a passport and a visa.

Having been very self-sufficient, Yusuf got by with the very little support he got from his adoptive parents. When he was sixteen, his mother suddenly left his father for another man. His father fell into the habit of heavy drinking. 
One night, his father approached his room and stood at the door in drunken stupor. ” That whore left me. Why do I need you anymore?” he said. And threw the empty liquor bottle at Yusuf before collapsing onto the ground. Yusuf packed his bags and left the next day to lodge at his friend’s place.

We met through a mutual friend when he had come to Mumbai for a holiday. We got to know each other. A certain kind of kinship developed between us, mainly after knowing that we both grew up without knowing our real parents. 

Ever since I can remember I grew up in the house of Geeta Shukla with twenty other little girls. Geeta Amma was a widow who dedicated her life and her home to children like us who had no one to be looked after by. Aayimma, an old woman who cooked and cleaned for us also lived with us.

None of us were interested in our past. We were already happy in believing that Geeta Amma was our mother. But sometimes, one of us would be overtaken by curiosity and would ask Aayimma how they ended up in this house. We knew that Aayimma had always been around, and knew the secrets to our pasts. I asked her once, and she told me that one night a stranger came and left me at the doorstep. I was just a year old and I was sleeping. Geeta Amma never called behind the stranger, and lifted me up like somebody had sent her a courier. 
We arrived at the orphanage and were directed to the head matron’s room. She beamed at us and asked us to sit. She ordered coffee for the both of us and called for the attender to bring the child.

“Yusuf, Nargis, meet Isa,” the matron said and motioned at Isa to come closer. 

He had curly hair and olive skin. He smiled at us and wasn’t shy to show the cavities on his teeth. He was just two years old. His roundish face was already making my heart burst. He looked nothing like the either of us. Perfect.
I looked at Yusuf and I found tears glistening at the corner of his eyes. I could see he was trying to say something to the child, but couldn’t because of the lump in his throat. 

I waved at Isa. He gave me a semi wave without lifting his arms. We spent the afternoon with him in the courtyard. Isa was just learning how to talk. And I enjoyed how he would take ages to speak a word, trying to perfect it as much as he could.

We left without wanting to leave Isa behind. We wanted to take him with us as soon as possible. The matron assured us that it was just a nominal visit for us to get closer to the child. Nevertheless, she said that more such visits would be needed before Isa actually relocates to our house. I decided that I would come everyday to see him.

As we got on our ride back home, Yusuf said like he had an epiphany, “You are right. Let’s not search for our real parents. I think the universe wants us to form a family without being tied to each other by blood. That is why we have had so much difficulty conceiving a child. For some of us, the secret starts at who our real families are. A secret that isn’t worth being revealed, right?”

“Right,” I said, with a peck on his cheek.

Home In The Hills

My favourite place is a place from my memories. Actually, that place still exists, and I visit that place every year on my vacation to India. But it isn’t the same as it was 10-15 years ago. My memories of how that place used to be are marked with profound sensory experiences that I would like to recount here.

I am talking about my paternal native place, Irumbupalam (which roughly translates to Iron Bridge, named after an iron bridge built there during the British colonialist period). It is located near one of the many hillstations in the southern Indian state of Kerala. 

Summer vacations were always spent in this place. Growing up in Kuwait, I had very little access to greenery or nature in its thriving form. So those two months spent here were like the proverbial rain in a desert. 

My typical vacation would start off with a very queasy ride from the airport to Irumbupalam. The long winding trip uphill would make me carsick, and elevation pressure would block my ears. Nevertheless once we approach the hills, the scenery would have me spellbound. The thickets of forests that we would pass through, the gushing waterfalls, the mindlessly steep cliffsides would send my heart racing. Too much stimulation for the eyes of a nine-year old.

Once we reach our house, I would race to the toilet. The sudden cold weather makes my skin tingle, and my bladders weak. While I do my duty, I cant help but notice that scary looking spider as big as my palm walk casually across the bathroom floor. That would be only the beginning of endless species of (mostly icky) flora and fauna that I will find in my home.

After a few initial slow days, vehicle after vehicle carrying my aunts, uncles and cousins would gradually find place in our car porch. 

Finally when everyone has arrived, my house would become a carnival ground. Little children playing in the mud. The big boys huddled in the front verandah bragging about themselves. The big girls circle up in corners, sharing the latest in gossips.

At mealtimes, a boisterous group of men, women and children would form in and around the kitchen. Laughing, jeering, huffing and puffing.. All of us would put together the trademark meal of Kerala’s mountain men: Tapioca cooked with meat and hot spices. Spicy as it is, my tender tongue would yearn to eat as much as I could. To cool down the heat, there would be baskets of sectioned jackfruits thay await us. After the heavy meal, the elders would engage in sluggish talk while we kids wouldn’t spare a minute.

My house is home to, as I found out gradually, a variety of living beings. They were always in their element; be it the slugs and the snails on our window panes or the praying mantis in our prayer room. Once I saw a scorpion ambling away under the dining table. From butterflies to rat snakes, you could find a whole bevy of questionable items lying here and there. My elder brother once sneaked a black beetle into my palm. Imagine my horror. So much for a sensory experience.

Then there was the lush greenery. The hills in the distance were a beautiful night green. The grass and shrubs shone goblin green in the bright sunlight. The brownish green of the moss. I have to say even the symbols of imminent decay like in the dead leaves added to my pleasure.

Rains – huge, heavy and fantastic ones – were a regular part of my vacations. The sound of it beating down at the earth, particularly at manmade structures, would give me the chills. In my tiny mind, it would stir up imaginations of God and His retribution.

After each rain, there would be waves of croaking from frogs from the stream banks. So clamourous was that sound that to this day I can’t think of anything more annoying. My cousin once told me that it was the sound of frogs emiting mating calls. I’m still not sure if I’m actually disgusted at the sound or at the picture of frogs mating.

When the rains subside momentarily, there was a particularly enticing activity I would engage in. Among the wild grass and shrubs that grew around my house, there were these long-leaved plantlets. At the end of each leaf, a droplet of water would hang. The droplet hung so resolutely at each grass tip that even shaking it wouldn’t splash it away. It seemed like a light film had formed outside the droplet to protect it. What was required of such a droplet to stay so firmly? My cousin would pluck out the grass shoot and ask me to ever so slightly bite into the droplet. Even if it was for a second, I tasted pure water. Water so pristine that it tasted sweet. She even suggested to apply it in my eyes; a daily dose of plant tears was the secret to her beautiful eyes, she would say.

After each trek, we children would come back to a delicious treat of melt-in-the-mouth cashew balls, made under the supervision of our grandma. My aunts would personally pluck out robust cashews from the cashew trees that grew in our backyard. Then they would roast them on burning charcoal, scoop out the nuts with bare hands and grind it in the traditional mortar and pestle. Then they would mix it with roasted rice powder and jaggery and roll balls out of the mix. 

In fact, everything boils down to these cashew balls. The smoky-nutty-sweet delight in our mouths. The smell of charcoal. The feeling of soot on our hands after the nut extraction. The sounds of smacking lips. The look of sheer satisfaction and happiness on everyone’s face. What a well-rounded representation of what it means for me to be in my favorite place!

Alas, we have come a long way since then. No more creepy-crawlies. No more plants crying tears. No more clamour in the kitchen. I have even begun to forget the taste of those cashew balls

I guess in the fight between man and nature, man has finally begun to win. Fifteen years ago, I could see nature actively invade every nook and cranny of our house with moss and insects. I don’t see that anymore. I see more houses, more roads, more people. More human presence, but less nature. 

As for my memories, I find them lying hither and tither in the back of my mind. And in the far-off eyes of my grandmother, who is slowly sinking into oblivion.

An Act Of Redemption

She turned on the shower to let ice cold water wash over her bare body. Even as she struggled with the initial breathlessness, she held her head still. She wanted to know how it felt. She bent and sat down on the tub floor. She folded her knees upward and hugged her self tight. She shut her eyes.

“Its all your fault!” – the words of her distraught husband rang in her ears. She opened her eyes suddenly. She turned off the shower and sat there, sobbing profusely.


She didnt even know when she had slept off in the tub. Her nose was blocked from the cold. Her hair was half dry. She picked herself up, toweled herself dry and put on her clothes

She sat on her bed. It felt like she hadn’t any energy left. She couldn’t rest either. Sleeplessness and undernutrition left her face hollow. Her relationship with her husband kept getting worse day after day. He couldn’t forgive her. He wouldn’t even look at her face. But saving her marriage was the last thing on her mind.

Because memories of her love kept haunting her. His smell. His laugh. His touch. His unkempt hair. His yearning eyes. Her grief knew no bounds. 


It was just 2 months ago that a phone call had changed her life. She was bathing her one year old son in his tub. She carefully filled the tub upto three inches of water and put him in along with his favorite rubber ducky. Her phone rang in the living room. She had been applying for jobs and expected it to be an employer. 

“Mommy’ll be right back!” she said rushing towards the phone.

“Hello..” she said tracing her steps back to the bathroom.

“Hello good morning! Is this Zoya Siddique?” A polite female voice.


“Hi Zoya. I’m Sharon calling from IPR Publishing. You had applied for the role of Junior Editor at our company website, right? Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

Zoya gulped a big one. She hadn’t expected a call from IPR. She stood still trying to remember the paragraph that she had learnt by rote. She spoke about her education, amateur trysts during her college years, her attempts at freelancing, and that short job in a small company. She tried hard not to sound like she was blurting it out. Unknowingly, she had even wrapped herself with the curtain in the corridoor.

“Great! We would like to see you for an interview tomorrow at 12 pm. I will send you a location map to your email address. Thank you very much.”

“You are welcome”. Zoya set down the phone. She went into the kitchen absentmindedly, opened the fridge and stared inside for a minute. She mulled over the long break she had taken from her career, and how desperate she was to get back. Then she suddenly remembered that she had left her son in the tub.

She rushed to the bathroom. At the doorstep, she saw the tub but she couldn’t find him. There was no sound. She inched towards the tub clasping her chest. What she saw beat the breath out of her lungs.

He lay in the water, face down. His rubber ducky rested on the small of his back. Her knees felt weak. She bent to pick her baby’s still body. Without breathing, she set him on her lap and tried to administer CPR. The baby did not move. She shook him slowly at first, and then wildly. She called out his name many times.

His eyes did not open.

Putting the lifeless baby on her shoulder she called her husband. Ashkar rushed home and took the baby to the hospital. The whirlwind that ensued left their small family broken forever. Their only child, the meaning of their marriage, was dead.

Zoya lay on her bed staring at the ceiling. She thought about the gathering at her little boy’s funeral. She clearly remembered how some relatives had given her accusing looks. Even now there were phone calls of curious people that poured in. Most people did not care to hide the shock and dismay in their voices when they heard about the cause of death.
She also thought of how drastically Ashkar had changed, right in front of her eyes. How many days had he gone to office with bloodshot eyes. He spoke nothing; except for that one argument they had one day. He slept on the sofa. Some days he never came home. 
When will this misery end? Zoya wondered amidst tears. It never will. She lost her son to death, now she will lose her husband to silence.

As if in a daze, she slowly got up and went to the kitchen. The scraping knife lay in the drawer. She went to the bathroom and filled the bathtub with water. When it filled halfway, she immersed herself in it. She slit open both her wrists uptil her elbows. And she lay down expectantly.

As the blood gushed out, Zoya felt oddly relaxed. She felt all her pain exit her body.

“Mommy’s coming, Ayaan” she whispered before slowly losing herself. She dreamt of herself emerging from a river bank and her son toddling towards her to pull her out.

The water in the tub turned crimson. Zoya drowned in her own pain, hoping it will atone for everything. 

The One I Love

A surprise conception.

A speck in the ultrasound.

The first thing that crossed my mind:

The delay in my career.

Fast forward nine months.

An engorged belly.

I was rushed to the hospital,

With broken waters and griping pain.

Four hours of labour.

Blinding lights in the labour room.

The doctor asked me to push

Like I had constipation.

And so I shut my eyes.

And sealed my mouth.

And finally plopped out

A three kilo wrinkled mass.

Delirious under gas and air.

Crying and laughing at the same time.

I clutched this wondrous piece

Of life that used to be inside of me.

Chubby pink cheeks.

And a small pouting mouth.

He shifted and smiled and gurgled

In his peaceful sleep.

Sleepless nights.

Fatigued days.

And unbelievable amounts of

Pee, poop, drool and barf.

Some days I’m beat.

Some days I’m hopeless.

And some days my life is stuck

In a loop of constant delays.

But then his pudgy fingers.

And his marble pair of irises.

And his pearly smiling mouth

Save me from my rut.

We fight and we wrestle.

We play and we giggle.

Together we conquer milestones

Of babyhood and motherhood.

Together we change.

Together we grow.

Like wild vines in the yard,

Forever intertwined.

I love him the most.

Second to none.

Through the words that he doesn’t speak,

I know that I’m his favorite.