Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Things to do in Morocco

My birthday is a big deal. I owe this to my mother’s love for organizing elaborate birthday parties for us when we were kids. So turning 30 had to be celebrated for the big event it is. I chose to spend this momentous occasion in Morocco. Here’s what I loved about this African country with a huge European and Middle-eastern influence; here’s also what you should do in Morocco:

View the Hassan II mosque from across The Atlantic Ocean

Casablanca is a lot like Mumbai in the sense that it’s the business centre. The biggest and brightest thing about it is the Hassan II mosque. With the largest mosque minaret in the world, at 210 metres, it is hard to miss from anywhere in the city. Entering the premise of this prayer house by the ocean left us feeling tiny in comparison.

The intricate mosaics in shades of blue, yellow, and green add to the grandeur and make for Instagram-friendly pictures. 

But the absolute best part about Hassan II is its view from across the Atlantic Ocean, on which it stands. Drive to the other side of town, past the Corniche and up the hill to the last shanties of Casablanca, and be blown away by the beauty of this structure.

Bargain for leather in Fes

Each of Morocco’s cities, except Agadir, has a medina – or a traditional market dating back centuries. The one in Fes is a proper labyrinth. Our guide was a local so he could navigate the place like the back of his hand but I’d probably get out of there in a few years, if I were left there without Maps. Discover trinket stalls, dry fruit and perfume shops, mosques, museums and leather shops on either sides of the streets as you squeeze past animals pulling carts.

While you’re there, viewing a tannery from one of the many buildings that sell leather goods is a surreal experience. We were taken to view the Sidi Moussa tannery, one of the three at the medina. 

The Chouara tannery is the largest and oldest. Sniff on lots of the mint leaves you’ll be handed at the door to avoid nausea from the smell of drying animal skin. If you are a fan, buy one of the many shapes and shades of leather goods available but be sure to bargain first! It’s expected and encouraged.

Take a history lesson

A little off Fes is Meknes, an imperial city. Century-old remnants such as Bab Mansour, an intricately designed colourful gate, whose maker lost his life in the 1700s so he wouldn’t recreate such a beauty, pay testament to this fact. We discovered the sites, and gates, of this quiet city on the way to Volubilis, which is the highlight of this region.

A Berber city from the 3rd century, Volubilis was home to Prophet Idris, descendant of Prophet Mohammed. The excavations are half complete but lend a glimpse of this once-rich Roman settlement, complete with its mosaic flooring and Jacuzzi-like home baths. We drove through his eponymous town a few kilometre away, atop two hills, to enjoy the view of the dotted homes and wonderful winds.

Watch the Mediterranean Sea meet the Atlantic Ocean

On our way to Tangier from Fes, we made a quick stop at Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco. Perched atop the Rif Mountains, this cool blue city warmed our eyes and filled our bellies with a scrumptious tagine lunch. 

But as we came down to the coastal city of Tangier, we were welcomed with the stark mix of blue and green waters. The Strait of Gibraltar is the meeting point of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Watching them flow and ebb by the beaches of Tangier was the highlight of my trip. On that warm and sunny but windy afternoon, I wanted to do nothing but dip my toes in the very cold water. But it was a wise decision to enjoy the view from the viewing deck uphill from the city centre. What’s more, Spain is literally a 45-minute ferry ride from this bountiful city!

Another city that offered us a ‘wow’-worthy view of coloured waters was Rabat. We soaked up the sun as we saw the Atlantic Ocean meet the Bou Regreg River, at the Kasbah of Udayas, across from the city of Sale. Make the short climb uphill from the Kasbah’s gates, to the 12th century fortress; the view is guaranteed to take your breath away. 

Eat pigeon pie

Vegetarian or non-vegetarian, whatever is your food preference, you will not be left wanting for delectable food in Morocco. After you’ve had copious amount of sweet mint tea (every hotel welcomed us with this) and tasted all types of tagines (meats and vegetables cooked in an earthen pot) try pastilla. This flaky pastry stuffed with pigeon—most commonly chicken—mince is both sweet and savoury. It packs a punch of flavours and goes well with harira, Morocco’s answer to tomato soup but with bits of meat, veggies, lentils and chickpeas too. 
When we were passing through Larache, a coastal town, on the way to Tangier, we gorged on whole prawns tossed in butter, garlic and parsley—shell and all. Do not miss the seafood on the coast! It is fresh and mouth-watering. Lastly, finish your meals with sweetmeats that put the ‘s’ in sugar.

Shop for olives in Marrakesh

Jemaa al Fnaa is, arguably, Africa’s most famous square. Home to some of the oldest and largest souks in Marrakesh, a visit to this area was a must. It is a bustling (often chaotic for a non-Mumbaiite) market during the day that transforms into a food lover’s paradise by night. We drank an abundant amount of orange juice for only Rs 20 per glass while shopping for ceramics, processed leather footwear and souvenirs. But the highlight of this place were the olives.

Our guide once told us that there are many olive trees in Morocco as there are people—so that’s about 3.5 crore! Safe to say, we ate a lot of olives on our trip. This square has a special souk that is dedicated to olives of various colours that are garnished with multiple herbs. At as little as Rs 150 per box, we picked these up to share with loved ones back home instead of the customary chocolate.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

30 things I learned before turning 30

My dearest baby Z,

My father once wrote me a letter on his version of the Golden Rules of ​L​ife. I'm 30 today, and I've learned a few things along the way, so here's a lowdown of them for you: 

1) Family comes first. Period.

2) Do not put up with people who make you feel inadequate. Even if they are family.

3) Learn the rules carefully before you break them.

4) Be reliable, motivated, and self reliant. 

5) Work smart not hard.

6) Keep trying. Hustle.

7) Don't take no for an answer but don't keep asking the same question to the one who keeps saying no to you.

8) Inherit the essence of your nani's wisdom, "Tu nahi toh aur sahi, aur nahi toh aur sahi."

9) Read. Always learn. Apply your learning.

10) Knowledge that you cannot use to help yourself, or someone else, is useless.

Fail a lot, fail young, fail at all kinds of things. Nothing builds character like rejection and failure.

12) If you don't believe in yourself, no one ever will. 

13) Love, respect, and pamper your body and mind.

14) Favourites are overrated. 

15) You're allowed to change your mind. Be kind about it if feelings are involved.

16) Be straightforward. Be diplomatic, if you inherit that trait from your father.

Moisturize. From head to toe.

18) Mentors are a blessing. 

19) Pass on a favor as much as possible.

20) Surround yourself with intelligent people.

21) Trust, but verify

22) Be
 a supportive woman. Make a lot of girl friends. Remember that women can really have it all.

23) Device tiny tests on the moral, intellectual and other non-negotiable grounds before choosing a partner.

24) Do not prolong a dead relationship. 

25) Know thy self.

26) Learn how to give yourself a thorough orgasm before expecting another person to know what to do with your equipment.

27) Make older friends.

28) Reconcile to the fact that some things in life are sheer and absolute dumb luck.

Travel, food, and books are worth it.

30) Don't take anything too seriously or too lightly because remember, all to taste death. 

I will love you forever,


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Essika Kids Baby Girl Clothing Review

I was born in a desert, in the summer. So, I turned 1 in a desert. In the summer! My parents decided to have a beach birthday party for me, in a tent, minus ACs. It was the 90s, so I looked like a giant cake myself. With tiers of pink frill strapped to my chubby rolls. 

I don't have a single picture of me where I don't look like a grump. 

This is the best smile they got out of me!
A little before my daughter turned one, and I decided to host a dinner party at home to celebrate her, I had made up my mind about her attire. It would be nothing but 100% cotton. Two birthday dresses, with smocking in the front and soft linen inside, were flown down for her from The UK.
My little on her 1st birthday.
So, when I chanced upon Essika Kids, elegant and eco-friendly clothing for children, I wouldn't wait to get my hands on it. Merlin, the founder, and a mom of two herself, deeply understands the kind of soft and comfortable clothes kids need through their activities. 

We got the Gelato Top in natural-dyed (dark) Blue Khadi and a super cool knee-length Striped Skirt in 100% cotton. 

Love this top and skirt combo
I love the fabric and the fit. It's something that I'd wear because it's loose and perfect for the constant humidity of Mumbai. I roll up the sleeves on the top when my daughter is having a busy day, or leave them be when there's a nip in the air. 

You can find them on https://www.etsy.com/in-en/shop/Essikakids and https://www.facebook.com/essikakids/ 

Enjoying our pleasant winter-ish morning nip.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Anmol Baby Hybrid Wrap and Soul Slings Full Buckle (Standard) Review

I learned about baby wearing when my lactation consultant hosted a meet with Rashmee, a baby wearing educator and Founder of Anmol Baby Carriers. There, she deftly wielded a long, soft navy blue hybrid wrap, and prompted put a 3-month-old boy to sleep. He was lulled in barely 5 minutes. Needless to say, we bought that blue hybrid wrap.

My daughter was born exactly 2 weeks later.

My husband and I wore her since she was less than a month old. She loved it. She calmed down instantly, and always seemed cosy. The wrap's litmus test came last October in Diwali when our street could definitely be heard from the moon. She was not yet 2 months old.

She was extremely unsettled that evening but here she is, 5 minutes after being worn: 
Grumpy, but quiet.

As she became more active, and started walking before her 10th month birthday, we had to start looking for a baby-wearing alternative. The wrap is great but it doesn't help in easy transfers of a sleeping baby (at least in the only style we know to wear her).

By her first birthday, we were sure we needed to find a baby carrier than was Indian, ergonomic, and good looking. Both of us are averse to the idea of a pram or stroller, so a carrier was the way to go for us.

My research on the subject concluded that I needed a Soul Slings's product in my life. And as luck would have it, I won a Full Buckle Standard size carrier by the brand in a beautiful maroon (they call it Lacre) color through my page on Instagram, @ghiasireads.

Here's us taking it out for a spin on our recent getaway to the mountains:

She clearly loves a good cuddle with mommy. The carrier is easy on the shoulders and back, I wouldn't complain about any pains. I later wore her on a sunny afternoon, and I could secure the flap in place to protect her from the sun and help her nap. 

I love both our carriers. They are extremely useful and can be folded to fit in a handbag! I hope we never have to use a stroller for our babe because smelling her hair and stealing kisses on her forehead are so much better! My only piece of strong advice is to make sure that the baby is always ergonomically carried with her lower half taking an 'M' shape. Carriers that make your kid's legs dangle are extremely dangerous for her hips!

Have you tried a baby carrier yet? 

Follow my journey on reading for myself and my daughter @ghiasireads on Facebook and Instagram

Friday, July 21, 2017

My yellow brick road to motherhood

My daughter is a month away from turning 1. To mark this huge milestone in my life, I mean, her life, I've decided to share the story of "how it all began" for us. I’ve recently begun blogging on Instagram. I write about some of my favourite books and those from my baby’s library.

@Ghiasireads has introduced me to parents across the globe. We exchange stories that usually end with “me too” because, parenting. It’s so unique yet just the same for everyone. So, as this community continues to grow, I was encouraged to say a little something about our own journey to parenthood.

A few months ago, the Indian version of one of the UK's bestselling parenting magazines, Mother & Baby, shot with us to celebrate their 9 years in the country. I was also invited to write the cover story for them, and here's what I wrote: 

I am a medical marvel. I was born the last of three children, exactly 8 months after my mother had a Copper-T fixed in place to seal the fate on their family of 4. I was a kilogram of wrinkled skin at birth. Cut to, 15 years later; my period had still not made an appearance. A quick sonogram told us that I had something called Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD, at the time). I was overweight, suffered from severe acne, and was promptly put on birth control pills to regularize my cycle.

For the next ten years, I took really good care of my body. I worked out, lost weight, and remained fairly healthy. It was not like my cycle was suddenly watching the calendar, but I could afford to get off the pill every now and then. In the meantime, I was constantly reminded, by articles, my doctor, my family, and society-at-large, what a tough time I was going to have to get pregnant.

The meet cute

I met my husband, Nadir, when I was 23. We were married two year later. At the back of mind, the nagging voices kept telling me how tough PCOD, now called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, was going to make it for us to start a family.

Nadir was well aware of the situation, and we always wanted kids. So, on our first wedding anniversary, we decided to begin the long journey that was in store for us to get pregnant. We were sure it would take at least a year. Then, IVF? Hip injections? Who knew what the future held.

Our daughter, Ziya, was born exactly 9 months later.

Yes, a medical marvel.

Too good to be true

The symptoms began to show less than a week into my pregnancy. I had terrible morning sickness, but I dismissed it as a stomach bug. My chest felt heavy and my stomach felt bloated, but I assumed it was the irregular period that would finally show up. I took a test a month later, many miles from home, when I was visiting a friend in The Nilgiris. She was 2 months pregnant herself and saw through my tell-tale symptoms.

The news of my pregnancy brought a lot of joy to both our families. It also brought more morning, afternoon, and evening sickness for the rest of my first trimester. But to begin with, Nadir and I were over the moon. We were immensely grateful that this baby had picked us, and so soon! The rest of pregnancy was a breeze. We spent half a month in Japan when I was 5 months pregnant. I would comfortably walk 6 to 7 kms every day without feeling exhausted.

At 5’ 9’’, my frame hid the 20kgs I put on pretty well. I didn’t look pregnant all the way until the last month; when the back ache, sleeplessness and general unease began. But, there’s nothing to write home about my pregnancy. It was lovely.

The most important aspect about it, and something that has become very close to my heart, was my decision to attend a workshop on breastfeeding and lactation. 

The importance of being informed

I was 6 months pregnant, and one of the two pregnant women in a sea of new moms, at the workshop. The session opened my eyes to a host of trials and tribulations these new moms were going through because they were not armed with the right knowledge on breastfeeding BEFORE the baby came along.

The lactation consultant held a brief and enriching experience on the dos and don’ts of breastfeeding, on things to watch out for early on, and the general confidence a woman needs to maintain in order to believe her body can handle the most natural thing in the world.

Happy birthday

Ziya’s birth, just like my pregnancy, was uneventful and a breeze. She arrived on her due date, completely naturally, all of 6.7 pounds (3 kgs). I had refused an epidural but settled for an episiotomy. 

My doctor performed a procedure called ‘stripping’, a day before her birth, which set the contractions in full swing the same night. The only book I had read, which was What to Expect When You’re Expecting, had told me loud and clear to wait out the slower contractions. So, I patiently went about my business the whole of the next day, and got myself admitted to the hospital when my contractions were 2 minutes apart. I was hooked to an IV and put on Pitocin that sped up my labor.

Except the last one hour, when I screamed loud enough to scare the entire neighborhood, and almost broke a nurse’s arm (unintentionally), the labor pains were really not that bad. Imagine cramps, but ones that come and go in bursts. Lastly, imagine a large watermelon pushing against your vagina and rectum; yes, that has got to hurt!

Ziya was born, without event, 3 hours after we arrived at the hospital.

Brand new mommy

As the lactation workshop had mentioned, my doctor put her to my breast immediately after she was born and she latched on beautifully. The OT staff was kind enough to click our first family picture while they kept us entertained with cheerful banter.

I have full support at my in-law’s home and I never went to my parent’s house, as is tradition, during my pregnancy or after Ziya was born. Nadir was hell bent on massaging and bathing her himself, and so, we only employed the services of massage lady for me.

We were both also keen on keeping her off formula as much as possible. She was formula fed for the first 2 days at the hospital, and because my milk hadn’t come in, I didn’t refute the decision. But after that, she was exclusively and absolutely breastfed until she was started on solids at 6 months of age. And because breastfeeding went well for me, I lost 10 kgs in a week after the delivery.

It takes two

Nadir and I have handled Ziya by ourselves from the minute she was born. I have a tremendously supportive family, and they helped me by completely managing the house while I could focus on the baby. They are also involved in her routine whenever we need them. Moreover, as a freelance writer, I get to squeeze in a few assignments while they happily coo and caa at her.

Ziya has always been a poor sleeper and slow to pile on the grams. I was constantly asked to give her formula, at least once a day, so that she would sleep better, or gain weight and get chubby. But Nadir and I knew that her frequent waking or lean structure is not because she’s starving. She showed us no signs of hunger after being breastfed, and so, we had the confidence to persevere and stick to what we believed in. I am repeatedly told that some children just happen to be bad sleepers, and we seem to have scored us our own.

I do not, for a minute, think it would have been possible for me to nurture and nourish Ziya without the undying support from my husband and family. Nadir is one of the most hands-on fathers I’ve met. When I’m tired from waking up for the 4th time at night, he jumps to my rescues even without being asked. She loves a good cuddle with him and that’s testimony enough. He still massages and bathes her even after he’s had the longest day at work. He maintains a blog to document everything about our daughter in the hopes that she may read it one day and relive our journey.

Baby steps: her and me

Ziya is way ahead of meeting her milestones at 7.5 months. She has been cruising (holding onto things and walking) for a few weeks now; but last week, she figured out how to bend her knees and sit back down too! She seems ready to start walking on her own as soon as her feet will allow it. I was lucky enough to document her first smile, when she was 40 days old with a selfie, a picture I will treasure forever. She has been blabbering since she was barely two months old; we are told it means she will be a talkative little one!

I had my first meltdown when, on the insistence of enforcing a tradition, her hair was shaved when she was 10 days old. It upset me deeply and I wailed for a good hour; much more than her. In retrospect, I am glad it was done with that early because her full head of hair, one she was born with, grew back pretty quickly and in time to sport it with her pretty frocks.

For now, she enjoys the three small meals we feed her. A hyperactive baby, she likes to be done with her meal as soon as possible so that she can get back to crawling around the house.

As a new mom, my body has experienced exhaustion like never before. I am constantly sleep deprived and hungry! I’m still eating for two as I plan to breastfeed her way past her first birthday. Even with the support and confidence of an extremely involved husband, we have our tiffs because we want to do our best for Ziya.

We hope Ziya will grow up to be a strong-willed, assertive woman , one who stands up for what she believes. There is nothing more that will grow our hearts than to see our daughter in the best of health, fulfilling her destiny with her best foot forward.

After all, she’s no less than a medical marvel herself.

An edited version of this story appeared in the May 2017 issue of Mother & Baby magazine India. You can find the copy here: https://www.magzter.com/IN/Next-Gen-Publishing-Ltd/Mother-&-Baby-India/Lifestyle/221190

All text and images are the IP of Sabiha Ghiasi and Mother & Baby India. Do not copy without prior permission.

Shot by: Akshay Kulkarni

Sunday, July 09, 2017

10 must-have books and authors for your baby's library

My daughter will complete 11 months in a few days. She was first introduced to a book a little after her 2-month birthday. She has been read to ever since. We are slowly but steadily building her little library alongside our own.

While my Instagram page dedicated to books, @ghiasireads, is full of suggestions for mommies, daddies and babies, I've compiled a comprehensive list of books/authors that a baby absolutely must be introduced to within her first year (and through toddlerhood)! Each of them is vibrant, well-written, and has a lesson to be learnt in the end.

1) Authored and illustrated books by Eric Carle

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Well, I see a highly successful children's book author. This was the first book we read to my baby, and she laughed! We got full giggles from a 2-month-old! *I have a picture for proof, read this till the end*. Eric Carle is a guru for new parents, and for good reason. Apart from the one suggested above, we also love The Very Hungry Caterpillar by him. It is a colourful treat to the eyes that can later be used to introduce the concepts of overeating, and metamorphosis, to a child. We also have The Little Learning Library by this author. It has tiny, hard-bound books on animals sounds, colours, words, and numbers. Perfect for tiny hands to handle!

2) My First Gruffalo, and other introductory books, by Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo is a tale of a smart little mouse, on a walk through a forest. It is centered around his cunning,which keeps him alive even as he encounters several dangerous animals. In the end, he even manages to save himself from the dreaded Gruffalo, who is a hybrid between a grizzly bear and a buffalo. While I can't wait to buy this book and add it to our library, I have managed to introduce one of the 'My First Gruffalo' books to my tiny, it's called Colours and is illustrated beautifully by Alex Scheffler. You can also explore Numbers, Animal Actions, and Opposites from this series.

3) Multi-lingual books

We are a multi-lingual household. On a good day, three regional languages are spoken under our roof. English is omnipresent too. The first Hindi/English book I bought for my daughter is called Das Din by Pridhee Kapoor Gupta and illustrated by Alicia Souza. It is the story of a prince who falls ill and recovers in 10 days. It is meant to teach a baby her numbers from 1 to 10 in Hindi. I love the interactive life-the-flap design of the copy. It's smooth on the eyes and intelligently crafted. I've also added Follow the Ants (Chiteeyon ke Peeche Peeche) and Five Little Monkeys (Paanch Chhote Bandar) by Tulika Publications to our shelves. They are longer, well-told stories in English, followed by Hindi, and since they are paperbacks, I'd recommend them to be handled by a 3-year-old, at least. Now, I'm hunting for a few good reads in Marathi and Gujarati. 

4) Babylit by Gibbs Smith

What book shelf worth its mettle is complete without its share of classics? And no daughter of mine is going to miss out on them! Babylit is an educational, bright, and gorgeous way to introduce classics to your child. They have primers for each concept such as camping, colours, and nonsense even! Primers are an introduction to a larger concept. That's why they have key words and phrases from the classic stories. We have The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Jabberwocky, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alice in Wonderland for now. Uff, I can't recommend them enough.

5) Sing-along books by Sandra Boynton

That children make you do the damnest things is common knowledge. Mine has turned me into a singer. And, as per usual, books have brought about this new-found *talent*. Tickle Time, Snuggle Puppy, and Belly Button are few of the sing-along books we have from the very talented author, Sandra Boynton. I found catchy tunes for these easy rhyme-scheme books on YouTube. My daughter loves her mom's hoarse voice and bounces around in approval.

6) Beginner concepts, lift-the-flap books by Dr Seuss

I am really trying hard to hold off on buying the whole lot of books by the imitable Dr Seuss. Most of the amazing content by the author is best appreciated by *at least* a pre-schooler. But I am weak when it comes to books (and food). I chanced upon Special Shapes, and Super Senses, two lift-the-flap hard-bound books by Dr Seuss that are ideal for babies! Of course, I got them and we love them. They will help when I want to introduce shapes and senses (such as hearing, smelling, touching, etc) to my girl. For now, we are loving exploring the magnificent colours that come with the various Dr Seuss characters.

7) Spot by Eric Hall

Spot, the cute Labrador puppy, has interesting adventures with his little family, in lift-the-flap form. Authored by Eric Hall, this cutie is another great way to introduce dogs, cats, and other pet animals to a baby. We currently read, Spot says Goodnight and Spot Goes to the Park, together. I'd recommend handling the lift-the-flap books yourself before letting the baby pull at them, ultimately tearing things off, and trying to eat them. *true story*.

8) Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

We love Peter Rabbit! We have a finger-puppet book on this bunny that is a riot with my daughter. While Where is Peter Rabbit? is the classic long-format story ideal for a pre-schooler, The Peter Rabbit Finger-Puppet book aims to introduce the child to numbers. It is simple, highly interactive, and an easy-to-read introduction to inhabitants of a garden. My daughter tried to eat the puppet rabbit's nose, but that's a story for another time.

9) Peppa Pig

I will be honest, I found the Peppa Pig commercialisation so tacky! I looked down upon the franchise, before I got pregnant. Why did kids need tiffin boxes with Peppa Pig on them? What happened to good ol's Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck? But, like SO many things parenthood made me, I swallowed my words and bought a Peppa Pig book for my daughter. The thing is, I am one to keep up with the times; and if Peppa Pig is the flavour of the decade, then so be it! We have the board book called My Daddy from this collection; it has cute illustrations and very real reasons why Peppa, the pig, loves her daddy. *Not like these kids need a lot of reason to love their daddies*. 

10) Dear Zoo (and other books) by Rod Campbell

The original Dear Zoo book is a lift-the-flap interactive book that aims to introduce a baby to the concept of zoo animals. I absolutely hate zoos. I may like the large, natural habitats that are recreated for animals in a few first-world countries, but I haven't seen those to make up my mind yet. So, I gave the cages in the original book a miss, for now, and got the Dear Zoo with Animal Cutouts. It's a cute little story of a child writing to a zoo to send her some animals to play with, but sending them back for various practical reasons. She ends up keeping a puppy because it was perfect!

Here was a peek into my little daughter's little library. This is an on-going project for a lifetime. So, please feel free to add your comments on the books that your tiny tot loves. Don't forget to tell me what they like and why!

Oh, and here's the picture proof I promised:

My little (and big) reader!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Confessions of a 6-month-old mom

Our daughter is six months old. When I say our daughter, I mean this tiny result of the generations of so many families that have come together and, finally, resulted in her.

When my mother is driving me crazy with a MUST (read in Hindi and English) parenting tip or when my father-in-law has ordered the most toxic-looking noisy toys, I try to remember that she is theirs too.

But, of course, and most importantly, and without kidding ourselves, firstly, I am a 6-month-old first-time mom.

To mark this momentous occasion, I've dusted my laptop, and decided to write about what I've learned so far, how I feel, and what I would love to share:

  • She is the first newborn/ infant/ baby I've held.
  • I haven't slept for more than 4 hours at a stretch in the past 6 months.
  • I have exclusively breastfed her for 184 days at an average of 10 times per 24 hours.
  • There is no dignity in childbirth.
  • But it's been the easiest part so far.
  • I am tremendously proud of how well my body has handled pregnancy, a completely natural delivery, and sleep deprivation.
  • My lower abdomen looks like a stretch-marky bag of Jell-O.
  • I am constantly told how "lucky" I am and how "grateful" I should be to have an involved husband, like I have scored the perfectly trained nanny.
  • I hope he is told the same thing about me in his circle.
  • Don't tell me my kid is thin. I might punch your face or burst into tears.
  • I've cried louder than her when her hair was shaved, during her first shot, and when she was born.
  • I've cried a lot.
  • Motherhood has gotten me closer to a lot of my family and friends with children.
  • I'm still learning to be patient.
  • I used to be an assertive, decisive, and quick thinker.
  • I've spoken to at least 20 people, including three doctors, on the best way to get her ears pierced: gunshot or thin string of gold? Ended up abandoning the idea indefinitely. 
  • I've whined about her erratic sleep pattern to anyone who will listen.
  • The first month of her life is a blur.
  • The color, consistency, timing, and appearance of poop has never been of greater significance.
  • I've browsed at least 200 pictures of her while she napped.
  • Some days are so hard.
  • I've resolved to take a break and go do fun things alone.
  • I've either called or texted to check on her or browsed pictures of her, every 15 minutes.  
  • I hear phantom baby cries all the time.
  • It doesn't take many words from anyone to make me feel like a crappy mom.
  • When people ask me why the baby is crying, more often than not, I have the same idea as them. Which is none.
  • I have watched her go from being unable to balance her neck to sitting up all by herself.
  • I have struck conversations with moms of all ages, randomly, while shopping, eating, sitting in a garden, everywhere.
  • Children unite women like very few other things.
  • I have encyclopedia-level knowledge on sleep regression, growth spurts, latching, WHO weight charts, milestones, you get the drift.
  • Dr Google is my best friend.
  • I am now part of an unorganized group of women who are truly ALWAYS there for each other. We have texted at 4am, chatted and reassured each other for hours, and discussed our deepest, darkest feelings openly.
Once you go mom, you can't go back.

See you again before she's 16, hopefully. 
Oh hey, mini me!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

5 things I learned about Japan

When I returned from my solo trip to New York City back in mid-2013, I was star struck. I had seen nothing so beautiful, well planned, systematic, and (relatively) clean. I visited four first-world countries after that but NYC remained my favourite. I wouldn’t stop ranting about it. New York this, East Coast that.

My husband picked Japan for a 15-day vacation in April. It was completely his idea because I remember resisting it.

“Who goes to Japan for a holiday?” I’d asked. Right enough, every single person I told about my upcoming holiday asked me the exact same question; or at least framed it as one of the many questions they asked: “Why Japan? Are you going there for work?”

A very large part of me does not want to write what I am about too because it fears that Japan will become the next Switzerland if Indians discovered it. By that I mean a samosa stall at Mount Jungfrau (for real).

I mean, come on!
But I am going to say it because Japan makes the East Coast look like a cranky little village. Here are a few observations I made in the country of tomorrow. After all, it is already tomorrow in Japan!

Chilling scenes at Kyoto's Imperial Palace
1)     Japan is affordable 

Yup, that’s what a blanket statement looks like. Let me explain, bottled water costs YEN 95 for 2 litres which is about Rs 50. Singapore, on the other hand (and for comparison), is one of the most expensive when it comes to packaged water (in my experience).

We ate scrumptious and wholesome local food for as little as Rs 500 for two in all of the cities we visited. And we lived in the most central parts of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo for merely Rs 4000 a night. Planning is key; the country has something for everyone.   

Entry to most gardens is free. 

2)    Japan is one of the most beautiful, culturally rich, and scientifically advanced countries in the world

And are they punctual or what!? I thought I was type A. While you know about the scientifically advanced bit, the bullet train seriously goes so fast, I had to wait for my ears to pop every 5 minutes, Japan has so much more than sakura (cherry blossom) and anime.

For example, in the month of April, Kyoto, which is home to Gion – the geisha district, hosts Miyako Odori (Dance of the Capital). It is a collaborative performance of dance, music, and elaborate set design by maikos (geishas in training) and professional geishas. While you won't understand a word if you don’t know Japanese, the essence of the show and the art of Japanese story-telling will stay with you for ever.

But it is drop-dead beautiful first!
3)    The Japanese are SO friendly!

This is for real. We experienced a good dose of their amicable nature in all the three cities we stayed. Yes, even bustling and busy Tokyo.

Picture this: Two very Indian travellers are lost again looking for a restaurant on their TripAdvisor app so they enter an eatery to ask for directions. The girl goes to the open counter, gets the server’s attention and points at her phone. What happens next?

The server understood what I was asking her but didn’t know how to explain the location to me. So, as any Japanese would, she left what she was doing and walked the 200 meter distance to the location with us.

This happened 3 times in different settings.

4)    There is no place for the vegetarian in Japan

If you’re a fussy eater who is constantly on the move across neighbourhoods in Japan, you better not get hungry without an eating plan. I’d say the same thing to vegetarians, vegans, people with food allergies, etc.

We once ordered a vegetarian vegetable Japanese salad that came topped with a generous helping of minced chicken. Besides, all our orders were in sign languages because restaurants rarely have menus in English. Which brings me to the next observation…

But loads for vegetation!
5)    The Japanese don’t need no English

When you are that humble, self-sufficient, and proud to be Japanese, you don’t need English to get you by! I’d peek into the phones of fellow commuters on the subway and I’d see them typing away or browsing the internet in Japanese. I didn’t see one local read or say anything in English (unless forced by our party of 2). And I like to get comfortable and stare.

We visited the tourist centre in Nara and the only girl we spoke to in fluent English (in 15 days) was shocked to learn we didn’t know how to write our mother tongue perfectly. 

When I asked her if she could write Japanese, pat came the reply, “Of course! I am Japanese!”

So, like, I love Japan. I want to go back. Sigh.

PS: I have some more pictures put up on Instagram: @SabGhiasi Plus, my food tales are documented at @Gobble_up
One can only stop and stare at beautiful things.

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