21 down, 21 to go

That’s days and years. 21 days done. At least 21 years to go.

21 days to form a habit they say. I guess that makes Zane my new habit.

I’m talking about my newborn son and how much time we have left in our Provider-Consumer relationship.

Many wise parents scoff at 21 and say it’s more like 21 times ‘n’.

For now, I have new-found respect for cows. How do the poor things stand being constantly milked? My bub makes sure I know how this feels. While I enjoy being food and comfort giver, I also sometimes crave to not have a 3 kilo attachment at my chest, with the suction prowess of dental tools.

Does that make me a bad mum? Definitely not. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t asked myself that question. A million times over.

“I make you feel like a cow, you say?!”

This morning at 4 am when I took a carefully timed pee-break, hoping my son didn’t wake up and start screaming bloody murder, I looked in the mirror and did a double take.

The sleepy face with scraggly hair and smudged mascara-like dark circles was me! I looked so ridiculous, I had to laugh. And laugh I did. Loudly! The experts weren’t lying when they said medicate with laughter. Almost immediately my sleep-deprived body perked up and I started appreciating the lighter side of being a new mum.

Did you know one in four women get depressed after delivery? It’s not difficult to see why. Added to being almost solely responsible for keeping a tiny babe alive, (often with zero prior training); comes the fact of having him/her attached to you at the (far from proverbial) hip, breast, tummy, heart and soul.

Heart and soul are both beautiful and devastating. Hearing your baby cry is sufficient to tear that heart into pieces. Seeing him giggle and smile makes you soar to the high heavens. The joy is indescribable!

Not to mention leaky boobs. The mums that breastfed know precisely what I mean. When one is active, the other is anything but passive. Get upset and your eyes are not the only ones producing fluid. Lie on your belly or try to and you’ll see who’s in the way!

My favourite is tummy to tummy with my son. The warmth and proximity are simply heartening. There’s just something magical, mystical even, about connecting like this with my baby. Maybe it’s gut instinct?

This minute fellow is so precious to me. I love my new toy, er.. boy. Hubby gets instantly nervous when I say toy. He starts checking for signs of depression or any other feature that doesn’t fit my super-mum avatar. I’m not sure he believes me when I say I’m kidding!

All jokes aside, I am in a good place now, after a tough start. I am content with being a less than perfect mum, with not brushing my hair because that’s a time consuming luxury I’d rather spend sleeping and with crushing every inevitable challenge through the miracle I hold in my arms.

21 years sounds like a nice, long time to provide for my son. Hell, it sometimes sounds scary!! (I left home at 18 but was parent-dependent for way longer; as was my hubby. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…)

Perhaps the 21 years will be longer or perhaps shorter. Either way, I intend giving every moment my best-even if my best is sometimes 40%.

My mantra for the t(c)rying times is- “This too shall pass!” My mantra for the happy times is- “Enjoy it while it lasts!”

As my bub grows, daddy and I will graduate to chauffeurs, bed and breakfast organizers, chaperons, sensor-board and ethical committee. This goes without saying.

What I truly hope though, is that we also work our way into our son’s heart as his confidante, friend (someday later, not when he’s 8!) and inspiration.

Here’s to our 21, son!

Cheers!

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Son, today is Women’s Day

Dear Son,

You’re only 20 days old today; so you’ll understand this a few years later; but no one can fault me for starting early.

We humans have a funny way of showing how we care. Sometimes we set aside days to honour people-mother’s, father’s days; sometimes we wait for occasions to express love- birthdays, anniversaries, valentines and tragically, funerals.

Today is a day set aside for women. All over the world, there are cards and roses and chocolates doing the rounds. However, at the same time there are women being ill-treated, shamed, raped and killed.

“But what can I do about it mum?” I see you asking me soon. So here’s a list I have ready for you.

Whether the woman you are dealing with is me, your mother, a friend, a colleague, a new love or a total stranger; first and foremost, respect her.
That also means respecting what she says. Even a no. She has her reasons and she doesn’t always owe you an explanation.

In most instances you will be physically stronger than her (unless in those special circumstances when she is better fit and decides to beat your ass 😉 ). Use your strength to make her life easier. If need arises, protect her.

In a world with ever decreasing charm, be chivalrous. Hold open a door for her, cook her breakfast and bring her flowers. PS- this is something your grandfather unfailingly did for his wife and daughter every 8th of March, every birthday and every anniversary.

Most of all, love her for who she is. Not who the world says she should be. Not for who you think she should be. She is a woman and has dreams, crazy emotions and a tremendous spirit. You won’t always understand her. In fact, she will often drive you nuts. Love her nonetheless.
Cherish her and know you are privileged if she chooses to share her heart with you.

Go out into the world and celebrate her son!

Then finally, we can have women’s day everyday and not just today!

Let the merry threes begin

Done with the terrible twos and now to the next. No, this isn’t about a toddler. Not yet anyway.

Today, I celebrate two whole, adventure-filled years of moving to a new country -Hamburg, Germany. Perhaps this is what happens on the other side of 30, but I find myself increasingly taking stock of my life on days like today. It helps put my ever erratic thoughts in perspective.

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Hamburg’s beautiful Alster

To sum up the last 8 seasons of “Indian Hamburg-er”, here’s a recap:

  • Love-
    • my inconvenient marriage gets better everyday 😉
    • I’ve made and lost friends and grown at every step
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    An Indian and an American discovering Germany
    • my relationship with food has reached a dizzying new level; (my pants are not yet complaining though)
    • Yoga and West Coast Swing make up my favourite shake-a-leg moments of the day
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West Coast Swing-ing
  • Life-
    • my dearest father took his last breath in my arms. It still hurts like mad, but I’m coping.
    • I’m six months done with waiting. Three to go before my son is here.
    • I speak German fluently now and even lectured a whole day last week in my field of expertise- Homoeopathy. At the end of the day, I couldn’t talk in English anymore! My German husband found it hilarious.
    • Working with Homoeopaths Without Borders is both fulfilling and challenging
  • Travel-
    • I wrote a booklet on traveling tips in Hamburg.book cover
    • New year in Mirissa, Sri Lanka; with my parents
    • A weekend of camping and kayaking in the east German country side, with my in-laws.
    • Travelling home to Goa, India is always a pleasure. I added Bangalore on one of my three trips home.
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I would move to Italy just for the food
  • Travel contd..
    • Romancing Rome in fantastic Italy.
    • Kite-surfing in the Netherlands.
    • Backpacking through China– a crazy experience of culture, gastronomy, terrain and people.
    • Exploring Brussels, Belgium over a long weekend.
    • Discovering the many by-lanes and tantalizing surprises Hamburg hides at various corners.
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Breath-taking Mirissa, Sri Lanka

I love my life with all its trials and tribulations. Although I would never trade my pani-puri and chai for a bratwurst and beer (well, for a Glühwein maybe); I love what living abroad has done for me.

  • it’s broadened my horizons like nothing else before.
  • I have learnt to accept that I’m different and to celebrate it. No more trying to fit in. That’s plain boring.
  • the cold is my bitter-sweet enemy-friend and I have new respect for the sun.
  • there’s always a way, you just have to find it. Of course it helps to have a friendly face or at least a chocolate croissant accompany you.

Will I live in Hamburg for the rest of my life? Maybe. Maybe not. It will however, always be the place that taught me life is so much more than everyday worries. There’s magic everywhere. Follow your nose and you’ll find it!

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Glühwein at a Christmas Market

Oh no, I just let out a mighty sneeze and from two years of experience, I know exactly what’s coming- a giant change of season cold. Well I’m off to follow my nose and celebrate in the comfort of my warm bed.

Tschüss! (sounds like a sneeze I know, but it actually means bye in German)

This is how it’s done

Hamburg makes you fall helplessly in love with her. Over and over again.

This rainbow today broke the gloomy spell of dreary weather we had all weekend. Just when it seemed I was at my wit’s (and tit’s) end at the icy chill, Hamburg decided to smile down some colour.

Additionally for me, it was as if the city took a moment out of her busy schedule to wish me a Happy Illegal* Second Wedding Anniversary. Gosh, I feel blessed! ❤

*We got legally married in Germany and then illegally (in church) in India. 😉

Being spontaneous. Yes/no?

Having moved from an Indian social set-up to a German one, spontaneous meet-ups are something I sorely miss. Back home, I could easily waltz into a friend’s house and check if they wanted to grab a drink or go to the beach. If they weren’t available, the parents or room-mates usually were, or worst case, I had a nice scooter ride back and forth.

Often in Hamburg, to meet a friend, we need to plan weeks ahead and pick a specific date, time and place. Some of my friends have their calendars full for the rest of the year! Even when it’s only June. No swinging by on a Vespa to say hi.

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Today in chilly Hamburg, I felt this primal urge to connect with good food and company and to do so spontaneously. Considering the relatively small social circle I have here, I took to a few expat platforms on social media and announced my desire. I posted just a few hours in advance. Being a Tuesday, I was thoroughly skeptical and fully expected to be enjoying my cupcake and coffee in the company of my very dear self.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love being organized and planning ahead. And Germany has honed those skills in me to a remarkable degree. But I also love the unexpected, the spontaneous and even the chaotic. There is a certain magic in doing things on the spur of the moment or just because.

As much as I try not to view the world through stereotyped lenses, I am human. So while I expected the expats to take my bait to meet, I certainly thought no German in their right mind would respond. I have been reprimanded in the past by German acquaintances for being too last-minute. While I acknowledged their annoyance at my tardiness, I was equally annoyed at their lack of spontaneity.

So imagine my surprise when the company that turned up today was German! So lovely! Meeting M was a delight.  We connected over delicious food and coffee, swapping stories of yoga, love, travel and life in Hamburg. All the while breaking stereotypes and celebrating being spontaneous.

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I thought of all the times I have been spontaneous. Sometimes they paid off and sometimes they didn’t. But I realized that every single time was infused with excitement and adventure. Here are some:

-taking a midnight train back to university, for the first time in 8 years, instead of the usual bus. The result- I met my future husband on that train!

-exploring a new route home through the enticing by-lanes of Hamburg. Disaster! I got thoroughly lost. Two hours and frozen toes later, I needed to swallow my pride and ask to be picked up.

-saying yes to hosting a group of Lebanese students over Easter in Goa. I met a soul-mate.

-taking an unplanned hike to Mount Emei in China because our flights got cancelled. It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The hike and view awed me and then I had heat stroke and food-poisoning.

-getting my hair braided in Bali. I’m not sure my friends and family were sold on the look, definitely not my fiancee when I informed him that braids would be my wedding hair-do. I sure had a blast!

What have you done spontaneously that led to exciting outcomes? I’m curious…

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Dear Dada, until we meet again..

I am here not to mourn the passing of my father, but to celebrate the richness of his life. Celebration begets gratitude. So let me begin by saying a huge Thank You! to all whose help, support and concern have meant the world to us. From medical to spiritual, emotional and physical care, you tided the three of us- Dad, Mum and myself through these trying times. You have been and continue to be indispensable.

You know who you are. To each of you here who knew Albert, he would have loved to say to you- Dev Borem Korum! (Thank You in Konkani).

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Had it been up to my dad, he would have said at this point, “Nice speech Nicky, thank you! That will be all.” Unfortunately for him, I inherited his stubbornness. So here goes:

Albert was well versed in the role of being a father figure. He had much exposure even before me. No, it’s not what you think. I am  his only biological child (princess, if I am honest). He first fathered his own siblings- six of them, when they lost their father prematurely. Subsequently he readily took on the mantle of provider and mentor to friends, nieces, nephews, 32nd cousins and complete strangers.

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He was most at ease and peace when he could be there for someone in need. I will refrain from saying anymore because I respect his firm belief of “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is up to”. Might I add, he always said this with a naughty twinkle in his eye.

In celebrating Albert’s life, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention his cherished and sometimes crazy desire to travel. When in college at Mangalore (350 km or 8 hours from home) I often received a call from him saying, “Get ready in 20 min, we’re going out.” Much to my mother’s chagrin he often hopped onto a train, bus or plane – on the spur of the moment- to explore the world and see his baby girl. He more than made up to Mama these last two years, taking her all over the globe and partially satiating his travel hunger.

Dada on train

To my mother and the love of Albert’s life; Mama, know that he held you in a very special place. Though he might not have said it in so many words, – we know he was a man of minimum words and maximum action; YOU made his life complete. You were his first “Best Girl in the Whole World”!

Hochzeit Nicola und Kay (50)

My father often told me how he played the song, “You’ll never know how much I love you”, when I was born. Perhaps I may never fully comprehend his love, but the day he died, I got a taste.

He endured excruciating pain to wait until I arrived from another continent. We spoke and I held him as he passed.

My greatest consolation through these waves of grief, is that he is truly in a better place and not in pain anymore.

Of course, memories help- of us “King-fishing” (read spotting and counting Kingfishers in paddy fields), stepping hard on his toes learning an awkward waltz, devouring roadside tea and bhajis (veggies deep fried in batter), long bike rides to the beach and deep conversations on life, love and football.

As I bid a physical adieu to the remains of my father, I wish to answer a question many have asked me since he died. “What can I do to help?”

In Albert’s memory, help someone in need- no matter if it’s a child, a street dog or a stranger. Or maybe plant a tree. Let’s spread some goodness.

And finally, to my favourite dance partner, my father and my friend; it is an honour to be your daughter. You died knowing your legacy lives on and I promise to do my best.

On behalf of all your family and friends, Adeus Dada, until we meet again.

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