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Dec 27, 2011

Mission Impossible: The Baby Protocol

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Two days, two movie buffs, one multiplex and one restless baby – Mission Accomplished: The new baby protocol established…


Dear Riddhie,
 
I am sure over a period of time you would have realized that I am a little more than an average cinema patron and movies do make up for a very large part of my entertainment. I guess I inherited this love for motion pictures from your grandfather and maybe some of it would rub on to you as well. I can’t tell for sure as of now, but let’s see if this is the case to be. For now, let me tell you about your initial few movies with the focus mainly on the experience yesterday and today.
 
Let me begin with some history here. Your mom and I had gone to watch Salman Khan starrer ‘Dabangg’ when she was carrying you (a little over 8 months then) and the next movie that we could watch in a theater after Dabangg was ‘Delhi Belly’ and that was when you were already over 7 months old. In fact we followed it back to back with Mr. Bachchan’s ‘Buddha hoga tera baap’, the same day. I wouldn’t say that this was the right cinema for you to open your movie watching innings but nonetheless that’s how you were initiated. 
 
The next few months were mostly spent travelling, adjusting to life in US and watching you grow from a gentle infant to a tornado toddler and it wasn’t until Christmas 2011 that we could plan another movie together. We zeroed on ‘Mission Impossible IV – The Ghost Protocol’ and made to the theater with you in our lap.
 
I guess the occasion was right and I perhaps could not have timed or planned it better. Since it was Christmas, most of the seats in the theater were empty which meant that you could have an entire row to yourself to walk, crawl and play around if you wanted to.

I must admit that you were intrigued by the large screen and the sound system and (to my surprise actually) sat on your mother’s lap looking intently at what was going on for first half hour. However, as the time progressed you wanted to get down and move about a bit and since we were the only ones sitting in an entire block of seats, we let you down. I got up and sat next to you on the flight of stairs in a corner and we perhaps spent the next 30 – 40 minutes like that.
 
Mission Impossible We could keep you busy with your little snacks and milk at random but I guess it was almost time when your patience ran out. Just about the moment when desert storm kicked in on Tom Cruise (watch the movie and you will know) you got absolutely restless and threw off your cookies and milk bottle as far as you could and began crying. The slow sniffle transformed into loud screams and eventually a Dolby level bawl. Within seconds, you made it clear to us that it isn’t the ghost protocol but the baby’s code of conduct which matters.

Thus, began our own little mission impossible. We rocked you, I let you throw my mobile a few times, your mom kept bribing you with some candy and nuts and I took you for a little walk along the stairs as well. But all this could just about last until the final action sequence and eventually your mom did make the sacrifice and picked you up and walked out of the theater to help you settle in. I joined her a few minutes later and as I key this in, I still do not know how the film ended. (Maybe I shall watch it with you again some time) Maybe we were asking too much from you. You are still about 14 months and 3 weeks old and this is perhaps as reasonable a 14 month old can be. 

However, we did not let the matter rest here. Having seen a fair success with you on MI IV (well we could together almost watch 80 – 90 % of the total length of the movie) we decided to push our luck again. The movie this time was the 3D version of Farhan Akhtar’s Don II. As I thought, there were limited people in the audience and the theater again was largely empty and we could find ourselves an entire row empty again. But then as it turned out, you probably liked Tom Cruise better than our Shah Rukh Khan and you were at your restless best within first 15 minutes itself. You wanted to snatch the 3D glasses and wanted to move about just everywhere.

This time around, however your mom decided to battle it out. I guess her confidence was augmented by the fact that it was all Indian population inside the theater and she kind of presumed that the Indian ‘Chalta Hai’ attitude was globally applicable. She took you to the farthest secluded corner and let you move about, as you pleased. You did not let her keep her glasses on for more than a minute at any given time and I am guessing she kind of watched the fuzzed 2D version of a 3D rendition. By the time it was intermission, your mom was nearing her breakpoint. I stepped in when you became almost too violent for her to handle.

Riddhie I guess I could grab your attention and settle you down for a little while but it wasn’t long before you wanted to be free again. Your mom tried bribing you with some fruit loops but then I guess little children can be greedy pigs once in a while. You stuffed a handful in your mouth and before we realized you were choking on a piece right in the theater. Your mom thumped you on the back and you were settled after puking all over me. While this entire thing lasted only a few seconds, I could smell the stink on my jacket even hours later. Funnily enough, you were all calm and ready to sleep just as about the movie was ending.

I am sure in years to come there would be instances when you would drag us to a movie that you would want to watch and then there perhaps would be a time when you would want to go and catch a movie and not want me or your mom to tag along. I generally would not want to dissuade you from cinema for everyone needs their share of imagination and a break from reality. I would however, want you to self-regulate what you watch for it does affect the way you think and dream.

So, maybe from the time that the moving silver screen starts making sense to you till the time that you are grown up enough to know what you should be watching, I promise to be your man to pick those movies for you. Hope we enjoy them together and carry on our little film club.
 
Love,
Dad.

Dec 25, 2011

The World Is My Playground

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“A child and screams in the house is not what you should worry about, the scary thing is when you have both silence and the child under one roof for the next thing you are most likely to hear is a loud crash”


Dear Riddhie,
 
In my last two posts, I have already talked about how in recent times you have been one restless child wanting to touch and hold everything that you can find within your reach. I shall not dwell upon how it keeps us on the our toes and the edge of our seats forever and would let these pictures do the talking.
 
The World is my playground
The moment we turn our backs, you devise a new prank. Ranging from scaling high chairs, table tops to pulling out electric plugs from their sockets and throwing away our phones. 
 
The worst part of this all is that every time that we try and raise our voice, either to distract you or send over a warning signal, you tend to throw back a full blown smile in return and we get stumped on what course of action to take next.

I know with time, this phase too shall go away and soon you will be intelligent enough not to drink from the  bath tub or eat from the carpet and would learn that apples do not bounce off the floor like your big red rubber ball does and that spoons and coffee tables have other purposes in life than make music.

Though, I do enjoy these moments and keep looking for my chance to click you in action, my greater concern is ensuring that you do not sustain any injury when performing your ‘stunts’. I just hope that in years to come while you continue enjoying this world as your playground, you also see it as your oyster and seek your pearls suitably and wisely.
 
Love,
Dad.

Dec 23, 2011

The Little One Who Wouldn’t Sit

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“Yeah, let’s be naughty and save Santa the trip”

- Gary Allan


Dear Riddhie,
 
The title on this post is self-explanatory and I am sure you would have figured out what this is going to be. However, this is more than a story of how you drove us to our wit’s end in a span of few minutes. It is the harrowing tale of an experience that we are unlikely to forget for a long long time and something that shall make us think ten times over before planning any excursion together for the rest of our stay in US on this trip.
 
It was one of those rare New Jersey mornings in December when we woke up to a sunny and beautiful morning with bright sunshine predicted for almost the entire day. I looked up for a preferable outdoor destination for the day and we zeroed on a place called grounds for sculpture at Hamilton. From the information that I came across about the place from its website, it looked like a very delightful place for the day and we hoped to get a few special shots of you (our favorite pastime) at the venue.
 
The place was about 45 miles from our dwellings and we started well in time. Your mom made the usual preparations and packed your diaper bag and supplies for the day. It was early in December but the wind chill factor could get the temperature down by further 5 degrees in the evening, so she made sure that you were properly covered and warm. We set out in time and 15 minutes into the drive, you fell asleep and did not wake up until we reached the venue and were all fresh. The place was essentially a huge landscaped outdoor lawn with sculptures and artworks strewn all over the place with a couple of covered galleries. The lawns were neatly maintained and there were pathways leading to the various statues and art pieces. All in all, it seemed a day conducive for some good family fun outdoors.
 
However, our woes started as soon as you were taken out of your car seat and your feet touched the ground. You winced and grimaced at the sight of your stroller being pulled out of the trunk and broke free from your mother’s hand and rushed to the other side away from the stroller. We were worried about your still unsteady feet carrying you all over the place on slippery grass lawns that had slopes and curves all along and equally concerned of you falling and hurting yourself on the hard cobbled pathway.

I guess you were partially excited and partially overwhelmed at the sight of such open space before you and just wanted to break free and run all over the place. While we thought we would spend the day strolling along gently covering as much as we could and taking pictures at every nook and corner and doing the tourist thing, you on the other hand, had other plans and clearly, the idea of a leisure walk did not go down too well with you. 
 
First, you did not wish to sit in the stroller at all and squirmed and straightened your legs and cried and threw a tantrum until we finally gave in to your wish. Your mother walked along slowly holding your hand while I kept pushing the empty pram, stopping now and then to click a picture or two. And then the inevitable happened. You slipped your hand out of your mother’s clasp and rushed on full steam on the stone tiled walkway, tripped over a jutting corner of a tile and fell flat on your face. I was walking a few steps ahead and turned around at your mother’s scream as you fell. By the time we picked you up, you were crying at the top of your voice.

RiddhieYou had sustained a minor bruise around your temple and thankfully it was nothing serious. Had you been any older and perhaps any more intelligent to understand speech, I would have boxed your ears and told you it serves you right and this is what happens when you do not listen to your folks. However, we were so caught up in the moment that for a seconds we did not know how to pacify you. You kept crying uncontrollably while your mom tried everything she could - ranging from giving you water, handing a cookie and the milk bottle, shaking you up, hugging you, washing your face and wiping your nose. 

It was only after a few minutes of coaxing and comforting that you finally settled in. I now wanted you back in your stroller to avoid any more falls but I guess you were still in no mood to concede. The moment I picked you up to get you in your seat, you threw your arms about, kicked me as hard you could and even got my glasses off my face and threw them to the ground. You were the epitome of being a spoilt brat and we were a perfect example of how miserable the parents of an unrelenting infant can be. By the time I managed to buckle you up a small crowd had gathered around us. Other visitors were throwing us glances and snickering and talking in hushed whispers. A few of the good Samaritans had the nerve to walk up to us and even exclaim, “Is she alright?” Our parenting skills were totally blown apart and publically disgraced for sure.

Your mother tried to sit aside on a bench to coax you – you straightened your legs and screamed even harder. She tried bribing you with a cookie – you flung it back at her face. She tried getting you to sip some water – you filled your mouth and then let it out all over your clothes. She pulled out one of your toys – you threw it as far as you could on the ground.
 
After much persuasion when we finally could get you to an agreeable state, you decided to take it back upon us. As long as we kept moving, you chose to remain silent but the moment we stopped to admire an artifact or to click a picture, you would start with your hollering.

Eventually we had to have you back on your feet and walking all over but now you did not even wish to hold our hands and wanted to be on your own. There were couple of peacocks roaming around free in the lawns and I tried to distract you and walked you over to them. But I guess by that time you were through with the place. You showed minimal interest in the peacocks and went about hating us for not giving you your freedom and kept crying.
 
The place was being decorated for the upcoming holiday season and we were hoping to stay until the lights came on. The trees and sculptures were covered in various lights and perhaps you would have liked it too but then we never stood a chance with you then. Eventually we drove back just as about the lights were coming up. Surprisingly, the moment you were back in your car seat and we were on our way back, you settled down nice and easy and were back to your normal self. For the records, you slept easy within five minutes and we sat in silence all our way back contemplating what just happened.
 
I guess it makes for a funny read now and maybe we shall tease you about being such a brat in years to come but trust me, it was one of the days that reminded us of the day you attended your first important wedding in the family (Read Here).

Perhaps there would be days that shall make us look back on this day with gratitude and this definitely would be a good story to tell you when you would be screaming at your kids some day. Who knows? Maybe until then I shall look back and take lesson from the day to reflect that you are your own person with your own free mind. I guess as parents, we shall try and be cognizant of this fact and will let you make your own decisions and take your own path. But at the same time we would also like you to see our reasons, for ensuring your seat belt and safety nets are secure in the same light. Though at times it would be unavoidable but as your parents we wouldn’t want you falling down and getting hurt – be it walking down your education or career path or just running around in the lawns as the case is now. Hope you would grow up to be mature enough to know the difference.
 
Love,
Dad.

Dec 22, 2011

The Midnight Surprise

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“There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep…”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Dear Riddhie,
 
Over these last couple of weeks, you seem to have entered a new phase. You have become extremely inquisitive about things and articles around you and have become more of an explorer unwilling to settle down and sit quietly at one place.
 
Right from the minute when you wake up in the morning, you are on this little crusade within the house opening drawers and cupboards and fidgeting with anything and everything on the tables that you can get hold of. The moment we turn our eyes away, you bring down a cushion, throw away a bottle, pull down the blinds and grab the phones. You are no longer content playing with your toys and want a piece of everything within your reach. Even the trash cans and dishwasher are not spared and in recent times I have seen your mom rush to clean up after you so many times that she doesn’t seem like doing anything else all day long.
 
Needless to say that all this running around exhausts you too and you like being tucked in and put to bed early these days. It also works well with us as we can have our dinner sitting at the table without having to worry about you coming up and toppling things over and feeding the carpet. We have been trying to get you into a routine where you do your running about all day long and sleep by 7 in the evening on a daily basis.
 
Someday few nights ago, you got yourself so tired during the day that by the time I was home after work, you were already in deep slumber. Your mom informed me that it was about as early as 5:00 pm when you decided to throw in the towel and call it a day. By the time we settled in after our dinner and daily chores for the day it was almost 11 in the night.

About two hours later, I woke up to the sound of light banging on the door. I instinctively moved my hand over the bed to check on you and my heart skipped a beat. You were not on the bed. I sprang up and switched on the light and to my utter surprise found you standing by the door, all playful and smiling and wanting to be let out.
 
Not only had you crawled to the corner of the bed without a sound, you slid off the bed as well and found your way to the door in the dark and were tugging at the door knob to open the door. I called out to you and your eyes lit up with mischief. You wanted to run out and perhaps would have liked me chasing after you as well.

Riddhie I opened the bedroom door and let you out in the living area and sat there with you for some time. You continued tinkering around a few things that you could lay your hands on and to my relief soon got bored of it. Seizing a window of opportunity there, I quickly got ready one of your milk bottles and picked you up and tucked you back in. Your mom woke up in due course and wondered at what devilry the father – daughter duo was up to in the middle of the night and couldn’t help smiling when I told her about your latest feat.

Maybe in a few years from now, you shall want to sneak out of your bed to another mischief and maybe you would actually not want me to be a part of it then. I don’t know if I will be able to catch and ground you then or if you will outsmart your old man. But I guess till that happens, I shall enjoy these little midnight surprises with you. Maybe one of these days when you are a little older we would want to sneak out together and make way to the refrigerator to steal some ice cream in the middle of the night or to just hang about in the living room blasting each other on a gaming console…..hmmm looking forward to it I guess.
 
Love,
Dad.

Nov 17, 2011

More Little Things…

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“This one just begins from where I left on the last one… more little things that I am reminded of…” 


Dear Riddhie,

Just continuing on the last post where I listed a few of the little random things that you picked up (and lost) over time. I must admit that couple of these things have been way too cute for me to reminisce about for perhaps, the rest of my life.

Continuing from the previous list, here are a few more of those little things...   

1. Baby goes “Thhaaaaa– I have a vague recollection of how it started actually. We were still at our parental house and you were sitting over a mat on the verandah and we were around watching you play with an empty steel bowl (katori) and a spoon. You were in early days of testing your grip and were happily beating the spoon on the bowl when it just fell out from your grasp and hit the floor with a significant louder metallic clang which startled you a bit. Your grandmother was sitting besides you on a chair and she tried to reassure you and exclaimed ‘What happened Riddhie? Thaaa ho gayi?’ and you just picked up the sound Thaa… Minutes later, you were throwing the bowl away on the floor deliberately and exclaiming ‘Thaa’ every time it hit the tiles. It soon got converted to a standard warning phrase of communication with you. Every time someone in the family wanted to warn you about falling over they would say ‘Riddhie Thaaa’ and you would immediately stop in your track, no matter what you were doing. As the case is with the babies when they learn to roll over, a common phenomenon is them falling off the bed as well. No matter how much caution we examined, you did have your share of falls. The first time it happened you just rolled off on the carpet from a low bedside and though it did not hurt, you got up looking all bewildered and the moment I picked you up, you said ‘Thaa’. I could not help smiling at that look you gave and at your assessment of the situation. ‘Thaa’ thereafter has been our warning signal to you when you get too close to the edge of the bed or are playful around the furniture in the house. It has been proving its worth till date as I key this in. 

Riddhie 2. Give, Riddhie Give: This happens to be one of the most useful things we could teach you as you were growing up. You are just about an year and two weeks old as I write this and we have been able to teach you the concept of picking up a thing and giving it to us. Of course, it still comes more like a game to you, nonetheless it’s both fun and help for us since it prevents you from taking things and articles you can find within your reach and putting them in your mouth. It started with us calling out to you, reaching out our hands and making gestures with our palms and fingers for you to come and hand out whatever you had picked up to us, chanting ‘give, give, give…’ all the while. This had to be followed with a big smile and a loud ‘Thank You’ to help you understand that your effort is appreciated. Soon you started enjoying this little exercise and looked forward to that big Thank-You. In fact, it has come to a point where you just find anything that you can reach out to and bring it to either your mom or me and wait for us to say thanks to you. The list of articles is growing as you have extended your reach to telephone in the living room, slippers lying around, TV remotes, mobile phones, any books you find on the coffee table and of course your toys around you.

I guess most of these things shall go away as you grow up. Along the line, you would become wise in worldly ways, lose some of your innocence and shall add more shades to your personality. I would wish and expect that you learn more and study well and develop a balanced and healthy emotional and intelligence quotient but then I believe I can not even close eyes to the fact that you shall also pick up a few grey traits along. I can already see you act stubborn at times and show anger when your will is not done. Sigh..I guess no matter what future brings us, we, as your parents shall always look back at these little stories of your early childhood with the same warmth and cherish them as ever. So, for now enjoying this golden period of our lives with you, hoping that you pick up new tricks on a daily basis and I continue keying them in. 

Love,
Dad.

Nov 5, 2011

Little Things You Do…

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“Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things”

- Frank Howard Clark 


Dear Riddhie,

Riddhie There have been a host of little things that you have picked up in recent times and before they are lost to the dust of time and to the amnesia of life, let me just put them up together for you and compile them in this letter. These are little things which do not necessarily warrant a separate post and a couple of them are events which I just want to briefly touch upon so as to remember them and give you the details in person when you come back and ask me and those which I do not wish to deliberately elaborate upon here to avoid causing you any embarrassment since I am publishing these letters to a public domain.

Let me begin by talking about the most recent ones.   

1. Using the Straw – This perhaps has been your early feat. I was looking up and reading various articles on infant growth and development patters and came across references where it said that children learn to use a straw as a tool for drinking from a cup when they are between 14 to 18 months of age. October 23, 2011 happened to be the first day when you successfully learnt to use a straw for drinking water from a cup. Maybe I would come across as an obsessed parent to most readers as it really is something that all kids eventually learn, but nonetheless, since it happened before me, I guess there is no harm in noting it down here. 

2. The Sound of Static -  At your age, you do not totally understand things and there are not many things that invoke a sense of fear. However, the topmost item on the list of things that make you scream and howl and really cry out loud is the static noise as coming from a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer or the rumbling of a dish washer. The other items which you feared a few weeks ago and are now able to deal with are whistle from a pressure cooker and the sound through the air vent of a microwave oven. I guess this list shall grow and shrink to include and strike off various items as grow up. Perhaps your list shall some day coincide with mine and I shall fear things that I haven’t been afraid of so far in my life. Hopefully we shall stand by each other on all those days. 

3. Go – Go – Go: I don’t know how this one got missed out earlier but ‘GO’ was perhaps the first thing you learnt to say after ‘mmmaaa’. In fact you would say a GO for almost everything that you wanted to respond to. Later when you realized that Go was something you could use to tell others to pick you up and take you out for a walk, it became ‘Go, Go, Go’ the repetition underlining the emphasis that you wanted to assert. A few days down the line you had almost christened your grandpa as ‘Go’ and as soon as he entered home after work, you would start chiming ‘go, go, go’ as an indication for him to take you out and show you the lights on the road and the moving traffic. As it had to be you lost out on this when you picked up more syllables on your vocab. 

4. The Rock star move: Another of those early moves that you learnt to make was to bang your head in a rock star motion. Be it to the sound of music or perhaps just something playing inside your head you would rock your head back and forth in a rhythmic trance as if dancing to some rock beat. With your little hair blossoming into fine curls, this sure looked one move to die for. I simply loved it when you started doing it and never really stopped you or tried to check you on this. Well, as I just mentioned, it looked brilliant till it lasted. Maybe it had again to do something with your teething and you got out it once you had your incisors out and biting.

5. Baby and the Ball: Now, this one really came off as a surprise to us. When, after our arrival here in US, I set out to buy toys for you, one thing which I thought would be an obvious pick was a ball. I set out to buy a few – different sizes and light weight kinds, one you could just see floating around and the one which would bounce up a bit. To my surprise, once we were home and threw them across to you, you saw them as some alien species and started crying out big time. In fact it became so bad that we had to eventually hide them up for a few days. It was only after a lot of coaxing that you finally got ‘friendly’ with them and started playing around. However, as I key this in, you still haven’t learnt how to kick them or throw them around. All you do is pick them up with both hands and bring them over to us and wait for us to thank you in a loud jovial tone and throw it back again so you could go and bring it back to us. For now, I am calling it as the little pup game (your mom hates the name though) and waiting for you to start throwing it back and play ‘catch’ with me.

I guess now that I have started putting in all the little stories together I am reminded of a couple more. Maybe I would break this letter here and should do another adding up a few more of these little random things you did or still do at the time of keying this in or maybe I should just keep making little snippet posts. I guess I shall figure it out all the same, I hope reading about these shall give you as much pleasure as it gives me while noting them in here.  

Love,
Dad.

Oct 28, 2011

The Sleeping Tornado

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“FYI - A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud” 


Dear Riddhie,

When I started writing this, it was intended to be a funny narration to cause a few smiles, but then last night I also saw a ‘not so funny’ side of it. There has been a marked change in your sleeping pattern recently and we, as your parents find ourselves caught in a situation which is both funny and literally back breaking at times.

The last few weeks saw you take your first steps and it was just a matter of days that you started running around and bumping into things. I believe that this development has also led to a change in the way you have been sleeping in recent times. We normally have you sleeping with us on the bed tucked comfortably between your mum and me. The nightly routine for us to get you to sleep begins with a bottle of milk and couple of lullabies and let me add here, that the success rate of this pattern is only 50% actually. When it doesn’t work we try getting you to lie down over either of us and try rocking you to sleep. I haven’t seen this work in last couple of days now and the last option that we currently have is to let you be for a while. We allow you to keep running and jumping all over us, bang your head on the head rest a couple of times (it is soft leather and well cushioned), kick us on our faces, stomachs, backs and everywhere else often invoking sharp pangs of pain and screams from us in the middle of the night before you tire yourself out and we try another milk bottle and a few more lullabies. Now, if this was not exercise enough for us already, let me tell you about the two new things that you added to this list recently.   

1. Kick the Sheets – As soon as we put you to bed and try tucking you in, the first thing you do is to kick the sheets over you to get your legs out. This often leads to getting the sheets and blankets from off us as well and a larger part of my night these days is spent in getting the sheets over you lest you are not snug enough. But somehow, everything I do right now is just not enough. Ten seconds on the bed and into the sheets and you kick them off like a footballer now and this does not stop even when you are in deep slumber. 

2. The Tornado Move -  The next thing follows as soon as you hit deep sleep. In precise calculated moves, you just tend to lift your torso and in quick motion turn yourself counterclockwise to turn yourself 180 degrees in the same space. Often this translates to me getting kicked in the nose again or being pushed to the brink of falling off the bed. Depending upon how many hours do you sleep without waking up in between is directly proportional to number of whirls and rotations you would make. I have woken up in the middle of the night to find your toes up my nostrils or your head right on my knee. Surprisingly all these movements are directed in my direction alone and not your mom who often doesn’t even get to know how many times I set you back in your original position.

Ah well, I guess its just a matter of time before you gain realization of your being and your likes and dislikes and become more aware of your surroundings. I would really like to shoot a video or take some pictures to keep an evidence of your tornado moves since I am sure you shall soon grow out of it. But if nothing else, this post shall keep this memory saved for the coming years. 

RiddhieAs I key this in, you are moving around and on to some mischief. It’s about 08:30 in the night and I guess, time for me or your mom to pick you up again and initiate the daily ritual. Yup, milk bottle coming up for you my angel, so perhaps I should just sign out on this one now. Nighty-night angel.

Love,
Dad.

 


PS: The picture above was taken yesterday morning (October 26, 2011). During the night, you managed a 270 degrees turn and when we woke up you were lying perpendicular to the length of the bed. Note, no sheets again. :)

Footnote added April 10, 2013 - Someone forwarded the below picture on email and it immediately reminded me of this post. I guess we have experienced all of this with you until now. :)

sleeping_pattern

Oct 23, 2011

The First Steps

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“The first step is when you start leaving a trail…at times to make a path for others to follow” 


Dear Riddhie,

From a time line perspective, the events as narrated in this letter happened about a couple of weeks prior to my keying this in. Considering that this was such an important event in the course of your development, I decided to still post it even if it was a little late.

Well, you started balancing yourself on your feet around last week of July and had started beginning to get up and stand on your own for few seconds or so at around that time but it was not until the second week of August 2011 that you started taking a couple of steps on your own.   

Your mom would encourage you to stand up and take a step or two towards her, often luring you with one of your favorite oat cookies at that point of time. We never really saw you crawling on your knees much and so kind of knew that it would not be too long before you would decipher how to use your legs and surge ahead.  

Riddhie It was the afternoon of August 19 when your mom saw you standing on your own holding one of the coffee tables in the living room and called you up. She came near and you turned around and decided to reach out for her open arms. It was probably at that very moment that you took your very first step. I remember her calling me at work to give me the news. 

It was the same evening when she got you standing on the slab of our kitchen as I looked on and she coaxed you to walk towards her. I sat by waiting for you to respond to that call and though I wasn’t really sure of the entire exercise being done on the kitchen slab, you did, though nervously, move a step or two towards her. I guess it was a matter of chance that I was waiting with a camera and I could capture the moment that was.

The coming weeks saw you learn and control your motor functions better and we were soon running after you trying to catch up and prevent you from banging into glass doors and walls and every this else. These days you just love taking off and rush towards a toy or something you fancy and often fall on your bum with a good ‘thud’. The carpet on the floor and your cushioned diapers have so far proved their worth on all such occasions.

I guess in the overall scheme of life, this may eventually feel like a very normal function and such an integral part of life that you may not even realize anything special about it until perhaps you see your own children take their first step some day. Perhaps one of these days when I am old and frail and my knees finally lose their juice, I would wait for you to rush home from your world once in a while to fill me up with the stories of faraway lands and newer skies. Till then, I guess I shall look back and watch this video we shot the other night when you took your first few steps.

Love,
Dad.
 

Oct 21, 2011

The Party & The Gift

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“More from Riddhie’s first birthday…” 


Dear Riddhie,

The last few days have been pretty hectic again on the work front and I really could not write as much as I thought I would. There still are one or two things more that I wanted to share with you about your first birthday. It’s true that you did not have a grand party or perhaps a celebration that we would have planned for if we were back home in India, but then I guess it kind of turned out just as happy and fun.

Sesame PlaceWe planned a day trip to a theme park called Sesame Place situated in Pennsylvania on the weekend before your birthday. This park is based on a TV show called Sesame Street which is essentially a puppet show with characters like Elmo, Count von Count and others. Though you were probably a little too young to understand the stories as narrated by the puppets in their theater shows, the sheer splendor of colors around and the movements of the characters in their large puppet costumes thrilled you no end. We went through a couple of rides which you could sit in with your mom holding you and it was probably your first experience of the delight and thrill of a joy ride. 

Sesame Place - Riddhie We ended up doing all possible things that we thought you would enjoy including clicking as many pictures as we could. You had a real good time while it lasted and you kept jumping all along. I remember in one of the theater shows that we sat with you, you got so excited on seeing the large furry puppets dancing on the stage that you jumped up in glee and almost knocked out the cap off a lady sitting in row ahead of us.

It was almost evening by the time we finished there and it also began to drizzle a bit and so we decided to head home. On our way back, we stopped at one of the stores and your mom bought you a nice dress for your birthday. The following few days saw your mom and you click a dozen pictures in the lawns below the apartment and when we finally posted those pictures online, almost everyone who saw them had a special word to say about how pretty you looked.

HT 1 As far as I was concerned, I decided to do something special for you. A day before your birthday, I designed a special ambigram of your name and had it tattooed on me – right between my shoulders. I am not sure if you would like it when you grow up and see it but I guess for me this was one way of telling you that I shall always carry you as long as I live and also that you, my princess are way too precious to me and will always be. 

I shall conclude this post and the story of your first birthday here. There are so many other pictures of the day that I am sure we shall have lots to talk about as you grow older, for now I shall sign off with the two taken by your mom and which I feel have been one of the most beautiful ones till date.

Love,
Dad.

Ridd

16-2

Oct 6, 2011

As You Turn One…

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“Today is a special day as it’s one year since you were born as my daughter and isn’t it strange that it’s the same amount of time I was born as your dad as well.” 


Dear Riddhie,

Riddhie As you turn one today, several things cross my mind. As I key this letter in, I see your mother trying hard to cook up a story to distract you to get you to comb and pin your hair and I am reminded of the day when I held you for the very first time. I guess something changed for me then and there as I stood fixed to the ground looking at you and you wouldn’t just stop crying.

I am also reminded of all those early days when we as your parents were still learning how to hold you and carry you and all those nights when despite all our efforts you would just not agree to sleep through. There were times when I would just rock you for hours or we would take you for a long drive in the middle of the night trying to settle you down.

Then came moments when you started gaining consciousness of things around you. It was both interesting and fun to watch you enjoy and respond to colors, tastes, sounds, lights and people around. This learning process is still on and I guess every passing day it is a new lesson in life for both you and us as your parents.

It hasn’t been too long since you took your first step and we already are finding it difficult to catch up with you. I can imagine there would be a day when you would be ready to step out into the world to find and make your place in it and we would lose the luxury of being able to stay around all the time and watch you take strides ahead. 

This very day, I am sure, had we been back home in India with the rest of the family, there would have been a big bash with everyone invited and you would have been showered with presents and wishes alike. I am not sure if you would have actually enjoyed any of that given that you still are a toddler and do not appreciate very many things except your play time, a few toys and a timely meal and nap. I guess your Mom did all she could to still make this day as special as she could. She dressed you up (a couple of times in fact) and clicked tons of pictures and let you create as much ruckus in the house as you liked. Back home, your Dadi too hosted a little puja in the temple she visits daily and I am told that there was some cake cutting at home as well.

RiddhieHere, the day ended when you after being tired of all the activity just flopped on the bed and rolled off in deep slumber.

I am sure in the years to come, we shall continue celebrating this day in different ways some times lavishly and maybe on others at a modest level. However, I am sure we as your parents shall cherish this day every year just the same. I would always wish you to have the best that life has to offer and would pray that you gain enough wisdom and virtue to be able to always make a sensible and sane choice for you and for those who matter to you. I don’t know what time has in store for us but on this day as you start taking your first steps, I hope and pray that you keep smiling just as ever and fill warmth and sunshine into the lives of everyone around you.

Love,
Dad.

Sep 6, 2011

The Tamarind Episode

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“Perhaps the easiest way to feed a baby is to spread the food on the floor…” 


Dear Riddhie,

It’s not been very long since you developed a sense of taste and your set of likes and dislikes and have started being picky about your food. Though you have still not started voicing it out explicitly, the realization tends to dawn upon us when we see you lick your spoon twice over in case you like something or just spit it out in a little shower back at us when you don’t.

I was asking your mother earlier this week as why she was opening another jar of your baby food when there were still unfinished jars lying in the fridge and she replied that you don’t really like the ones we had previously opened and so she was trying a new flavor or one with different ingredients in it. Of all things that I do not like, I guess the one which really stands out is the habit of wasting food. While I was ready to argue that she probably did not try hard enough, I thought of taking a pause (to my better judgment over the years now) and take a jab at the task myself. I was not willing to believe that you would actually have a preference as early as yet. But then was I to be proved wrong??

So, I picked up this little bottle of Gerber’s Plum and Apple flavored paste – the one I was told that you relished a few weeks ago and now did not feel like taking even a tiny morsel of. I held you close and switched on some music – you know just to set in the mood and started telling you this little story, hovering the spoon around to get your attention and slowly brought it closer to your lips. You looked up at me with suspicion then slowly got your tongue out and tasted the little bit that was on offer and well, to my delight smiled and lapped it all up.

I was delighted. I took a bigger spoonful and brought it up even faster and well, you had that too in one big gulp. I looked around and found your mom standing there looking at me with a slightly bewildered look. I raised my spoon like a little trophy and told her “See, you were wrong. You just need the right technique to feed the child.” But then before I dug in another spoon and could get you to eat any more, she leapt up and held my hand and grabbed the bottle straight off the table. 

“You see this is why they shouldn’t allow men to handle little children” she said. “The bottle you are feeding Riddhie from doesn’t even have baby food. I threw away what was in there and used the little bottle to fill in the tamarind paste I made this morning” she continued.New Miscellaneos 092

I didn’t know whether to laugh at the entire episode or be angry at myself for not checking or even smelling the contents of the bottle but then I guess I was not guilty of this alone since the bottle was unmarked and still lying next to your other baby food jars in the same row in the fridge. All the same I was surprised at the way you lapped up the sour paste quickly enough and then even wanted more. Luckily for us, that did not upset your stomach or gave you a sore throat or anything.

This entire episode just reasserted the fact that we can never be too careful when it comes to you. In recent times you have acquired the habit of picking up things from the floor and putting them in your mouth. You are still at a stage when you don’t understand what a ‘No’ means and we end up running after you and forcing you to spit things out but I guess I shall talk about one of those episodes some other time. For now, I can see you play in your crib and look up at me from there from time to time and your mom and I are smiling about the tamarind story all over again.

Love,
Dad.

Aug 31, 2011

Sun, Sea and Sand…

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“The cure for everything in life is salt water – Sweat, Tears or Sea…” 

- Anonymous


Dear Riddhie,

Isn’t it strange that people talk about finding calm and peace in the sound of the waves crashing on the shore? The sound itself doesn’t echo a musical note, yet helps sort out the most troubled souls. Perhaps its the feeling that you get when you are standing before a huge body of water or staring down a cliff – the feeling of your existence being such a trivial thing in the entire scheme of universe. Personally, I guess I like the sea better than a mountain side. I totally enjoy the first sight of sea and the first whiff of air that fills your lungs when you are entering a beach or just passing by the shore.

My first memories of a beach are of Juhu beach in Bombay (OK Mumbai). Though, if you were to compile a list of top 50 beaches around the globe based on their beauty or cleanliness, it may not find a place in the list but it still somehow is special to me. I was really young then and the first sighting of sea wasn’t just joyful it was almost magical. I remember the few visits we made to the beach on that trip, your grandma would buy me and your Bunty uncle a green coconut and we would have fun looking around for shells or just running along the sand, getting ourselves soaked in the spray. Interesting to note here is the fact that apart from the food stalls and the hawkers and a special characteristic ‘stink’, the beach doesn’t offer you much. There are no boardwalks, no roller coasters and more notably no civic sense in most people to help keep the area clean yet the entire experience remained fresh in my memory for years. In the last few years, I made couple more trips to Bombay and as a rule always visited the beach, even if I was going there for a day.

August 7, 2011 turned out to be your first visit to a beach. Location, Sea side heights along the Jersey shore. Perfect weather, not too hot and a pretty good boardwalk with lots of rides and colors and things to do, which I am sure you would have enjoyed way more had you been a little older. The place, in fact, turned out to be way better than our expectations. There weren’t many people around so the place wasn’t really bursting on its seams and there was ample parking space available (a thing which you would have gathered over the years that I am a little paranoid about).

The beach was about 60 miles away from our place and starting early in the day saved us from being trapped in traffic queues or other similar inconveniences. Once parked in and on the boardwalk, you were ecstatic delighted at the play of colors and people around. Your joy knew no bounds once you came in sight of the ocean. The huge mass of water and the play of waves spraying white foam on water was a sight to behold and you truly seemed mesmerized by this first vision. Your mom tried getting you with her to the water but I guess the magnanimity of such a sight got the better of you and you shrieked in fear every time the waves tried lapping up your feet.

Once it became clear, that you were going to keep a safe distance from the water, I decided to help you with the next best thing to do – play with sand. We sat together away from the water to observe how you dealt with this new element in your environment. I guess this was your first encounter with sand as well and you had a considerably good time playing with it. You apparently wanted to have your mouthful of it and I constantly kept deterring you from it until you got tired of the entire thing altogether and wanted to be picked up and be handed your milk bottle. It was perhaps then that we decided that you have had enough and probably it was time to head back.

Your mom cleaned you up and gave you a change of clothes before we sat down to have some lunch by the beach. Though it was tough carrying your stroller, bags we carried and you all the way from the beach to the parking lot and we were panting hard by the time we settled back in the car, overall it turned out to be one good outing. In fact we were so pleased at your reaction and the way you were mesmerized looking at the water initially that the following weekend saw us do an encore and we checked out a sister beach of Sea Side Heights called the Point Pleasant as well. 

I am sure you would have seen the entire picture set that we have from these days already but for your reference let me pull out a few and post them here as well. In fact I shall also add in a small and only video we got in accidently while clicking your pictures with sand at Point Pleasant.

Love,
Dad.

RiddhieRiddhie & Mom 
Riddhie & Mom Riddhie & Dad

Aug 29, 2011

Of Lazy Sundays and Sunshine Mornings

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“I’d like mornings better if they started later…” 

- Anonymous


Dear Riddhie,

To begin with let me clarify that no matter what the quote above implies, I still am and have always been a morning person. But then it would be incorrect to say that I do not enjoy an occasional laid back lazy morning.

When I was younger, there were times we would sleep on the terrace under the stars on summer nights. It was fun being lulled to sleep watching the moon play hide and seek between the clouds or be able locate an odd shooting star once in a while. There were no desert coolers and no Air Conditioners and life and needs were simpler. I however, used to hate it when the morning light streamed through the shut eye lids and forced us to be on our feet and back downstairs to our respective rooms, often as early as 4:30 or 5:00 in the day. While on days when there was school, it seemed torturous to be up so early and to start preparing for the day ahead but during summer breaks and on Sundays, it often meant to be able to snuggle back into the bed and sleep till the time your grandma wouldn’t make us get up again.

While those days are long gone, I can not help but wonder what lies ahead. Would your generation ever get to know how blissful can the simple joys in life be? I can’t really say at this moment. Maybe by the time you get ready to read this, I shall have a couple more answers. As of now as I type this in, you have crawled under my desk and are looking to eat off the floor and as I bend down to stop you, you have moved ahead and are laughing at this little game of yours. Perhaps, this is as simple as it can ever be for you. 

Coming back to my stream of thoughts, I am reminded of an easy laid back Sunday morning couple of weeks ago. We woke up to the sun filtering through the open curtains and enveloping the room in a golden honey glow. The white sheets that you were sleeping on reflected the light back and your sunshine smile made it all the more special. It was one of those days again after ages when despite having woken up early I did not wish to rise from the bed. I guess, few years from now when you shall have your own routine and schedule and when I perhaps would drop down on your list of priorities such moments of leisure and magic would become hard to come by.

Maybe then I would spring up these pictures that I took of you on that beautiful Sunday morning and fill in the same sunshine in my wrinkled winters then. No matter what happens to us then, I shall wish the same happiness that you fill my heart with now, for all times to come.

Riddhie Riddhie

Love,
Dad.

Aug 28, 2011

Fangs…

3 comments

“What is scarier – vampires you can see in movies or the kind you are transformed to by your evil within?”


Dear Riddhie,

This one might surprise you a bit as it more or less springs out of no where. There was this picture of you from Point Pleasant beach where your lateral incisors are showing a bit and last night while watching some old vampire movie I thought of doing a picture of you out of fun mainly with a view to test if I still had some photoshop skills left in me.

Your mom was not too appreciative of the endeavor but I guess it overall turned out to be one good piece (well, looking strictly from the art perspective of it). I posted the picture online on FaceBook with the title ‘Taking PhotoShop to the Extreme’ and my friends and people showed mixed reaction to it. 

I am sure by now you would know me as much, to adjudge that I don’t give a penny to what people’s reactions are to things and ideas that I believe in. I read this quote long ago when I was in school and it somehow stuck forever. Maybe I did mention it to you in some previous letter as well. It says ‘If you are standing upright, don’t worry if your shadow looks crooked”. Well, I guess I live by this rule, have always done so and if I am not gone as yet, I shall perhaps continue doing so. The take for you here is that you need to back yourself up specially when the wind is in your face.

Anyway, this also sprang up another notion in my head. Few people in the family wanted me to delete the picture, there were others who said that it wasn’t right to do that to your kid’s picture and someone even commented that it is not right for ‘religious’ reasons. (Yeah, well the last comment ensured one thing that I wouldn’t delete it now). However, looking at positive side of things, it also means that people perhaps love you more than they love my PhotoShop skills. :) Another inference drawn is that shocking images still get people to pay attention and that the opinions are still majorly drawn from clich├ęd and banal value systems (Little babies are meant to look cute and not menacing). 

Ah, well, just to conclude this little post and round up my thoughts here. There are few things that came up from this episode and which I believe I should share with you. First, I love you as much even if you tend to be this little monster and throw up a few tantrums at times and Second it is more important to have a conviction and do your own thing despite people telling you what you ‘should be’ doing. I guess over the next couple of years I shall juggle between the person encouraging you to find your own ground and your own sky and being this worried old man wanting you to conform and fall in line on certain things. I guess in the larger scheme of things both these roles are equally important and probably you shall realize this over the course of your life.

For now, I guess I shall just let you be, as you again crawl under the table and hold my knees to get up. Let me also tell you that here in Jersey, this is the night when Irene – the hurricane visits us in a few hours from now, having already wrecked coasts along Virginia but more on that in a separate post.  

Here is the picture that started it all and the second one in yellow tinge which I did not post earlier as I thought it wasn’t good enough along with the original picture that was ‘touched up’.

Love,
Dad.

  Riddhie Riddhie Riddhie

Aug 24, 2011

The Pacifier Story

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“Raising kids is part joy and part guerilla warfare” 

- Ed Asner


Dear Riddhie,

It may seem funny to you but truly one of the first things that I wanted to buy for you here was a pacifier. Not that they were not available in India or something, but I guess a need for having you use one became paramount after we arrived here in the US. You see, back home our support system included your grandparents and your multiple aunts and uncles and other elders who would willingly hold you when you felt irritated or displayed a willingness to be held and strolled around, but here the only people you ever saw were your mother and me and at times, I guess it became a little too monotonous for a baby, like yourself.

So, once you got settled in and accustomed to your new surroundings, it did not take long for you to be bored of the same faces you saw around every single day. Gradually, I observed that you started getting a little hyper and resorting to screaming and constantly babbling and crying. I looked up some references and it occurred that a pacifier might help distract you for some time and help you get off your recently acquired habit of crying out for every single thing you wanted.

The following weekend saw us reach out to the nearest ‘Babies R Us’ store to zero down on a perfect pacifier for you. Now this may seem a little exaggerated to you, but then having had no previous experience of buying one and having seen only a few limited options that one has in India, it was overwhelming to see an entire section of the store dedicated to the baby pacifiers of various kinds. There were ones segregated by the infant age and then by the types. There were pure silicone ones and pure latex ones and then a few in-betweens. There were calcium filled ones and dry suckles and then with separate cases and tags and then those without them. I had never in my dreams had thought that it would ever be a matter of research but then I actually ended up looking up Google to find one that would serve the purpose.

Once home we were in for another surprise. Even after multiple attempts at coaxing you into it, we could not get you to hold it or make it stay in your mouth for more than half a minute. You loved spitting it out or throwing it off as far as you could and we gathered that it was now perhaps too late for you to get hooked onto it. It eventually turned out to be a lost battle.

By the time we sat down for dinner that day, you had finally asserted and firmly etched the authority of an infant over its parents. I finally realized that as parents we can only hope to do the best for you and forcing things upon you was certainly not the way to go about it.

But then there is a funny side as well to this story. As we started eating we let you sit by my side. The moment my eyes turned aside you picked up a chicken wing from my plate and happily started digging into it. Since you were still teething and could not really chew, I deduced that probably it felt good on your gums or something. An idea sprung up and I cleaned up a wing, removed the flesh and handed out the soft bone for you. You accepted the same delightfully and were all relaxed and intent with your new prop instantly. All the energy that you were devoting to screaming and jumping and rolling over was now channelized onto this little piece of interest that you relished rubbing on to your gums and gnawing on as your tiny little teeth permitted.

I guess thereafter as a ritual once we wanted you to sit quietly or keep yourself busy, we would spring up a fresh cleaned up and softened bone and hand it out to you. Maybe in all those shelves in the store where we searched for a pacifier, another box of ‘pacifier bones’ needs to be added.

By the way, to those others who might be flinching at the idea of an infant sucking on a bone for a pacifier, let it be known that I would never give Riddhie something I do not believe in myself. A bone once cleaned up is a good source of calcium and I guess rubs the gums the natural way to help ease out the itching during teething. The only thing one needs to ensure is that there are no sharp edges to it that may hurt the child.

For you Riddhie, if you think that it wasn’t the right way to be, have a look at the following pictures and see for yourself the satisfaction and the delight that you derived out of the entire act.

Riddhie Riddhie
Love,
Dad.
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