Sunday, August 17, 2014

Superheros don’t always wear masks

Sitting next to my semi-conscious baby inside an ambulance is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Just like you cannot describe the joy you feel when you hold your baby for the first time, the horror of seeing your baby lie on an ambulance bed cannot be described. You feel your heart throbbing in your mouth, and your very life force being sucked away. Gathering the thin shreds of strength that’s still left in you, you try to focus…on her, on her eyes, on her breathing. “My precious little bundle, this can’t be happening to you”. But it did. And it does.
She had a febrile seizure, which is “a convulsion associated with a significant rise in body temperature. Turns out, both A and I had this when we were babies. They most commonly occur in children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years of age.” Approximately one in every 25 children will have at least one febrile seizure, I was told. But if you are one in that 25, statistics does not really help. What helps is being trained in first-aid and promptly calling triple zero.

All medical emergencies are scary to watch and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to help. Standing in the middle of nowhere, we were shocked to the core and panic stricken. Even common sense had deserted us. We were lucky that we were with friends who dialled triple zero. We were lucky because a stranger opened their home to us, held our baby the way she should have been held and rocked her to comfort until the ambulance arrived.

Thankfully, she is okay now. The good news is, although these seizures can be frightening to parents, the vast majority of febrile seizures are short and harmless. The bad news is, if you have been in an ambulance with your little bub, you never quite recover from that shock.
This was my second time in an ambulance. And it didn’t get any easier. The first time, I was in it with my father, after he had two massive heart attacks. We lost him shortly after we reached the hospital. It was too late. The night before, he kept insisting that his chest pain was due to a gastric problem (a chronic condition that he suffered from for years). We shouldn’t have listened to him. We should have rushed him to the hospital much earlier.

If you have ever been in an ambulance with a loved one either sick or hurt, you would know this. Your life changes forever. You split it in half - life before the incident, and life after (whatever be the outcome of the incident, good or bad). The feelings and thoughts that flood your body during that helpless journey to the hospital, haunt you often.  You replay the chain of events over and over in your head, think of a million things you could have done differently to save the situation. But sometimes, it’s too late. And most of the times, it’s not your fault.

I always thought ambulances were for other people. Triple zero was just a number, until I needed to dial it one day. After that fateful day with my father, every time I saw an ambulance speed through the roads with its red lights flashing, my heart said a secret prayer….for those on the ambulance bed, and those by their side. I forget to breathe for a second, as I remember the cold touch of the metallic rails on the ambulance bed. On the other side of the cold rails was someone I loved. Someone who is no more. But after this recent episode with my little one, every time I see an ambulance, I say a secret prayer and a silent “thank you” for all the kindness there is in this world, which often comes from the most unexpected corners.

Donating blood, helping a stranger in a roadside emergency, saying a kind word to someone in crisis, opening your heart or home to someone in need, donating money/clothes/food for a natural disaster appeal, sponsoring a child’s education, funding a water pump in a remote village, spreading awareness for a noble cause, volunteering your time at an old age home or an animal rescue shelter…whatever be our cause, whatever be our limitations…we can all be a blessing to someone, just like those strangers were to me that day. Superheros don’t always wear masks. Sometimes, they just rock your baby to comfort, when you can’t.

Dedicated to the kind family in Hammond Park, Western Australia, who helped us out that day.

For ideas on how you can help, visit:

For more details on first-aid training in Perth, visit:

Finally, remember that calling triple zero promptly can save lives. Don’t take a chance.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

15 Things No One Told Me I Could Do To Prepare for Motherhood


When people told me there was nothing I could do to prepare myself for motherhood, I believed them. Biggest mistake! I continued reading pregnancy books and mommy blogs, religiously went to the antenatal classes, googled almost a hundred questions everyday related to pregnancy or motherhood… all while naively believing that nothing could prepare me for the real thing. One year into motherhood, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what I could do as preparation. So here’s a list I put together for pregnant women or any woman who plans to have babies at some point in their lives.

Things you will need:

  • A box of nappies
  • A feeding bottle
  • Some baby clothing
  • A human volunteer who has the capacity to be annoying on demand. Husbands are a good choice as it comes to them naturally. If not, a friend will do. In this list, am assuming that the husband will oblige.
  • A lifelike doll
  • A friend's baby on loan (if not, a live octopus will do just fine)
  • An audio recording of a baby crying. Ask your mommy friends to record one. They can do it at really short notice.
  • Patience

Preparation time 

9 months (if you do at least 5 things on this list every day for the 9 months)

  1. Make yourself a cup of coffee at least an hour before you plan to have it. Get used to the flat, cold, taste.
  2. Play the audio of the baby crying every evening for a couple of hours. Try getting some important work done (like making an important phone call) while the audio plays.
  3. Take the live octopus and place it on a flat surface. Put a nappy around its body (whichever part you can access while it wriggles). Play the audio of the baby crying while you do this. Ask the husband to hold a bag of organic fertiliser very close to your nose during this exercise.
  4. Dress the octopus up in layers of clothing. Make sure you include a beanie and a pair of socks. Play the audio of the baby crying while you do this. Spill some milk on the fully-dressed octopus two minutes after you have dressed it up. Repeat this step.
  5. Place the doll on your lap in the middle of the night. Put a bottle of milk in its mouth. Sit still for 45 minutes watching how the level of milk in the bottle remains the same. Do not move during this exercise as it might upset the doll. (Optional) - Play the audio of the baby crying while you do this.
  6. Identify one valuable and irreplaceable item in your house that you are emotionally attached to, for whatever reason (family treasure, special gift, travel memento bringing back lovely memories…whatever). Break it.
  7. Strip your house of all accessories and decor items…and a few utility items like the coffee table and theatre speakers. Get used to the blank, sterile look. You will later learn that this is called “child proofing”.
  8. Spend 30 minutes researching a recipe that you think a child may enjoy eating. Spend the next 30 minutes cooking it. Now, take the wok and throw all that you have cooked straight into the bin.  (Optional) – Ask the husband to take a spoonful and spit it out straight away. Make sure he spills most of the food on the chair so that you can spend the next 30 minutes cleaning it.
  9. Let the husband bathe in pasta sauce. Spend the next 30 minutes cleaning him, while he screams. Make sure you both have zero fun while doing this.
  10.  Dress up for a special work or social event. Just before stepping out of the door, spill a tiny amount of milk on your shoulder, taking care that it trickles down slightly towards your chest. DO NOT change into fresh clothes, as you don’t have the time for it. Try enjoying the event while trying not to get irritated by the white smudge on your black dress or when people (involuntarily) stare at your chest.
  11. On a day that you are extremely tired and sleepy, pour some cold water on your bed just when you thought you were ready to retire. Spend the next 30 minutes changing the sheets. Play the audio of the baby crying while you do this. For best results, try this on a winter night.
  12. Walk into a restaurant with the live octopus and the audio of the baby crying. Put the octopus on a high chair and give him small pieces of food from your plate. Watch the look on the waiter’s face when the octopus spits the food out and throws most of it on the floor. Next, play the audio of the baby crying and watch the look on the faces of the other people in the restaurant. Now, leave your food unfinished, pay the bill and a big tip for the inconvenience you have caused, and rush out of the restaurant apologising to every person you meet on your way out. Do not go to any restaurant for the next hundred years.
  13. Rock your doll and sing lullabies to it for 30 minutes. When it falls asleep, put it in the cot and quietly close the door. Walk to the living room feeling happy that you can now enjoy a much-needed glass of wine after a tiring day. Just when you have poured yourself a glass, ask the husband to play the audio of the baby crying. Leave the wine on the bench top and run back to the cot and repeat this step 5 times. The last time, fall asleep with the doll (forgetting all about the wine or dinner).
  14. Identify the most popular kid’s show at the time. (These days it’s Peppa Pig). Watch it every day at least 60 times. Make sure you watch the exact same episode on a loop. Remember, there is no such thing as too many times...
  15. Send at least one email to your boss with the word (and just this word) "fffccckkkkuuuuuu". Apologise a hundred times, explaining that your baby dived onto your keyboard when you were trying to write an email to him. Pray that he believes you.

While I do agree that every baby is different and therefore every mum’s experience is different, I strongly feel that this is a pretty generic list that every woman will find useful. If any of your mommy friends tell you that this list is rubbish and it’s not this bad….shoot them. They are lying and secretly waiting to watch the fun when you dive into the motherhood experience totally clueless.

I am also fully aware that despite the shocking nature of this list, motherhood is the best thing that happened to me (and many like me).  And no list in the world can prepare you for what you feel when you cuddle your little bundle of joy at the end of a very tiring day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day 2014

Valentine’s Day this year started off on a really high note. He got me a single-stem rose…and served me coffee in bed. I put on our favourite playlist on my phone and brought out an old photo album. And then we cuddled up in bed, looking at some old photographs...of our most romantic days.

One was taken at my home in Kolkata, when we were planning the wedding guest list. I was in familiar surroundings...sitting on my bed in my PJs, looking happy….and smiling at the camera. He was on a chair, in his favourite brown jacket, poring over a sheet of paper (the guest list), unaware of the camera. It was a simple, candid snap …but there was something magical about it. It almost took us back to that moment…the excitement, the nervousness, the joy and the promise of a future together.

Another one was taken at a temple (in Dakshineswar) where we had gone with our families, just days before the wedding. I was in a white salwar-kameez, looking coy and innocent. He was in a faded kurta, squinting at the sunlight that fell on his face. We stood at a distance from each other (although there was no one else in the photograph), mindful of the presence of the elders. But we had never felt so close.

Then there was one taken at our first home together, in Bangalore. I think it was taken on the New Year’s eve of 2008 (by a dear friend who had just moved to Bangalore too). He rested his head on my shoulders and we both looked slightly drunk….and VERY happy (was probably just the drink).

As I was about to turn over the page in the photo album, I felt a kick. First a light one….and then a strong, purposeful one.

And there ended my dream.

There was no rose…or coffee…or music…or photographs.  But there SHE was….our little bundle of joy, kicking us away for her morning feed. No photograph could capture that moment, where two individuals, longing for a few more minutes of sleep, force their eyes open….only to see a wide-eyed ball of cuteness looking at them from under her sheets. And that’s how Valentine’s Day started off this year….and I hope that’s how it starts for us every day of our lives (minus the kicking perhaps).

And now for the part that the censor board cut out so that the romance in this story wasn't tainted:

The first light kick that I felt was from the above-mentioned bundle of joy. The second one…stronger and more purposeful, was from the bundle’s dad, who was trying to wake me up so that I could feed the bundle and let him sleep in peace.