Saturday, July 23, 2016

Poster girls

"Congratulations, Sayesha! You've become a celebrity. Just saw your poster!" my neighbour sent me a message.

"Poster?? What poster?"

"The poster on the main road. Of you and some baby."


Then it struck me. Almost a month ago, I had entered some photos of Xena and me in a 'Joyous Smiles' photo contest organised by the community centre. The contest flyer asked for photos of smiling faces, and said that the selected photos would be part of a poster for the community centre's notice board as part of the National Day celebrations. Now the community centre isn't huge, and their notice board certainly isn't, and I could only imagine how small the poster would be, and how small my photo, if selected, would be on it, but I entered anyway. I have a HUGE collection of Xena's photos that Viv and I like to call our 'retirement plan' (in the sense that when we are retired, we will sit on our Joey chairs and pass our days looking at the photos on a giant screen).

So I'd selected some photos, one of a grinning me holding a grinning baby Xena, and a few more of just her as a very smiley baby, and sent them in. And then forgot about them till the message from my neighbour arrived. I asked her for details on where exactly the poster was because I was baffled as to why the poster was along the main road and not a tiny part of a tiny poster stuck on a tiny notice board in the tiny community centre.

She told me the details and also insisted that the baby I was holding was definitely not Xena. I laughed and told her that it was very much Xena and then sent her the photo to prove it. She seemed rather shocked at how much Xena has changed.

So we took a walk along the road that evening to check out the poster. Turns out it was not one poster containing all the winning photos. Instead, it was a giant banner with each winning photo arranged like a poster on its own! To my utter surprise, I saw not one, but five of the photos I had sent! Of course, there was the one with Xena and me, but they had also selected four of Xena's smiling baby pictures, which of course, had gone unidentified by my neighbour. So we took photos with each of the posters. Here are two of them.

I'd have thought that being on the humongous banner itself would be the contest prize, but as it turns out, they gave us 50 dollars of shopping vouchers too. Wow.

This one's for you, dad-in-law, who, whenever I get sceptical about entering contests, says, "Only if you enter a contest can you win it, no?"

Friday, July 08, 2016

One for the books

"Whatchu reading?" My neighbour asked me as he walked by. He's a friendly, middle-aged guy I often see around the pool or the gym, and he always stops to chit-chat.

I was sitting by the pool with my book. Xena was in the middle of her swim lesson.

"You're not going to believe it." I said.

He stopped, looking really curious now. I showed him the cover of my book.

"HO!" He said. It sounded like something between surprise and delight. Exactly what I expected.

I was reading 'The Naughtiest Girl in the School'.

Yes, that book written in 1940 By Enid Blyton.

That book that I happened to chance upon because of a crazy craving Viv and I had for Coffee Club's muddy mudpie the other day. It is one of our favourite desserts, and when we crave that mudpie, we are willing to travel across the island for it. Both the branches we were aiming for had shut down (no, not closed for the day, but shut down omg), but it was not a wasted evening. We found an open-cart book sale, and it wasn't just any book sale. A book sale that pretty much felt like someone had filled up a sack with my childhood and emptied it into the carts. Famous Five. Secret Seven. Nancy Drew. Hardy Boys. St. Clare's. Malory Towers. You name it, they had it.

And... The Naughtiest Girl in the School.

My dad had bought me the book when I was maybe six or seven. He even wrote on the first page, "To the naughtiest girl in the world". (Gosh that was SO NOT TRUE -- I was always the teacher's pet and the nerd of the highest order in each of the seven schools I attended.)

Over the years, I read the book so many times that by the time it was time for me to come to Singapore, the book was in no state to accompany me. It lay in a box with other tattered and yellowed books from my childhood that my dad refused (and still refuses) to part with.

But now, not only had I found that book, I'd also found the next two in the series. And it had brought back some amazing memories. Of how wonderful boarding school used to sound, with the lacrosse and the horse-riding and the tuck boxes and the nature walks and the school meetings and the midnight feasts. Oh, how appealing the strange foods that I'd never had before sounded -- scones and sizzling bacon and potted meat and treacle and cream cheese and marmalade and golden syrup and ginger beer. Heck, she even made boiled eggs at a picnic sound mouthwatering. In later years, I had a chance to taste many of these items and to my utter dismay, most of them elicited nothing more than a 'yuck' from my taste buds. (Except ginger beer, of course. Nobody say anything bad about ginger beer, okay? Okay. Especially my all-time favourite - Bundaberg ginger beer.)

Viv hadn't been sure about me filling up our recently-Konmari'ed bookshelf with these books, but I knew I had to. He had no clue about the joy they sparked in me.

I had two big reasons to buy them.

One, I want Xena to read them some day.

Two, I want them for myself. Right now, later and forever. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Chairman of the bored

Last night, Viv had some work to do after dinner, so I brushed Xena's teeth and tried to put her to bed with a story and a song.

Xena - Nooo... Where is Daddy?

Me - Daddy has some work today, so I'll put you to sleep.

Xena - Nooooo... Only Daddyyyy....

Me - But whyyyy?

Xena - Because he's the PUTTER-TO-SLEEPER.

Me - Why? Why is he the PUTTER-TO-SLEEPER??

Xena - Because he puts everyone to sleep!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Food for thought

So my sister-in-law asked a very deep, philosophical question at dinner last night.

"If you could choose ONLY ONE food item which you would have to eat for every meal for an entire month, what would it be?"

My knee jerk reaction was pani puri (of course), but then I love it too much to put it in my 'I can't stand it anymore' list at the end of that month, so that's out. Besides, I'm not sure my tummy can take pani puri three times a day for 30 days without revolting.

Other options I thought of included dosa (she said condiments are allowed, but they have to be the same all the way), stuffed parathas, chow mein, chaat and Calcutta egg rolls, but something doesn't feel right, especially if you think about the nutrition quotient. I'm still pondering over what that food item would be for me. Something that would be tasty and filling (and non-boring!), and won't screw up my health over that month.

What would you choose?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


They don't call it an epic saga for nothing.

In our household at least, the saga continues. There is no stopping Xena's obsession with the Ramayana book.

Today, my mom-in-law was reading to her the chapter where Vibhishana joins Rama. She told Xena how useful Vibhishana was to Rama's army.

"But why was he so useful to Rama's army?"

"Because he had all the information. He knew everything."

"He knew everything?"


Xena turned to look at me.

"Mama, you know... Vibhishana is just like Google uncle!"

Monday, June 06, 2016

A fighting chance

"Kids like gross things, Sayesha."

These were my senior editor's wise words to me circa 2003 when she was teaching me the ropes of children's magazine publishing.

I watched with horror as she cast aside the cute one and picked the grosser-looking bug from the two photo options I had presented. I knew nothing about kids then, so I just went with what the boss said.

But, now armed with a 5-year-old of my own, I can see how right she was. It is really true. Kids like gross, violent things. A lot. Presenting exhibit A -- a book called 'Tell me about Ramayana' meant for children that someone gifted to Xena when she was in India. When I flipped through the pages, I was horrified to see many many graphic pictures of demons being beheaded, and the one of a bloodied Shurpanakha getting be-nosed by Lakshmana especially disturbed me.

"Xena is not reading this. No way." I told myself. And hid the book. On hindsight, I should have tossed it away, because somehow she found it and started flipping through it and then I had to sit and answer the 4560489357 questions she had for me. After a while, I gave up on the idea of tossing the book away while she was asleep. I can only protect her for so long.

But what amazes me is how my very calm and serene child is supremely fascinated by the demons and the fights and their killings. Every opportunity she gets, she fetches the book and asks either my mom-in-law or me to read the story of how XYZasura was killed. Gaahhhhh.

On most days, we get away with reading the more fun parts of the story, such as how Hanuman fetched an entire mountain because he couldn't find the correct herb that could revive Lakshmana. At first, she just didn't get why he would do such a thing and kept asking me again and again why he did that. No matter how many times I told her that it was because he couldn't find the herb, she went on asking why he went and got THE WHOLE MOUNTAIN.

So I decided to take a different approach.

"Okay, if I ask you to fetch me something from my handbag kept in the other room, and you can't find it in the handbag, what will you do?"

"I'll bring you the handbag."


"OHHHH!!! That's why Hanuman got the whole mountain?!"


Yesterday, she suddenly asked me out of the blue, "Mama, why did Indrajita hit Lakshmana?"

Obviously, the first question that popped up in my head was the one that would have popped up in the head of any well-informed parent -- who the heck was Indrajita?

Of course, I censored it before I said it out loud.

"Who is Indrajita?"

"Ravana's son." She replied.


"Why did he hit Lakshmana? Did he do it accidentally and then he said 'sorry'?"

"Erm, no. He did it on purpose and he didn't say 'sorry'."


"Because they were in a battle. They needed to fight each other. On purpose."

[In my head, Salman Khan in Maine Pyaar Kiya was going, "Battle ka ek usool hai, madam. No sorry, no thank you.]

"But why?"

"So that they could decide who won the battle."

"But why was Indrajita on Ravana's side?"

"Because he was Ravana's son. So he needed to fight on his daddy's side."

"But Vibhishana was Ravana's brother. Why did he fight on Rama's side?"

[Wow, this girl really knew her stuff.]

"Because he chose to fight on the good side." I replied.


"Because when there is a battle to fight, you need to choose which side you want to fight on..."

And here's when I thought I'd introduce some Harry Potter style gyaan about our choices versus our abilities.

"So, tell me Xena... if you had to fight a battle, which side would you choose to fight on -- the good side or the bad side?"

She didn't even look up from the book she was poring over.

"No side. Fighting is bad."

Phew. So there is hope then. 

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Feeling blue

We were walking back after Xena's swim lesson yesterday when she asked me if I could roast some corn on the cob for her.


"How many do you have?"

"Hmm... I only have two so we will have to share. You and Patsy (her nickname for her 'paati' or grandma) can share one and Daddy and I will share the other."

"No, mama! The girls will share one and the boys will share the other."


"You, Patsy and I will share one, and Daddy and Blue will share the other."

I smiled at her feebly, not knowing how to tell her that Blueberry had actually died that afternoon and I hadn't had the heart to tell her. I was waiting for Viv to get home so we could tell her together.

We had seen it coming for a few days. He looked old and tired and would no longer leap and jump like a bhukkad when he saw me approaching with food. And though I'd been mentally prepared for it, I had a hollow sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw it lying on its side at the base of the tank, its food floating on the surface, untouched. I can't even imagine how people who lose dogs and cats deal with it.

Even though I had mentally prepared Xena for the inevitable, I wasn't sure how she would take it. After all, she was extremely fond of it, and often referred to him as almost her sibling. We had considered various options -- replacing him with a look-alike, not showing her the dead body, lying to her that he had to go back to the fish farm, etc. but all these options seemed disrespectful and unfair. We figured it was best to go with the truth. So after Viv returned, we showed her the body and told her that Blue was dead.

She was sad for a few minutes and almost on the verge of tears, but became okay afterwards. I was feeling really thankful to that fish-expert friend of mine who had visited earlier in the year, examined his fins and told me that he was actually really really old and was expected to die soon. I'd spoken to Xena right away, telling her how all living things, including Blue and all of us, will die some day. She seemed a little confused at first, but took it pretty well.

Blueberry is gone from our lives, but I do hope he lived a good full life. A year and two months ago, he had barged into our reluctant hearts and home, but soon became a part of the family, bringing us unimaginable joy. And though he lived longer than anyone expected him to, I still can't shake off that hollow feeling or get used to the fact that he's no longer around.

Thank you, Mr. Blueberry Bubbles, for everything you were.

At first, I didn't want to write this depressing post, but just as I informed all the people who would care, I felt like it was my duty to inform you guys too. After all, I'd written several posts about him and shared so much about his life. It didn't feel right to withhold this news.

RIP, my bhukkad Blue. See you on the other side.
If there is an 'other side'. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dead on target

Friend (over WhatsApp) - Tell me your secret. How do you get so many things done?

Me - Because I'm a carcass.

Damn you, autocorrect. 'Hardass' is a real word, ok?!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Weighed down

As a mommy who is on Facebook, my newsfeed is understandably bombarded with funny stuff about parenting and kids. But I never thought I'd laugh as hard at a video that doesn't even feature a kid or a parent as I did when I came across this one.

Presenting to you, ladies and gentlemen, the funniest kid-related video featuring only non-living things. Oh, this was just too much truth for me to handle, even though Xena is not even a toddler anymore.

Honestly, on some days, Internet humour is my best friend.

Especially on days when humans are a little difficult to tolerate, such as the mother of the obese kid who tells me how she "totally gets my pain" because "her kid also doesn't eat at all", or when someone says that Xena is "VERY tall for her age" (well, she's just above the 10th percentile and I really really don't think that translates to "VERY tall for her age" at all) or when someone complains that her kid is only at the 70th percentile for weight (woman, you need to google how percentiles work; it's not like board exam results), or when someone with a 12-kg two-year-old tells me that Xena's weight is totally fine and I just want to respond with a "I'm sorry, but you only get to talk if you have a 5-year-old who weighs 12 kg. Kthxbai."

I do not go around asking for sympathy or advice, so I really don't get why people say these things. Maybe they want to offer their sympathy but just don't know what else to say. Maybe they want to make me feel positive. Well, then just send me funny stuff. Make me laugh. Don't make me cry.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A spirited young lady

Xena is now able to read by herself quite well and only seeks assistance for long and complicated words. Also, she has made it her mission in life to read every bit of text she comes across. For example, she was no longer satisfied with us referring to the solution we apply on her ear piercings twice a day as 'ear medicine'. She needed to know what exactly was written on the bottle. So I read it out to her -- 'isopropyl alcohol', wondering if she'd remember the long name.

Recently, she opened her school communication notebook and turned to the last page.

"Mama, what are these words before 'form'?" She asked.

"Medication administration", I read.

"What does that mean?"

"It's a form for parents to fill... to inform the school about any medicine that the child needs."

"And what's the table for?"

"It's to write the name of the medicines and how many times the child needs to take it."

"Oh Mama," she chided, "You need to fill this form then!"

"I do?"

"Yes. You need to write - ALCOHOL. TWO TIMES A DAY."