Our Fight Against UTI

My history with UTI is not historic. The first time I heard about it was when this disease started haunting my grand mother, in her last few years. After battling with 60-70 odd hits of the bacteria building in her bladder, she succumbed to it. The infection spread from her bladder to her blood, a.k.a., septicemia.

She left us in 2012, and in 2014, I gave birth to a hail and hearty baby girl – Mysha. All went well till the day of October 13, 2015. I was in my hometown (Kanpur) and Mysha had mild body temperature. As seasonal allergies went hand-in-hand with my one year three month old then, I thought it was the commencement of another episode. It was already late at night, and I expected her to get up with a blocked nose. To my surprise, she sailed well through the night and woke up the next morning with no symptoms of cold or cough. She still had temperature ranging between 100-101 degree fahrenheit. Definitely, her body was fighting with some kind of infection.

On my father’s persistence, I took her to my family doctor. I still remember his prescription embedded in my mind, which stated “urine infection” as the first possibility. My biggest regret – I did not pay attention. I was still stuck to the possibility of allergies, as that is what she was prone to. Also, urine infection was unheard and unbelievable for a toddler.

It was 4PM. I was preparing a milk bottle for my girl, while my mother was seated next to her on the bed. Mysha looked dull and pale, which we thought was a result of “not being well”. How wrong were we, how very wrong.

As I approached her, I saw her almost asleep. And then I felt her shiver vigorously, which sent a shiver down my spine. I did not know what was happening to her, and the idea of the unknown scared me. With heavy breathing and trembling lips I yelled – “Mummy! Call the Doctor”. I held Mysha to my chest to give her body warmth and frantically started making the rounds of my home.

After having a word with the doctor, my mother ran to the chemist and got the required medication. Meanwhile, at home, I was still making rounds. The shivering ended in 15 minutes, followed by 104 body temperature. Then came the vomits. She could barely keep her eyes open, and mine stopped to blink. The whole ordeal lasted about 40 minutes. We took her to the hospital to give her urine and blood samples. It was still to be known whether it was a viral infection or a brobdingnagian monstrosity. Whatever it was, the results were to be known only by the morning, which meant the dark night awaited us.

That night was the worst night of my life. Mysha was getting the “attacks” every 4 hours. It had a routine – shivering, followed by high temperature, followed by vomiting, and then me forcing her to gobble Ibuprofen. It was a petrifying 40 minutes cycle, and it still makes my heart sink. I remember how my parents and I were seated next to Mysha that whole night. Shahzeel, my better half was in Hyderabad at that point and insisted to come to Kanpur. After a massive convincing from my parents, he agreed to stay back.

That night we all sat and observed, as the test results were not expected till next day. On the side table we had the required medicines, digital thermometer, her water bottle, spare clothes, cold water and bandages, and a mop by the side of the table. The waiting game is always very painful. Specially when you don’t know what’s in for you on the other side, and mostly, when the person in question is ALL YOU HAVE – your baby!

At one point at night, her temperature soared to 106 degrees and I thought we lost her. I actually thought so at that hour. Yet, tears did not flow, not even formed. We were busy doing cold-water bandages. With next morning, came the test results. It was a horrible hit of UTI. I could not believe it. She suffered UTI at such a young age? I am very particular about hygiene. I never make her use public bathrooms. In fact, I carry her potty seat, wherever we go. Some people laugh at my persistence, but I don’t let it come in my way. Yet, the test results were there and then we knew what we were dealing with.

I am fortunate not to encounter UTI in my lifetime, and at the same time, unfortunate to not understand what my little one went through. I could feel her pain, but she dealt with it, at one year three months, if I may add again. I had to read to understand UTI and when I did, I realized Mysha depicted all the classic signs of urinary infection– she refused to pee (because one feels the burning sensation), the appetite was lost, vomits, and the high fever and chills.

The bacteria (E. Coli.) was so strong that it went from her bladder to her kidneys to her blood stream. She was given antibiotic injections, as oral medications would have not acted on bacterial growth that fast. Mysha came out of the realms of UTI after a week of proper treatment and care. It took more time for her to be her normal self, but the point was – she survived.

We took it as one of those instances, where she caught bacterial infection from somewhere. I learnt that a urinary tract infection is one of the most common pediatric infections. Hence, we were asked to be more careful, always wipe from front to back, refraining from using public bathrooms. We made sure the course of her antibiotic course was complete and that she drank a LOT of water.

Human mind is God’s biggest blessing. As horrible as that night was, I forgot about it as days went by. Mysha was doing well and she had no troubles in context of urinary infection, until – September 2016 – the anniversary of her first attack. As luck may have it, I was with my in-laws in Kanpur as both my parents and husband were out of the country. Mysha was restless since the morning, and had mild temperature. Like last time, I again banked on the seasonal changes. It was not until midnight that the trembling began.

To be honest, I was not expecting another urinary infection, but here it came with its claws wide open. I got gipped, but I was prepared. Witnessing the same pattern, I immediately gave her the antibiotic doze. In October 2015, I had my family next to me, but I was not aware what I was fighting against. This time I knew what I was dealing with and I was not ready for it to take control over my daughter. Managing the night with Ibuprofen, I did not give her body temperature a chance to exceed 102.5 °F . The very next morning I sent her urine sample for testing and sure enough it was UTI – again.

Though Mysha did recover from this one fairly quickly, thanks to the timely treatment, it led us to assess the reason behind her recurring UTI. Was she just prone to it, or was there something we needed to know? After taking the MCU (micturating cystourethrogram) scan, Mysha was detected with Primary VUR.

What is Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR)?

In our daily basis bodily function, urine flows from the kidneys through the ureters (tubes) to the bladder. A valve at the end of the ureters forbids urine to backflow. However, in some kids the valve is not well developed by birth and it allows a part of the urine, carrying bacteria, pass back to the kidneys. When your child gets chills with fever, means the bacteria has reached her kidneys. If not treated, this can damage the kidneys in the long run.

VUR is a genetically inherited shortcoming; strangely no one on both sides of the families had/have this defect. Honestly, I did not care how this happened. All I knew was that we were aware why it was happening. Apart from being a reasonable, educated, medically equipped woman, I am a mother. The last word has its own insecurities and mind. A mind, which fails logic at times, a lot many times. How? Like this – till the time I did not know she had VUR, I kept blaming diaper usage and restroom hygiene. After knowing that she had a reflux problem, the mother in me acted crazier. There was a point, when I felt that I was at fault for not carrying her in my womb long enough, for her valve to be fully developed. Beat that!

A mother can’t be rational all the time. I mean how could she? She is a mother!

Taking control over myself, and acting mature, I then knew what had to happen, would happen. Instead of contemplating, you need to take the next step – the constructive one. I read a LOT about UTI since last October, and let me tell you – UTI is one of the most common problems in toddlers and one third of those children are diagnosed with VUR.

Diagnosis is the key. Once the correct diagnosis is made, you can take the corrective step. VUR has a grading system of I to V; higher the grade, more severe the reflux. Lower grades usually resolve by the time your child is five. It’s the higher grade that needs attention. Earlier surgery was the only option for treating VUR; now Deflux injection is the big thing. To understand Deflux, read here – http://www.cw.bc.ca/library/pdf/pamphlets/BCCH1545DefluxInjection.pdf

Mysha was diagnosed with grade I/II and III on left and right side respectively. After checking her reports – ultrasounds, MCU scans, DMSA scan – our pediatric urologist suggested that she be treated, instead of waiting for her to outgrow the reflux. In April last week, this year, we took Mysha to the hospital, with an open mind for either surgery or Deflux. Truth being told, I had disturbed sleep for many nights, before that day.

She was in my hands when the doctor gave her an anesthesia shot, in the hospital. After she got unconscious, they took her right out of my hands and proceeded to the operation theatre. Do you know how one feels when someone pulls your heart from your chest with his/her bare hands? I felt it at that hour.

Mentally, I’m a very strong person. I did not howl when she was given injections, or when an IV drip was placed in her hand, or when a catheter was inserted up through her urethra and into her bladder (MCU test). She cried, and cried like a baby, but she also looked directly in my eyes. I always make sure I am in the room when she goes for any test(s) and I need her to look into my eyes. I can’t have pain and fear in them, as she reciprocates my feelings. She knows me from within; she was there for entire nine months. What I depict, is what she learns. While my stronger better half melts listening to his daughter wail, I stand right there without any remorse. The idea is “someone has to be steel”, and being a mother I am doing that bit.

It’s not easy. Not easy to see your little one dressed in the operation theatre gown. It’s not easy to see the intravenous injection plugged into their hand. It’s not easy to see them look at you and say “Mummy, ghar jana hai.” But I know I have to make her strong. This is a part of life she has to be prepared for. I still remember what I felt when I gave her birth, and the doctor said, “It’s a girl.” In that immense pain, all I thought was – She will go through the same, in maybe 30 years from now. I want to be there to support her, take care of her, but at the same time, she should be able to take care of herself.

The doctor found that Deflux was the best for Mysha (at that stage) and he went ahead with that. We have to monitor her in future and, yes, it scares me (at times). But like I said before, a human mind is beautiful – you forget the worst of your days and pray for better ones. We are doing the same.

This is a long overdue and a long run post. As it was immensely painful, I was procrastinating writing it for a long time. While writing this one, I stood holding burning Mysha in my arms again, I went through all the daunting scans again, I stood outside that operation theatre again. Words brought back all of it – the good and the bad. No matter how hard it was, it had to be done. The story had to be told, and I want maximum people to benefit from it. I am writing for that mother, who feels helpless right now. For that father, who is looking for hope. For that relative who is finding a cure for his little one. When I read, I got so many virtual shoulders to rest on, the chance to hear their stories, to know that there are people out there who are dealing with the same situation. This is for all those who need my story, my love, and my best wishes.

Remember, you are your baby’s power bank; they will always bank on you.

Will A Feminist Man Be Ready To Let Go Of His Male Privilege?

Because men are born with privilege – male privilege – while women are still fighting for their version of any privilege!

In the recent past I read a quote, which stated, the women in this generation are losing their uniqueness by trying to do everything a man can do.

At first, I did agree to the sentiments of this statement, but then I dug a little deeper and wondered why women felt the dire need to do so. Why is she proving herself when we know that she is endowed with the best that God had to offer? It’s because the men are born with privilege – male privilege – while women are still fighting for it.

What is male privilege, you ask?

Let us look at some easily understandable, practical examples.

  • If you are a man, night hours are not off-limits. For a female, being outside her home at odd hours, is unthinkable. Because some men can’t be tamed or taught proper conduct, females are asked to lock themselves behind doors.
  • A man can dress however he wants. In summers, shorts feel perfect to his skin, but the same apparel on his woman will pinch his eyes. Moral policing will always come into role-play.
  • A man will not be asked to choose between a job and children. No one will call him selfish if he puts his work before kids. Females were born to do this.
  • A man won’t be called names if he dates a lot of ladies or drinks in a bar. In fact some may say, “He is just being a man. That’s what they do.” Imagine a woman in the same situation.
  • A man can have his mind and the freedom to raise his voice, without hurting the ego of the opposite species as much. A woman with a strong opinion is often a man’s enemy.

This is a non-comprehensive list; there are a plethora of pointers that can be added. Male privilege is so integrated with our culture, that people have accepted it as a way of life. Nobody questions it, and even if they do, there are no legit answers.

What about men who think they support feminism?

I do find men who try and support feminism. Though I give them credit to acknowledge females’ rights, they are still far behind in applying those theories in reality.

The patriarchal society we live in makes it hard for men to admit to the powers they unconsciously possess and practice. My uncle never fails to proudly mention that he prepares the evening tea at home. What stands out here? Why the pride? Because men (primarily from the preceding generation) do not attend to kitchen affairs. It’s a woman’s job.

A child carries a father’s surname but the childcare responsibilities are not equally distributed. Feeding a child once a day, or taking her out to play doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something out of the box. That’s the bare minimum expected from a father.

Not only at home, male privilege is very evident in work places too

In my last organization, my manager claimed to promote feminism, but it all fell apart when I demanded a lighter project during my pregnancy. Later it dawned on me, its not feminism he supported but diversity – one of the goals for year-end appraisal.

However small you think the paradigm of male privilege is, it has damaged our society.

Ever wondered why this problem exists?

Few days back, while talking about the upbringing of our children, my well-educated sister-in-law said, “I know we will raise our babies differently.”

“Of course, we are different, and so will be the process of raising of our babies.” I thought I understood what she said, but alas, I was wrong.

“Also, you will give her the values of a girl, while I will teach him the values of a boy.”

This, right here, is the problem. How can values be different for the two sexes? Who teaches children about genders and the so-called-rights that come with it? Babies come as a blank paper from heaven, and we, the guardians, scribble on them with our sexist ink. What is even more appalling is that even mothers who are usually the primary parent (unfortunately), i.e. women, are not correcting their children and setting the wrong example at home.

“You’re a girl, you can’t talk that loud”, “You’re a girl, and you need to learn to cook.” “You’re a girl, you can’t wear that short a skirt.”

Similarly, “You’re a boy. Your place is not in the kitchen” “You’re a boy. Boys don’t play with dolls.” “You’re a man. Put your foot down.”

This is where it all starts – right from the beginning

Don’t assign tasks based on their gender. It’s okay for a man to cry – it shows compassion.

It’s okay for a man to cook – most of the world’s biggest chefs are men – certainly they can cook at home too!

It’s okay for him to take charge of the house and his child – it’s his baby too!

Lastly, it’s okay to question and protest. That is how one learns and evolves.

Till the time these mental barriers do not shatter, we, as a society, will not progress. The male privilege that the men enjoy, make it a superior gender and leads to heinous crimes like female infanticide, dowry, rapes and molestation (at work and at home). Think about it, they all are interrelated.

The idea of this post is not to condemn the image of men, but to make them aware of the powers they practice. If you say that is how the world operates, I say, that is how you want it to operate. Men as a gender may never find it wrong, as they have an upper hand and an undue advantage, and are certainly not taking a lead in giving up the male privilege. It’s the women who have to strive for these on a daily basis. We don’t want to turn the tables, but we do seek equality.

My message to the men out there – Please recognize the privilege you are born with. An informed man is the biggest asset a society may possess. To put those learning into actions makes a man, a real man.

How to do this?

Start at the domestic level. Don’t define work based on gender. Fight your basic instinct, and pick up your part of being an equal partner. Cooking, cleaning, childcare will not tamper your image as a man.

In a bigger spectrum, men can support women in positions in leadership and promote compensation equality. Refrain from using products that stereotype or degrade the role of women. Being one of the two genders, be the ones to take concrete steps towards equality for women.

Lastly, the biggest message if for the parents – As the nurturer of your family, you have the privilege to right a wrong. Our children are our future, and it all starts with upbringing at home. What you teach them is what will stay with them forever and that may be the birth of a new legacy.

The survival story

No matter how hard we try to evade it, domestic violence is prevalent in our society. When a couple tries to win custody of their children, they loose their children somewhere, and their childhood forever. Children raised in such homes feel isolated and vulnerable, and often suffer emotional and psychological trauma. But then, they also form a bond, which is sealed by the ray of positive they find from all the negativities around them.

My story is about one such home. All characters in the story are fictional, but I drew the inspiration of my storyline from a very close relative.

_________________________________________________________

“You and your family have driven me insane. My brother was right. I cannot put up with you.” cried Nagma as she placed the besan batter in a pan of hot oil.

“I am not happy with you either. From now on, I am planning to be at work all day. The heat in my shop is still bearable compared to coming to this hell you call home.” yelled Anwar as he lit another cigarette.

“You do that. I am done fighting, no, talking. I am done talking to you.”

As the heat of the oil culminated, so did their argument. What the couple missed during this entire period were two tiny heads, which kept popping in and out of their bedroom.

“Fine then. You stay here, I leave.” Anwar rubbed the cigarette bud on a windowsill with full frustration and marched out of the house. He slammed the door behind him, which was the cue for the tiny heads to run to the bed and pick up their books.

“Alisha. Saba. Come out in 10 minutes. Dinner is ready.” Nagma said in an angry voice.

“Aapa, will they ever stop?” asked Saba.

“I know. It’s getting worse.” replied Alisha in a grave voice.

“I miss the days we ate together – as a family. At school my friends talk about their Sunday outings, the conversations they have at their dinner tables. I listen but have nothing to contribute. How can I? What should I?” the ten year old eyelids drooped in despair.

Alisha looked at Saba. She was four years elder than Saba and in a better position to understand her home dynamics. No matter how hard she tried to save Saba from the noise in the house, their parents weaned her in. After all it was a family – they rise and fall together.

After a pause, Alisha said in a happy tone, “How about we go to Tur ka mela the coming month? You always wanted to go there.”

“Really?” Saba’s eyes glowed immediately, but the frown was back in a second. “Who will take us? Abba and Amma have their own problems. We will miss it like we do every year.”

“We will take ourselves. You don’t worry. I will take permission and do the needful. This year you will share your experiences of the mela with your friends.” Alisha held Saba’s hand as a sign of affirmation.

“Now let’s go. Amma will get angry.”

The little one nodded and they left the room.

Ironically, One of the toughest decisions in life is to ask the right question at the right time. Alisha was looking for one. On Sunday she grabbed that moment. At 10 AM, her mother was out to buy groceries, while her father was sipping his third cup of tea. She knew how happy the hot beverage made him, so she decided to talk.

“Abba, we wanted to go to the mela?” As Alisha said these words, her sister’s floating head started playing peek-a-boo from her room.

“What? When? Where?”

“Tur ka mela. Next month. Please Abba. We won’t bother you. Saba and I will manage and will be very careful.” Anwar’s eyebrows rose but lesser compared to his voice. “You both want to go alone?”

The thump in his voice made Saba take longer than needed to pull her head behind the door. Her eyes met her father’s and then there was no hiding left.

“Saba. Come out.” he shouted

The small feet were taking even smaller steps. Alisha could hear the little one’s deep breaths, as she stood behind her.

“Did you make this plan Saba?” questioned Anwar with protruding eyes.

The tiny one couldn’t handle the pressure and her eyes started to rain.

“Abba. Please keep Saba out of this. She had nothing to do with this.” Alisha hid Saba behind her back.

“You keep quiet. Answer only when I ask you to.” their father reinforced his authority on them.

 

“Perfect. Now even our Sunday’s will be sucked up because of your presence in the house.” said Nagma as she entered the house with a bag full of groceries.

“This is all because of you. You have never kept these girls on check. Today it’s mela. Tomorrow it will be something else. But why will you care? You yourself are not a faithful wife.” he said as he slammed the empty cup on the floor.

“You aren’t a saint either. Look at yourself before you point fingers. The whole mohalla knows about you.” Nagma bit her lip to underline the last line.

Saba started hauling whilst crying and Alisha signaled her to leave for her room. The parents were busy proving their allegations as their children looked at them in distress. Their eyes were getting immune to this sight, but their hearts were still to get in sync with this appalling reality. After all, the people in question were the people who introduced life to them.

As their parents’ parched lips ran out of words and then curses, Alisha sensed their next move and pulled Saba inside their room. No sooner had she pushed Saba on the bed to bolt the door, than they heard noises, which walls of no household should hear and bear. After a silence of five minutes, their mother entered the room with a burning red cheek. Alisha knew her father would be sitting in the adjoining room with cuts and bruises too. When mouths failed, hands came handy for her parents to end the argument.

Children find solace in their mother, but that was not the case in this house. With age comes experience, so Alisha kept her eyes glued to the floor, but not Saba. She kept looking at her mother.

Finally infuriated Nagma opened her mouth. “What are you looking at me for? You all have ruined my life. I was so full of life and freedom, before I met this man.” she pointed her index finger to the adjoining room and continued, “I married him, gave him love and what did he do? His small town mentality reeks of conservatism. I thought he will change and gave birth to you two, and now I’m chained for life. But not any more, I’m born to be free.”

With a solemn face, Alisha offered her glass of water, which she refused at first, but drank seconds later. Nagma’s eyes were devoid of emotions, while Saba had hope in hers. She still felt her mother would come to her if she calls out to her with all her heart. Alisha read it all – loud and clear.

As their mother confidently marched out of their room, Saba turned to Alisha. .

“Aapa, Amma won’t leave us? We will not be…alone?” the last word left a lump in her throat.

Alisha had made the mistake of finding the right time to have a conversation with her father earlier that day, but this time she was sure of the timing and the issue, which needed to be addressed.

“Sometimes things don’t go as we expect them to, Saba. Everyone is not blessed with a happy home. Some parents are not meant to be together. They fight and spread negativity around them. In these cases, they should be set free, no matter how hard it is, we should set them free.” Alisha explained as softly as she possibly could.

“What can I do Aapa to help them?” the tiny one asked her mother like sister.

“Pray for them.”

“I do pray Aapa. Every day. But it seems as if Allah doesn’t want to listen me.” Saba sobbed and Alisha grabbed her petite hands.

“He does, and he is acting for your betterment. But maybe, what you are seeking for is not what He has planned for you – He has something better to offer. He is making way for you Saba. He always has a plan. You need to keep faith.”

“Will you also leave me Aapa?” Saba kept rolling questions with puffy eyes.

Alisha fought her tears and brushed the curls off Saba’s face “You know what makes the relationship of siblings special? The bond they make growing up. They face the same struggles, and fight for a cause together. I’ll never leave you Saba, but if time changes and I leave, that bond will never make you feel alone. You will have me – in you.”

“Did you get it?” Alisha asked looking at her sparkling eyes.

“I did.” said Saba smiling.

As days passed, gentlemen with black coats started visiting their home frequently. Their father rarely came home, while their mother was busy talking to men on financial and legal matters. The girls continued to be the mute spectators as they left home and came back from school. Overtime, they had learnt to be distant and independent – the traits needed for the life of freedom.

It was the day of the mela and Alisha was helping her mother in her kitchen chores, while Saba was getting dressed in her room. Soon Alisha entered the room and sat next to the ten year old. She framed her sentences in her head and said, with a heavy heart, “Amma and Abba are heading for divorce. They still need to figure out who we will stay with, but they are splitting for sure.”

Alisha felt lighter pouring it out, but was apprehensive to address Saba’s reaction.

Saba pulled her shoes and did not utter a word. After waiting a little, Alisha asked,

“What do you want to do Saba?”

With a profound look in her eyes, Saba said, “I want to go to Turr ka mela. Make memories. As for the rest, HE is making my way”

She extended her hand to her elder sister, who gave her hand and a faint smile in return.

The sisters held hands as they stepped out of the house. By setting their guardians free, not only they felt better guarded, but also powerful enough to let it go.

Moms : Spirit Of Any Nation

How much has been written on this, and yet, how much more can be written? That mellifluous word, when heard, taps our soul and salty water wells up our eyes. Imagine the connect we have with this person, when its title alone makes such a strong impact on our body. Yes, you got it! It’s no one else but a mother. A person, who gives it all relentlessly, and often, makes her offspring’s way, her way.

I am raised in a happy family, with compatible parents and a doting sister. The commander-in-chief in my childhood home makes sure things are done in a systematic fashion. She is a complete house maker, and God gifted her with a will power and persistence that is impervious to the battering of doubts. Even though my mother’s cooking skills and home management is exquisite, she is naive to the world of English. She often feels left out when surrounded by people who speak the second language of our country with lightning speed.

This is where she displays her best aspect –a learner who will not quit. I vividly remember the time I was in the sixth standard. Being a demotivated, below average student, I had no hope in my syllabus books and vice-versa. On one such day , when I shut my science book with no avail, she called me to her kitchen and asked if I had studied anything. When I nodded, she asked me to open the chapter and place the book in her hand. The 11-year-old wondered what her mother was upto.

She placed the book neatly in front of the stainless steel boxes, which were lined from left to right in a descending order. Next she asked me to take a few steps back so that the black ants on the white page became blurry to me. While still frying ladies’ fingers in mustard oil my mother said – “Sunao kya padha hai?” I guess she judged my perplexed eyes and said – “samajh nahi sakti, sun toh sakti hoon.”

I did not fair well in reciting what I learnt, but I did fairly well learn how far my mother could go to help me in every sphere of life. She was already being my caretaker, my laundrywoman, my cook, my Hindi and Sanskrit tutor, but now she was also venturing into the space where she had her own insecurities. In this country, more than a language, English is an obsession. Every parent wants their children to go to an English medium school and I went to a missionary.

Parents of this generation relearn academics with their children, my mother learnt with me, rather, for me.

Another such instance, which makes me warm, occurred in early 2010. Social media had taken the world by storm and my mother wanted to practice technology too. As said before, she is one person who likes to learn and keep herself updated. I was living in the US at that time, and gave shape to my mother’s pending request – her own Facebook account. We had a two long hours of video call, where I gave her a demo of Facebook operations. It was one of the most productive hours of my life as I went through a hurricane of emotions during that period. I laughed when she jumped with joy after completing step 1 – opening the web browser; admired her while she struggled to find letters in the keypad; shed a tear to see her scribble username & password on a paper for future references; empathized with her when she tried hard to unravel the mymsteries of an undiscovered territory (WWW, more so Facebook), but above all I took pride in her when she said – “Thank you beta, tum dekhna main jaldi hi seekh jaungi ye sab.” She then gave me that smile which said – You’re never too late!

At that moment, I so wanted to get into my computer, hug her tight and tell her – You’re a true warrior mummy, you’ll always be!

Your own mother is your inspiration in every way. Only you know what she experienced and sacrificed for you. While my mother is my Momspiration, I can’t complete my post without honoring another mother, which changed my outlook on motherhood.

Unlike me, my husband had a troubled childhood. His parents’ split when he was barely ten, and he along with his two younger brothers were left in the custody of their father. It was a home with no woman. As my father-in-law was busy picking up the pieces of his failing business, little Shahzeel (my husband) rose to the occasion and learnt the art of taking care of his family and home keeping. No wonder the man is a great cook, keeps the house clean and can take care of our daughter (Mysha) as well as I can. He had learnt these traits as a child, and took over his role with full diligence. When the time called, he became a mother to his two brothers.

Right from making lunch box, to experimenting easy dinner recipes, from polishing shoes to helping his younger brother at SUPW, he did all that he could. Few years back, in one of our conversations he mentioned how these three brothers took bread butter and jam for two straight years to school.

“What, seriously? Weren’t you guys bored?” I was shocked and the words fell right out my mouth.

“Well. I did not have time to cook school-lunch for all three every morning. So I made things simple and applied jam and butter on either sides of the bread and prepared tiffin boxes a night before. As mornings were busy, we used to just grab our lunch box from the fridge and run to school.”

As my eyes got wet, he said, “Don’t be sad. Firstly, jam and butter is delicious when applied together. Secondly and more importantly, there were a lot of idiots in school who exchanged my lame sandwich for their rich ghee parathas which their mothers sent.” He showed his teeth while saying the last line.

My thought at that hour – I was one of the lucky ones whose mother took the pain of preparing those parathas. You count your blessings when you meet someone who is deprived of something you had, but somehow you did not appreciate it fully.

He did everything my mother did for me, except he was still a child who himself needed a mother. That’s the beauty of this relationship. It erupts without being told. What he got in return is the affection and honor of his siblings. The kind of connect my brothers-in-law have with their eldest brother is the same that I have with my mother, or Mysha has with me.

Like one doesn’t necessarily need to carry a child in a womb to be a mother, one even doesn’t need a female quotient attached to it. Motherhood is about what you do, rather than, who you are. It’s about nurturing – irrespective of gender. To think about it, we all are innate mothers, which is not dependent on birthing, but sprouting of the right emotions.

Final.jpg

I Am Not A Quitter!

A job never comes easy. There is a learning curve. It takes time to understand your work and to adapt to the surroundings. While few are natural at this art, most struggle and work really hard to learn, adapt and progress.

“I’m running late, we need to rush,” said Sanya as soon as she finished her calcium endorsed milk.

“It’s okay to run late, but you can’t actually run right now. It’s the eighth month for you.” reminded Shaan, her better half.

“You know well about the client I am working for. He believes in micro management, and I find hard to meet the deadlines.”

“You can’t work on that assignment anymore. You have been working crazy hours for the last six months, but not now. You spoke to your manager two months back about this. What happened?”

Sanya wondered what had happened. She had been working in her current firm for the last one and a half year. After some random assignments, she was put on a team of two people working for a counterpart in Germany. The project was demanding and demeaning but she kept her hopes up. Her intention was to challenge the challenge involved in that assignment.

It was not until the end of the first trimester of her pregnancy, that she requested her manager to pull her off that team. Her drained body was not able to match the pace of the project. He promised her a replacement, but it had been four months and she was still juggling her work and health.

“What happened?” Shaan tapped Sanya out of the past.

“Nothing.” she blinked her eyes and looked at the clock. “I know. I need to talk. Let’s move.”

As Sanya stepped on the office curb that day she had a whole speech prepared in her head. She knew her boss, Rana, was a difficult man to talk to, but she had faith that she will be heard and hope that she will be understood.

Sanya was early to work and saw Rana working on his laptop.

“Hi Rana. Busy?” she grabbed the perfect opportunity to talk to him in his cubicle.

“Hi Sanya. No, tell me,” he said raising his head from his laptop.

“This is regarding my transfer to another project. As you are aware, my condition is not allowing me to work on these stringent deadlines. I had made a request regarding this four months back.” she said politely yet confidently.

The last sentence did not go well with him and he said rather sternly, “I am looking for someone. Also John tells me your deliverables are below quality and deadlines are often missed.”

Sanya was not the sharpest mind on that floor, but she sure was diligent and responsible. She had been a good worker and knew when to push blames, which came her way unnecessarily.

“If the counterpart in Germany is not happy with my work, I suggest you look for someone soon Rana. I am applying the same effort in my work, but somehow, it is not being received in the same way now.”

The woman had spoken her mind. She laid the cards, in black and white. No greys, no caveats. Be it a home or a workplace, a confident woman even in a right tone is considered wrong at times, so was she that day!

It had been a week since the last episode of words and still there was no sign for replacement. As Sanya worked on her new assignment that night a ding dong on her outlook caught her attention. It was an invite checking for availability of Sanya, Rana, and Deepa, an HR manager.

“Aah! They have finally found a resource. I can’t wait for tomorrow.” She said to herself as she gave a sigh of relief.

The wait was over, and before Sanya knew, the day arrived when it all began. She was the third person to enter the conference room and slowly grabbed her chair.

After the pleasantries, the drill began.

“Sanya you have been with us for quite sometime, and as I understand your work is going down the hill lately.” Deepa was quite a pro at her work and knew how to save time by not beating around the bush.

To make things simpler for flabbergasted Sanya, Deepa continued, “Rana here mentions that both John and himself are unhappy with your work and demands your attention. We are really worried about your appraisal this year.”

Sanya was amazed at the reward she was getting to work on a daunting project. She always knew Rana and she did not get off on the right foot, but this was despicable.

“Sanya, any comments?” checked Deepa.

A woman’s tears are often taken as a sign of weakness and Sanya did not want anyone to take pleasure in her pain. Her inside felt broken and weak but she managed to talk, “I am here to work. I work well. My work may not be perfect but my intention to work is.” Turning her head to Rana she continued, “Also, can he produce one email which states the corrective feedback he provided me on my work?”

Rana was furious as he said, “I did verbally.”

“Yes. Once. A week back, and that makes you question my work? All I wanted was to switch my team as this project is weighing me down. I never play the pregnancy card, because I don’t consider it a hindrance to my work, but I do expect people to be a little considerate.”

After a few allegations from both sides, with Deepa making notes, they all left the room. Sanya felt out of breathe, while Rana was red with temper. He was not used to his juniors cross-questioning his methods. Sanya was aware of many precedents who had quit because of Rana’s mannerism. He was one tough cookie, who got a little chipped today.

As she got off the meeting room, she knew two things – (1) Things wouldn’t be easy for her at work now. (2) Her manager had no intention to take her off that project.

“You are not the bread earner for this home. I am here to support us. Of course, there will be little financial crunch, but we will manage.” Shaan spoke after listening to the ordeal that Sanya had faced in the office that day.

“You know I don’t work for money.”

“I know what you work for – yourself. I completely understand and support your philosophy, but things are different now.” He said looking at her baby bump.

“I know I can quit, but won’t that be easy? He may be stronger in his position and can play dirty politics but he should know what a stubborn mind is capable of doing. I may not succeed but it will kill me to think I didn’t even try. If anything, I am not a quitter Shaan. That’s not what my child will learn from me.” Tears started to roll down her cheeks. She had held it tight the whole day but as the day relaxed, so did her eyes.

Shaan hugged her and said, “Fine. Go ahead and cry all you want today. Tomorrow is a new day.”

She gave a faint smile.

Shaan did what a man should do – he let the woman decide for herself. He trusted his wife’s decision. If he was the father, then she was the mother of the unborn. He knew she would take the best decision for the two lives tagging with her.

She did take the best decision the very next day. After doing the diligence at night, getting her facts straight, pointers prepared, data to back up her pointers sorted, she marched to the Vice President of the company’s cubicle once she reached her workplace.

After introducing herself, she narrated him the whole incident. The unnecessary ramifications, the mental pain inflicted on her, her hard work going unnoticed, her patience getting tested.

“I know Rana is in this company for last 15 years. He has good understanding and credentials, while I am new. What happened with me should be a lesson to others and they should not be caught off guard. I wanted to be heard. Silence would have made it worse, and I have not learnt to quit”, said Sanya in conclusion. Once a person loses the fear to lose, he gains.

“I’m sorry for what all happened. It shouldn’t have and I can’t take it back. What I can do is to look into the matter and get it sorted as soon as I can.” He spoke like true gentlemen and demonstrated the leadership quality he possessed to be in that position.

“Thank you!” Sanya felt relieved.

“Welcome. Also, I love the fact that you aren’t a quitter and a piece of advice – always make sure people hear you. Never delay the process.” He smiled as she got up to leave.

Sure enough in just two days Sanya was transferred to another team – a team she wanted to be a part of. The email came directly from the VP and she promised him good work to prove her mettle. In the coming month, she got two great reviews from her clients. This time she was destined to bloom, as she was planted right.

She rarely saw Rana at water coolers and cafeterias, and they acknowledged each other with a nod, after all they were professionals. Rana still looked at her as a defiant person, and she still took pride in what she was.

Sanya worked till the day her daughter was born and resigned post her maternity break to indulge in the most challenging, taxing and full time work – motherhood. She temporarily withdrew her fingers away from the laptop keys, so that she was more available for her baby’s growing needs. Sanya was happy with this decision – because it was hers!

Nobody will tell her what she can and can’t do. Nobody can ask her to pack up or quit. By making her a woman, God told her that there is nothing unattainable for her. Experiencing pregnancy opened her mind as to what her body can undergo, and experiencing chauvinism made her aware what her inner self can sustain and fight.

17862467_1470752053032846_4761782502965721611_n

THe Unwanted 10th: The Story Of An Innocent Heart

There are instances, which are so deep rooted in you, that every time your mind touches them, it aches. Especially if it occurred when you were a child, an innocent mind, which can easily have an amplifying aftermath.

So here’s my horror story.

My parents worked very hard to get me admitted to Kanpur’s best school then – St. Mary’s Convent. It was a convent, enough said. Back in 1989, it meant a lot. By the time, Sonam (my younger sister) was six and ready for primary school, another school – Seth AnandRam Jaipuria (Jaipuria) – had its flag held high. Even though sisters going to the same school is divine and a more viable option, my parents decided to go for the best instead.

My father was serving the Income Tax Department, and that entitled us to stay in the officer’s colony. The flats in the colony comprised Type I to Type V, type suggesting the number of rooms in the flats. As Papa held the position of an Income Tax Officer (ITO) back then, we were awarded with Type III. Type V flats were allotted to the families of Assistant Commissioners and Commissioner of the department. Every child residing in Type V went to Jaipuria. Of course, it was the best school for the best crowd.

Being the youngest amongst the children going to Jaipuria from the colony, Sonam was pampered and treated well by others.

Then came the day – autumn of 1994. The city was overwhelmed with the onset of Navratri. A senior lady officer of the Income Tax Department was hosting Kanya Puja at her house. As known to many, this day is celebrated on the eighth and ninth days of Navratri and required nine young girls, signifying the nine forms of Goddess Durga.

When the list of those girls was designed, citizens of Type V fell short of one girl to complete a pack of nine. And then someone, somewhere made a beautiful suggestion that ruined my day and many more days to come. They decided to invite Sonam – the 9th Durga.

When the invite was sent for the next day, the six year old made her decision – “Main Didi ke bina nahi jaungi”, Sonam said adamantly to our mother.

Beta samjho, sirf tumhe bulaya hai.”, explained our mother.

Nahi. Nahi. Nahi.”, she made her point.

The 10-year-old, Saumya, revolted, “Why should I go? I am not invited.”

But the cards were laid, thanks to her younger sibling. Next day with distraught minds and flat faces, we got dressed to attend the puja. My mother was a firm believer of dressing her girls with clothes of the same design. Both, Sonam and I wore green skirts with a print of grape wine. Mother asked us to behave properly and we abided.

Holding hands we crossed the park between Type III and V. As we reached the other side, we saw two cars already packed with the attendees – ‘the 8 kanyas’.

An aunty said looking at us “Jaldi beta, we are running late.

Namastey Aunty. Ye meri Didi hai”, said my sister.

Ofcourse, chalo dono jaldi baitho.” I guess either she understood that I was tagged with Sonam unwantedly, or she did not have time to understand at that hour.

We both squeezed in a car which had little space left. I took the window seat and kept looking outside the whole way. A part of me experienced malaise, due to the alien environment, and other part, felt alienated. I did not speak to anyone. In my defense, neither did the fabulous eight.

As we reached the senior official’s beautiful home, she received us with full hospitality. I still remember her beaming face and the white crisp cotton saree that adorned her. I was the last to walk in, after all, I was ‘the uninvited’ and nervousness was my birthmark.

Two strips of clothes were placed adjacent to each other, in a huge open room, for us to be seated. They asked ‘the nine squad’ to be seated on one side and ‘others’ aka ‘me’ on the other side. We sisters parted ways, to our dismay. While Sonam took a place with the prestigious kanyas, I with a heavy heart took the other side. Was it not enough that I felt like an outsider that they made it more obvious?

After applying kumkum on the nine foreheads, we were all made to eat the usual prasad – puri, chane ki sabji and sooji ka halwa. I must say they were generous to provide me food, though I barely ate. I mean by this time I felt what was the point of being there? My burning insecurities were given air. I was not seated with them, I did not have a tika on my forehead and the worst was that I was sitting right opposite them to see it all. Sonam kept looking at me with helpless eyes, she knew what her elder sister was facing.

I just wanted us to leave soon. But the worst was still to come. Once the food was done, the dakshina arrived. It was the usual; we received – money (Rs. 20 note), a handkerchief, a banana, and something out of the box – a small talcum powder bottle. While they did give me the first three, they could not give me the powder bottle, due to unavailability.

That dakshina was the final nail in my heart. When every child returned with scented powder bottles, I parted with nothing to sniff. I was no Durga, not even a kanya – I was ‘the unwanted 10th.’

What an 10-year-old did not understand at that hour was that the puja required just nine girls. I accompanied my little sister; that was my job there. They respected me by making me sit and did what they could do, by offering me food and the dakshina. What they did not, and could not do, was to include me in the puja or offer me a small scented bottle.

That small bottle made me feel unwanted, and in a way, lower than the rest. They were pretty and tiny and – not mine. While every girl kept talking about it in the car back home, I kept looking outside, fighting my tears from flowing down my cheeks.

After the pleasantries, Sonam and I parted ways and started walking in the park to reach home. My feeling culminated and I couldn’t take it in anymore. I kept looking down staring at the grapes printed on my skirt. Reflex tears converted into emotional ones and my eyes began to drizzle. The newly gifted handkerchief lost its crispness, with the dampness of salty water. Sonam did understand what was going on but did not utter a word. She feared being responsible for it someway.

We were just about to reach home, when the drizzle transformed into downpour. My heavy heart needed the comfort of home, to lighten itself. How can something as trivial as a powder bottle make me that unhappy, you ask? Well, as said before I was 10 and a pure, simple heart gets broken very easily.

My parents were alarmed and after five minutes of squeezing, I became audible and narrated the whole ordeal. Sonam sat at the corner of the room dabbing her big eyes saying “Maine kuch nahi kiya.” That’s how a sibling relationship works.

After listening to my blabber, my mother started to cry. A mother’s heart bleeds for her child. As my father got up to leave the room, my mother asked what she could cook for me? Mothers. I leave it at that. I did not say a word and went to lay in my bed. Sonam brought her powder and placed it next to me. Maybe Mummy directed her to do so or she was smart enough to act. After all, she was going to Jaipuria (sarcasm intended). I looked the other way.

After 20 minutes had passed, Mummy said, “Saumya dekho kya hai?”

With puffy eyes, I looked up and saw a similar powder bottle. Sonam had the ‘floral garden’, but this was better – ‘rose ecstasy’.

It so happened that no sooner did I finish my narration of the incident, that my father left on his scooter for Arya Nagar (nearby market). He bought me the product that seemed petty, but had a huge significance to him since his tiny girl’s heart had broken because of it. That’s the thing about Papa. He barely talks, but his acts do the talking.

I cried again after seeing it, for a completely different reason now. Papa left the room, this time to evade human emotions, while Mummy cried with me. Sonam smiled. She was set free from the blame radar.

An hour later, as I sat admiring my tiny powder power, Sonam came with hers and sat next to me. I looked at both and said, “Mine is better.”

“Yes it is.” said little Sonam.

We never used those bottles. They were in my drawer till I left for Delhi to pursue higher education.

I still remember its smell, and it still brings me to the spot I was in, 23 years back.

Who was to be blamed for it? That invite? Sonam, who dragged me along to accompany her? My mother, who sent me without my consent? Commissioner Aunty, who did not keep enough stock for the extra’s’? Saumya, for taking things way too seriously?

Well, no one. That is the thing. At times, no one does anything wrong, and yet somewhere, some innocent heart is hurt.

P.S. I cried writing this. Why now? While I’m old enough to understand the whole scenario, I cry for that 10-year-old Saumya. I can still feel what she felt then. I cry thinking of my family, and how we dealt with the situation. I cry, because I am human, and tears express you the best at times.

311171_106379719470093_351374769_n

 

60 Seconds: I Lost Myself To Find Her

Shahzeel, Mysha kaha hai?” I yelled as she got out of sight. Our world crashed.

In the last week of January this year, Mysha, and her parents, took a trip to Thailand. It was a long pending trip, and the traveler in me was ecstatic about it. We had planned it for almost a month, and when that week arrived, we embraced it with full gusto. After doing Bangkok for two days, we flew to Phuket and indulged in all the sports and recreational activities for the next five days.

It was our last day in Phuket and we planned to take it slow. We had already given away our energy (in scuba diving, swimming and shopping), complexion (sun bath and sea water) and blood (multiple bruises) to the island and wanted to lay low that evening. We planned to take a stroll at the market near by, have dinner and retire to the hotel room early. We needed to take a good sleep, as the next day demanded extensive traveling, with a child– Phuket-Bangkok-Hyderabad.

It was Shahzeel, Mysha and myself, with her stroller, on the walkways of Phuket. Just a few moments in her stroller, she said – “Papa, walking.”

She was very keen to be on foot during the entire trip, to enjoy the brisk air while running and walking. She made sure to say ‘hi’ to passersby whist they tapped her head or patted her check saying “Oh! She is so cute.” Mysha never forgot to blink her big eyes as if to say, “Thank you for the compliment, and yes I know I am cute!”

Her father took her out of her stroller and she started to walk beside it. As the plan was to relax that evening, we thought of getting a foot massage. After all, Phuket is bursting with massage parlors. After walking past massage parlors every five minutes, we stopped to enquire at one. Shahzeel got involved in talking to the lady behind the wooden podium, located outside the store. I stood five steps behind him with Mysha and her stroller.

It happened right at that time. Shahzeel was on my left and Mysha was on my right, just beside the stroller. I lifted my eyes to the rate card pasted on the glass of the salon wall. In five seconds I read the rate stated adjacent to the foot massage and then I turned to check on Mysha. She was gone!

A few seconds back she was standing on the spot and now I could not see her. Without missing a moment, I turned to my left and yelled “Shahzeel, Mysha kaha hai?

I was sure she would have walked towards him, but she was not there. I looked forward, to my right, then to my left; my eyes desperate to catch her glimpse. With her absence to my eyes, and her smell to my nose, my lungs started feeling the lack of oxygen.

Both of us started looking for her frantically. The woman at the massage parlor was alarmed as well. At one moment I was on the pavement looking for her and the other second I stepped on the fast moving road, just to see my baby. I did not realize where I was till a man tapped on my shoulder. I turned to him frantic to hear her whereabouts, only for him to ask me to move to the pavement.

There was an alley running right next to the main road and I ran to give it a quick glimpse, all in vain.

“Someone has kidnapped her, but that quick? In the blink of an eye. They said Thailand is the country of human trafficking. No, No, No!! That can’t be it.”, cried my head.

To my disbelief I didn’t cry. My senses did not produce tears; because they were busy making me act. They made me do what ordinarily I cannot, like standing on a fast paced road. At one point the movie ‘Taken’ came to my mind and I did not know where to look for my missing daughter. I did not even remember to pray to the Almighty, as all I was doing was looking for her in all-possible directions.

Darkness was about to take me over and pull me down, that I saw the light in the form of pink polka-dot pyjamas and a pink top walking 100 meters away from us. I ran to my belonging like moth to a flame. She had her back towards me and was asking an English man – “Papa?? Papa??”.

She must have walked in the opposite direction, and before she knew she had lost her way to her secured surroundings. That man saw me running towards her and knew whom that little girl belonged to. That reverie moment when I saw her got me goose bumps. I placed my hand on her, grabbed her, hugged her and started to walk without a word. My girl also hugged me tight, laid on my right shoulder, something she has been doing since she was a newborn. She too did not say a word. I felt her heartbeat and she felt mine. They had the same tune – voice of comfort, voice of belonging, voice of reunion, and most importantly, voice of thankfulness. It was as if she was in me again, when we were different people but shared a body. If only she was still in me, I would have not had a chance of losing her.

This all happened in a span of 60 seconds. That’s right, what seemed like the worst nightmare, and a never-ending pain, was just a matter of 60 seconds. That’s all it takes to turn your life upside down. A zillion thoughts crossed my mind in those seconds, and what I felt is beyond vocabulary.

Even though I did not speak a word, I paid my respect where needed. I may have forgotten to ask for HIS help in those 60 seconds, but I made sure to thank HIM as I found her. It’s always a boon if you ask, but then there are times when HE listens without being asked.

I remember walking for five minutes, in a mute format, when Shahzeel called out my name – “Summy, ruko. Let’s walk together.”

Finally Mysha picked up her head and smiled looking at her father. Her parents looked at each other and they said without moving their lips – What would we have done without this smile? Like all parents, we are living for her now. Saumya and Shahzeel have dissolved themselves to become Mysha’s parents. That’s our identity, our truth, and our triumph now!

Sitting in a cab, leaving for the airport the very next day, I kept tossing Mysha’s hair who slept peacefully on my lap.

I looked at Shahzeel and said, “Has she not been found, I would have never left this country.” “We would have never left this country.” said a very protective father.

We were lucky we found her. My heart goes out to the parents who have lost their children and are still looking for them. Having a child changes your life. Taking care of them and keeping them safe, changes your perception of life.

16299549_1327533014021418_1654047999781028191_n