Friday, July 22, 2016

Happy Birthday

Dear Shikhar,

[If you are anything like your father you are going to groan at the sight of *another* letter from your Ma, for there is about 50 GB already waiting for you to read. However, if you are anything like me, you are already greedily devouring each word.

You can look like daddy but please please please love words like your Ma does.]

You are One. One.
Can you believe it?

You are too little for any of it to matter ( something i am planning to take full advantage of) but for me today, one year back, life changed in more ways than i can count.

Today marks the most eventful, the hardest, the most brutal, the most beautiful and the most peaceful year of my life.

If i look back on that day i can just think of one moment. When the nice midwife gave you to me, you put your chubby little hand on my cheek, looked me directly in the eye and smiled (yes, smiled) as if to say ' Hello. Again'
Your daddy was recording that moment and when i see the video, i see myself looking at you and saying in a mildly surprised voice that is shaking thanks to copious amounts of drugs in my system ' oh, you are cute'.  My hands are trembling too and my lips are white. But do you know what, i look very calm.
And do you know why?
Because...there was such peace and wisdom in your little face that one look at it calmed me like nothing else could. You still half belonged to the other world you had just come from yet there was an air about you that told me to not worry any more. There was a calmness that clung to you that, in one second, strengthened me.

When i saw you, i knew without any doubt in my heart that we were not meeting for the first time. That we had known each other, cherished each other, loved each other in a different world. In that one moment, magic took a new meaning for me.

Though i churn out romance novels with alarming frequency, i do not think i ever really knew what it was like to fall madly in love in a moment before that.
In that one second, i was transformed. The entire chemistry of my existence changed as if someone had swished a magic wand on me. Yes, it was as melodramatic as that. In a flash, I was different. It was a new me, i had a new heart and a new soul and a new life and most importantly, i had you.

You will probably never understand, till you become a father, but perhaps not even then for i do believe a mother's heart is different from a father's, not better or worse, just different, how much i love you. But I know that somehow, even though you are just one, you know that.

The serious wisdom that clung to you in the first few months has given way to incessant chattering and such a naughty glint in the eye that i often find myself wondering how someone as docile as me could have given birth to someone as 'natkhat' looking as you.

Yet there are flashes of the wise and the sensible that shine through all the naughtiness. For example, often, ever since you were about 4 months old, i rest my head on your shoulders. And sometimes you clasp your pudgy little hands around my head and gather me into your chest. And for the few seconds this lasts, i do not know who the parent is.

When your eyes search a room, i know that they are looking for me. And when they spot me , your face brightens up like the Sun and i know that for you, at the moment, nothing, no one is as perfect as your Ma. You are my world and for the moment, i am yours too.

This will change.

There will friends, girl friends, your own life. I wish nothing more than for you to have a full, happy life. I am also painfully aware that there will be a time when you will no longer allow me to hug and kiss you in public. I am so aware of that that even now i often smother you with kisses, to make up for all the times later in life you will push me away with a horrified glare.

You are my biggest strength, Shikhar, you are my pride and you are the love of my life.  Grab joy from life, be kind and always treat people with respect.

Fly as high as you wish to, Shikhar, claim the mountain peaks. I have your back.
I will always have your back.

Happy birthday darling.


Monday, July 18, 2016

A letter to a soon to be Mum

Dear New Mum/ Soon-to-be Mum,

Welcome to the sisterhood. It is only the biggest sisterhood in the world no one really tells you about, but it exists and transcends age, country, colour...everything. I am almost an year old as a Mum and before i forget all that being a new Mum is all about (for really i have hardly slept since i went into labour) here is a heart felt letter to you.

Pregnancy is not easy for most people. If you are having a mucky day, breathe, it will soon be over. And you will forget it all. I know it sounds unbelievable, and inconcieveable but that is the truth. You will forget it all.

Birthing is painful, scary and gory in most cases, but it is OK, trust me, it is okay. And most importantly, you will be OK. Trust me, you will be OKAY. You will probably have a story to tell, a story you might tell often, but you will be okay.

I know you must have made huge lists of things to buy for your baby but do you know what, all a baby needs, really needs, is your love and in the first few months, your time. I know the first few days, weeks, months are going to be very hard, in more ways than you can imagine right now but they are also going to be more beautiful than you can imagine right now. Breathe through the hard days and remember that it gets better.
Madly absorb every moment of a great day with your baby because when it is beautiful it is the most beautiful thing in the world.

A lot of people probably tell you how hard mother hood is going to be and you probably want them to shut up. But do you know what, i will tell you the same. I am still surprised by how brutally hard it can sometimes be and i have no wise words here. It is hard and that is the way it is. Shrug , grin and bear it. They also say that it does begin to get easier and i am craning my neck to look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

You will have proper meltdowns, the ones where you do the ugly cry, just because you are exhausted or because your baby wont stop crying or because you are hungry and the baby wont settle. And you know what, no one will be able to do anything about it, you will have to calm yourself, pick up the pieces and smile.
In short, you will grow up. Nothing bad about that ;)

Your body will change. You will have scars and stretch marks. Wear them like a badge of honour. Be proud of what your body has done- it has created from scratch the one person you love the most in the world. And with time, you will begin to like these changes, or perhaps make your peace with them. Most Mums i know have snapped back into shape. I fit into most prepregnancy clothes but you know what- it does not matter. All that matters is my son.

Almost everyone tells you how your life is going to change, and you think you understand what that means but you dont. Nothing in this world can prepare you for what hits you when the child arrives. it is brutal and relentless. It is beautiful too but sometimes you need to have slept a bit to appreciate the beauty. Yet, somehow, in some weird , twisted way that does not even make sense as i type this, it is beautiful.

Sleep. Sleep is gold. Your relationship with sleep will change drastically when the baby comes along. To put it mildly, you will ready to murder to get a few extra hours.  The concept of going to bed at 10 and waking up at 8 is alien to me now. All i can say is, gear up for that, take help where you can but mostly, just tell yourself that this will happen and you will have to deal with it. Also helps to remind yourself that a lot of people are parents and they have all been through this.

Friends. Your relationships with some of them will change. You will no longer understand what that friend , who does not yet have a baby, means by 'I am tired because i had to go to the party'. You just wont get some of them anymore. There will be a huge list of missed calls you need to return, whatsapp messages that you vaguely recall seeing at 3:00 in the morning need replying and general catching up to do. Your relationship with some of them, however, will not change. They dont need to be mums themselves to understand what you are going through. They will come armed with cake and will even offer to babysit your baby just so that you can sleep for a bit. Some friends once offered to come and baby sit my son just so that i could finish the final draft of my 4th book. Touched me, that one.

So what do i say about one year of being a Mum?
I can say that i am no longer the person i was before i had my son. I have changed. I am more patient, i understand love better, my heart is fuller. I am sleep deprived but i stay up nights so that my baby can sleep. I cannot imagine another person i could love as much but a little news piece about something sad that happened to a baby i do not even know breaks my heart. I laugh more, i smile more but i tear up at the drop of a hat. I am the busiest i have ever been, i cannot recall what i did with all that time i had before having my son but i have more time to look at leaves and petals and pebbles.

And if there is one piece of advice, above all else, i can give to any new mum, it is this: you will sleep less, you will be over tired, you will be exhausted. But please enjoy this time, please smile, be nice to people in the house. At times it is easy to be happy , but sometimes it is not. it is a lot easier to scream and shout and throw a tantrum and be rude to your partner or parents, specially when you have not slept in 10 weeks. Do not do that. remind yourself that this time may be hard but it is special in ways that are difficult to express. There will soon be a day when you would give up anyhting to have your baby this small and snuggly again.
Smile. Be nice. Smile. Your baby loves it.

An year old Mum.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Thank you British Airways

We flew yesterday with British Airways from Delhi (India) to London Heathrow, flight BA 256.

As I boarded the plane i had no idea how dramatically the flight would end and I am writing this little post simply to thank British Airways and the officials at Heathrow from the bottom my heart.

So what happened was this: my husband and i were travelling with our 8 month old son. The flight was 9 hours long and S, my son, had been a tad unwell a day before but because things seemed to be settling down well, we decided to go ahead with the flight.

9 hours.
9 hours during which i would stare at the flight tracker to count down the remaining flight time, every minute feeling like a burden taken off.
9 hours during which i would feel like breaking down atleast 10 times.
9 hours during which i would not put a morsel of food inside my mouth except for bits my husband would force me to eat.
9 hours that would make me shudder later.
9 hours i would wish on no mother.

The reason was that my son's illness took a turn for the worse resulting in scarily severe diarrhoea.

I cradled my son, took him for walks inside the plane, spoke to him, sang to him ( bless Rob from the seat next to me who insisted that he did not mind my singing, infact he went as far as to say that 'loved it' :) , and he got me some fruit to eat just like that ) , rocked him, fed him, hugged him, kissed him...but he was steadily getting worse.

Unless you are a mother you will not know how that can break your heart.

And if you are, i do not need to say another word.

So there i was, having not eaten a morsel of food, tired, exhausted, scared, worried. And i wonder now how i would have managed had the BA crew not been as wonderful and kind as they were.

There was Merrisa, bless her, the only other person S would be comfortable around. Infact at one point he grabbed on to her and stroked it for a few seconds- made us all laugh. She sang 'twinkle twinkle' for him a few times and even in that state I could see that he loved it. it was her singing that brought him closest to a smile.

There was Anurag who kept us going with his kind words and ready help.

As things with S deteriorated, the crew did was something i will remain most grateful for.
Seeing that S needed immediate medical attention, they got clearance for priority landing, which meant that the plane would not need to circle over heathrow which in turn meant we could get on ground 10-15 minutes earlier than we would have otherwise.
They also had a team of paramedics ready to have a look S as soon as we landed.
They even got the immigration team to come into the plane to do our immigration.

The paramedics were brilliant and soon told us that an ambulance was waiting to whisk us to the hospital.
The gentleman who drove the ambulance came into the plane to help us into the ambulance and when he looked at my worried face he said, 'relax now, we are here, the worst is over' and i could have cried with relief.

As Merrisa sang twinkle twinkle to S, the paramedics hurried around, the captain came to ask us if every thing was okay now, i felt relief wash over me. I knew we were in good hands, i knew, like the gentleman had just said to me, that the worst was over.

So, thank you, BA, Heathrow Airport and the NHS. A most heartfelt thank you.

I always loved BA flights, but after the experience, i am a BA loyalist for life.

Everytime i will think of my ordeal mid air, i will also think of the kindness of BA crew.

So one again, thank you.

Thursday, April 07, 2016


Pregnancy is fuck-all-shit.
No apologies for the swear words.

The images the media feeds to you of this glowing, beautiful woman, wearing a cornflower blue tent looking at a green field and smiling to herself is plain stupid.

Pregnancy is all about throwing up, or feeeling like throwing up the whole bloody day ( who coined the term 'morning' sickness, must be a man). None of the dried ginger or dry biscuit before getting up nonsense worked for me. Finally a friend got me dried, salted gooseberries and i swear i got through about 100 packets of that during the nine months- the only thing that vaguely kept me sane. On the down side, I can not smell, or taste gooseberries not without thinking of my pregnancy. Oh, and you know what, morning sickness is not just limited to the first trimester, it typically goes on till month 4 or 5 and resurfaces in the last tri.

Smell- oh that reminds me. You cannot bear to smell anything- i remember i used to wrap a towel around my nose and face to open the refrigerator and once i woudl open the door i would run as far as i could and study the fridge from a distance to decide what i wanted, then would stop breathing and run towards the fridge to grab what i wanted ad close the stupid door as soon as possible. Add a huge belly and the running around sounds like  a lot of fun, does it not?

And you are changing shape, from glam you are labelled cute (how i hate hate hate that word now) and you know you look like a whale. infact i had started signing off emails with a little whale at the bottom. And this is when my doctor cousin told me i was pumpkin on a stick shape- no extra fat except the belly, i shudder to think how i would have dealt with things had i put on a lot more.

Oh and you need to pee, all the time (insert swear word, oz really, this post deserves a lot of swear words). You will ear mark the toilets when you plan a trip to the super market.

And then towards the end, the whole process of turning sides will be a mammoth exercise ( you are of course, not sleeping much anyway). I cannot even begin to describe how terribly difficlut it becomes to do this simple thing. i used to brace myself and then turn slowly and most painfully, groaning out of sheer discomfort.

Emotionally your hormones are all over the place and that is fuck-all in absolutely glorious ways.

And when you think about how this will all end, panic sets it, because, my darling, you will give birth. So the options you have are 1) normal birth, 2) c sec, 3) 100 hours of labour and then emergency c sec. So basicaly 1)horrible 2)horrible and guess what 3)horrible.

And this is an absolutely normal pregnancy.

And this is when i am REALLY TRULY leaving out the truly gross because this is not the place to talk about it all.
So why am i saying all this here.

The reason is that i am tired of hearing people (men) say that almost every woman goes through pregnancy, it cannot really be that tough. True, for some women it is a breeze but for most women who will be honest with you, it is a very tough time of their lives ( please be kind to them, and if possible ask after them).
Because you know what: Women don't do this pregnancy shit because it is easy, they do it and do it happily,  in spite of how bloody difficult it is.

Respect it!

Friday, April 01, 2016

8 months of being a mum

  • Feeding solids is a whole new ball game all together
  • By the time we are done with a bowl of daal, the baby, yours truly, the bed and if we are lucky the walls- are all covered in daal
  • Today for example, when we finished with a banana, there was copious amounts of it in the baby's hair. Do not ask me how.
  • It takes a LOT of time to get banana out of a baby's hair
  • You will find weird things in the baby's hair.
  • And in his diaper. #ouch
  • I have now not slept a full night for 8 months
  • Babies squirm more than they sleep
  • You are more awake than asleep any given night. 
  • You will learn the art of selective hearing #sayNoToTikoni
  • Nails grow really fast. Like really fast.
  • Babies love to scratch faces.
  • Babies love to pull on ear rings
  • Do not wear hoops if you have a baby
  • Do not wear studs if you have a baby
  • Babies have this heart meltingly cute toothless smile
  • As your baby grows your back will begin to hurt more and more
  • nothing beats a hug from your own child
  • You will learn to sing even if you never used to sing pre-baby
  • Was there a 'pre-baby' time? what exactly did you do with your time then? And DO I RECALL YOU SAYING THAT YOU WERE $%^$%^$$#$%# BUSY THEN? BUSY? THEN! YOU IDIOT!
  • You will realise that pre-baby you were just a grown up baby
  • i have in the last 8 months watched 2 episodes of something on the telly and one cricket match
  • Gloat alert- i have in the last 8 months released a book and written half of my next 
  • Giving birth and taking care of a baby gives you a certain kind of confidence you never had before
  • you want the world to be a better place
  • You want the world to be a happier place
  • you have little time for negative people
  • You have little time for anyone else apart from your baby
  • Babies blabber 
  • If the baby has just blabbbered 'hanuman' he is not a hanuman bhakt. no he does not know 'Hanuman jee'. No God is not telling you anything. No, he does NOT KNOW HANUMAN JEE
  • In indian malls random girls will squeal when they look at a baby. Always.
  • And pinch the baby's cheeks
  • And take selfies.
  • And get a tad upset if the image is blurry because baby was not still
  • Baby will move around in the mall patting random strangers on their hands.
  • Babies are great conversation starters
  • Mums bond instantly because they are  mums
  • Sisterhood of motherhood. #fact
  • People will ask you how your HOLIDAY is coming along.
  • @#$@#$@#%#$$^%&%^&^HU^&H*&%$#@#$%@$^#$%
  • Hit them.
  • Or better - give them the baby for one day and one night.
  • Taking take of someone else's baby is the best contraception. #haha
  • You will realise how wrong it is for random aunties to ask why that girl who has been married for 3 years has not yet reproduced. Not your %^$^$%^$ business.
  • You realise you begin to swear a lot 
  • Silently.
  • Your parents will love your baby more than they love you. Fact. Deal with it.
  • Seeing your parents with your baby will melt your heart. Like all the time. #PerpetualHeartMelt
  • you finally begin to appreciate what your folks did for you
  • You really really hope you were an easy baby
  • No one deserves a stroppy child or a fractious baby. 
  • No one.
  • If you have a boy you realise that you will be someone's saasu ma one day. #scary
  • Your baby, no matter how small will become your best friend.
  • You will make a song about baby;s potty. Okay you may not, i did. but then i am a bit bonkers that way
  • Often the lullabies you are singing will make you doze off but baby will remain wide awake
  • The first time baby rolls over and pats you on your shoulder to wake you up will make you tear up. #MeraBetaSayanaHoGayaHai
  • The things that make a baby laugh.
  • Nothing beats cuddling up next to your baby for a snooze. 
  • The snooze will last about 2 mili seconds.
  • You will talk a lot to your baby
  • Just when you know it that they are understanding everything he will begin to giggle at something tragic.
  • You will stand at the airport, baby in sling, singing to baby and swinging from right to left.
  • The utter feeling of unbriddled joy when someone asks you ki ye baby kiska hai.#muhahahaha
  • Babies are hilarious
  • Sometimes you cannot stand them and cannot bear to be away from them. At the same time. #insane
  • A lot of things about motherhood are insane. #Fact
  • Pregnancy weight falls off. It does.
  • The joy when pre pregnancy clothes begin to fit again.
  • you wonder how it would feel like to sleep through the night. #fantasy.
  • You wish you were a man and could have a baby without having to go through nine months of hell.  
  • Good thing you are not a man, else you would have had about 10 more ;)
More soon ;)
Not babies. Posts. Silly.


Saturday, January 09, 2016

A labour of love

My 3rd book, Second Chance at Love, has debuted at #8 on the national best seller list. It is the first time I am on the AC Neilson top ten and as i let the news sink in, i cannot help but think about all that has gone into this book.

SCAL has been a labour of love, in more ways than one.

For the major part the book was written when I had started a new role at work and shifted to our new house. My house is one hr one way from work and I used the time in the tube to write the book. It was a special book from the very start and I poured my heart and soul into it. Bindiya and Samar captivated me, and their love story- it was a story that had permeated into every aspect of my existence. I honestly sat, drank, walked, ate, slept Bindiya and Samar. By the time i finished the very rough first draft I found out that i was pregnant. 

Without sugar coating things, let me just say that the first trimester was horrible. And the only 3-4 month period of my life since i got married when i just could not (and hence did not) write a word.

As the 2nd trimester rolled on things seemed to settle a bit on the pregnancy front, and i began to think of getting the right publisher for this book. Without going into too much detail, and as luck would have it, I then started finding walking to be very uncomfortable. I did not know it then (and would be diagnosed only in week 35, too late for anything to be done) but i had SPD. SPD, in lay man's term is a curse for a pregnant woman becaus eit makes walking extremely hard. The good thing is that there is no residual effect once the baby has been delivered. When it was diagnosed, i was told that my case was so bad that i should have actually been on crutches but there i was undiagnosed and struggling, wondering why i could not even walk a little bit without such great discomfort.  

Needless to add, it was not at all easy and there were times i really struggled with how handicapped i felt. But three good things happened during this time. First and most importantly, work. People at work were uber cool (and i cannot ever thank them enough) and allowed me to work from home most of the time. Had they not let me do this, I really cannot even imagine how i could have continued working given my state. 2nd, friends. They showered me with love and attention. They came and stayed with me, went with me to appointments when sid was away, pressed my feet when they hurt, made food for me, called me, texted me, kept a tab on my pregnancy, looked after me. Sid and I are for ever grateful to them and our home and hearts are always going to be open to them. 

And 3rd, Second Chance at Love. It was then, uncomfortable and home bound, that i went back to my book. I used the evenings after work and weekends to start preparing the synopsis, get in touch with publishers and basically get things moving. In those long, dark days when the 9 months seemed never ending that I used the book to distract myself, to somehow not think about how uncomfortable i actually was.  

Uncomfortable as most pregnancies are, but also unable to walk, I decided i would not let it bog me down and worked hard whenever i got some time on the book during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. I promised my editor that i would send the final MS to her before i went into labour. In fact i had a long list of things that had to be done / bought/ sorted before the baby came and top of it was 'Send Final MS to Harper'.  It was the beginning of July ( my due date was mid July) and i was about to wrap up the final draft. I remember feeling such a loss, almost as if i was bidding good bye to dear friends, friends who will no longer just be mine, but will now go into the world and say hello to many others and in the process belong to world instead of belonging only to me.

I had a 24 hour labour followed by a cat-3 c sec- does not sound great but for me it was a fabulous experience- an experience i can go through a million times in a second. And when the brilliant doctors put my baby in my arms and he looked me directly in the eye, placed a chubby hand on my cheek and smiled (yes! he smiled!) as if he had known me forever, in that one moment, my heart melted, exploded and changed forever.

The issue, however was that i had to go through what is, while fairly common still a major operation. I was still on16 painkillers a day and had a tiny baby to take care of when i went back to my MS to start the edits. I knew i wanted to release the book while i was India on maternity leave, and there was no time to loose.

And so the mammoth editing exercise began. SCAL is a 90k word book and we edited it a good 7-8 times beginning when my baby was about 2 weeks old. I was very clear that my first and outmost priority was the baby. There was no way anything would change that. But yes, i knew given the circumstances and my new set of responsibilities i was ready to work as hard as needed. 
Most of the edits were done through the night, in between feeds and diaper changes, with one hand, as i held my sleeping baby with the other. This is how we discussed strategy, decided which brand partners we could have, how the events should look like etc.

Since then i have sat up through nights to work on the marketing for the book, cradled my son in my lap as i signed hundreds of books through the night, messaged and spoken to people about the book all the while carrying and looking after my son. I figured that i cannot do much while my baby is awake and instead of catching up on precious sleep while he sleeps, i used that time to work hard on the book. 

And today, seeing the book on the best seller lists makes it all so worthwhile. 

It has been such a long but wonderful journey. Yet so far I have only spoken about what i have done. The whole point of this post is the other people. I cannot begin to thank people who have helped because sooo many have. It has been the most incredible. People mailed, messaged, texted, read the MS for me, helped me during my difficult pregnancy, ordered more books than they needed, told me that they were with me, tried to help in whatever way they could. My publishers have been so incredibly supportive, sometimes i felt SCAL belonged more to the  editing/marketing/ sales teams than to me, so involved they have been. We have had calls over the weekends, late in the nights, exchanged emails at god forsaken hours and people have actually been up till 2 and 3 working on this book. My mother and mother in law have often taken care of the baby so that i could finish that chapter or do that photoshoot or speak to that important person or answer that interview. I remember, in the week leading up to the release, I didnot even sit down for a proper meal. I sat days and nights, working hard, not doing anything much except for baby and book, trying my best to give SCAL the chance that i felt it deserved. 

And today i spoke to a lot of you, and thanked you personally for your help. And most of you were surprised at the amount of gratitude i expressed. See, this is the thing. SCAL is not just a book. It has been a labour of love. A long, difficult, challenging labour of unadulterated love. And you helped me with it and it mattered so much, much more than you would have thought. After reading this post, you might get some idea of why this book means so much to me. 

So, once again, THANK YOU. It has been an incredible experience to write and publish this book :)