My Special Needs Baby – My Inspiration

If you have been following my blog or know me personally, then you will know that my littlest baby Anvay has special needs. What this means is that his pace of growth is much slower than the typical child and we also don’t know yet how independent will he become. Needless to say, any parent would be devastated to hear that their child has special needs. So was I. One year ago, we found out about his condition, and since then I have come a long way. I wrote about my grief earlier this year. You read it and you sent your support. And I realized that lessened my pain. It helped me deal with my feelings. It helped me accept and acceptance helped me focus on the future. The future of my baby. So thank you for your support and your wishes.

Today, about a year after the diagnosis, I am glad that I am a better person, a stronger person and a somewhat happier person. And in that mental transformation, my baby has been my inspiration. He has helped me face one of my worst fears and has shown me that faith and hope are an essential ingredient to leading one’s life. I have also learnt from his sheer grit, his patience and his ability to smile in pain. Today I want to share some of what I have learnt with you.

Aside from losing a loved one, the greatest fear I had was having a baby with special needs. I thought I would never be able to handle it either emotionally or physically. I felt I was not strong enough. But I have realized now that the strength to handle anything is within us. When faced with a situation, we need to look deep within us, and we will find that we are already armed. I learnt that when you face your biggest fear and look it in the eye – it diminishes and gives way.

Once I accepted Anvay’s condition, I found hope and faith to be my best allies. In his condition, there is no cure but through regular therapy many babies start functioning normally as they grow up. But no doctor or therapist could tell us what to expect as Anvay grows up. Will he be able to walk? Maybe. Will he be intellectually disabled? We don’t know yet. What about his eyesight? Might improve. When there are no clear answers, Faith is the only thing that makes you go on. The faith that my baby will also progress and become independent and perhaps read this blog one day. And Hope is faith’s best friend in this journey.

One of the conditions that Anvay has due to his brain injury is spasticity. It basically means that his muscles tend to pull back inwards and his limbs remain tight. Diapering him is not always easy because his legs don’t open up properly. For many months after he was born, his fists were often clenched. This is due to his spasticity. And spasticity can be painful. If you try moving around with clenched arms and legs you would know what I mean. He used to cry a lot during his early days and we realized after his diagnosis that a large part of this must be due to the spasticity. Through therapy he has improved now, but it still hurts him and he cries. And each time I hold him, console him, he smiles. He smiles despite his pain and tries to stop crying. He is just 20 months old and he teaches me to smile through my pain and move on. By the way he has a sunshine smile and any advertisers out there should seriously consider him for their shoots! (P.S. it will also help you spread awareness about special needs children)

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And with that smile come his grit and his patience. The part of his brain that was injured transmits the messages from the body to the brain. The reason he is not able to sit up is because his brain is unable to tell his body to get up. But he tries. And he keeps trying. These days he is trying to lift himself up on his fours. He pushes himself single mindedly till he is tired. He fails and he fails again and then he pushes himself once more. And he screams with the effort. Think of a weightlifter lifting a heavy load and his grunts from effort and pain. I feel ashamed at how easily I sometimes give up after a dose of failure.

But the more difficult something is, greater is the happiness in its achievement. Every bit of the progress Anvay makes, brings us ten times the happiness. It reminds us of the effort that went in. It also reminds me to not take anything for granted. I cannot take for granted the fact that I can think and walk and talk. But for a few seconds of lack of oxygen, Anvay would have been like us. Those few seconds of oxygen, is what we should all perhaps be grateful for.

I mentioned above that the communication pathways in Anvay’s brain have been damaged. So how is he overcoming that problem? When I understood how, I found two important lessons – both philosophical and scientific. Through therapy and his own efforts, Anvay’s brain is trying to rewire itself. In science this is known as neuroplasticitythe ability of the brain to change throughout its life by forming new connections. This has a lot of significance for all of us. It means that even as the brain ages, we can continue to learn and the more we use these connections, the sharper our brains become.

At a different level – what this means is that – when one route closes, we need to find another way. It will be tough, it will be challenging, but we should be sure that another way exists. If it doesn’t we can forge our own path. When a door closes on us, we know there will be many others to choose from – if only we stay focused and look hard.

Finally and perhaps the most important lesson I have learnt is that we all live at our own pace. I will be honest and say that it pains me to see the increasing gap between Abeer’s and Anvay’s abilities. But I am learning to ignore that gap. I am learning to compare Anvay’s progress only against himself. I believe he will make his own way, with whatever he gets or does not in life. His life will have meaning and we will find it. I will consciously avoid comparing him with how a typical kid would grow. I also try to stop feeling cheated about the deal Anvay got. This is what we have and this is what we will live. In the best way possible. And ultimately, all we need to be is happy. That is the one single goal we need to strive for – whatever our pace.BLOG- MY ESP NEEDS BABY- 2450x800

Lastly, for those who would like to know – Anvay has been improving – slowly but steadily. He is able to roll over – he sits up without support for a few minutes, he is focusing better, he is able to creep a little and also pull himself up with some support. So please add him in your prayers and send us your love – from wherever you are. And I will keep updating with our progress.

… of Friends and Friendships, the Bonds of a Lifetime…

As Arnav and I browsed through the various friendship bands for his friends, I was taken back in time, when I did the same with much excitement. I remembered how the larger part of our day was spent with friends. A luxury we lose as we grow up. With a hectic work life and weekends devoted to household chores, unfortunately friends and friendship seem to have taken a backseat.

But this friendship day seems to have come to me with a message. This morning I was pleasantly surprised to receive a friendship day message from a friend who managed to dig out a picture and a card I gave him years ago! Yesterday we spent a nice evening with some close friends catching up on our lives, sharing our stresses and just relaxing. We must have met after many months – this, despite the fact that we perhaps live within 10 kilometers of each other – which is considered close in a city like Delhi.

From being someone who loved to make friends, as many as possible (I was never able to decide who not to invite for my birthdays!), chatted long hours on the phone, had day spends and night outs with them, I am now a person whose interactions with the outside world are mainly dependent on Whatsapp and Facebook. Real conversations with friends are far and few between. And I am not alone in this. I know most of us are stuck between the home and the office. And those of us who are not – are lucky. Or maybe that’s being unfair to them. They are not lucky – they have made the conscious choice to make time for their friends and reach out.

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But friendship is evergreen. No matter how much the distance or years between buddies, friendship always blossoms when friends meet. Our hearts do not know how old our bodies may have become, they instantly connect as the little children or teenagers we were when we met. A few months ago I met one of my school friends at her apartment and it was as if we had never been apart. The laughter flew as easily as it did in our classroom and after catching up we relished some of our school memories together. She and I spent a good part of our classroom time exploding into laughter or just doodling messages to each other. We did just that (except the doodling) when we met.

Or the time I met a college friend recently when I visited her city, nothing seemed to have changed since we last met. Or whenever I meet my best friend from school, our conversation always goes back to how we used to tease my husband (also a school friend!) and how the three of us had spent so much fun time together.

Like wine, friendship becomes better with age. I see that when I see my mum and her best friend together. They have been with each other through all stages of life and while their conversations have changed – from boys to husbands to children and grandchildren, their friendship has not. Recently mum was in Bombay for a month and she and her friend met almost everyday – except the last few days. It tickled my sister and I no end, when they both lamented about the days they couldn’t meet and how their conversations were still unfinished!

Last year when we went to the U.S. my mum met her school friend after more than 40 years! She brought along with her pictures of them together and those few hours were really precious. They had lost contact years ago and I remember that for years my mother had tried to trace her without luck. And apparently she had been trying to do the same. Social media finally came to the rescue when she managed to find her through Facebook!

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Talking about social media, I think it has played a very important role in bringing lost friends together. When I first joined Orkut (That’s what it was right?!), my biggest excitement was finding long lost friends from school and college! When my parents moved to Delhi, my dad was delighted to have traced many of his school and college friends through Facebook and they maintained contact through their Whatsapp groups, planning meet ups and excursions. Thanks to that we were able to gather a good number of his friends from school and college for his 70th birthday.

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But friendship is not limited to friends. It is a bond that transcends all relationships. Our family shared a strong bond of friendship – our parents were our confidantes, our friends. They were the first people, my sister and I went to in times of need. There were no secrets between us. They were always there to guide and never to judge. My sister and I were very close – she was the one I opened up to – no one else was privy to my deepest thoughts.

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And then there are cousins – they are the friends with all the insider info! The special bond that comes from sharing the genes and being scolded by two mothers at the same time cannot be compared with any other! I absolutely adored my cousins and desperately waited for holidays so I could go meet them. My classmates got tired of hearing about them as holidays came near! And as I was falling in love, it was my cousin who was privy to my innermost feelings and who got to hear all about the last time I met HIM!

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Many of you may know, that I married a school friend and I think we share a strong bond and mutual respect because of the years of friendship that preceded the romance. My sister also married a close friend of mine – and now the four of us share a bond that preceded our marriages. There will not be too many brothers-in-law who share such a strong relationship as these two do.

I feel very lucky to have found strong friendships at all stages of my life. And now as I grow older, I want to make sure they all continue to be with me. I know I have been busy and have not managed to keep up with all of them, but I promise to try more. And maybe so should you 🙂

Happy Friendship Day to you and call me when you can!!

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‘Maid’ for Each Other – My Elusive Search for the ‘Dream Girl’

You know I remember a time in the not so distant past when I was carefree. Those were the days, when my first thought after waking up was NOT whether the maid will come. I would wake up with happy thoughts of the lovely day ahead. AAh, the beauty and innocence of those days.

We were a Double Income No Kids (DINKS) couple then. A cook and a cleaner were more than enough and who cared if they didn’t turn up! A good opportunity to eat out and the house could wait another day before getting mopped! All that changed with our first baby. The first few months of the maternity leave were heavenly, and the two of us were enough for the baby’s needs. But we did realise that we will ultimately need some help. A year later, my parents moved in with us, and our needs increased. However, with a regular turnover of part time help and a crèche for my son, we managed. And then all hell broke loose, when I produced two more babies!! My battered body, older parents, hapless husband were no match for two demanding babies!! All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were not enough! (mind you, it is not simple maths with twins – the effort is not doubled it is probably quadrupled, or quintupled or maybe hundred-tupled – whatever).

What we needed was some good, solid household help. But in a country of more than a billion people, it seems like an elusive search. The twins are 19 months now and we have still not found our dream girl(s)! But so what – we might not have found HER, but what we do have is some priceless experience from the last few years.

We have of course learnt a lot about hiring part time maids – we figured it is better to hire two cooks – one for morning and one for evening (chances of both maids taking an off the same day are lesser and so at least one meal is ensured), split the other household work also in the same logic, hoping at least someone would turn up. If you have fixed with them to come at 11 a.m., try not to panic if they haven’t turned up by 1, because you see, time management is clearly not an appreciated value here. But of course be prepared, that 6 to 8 days a month, they actually might not turn up. And even if you do have 6 by 6 vision, it is best to turn a blind eye to that dirty spot behind the door or under the refrigerator door. Better to wait for the weekends and get it done in front of your eyes – though be prepared, that they may also decide to have the weekend off.

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There was a time when agencies were cheap and honest (well at least some of them). Our first experience with an agency about ten years ago, led us to believe that this is a workable model. We realized our folly when one of the helps we hired left us on the pretext of a wedding exactly halfway through his contract (I realized later that this was one of the common scams); while another one literally ran away, because apparently she felt too hot in our house (we had only 1 A.C in our bedroom at that time – I assume it would have been a bit odd to invite her to sleep in our bedroom). After those fiascos, we decided to hire locally.

Once we hired this well dressed, bespectacled, seemingly respectable lady. We were fairly happy with her work (and thanking our stars) till we discovered Mr. Hyde behind Dr. Jekyll. We found out she had money disputes with her family and were horrified to hear her screaming matches on phone. Even our neighbours started to wonder what was wrong with us! We still managed for a year, till we discovered that she had falsely accused her husband of her own murder! We decided it was just safer to have a break up with her!

Oh and then there was this Mr. Perfect! A very highly efficient guy, who came home at dot 6 a.m. and did everything perfectly. We thought God is so kind till we discovered that he loved to take weekends off (which is when instead of resting, I ended up doing household chores). The last straw was when he cut his finger a bit and refused to turn up for about two weeks.

We also tried the straight from the village types, thinking they may be easier to mould and train (also cheaper) – but gave up quite quickly after realizing that training them was no piece of cake. Right from teaching them how to stand straight (and not lean on every wall), how not to clean dirty hands on the nearest curtain, how to sit on the western toilet, how to close the refrigerator properly and of course how to do the tasks they were hired for, we realized it is probably less stressful to do the work ourselves.

More recently we hired a Bengali lady (barely knows hindi as well as most of the housework) who also eats niramish (strictly vegetarian and no onion garlic) and that also became pretty nightmarish. Between having to explain multiple times to her what we wanted to get done, her slow speed and the three times separate cooking, we realized nothing was getting done. My mother was ending up looking after both the babies! We realized soon enough that this relationship was also not going to last.

And finally, I recently thought, I had found the ONE! A young girl, very pleasant, very nice with the babies, fairly efficient – what more could I ask for! This one was definitely a keeper! But god had something else in mind. My dream run lasted till I discovered that she had been robbing me behind my back! (chhann se jo toota koi sapna….)

And we are back to square one. But believe me when I say I am not promiscuous. I just haven’t found my dream girl. And I am not the only one. When a colleague told me that she went through some 20 to 30 maids in the last one year – I realized I am not alone. And I got strength. And I got hope. And I decided to restart my search with vigour.

And while you get some strength and inspiration from my words let me just go and clean my drawing room. You see another prospective “match” is coming to see (meet) me – please wish me luck that this time I get my dream.

Do like and share this post and tell me your stories too!

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Puddles and Rainbows, Reliving a Childhood

Looks like the monsoons have finally reached Delhi and we have some respite from this heat. Unfortunately though, monsoons seem to have become a double edged sword nowadays. Along with the rains and the cool breeze, come traffic jams, water logged roads, clogged drains, dengue and malaria.

It’s a pity though. We seem to have forgotten the enjoyment and romance of the rains. Sitting in our AC offices or cars, living in flats with only small balconies to substitute for a terrace or garden, we don’t remember how it was to feel the rain on our faces, the happiness in our being and the fragrance in our mind. Ooh I just love the sondhi mitti ki khushboo! (FACT ALERT: did you know by the way that the fragrance is caused by the bacteria residing under the soil)

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As I idle with my cup of steaming chai with some hot pakori, my mind drifts to the days when rains were awaited with eagerness. I remember a particular day , a Sunday I think, when the family was similarly enjoying chai pakoda in our verandah, and the rains and breeze washed over us. I can still remember the coolness of the breeze, the slight chill from the damp clothes, and the warmth of the family sitting around. I think I had a cold so was not allowed to go dance in the rain and had to satisfy myself with dipping my feet a little in the running water!

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Another Sunday, lovely weather after morning rains, an impromptu picnic is planned. Papa, mummy, Aditi and I. We pack some quick food in a basket, pick some sheets and off we go! After a pleasant lunch in some park, we gaze at the clean and recently washed sky, hoping for a rainbow to break out. It doesn’t. We come back home, get on the terrace and a beautiful rainbow stretched across the Aravalis smiles at us! And then we notice a lighter one, just behind it!

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Yet another memory comes unannounced. I am four, maybe five, in Delhi and my cousin and I decide to race on the road, still wet after a sudden bout of rain. Perhaps we were impatient after being coddled inside home for long. We both run, I am trailing my cousin, and crash!, I fall. Crash again, and he falls as well!! Both of us return home, with scraped knees, a little limp and a smile on our faces. But I am jealous when I see his mother put some red paint on the bruised knee, while my mother proceeds to put some boring white antiseptic on me!

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Paper boats! Oh how can one not think of them while talking about rains. I think it dredges a special kind of nostalgia in all of us. After all, Paper Boat, a big brand now, has developed their entire marketing strategy around the nostalgia of our childhood! Renu, a friend from school, beautifully describes those days as young, dreamy and naive. She fondly remembers racing boats with her brothers and imagining the adventures her boat would have once it disappeared down the manhole! Little did she know that manholes in Jaipur never reach the sea. 🙂

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I am reminded of days when it rained during school hours. Getting wet, squelchy shoes and socks – both disgusting and exciting at the same time, sitting barefoot in class, examining swollen and wrinkled feet and fingers (still don’t what is so attractive about those), wet bag and hopefully dry books inside, my pink raincoat (not very effective in heavy rains) and red gumboots (I simply loved them!).

There is something about the cool breeze, the damp skin and young hearts, that makes monsoons the most romantic of seasons! I remember in the first year of our dating, Kapil and I were sitting on the porch of his college and it suddenly started to pour. Before I could react, he ran out in the rain like a little boy, feeling the rain on his face, getting drenched. I fell in love with him all over again. (Though in those days, anything could make me fall in love with him again and again!)

A more recent memory, perhaps when we were still innocent and carefree. They were Arnav’s first monsoons. The three of us spent a lazy day at Dilli Haat, which ended with a sudden shower. Totally unprepared we ran for cover, but by then Arnav was all wet. But that didn’t deter us from enjoying the day! (It is another matter that Arnav got his first high fever the next day!!).

But it’s been a while since I enjoyed the rains, really enjoyed them I mean. A cousin after reading my last blog told me to chill. And I think it is a good time to take her advice. Listing some of the fun things I could plan to do these monsoons. And so could you.

  • get drenched, (like isn’t it the first obvious thing to do?) and dance (ahem, that I definitely can’t do – you can try if you want)
  • play in the mud, make some mud pies and don’t forget to get dirty (hmm, I think I am going to like that…. need to find a park though!)
  • don’t forget the boat! make lots of boats, decorate them, make some rafts out of ice cream sticks…
  • go for a nature walk. bring out the gumboots (well I will have to buy some – the red ones won’t fit anymore) and go for a walk. bring back some earthworms and toads 😀
  • And carry the camera (or the phone)! everything looks lovely after a rainshower and one might be rewarded by a beautiful rainbow!
  • Jump in the puddles! you know I was such a goodie goodie – I have NEVER done that! Ya really. SO I must, I must, I must do this.
  • Find a nice monument or a beach or some cafe and just sit… and talk…and listen to the rain
  • Enjoy a wet kiss in the rain (mmmmm… sounds nice!!! DAMN, need to convince the stuffy husband for that)
  • if not that, at least convince him for a walk hand in hand!! (Ya I know, I wrote a long blog about our romance – but you must realise it has been 13 years since we got married AND more importantly I have a boring husband!)
  • end the day with some hot hot tea and piping hot pakoras!!

And when you think about chai pakora – think of getting this awesome tea set designed by Kapil (Sorry, I know I am shamelessly promoting him – but isn’t that what a good wife should do?)

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Have a great monsoon and do tell me what you are planning to do!