Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The somewhere and the anywhere

I haven't written on my blog for almost four years. Life just seem to take over with two kids and everything else that life brings. An article I read has made me feel exhaustingly frustrated. I felt the best thing to do was share the feeling.  Its a reaction to David Goodhart’s article in the FT weekend.  I can only hear him saying the same things that Trump, Jean-Marie Le Pen and many on the rabid edge of the right spout. It saddens me that Goodhart chooses to add to an already long list of divisive words - the somewhere and the anywhere.  
Human beings. That’s what we teach our children to treat every other person as. I am proud that our five year old and eight year old do not see colour, race, religion or even sex. Our Kenya born son believes he is Kenyan. Why not? The view that holds everyone equal can not even be compared to one that separates us based on our differences. Aren't we all just like each other – just another human being?
In this increasingly intolerant world we find people like David Goodharts, who have always been closet conservatives, taking advantage of the current environment to come out of their closets. To proudly declare they are leaving the liberals. Reading his article made me think of my Kenyan son. It made me think of one of the Masai beliefs. That all the cattle in the entire world belong to them. They pride their non-negotiable right to freely graze their cattle anywhere.
I would go as far as to say, like the Masai’s believe, I too believe that we as human being we have equal right to live anywhere on this earth. Equal right to every part of this earth. Nation states are a practical way to avoid anarchy but also to ensure our rights as individuals. Rights as human beings.  Including the right to live anywhere. Leaders, are given the previledge to represent us. Our rights. Including this right to access. The EU is a symbol of this – creating an enabling environment where rights like free movement are possible. How frustrating that people like David Goodharts have been allowed to take this away. What we need is more EU not less. 
As for the ‘somewheres’ that David Goodhart talks about, its their right to stay ‘somewhere’ but they do not have the right to restrict those of us who want to go ‘anywhere’. I refuse to teach my children any differently. They can be whoever they want. They can live wherever they want. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Masai Mara

The first question that anyone asks us when we tell them that we live in Kenya is, have you been to the Masai Mara? Until a few weeks ago we had to say no. We wanted to travel to the Mara during the migration season and since we moved here in June two years ago, there were too many move related things to deal with to accommodate a trip to the Mara that year. In August, a year later, Raahil was born so there was no way we could have planned a trip to the Mara in 2011. This year seemed perfect - as perfect as it gets with a one year old and a three year old! It had been two years in Kenya and we just had to go to the Masai Mara.

The drive along the old Naivasha road is always beautiful - the vast Rift Valley with its volcanic craters on one side and winding hill roads on the other. We have been to Naivasha a number of times but for the first time we turned off this road at Maai-Mahlu and headed towards the land of the Masais.  Just one turn changed the landscape significantly - from feeling like a part of the magnificent hills to feeling absolutely insignificant in the vast plains.

If you have braved a road trip to the Masai Mara before the one thing about the journey that you can absolutely not forget is the last 70 kilometers. For those who haven't been on it, all I can say is that the one thing you cannot call it is a road. It is like driving off road in a national park. Maybe that's the reason why the government hasn't bothered building the last 70kms, they probably think tourists are happy to drive off road inside the Mara so why not let them feel like they are on a safari already! I think my neck continued to rattle for a while after we had reached our resort and sat down for lunch!

We stayed at the Sarova in what they call the club tents - lovely large luxury tents with nicely tiled bathrooms and enough space for two kids, and the boot full of toys and accessories they travel with. While we were out on a full day safari the hotel staff also entertained our kids with a bunch of activities including fishing - which Tarana was seeing for the first time and found rather amusing! My favourite Tarana moment at the resort was when we walked in and Tarana saw the statue of a Masai man and asked my mother - is this God? By that point my mom had spent a couple of weeks with her granddaughter and had been trying to talk to her about faith - something she hears nothing about from her parents. It is these faith discussions that led Tarana to the Masai God!

Unfortunately I went to the Mara expecting too much - a kill, a chase and a crossing - and came back home seeing none. We've been to a few parks in Kenya and seen our share of the Big Five, so my expectation from the Mara was not just see them again but to see them in action. Obviously the added motivation of being there at this time of the year is to see the wildebeest and the migration. We did see the wildebeest - in tens of thousands. They were just all over - till our eyes could see and beyond. On a truly spectacular scale. We also saw a large herd of wildebeest get into formation and ready to cross the river. The way they organised themselves was extremely interesting, but unfortunately for us they decided not to cross the river that day.

We didn't see a kill either but saw a lot of carcass strewn around the plains and in the Mara river. T was fascinated by the carcasses when we told her they were 'dead animals' (a separate blog on her understanding of death). When we saw a Lion she said 'but I want to see the Lion dead an animal'!

The clear blue sky, vast Savannah plains and millions of wildebeest will certainly bring me back here next year, hopefully with a little bit more wildlife luck.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

First words

Raahi is using actual words to communicate. Well sort of, unlike the usual babble that we become used to interpreting. Obviously this has everyone in the Koshy-Byce household extremely excited, but no one is as excited as the mama. My adorable ten-month old's second word was Mama! Second is more than I was hoping for. 

Firstly, because Tarana's current obsession is 'being number one'! More often than not she is first from the end, but a lot of her playmates are happy to play along her 'fantasy - I am number one game'. I guess Raahi knew better than to tick off the all important sister so the first sound he used was Ta, for Tarana. He uses the word more than a dozen time a day starting first thing in the morning with Ta - calling out for his sister. Another reason why I didn't expect Raahi to say mama so soon was because mama was way down in Tarana's list of first-words. She even said anda (egg) and f**k (fork) before she said mama!

All of Raahi's words at the moment are names of people around him - so Ta (for Tarana), mama (for the proud me), Vai (for Violet, his nanny), Noa (Noah, one of his favorite boys in the compound) and Jai (his cousin). I have wondered whether the fact that his first few words are related to people say anything about what Raahi's personality may turn out to be like? Could he be more of an extrovert than our extremely guarded daughter? 

Monday, 18 June 2012

Tarana, the all important parrot...

in her school play - The Jungle Book!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Baby massages - an early indulgence

It is very common in India to give babies (even newborns) massages. It is a responsibility that the grandmother, who is almost always present at the birth of her grandchild, takes on enthusiastically. I have heard a lot of reasons, some of which could be classified as old wives' tales - massage helps improve circulation of blood in the baby, it strengthens their bones, they will get bed sores lying on their back all day and many more. 

I absolutely love my massages and didn't need an excuse to give it to my kids. Tarana got massages for a couple of months after she was born - basically for as long as my mom was with us. Since we were in the UK, as soon as my mom left I was juggling household chores and a baby - there wasn't much time for long indulgent massages. Raahi is a lot luckier as I have quit work and have some great help now, and so he has been getting a massage every day for the last nine months!

Nairobi has been great for massages. Robin treated me to pregnancy massages at the Kaya spa for seven of my nine months of pregnancy - the Mama Mio products, relaxing environment and great masseuse made for a perfect experience. After Raahil was born, a friend recommended her masseuse  who came home. I tried Jane and can-not express in words how good she is - besides being a very experienced reflexologist she also understands various stress points related problem areas.  She cured my sciatica just through massages and every time I complain of a pain, she gets to that point and works on it till the pain is cured!

A few weeks back I had just finished one of my weekly massage sessions when Tarana came home from school and asked if Jane could give her a massage. Like a true little woman, she conveyed all the school gossip while enjoying her massage. Since then, if I ever try and give her a massage she tells me 'Mama, can you do it properly please, like Jane does?'! 

Monday, 26 March 2012

All in a day

My two little precious ones – most of the time I absolutely love them but then there are moments when I ask myself, ‘what was I thinking’!

We spend a lot of time sitting on the mat with Raahi watching his moves - from lying on his back and playing to rolling onto his tummy then managing to sit down – all of which has kept us entertained for a few weeks now.  What we couldn’t stop talking about yesterday was how he managed to use the sides of his cot to pull himself up and stand on his two little feet. Watching our babies get past some of these milestones is just too magical to express in words. Every time someone walked into the room I would place R back in his cot and smile excitedly while he used the bars to prop himself up – I watched him do this at least a dozen times during the day and felt equally excited each time!

The other, slightly silly, very girly and yet amazingly satisfying ‘mother moment’ came when T and I went for a haircut. We have started doing a few things like that together that both T and I absolutely enjoy. A picture perfect moment was when the three year old (propped up on cushions) and the thirty year old sat side by side for a hair wash - our heads tilted back, hair filled with bubbles from the shampoo enjoying a gentle massage before our haircuts. What makes such mother-daughter time perfect is the fact that T is such a girl. After the shampoo, as the two of us walked with white towels on our shoulders and dripping wet hair. T ran her fingers through her hair and said, my hair feels so soft, I like it…does yours feel soft too? And after our summer crops she very reassuringly tells her slightly unsure mamma ‘you are looking nice after the new haircut maama’!

So far so good – but the day hadn’t come to an end yet. R and I decided to go to the cinema after we put the kids to bed. We got back at 11:30 and Raahi had just woken up for his first feed during the night. I don’t know what got to him, but he refused to go back to sleep till 2am! And what did he want to do for the two and a half hours in the middle of the night? Stand on his feet – what felt so magical in the morning, didn’t feel that exciting any more. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The second child

A lot of mothers had told me, 'Don't worry, the second one just grows up on his own'. A very difficult statement to believe after having spent long nights dealing with colic, feeding, lack of sleep - the endless list of chores that comes together with the joy of motherhood.

Five months later and I believe! My second child or the last born (as he is called in Kenya) or kochimon (as he would be called in Kerala) seems to be growing up without much fuss.

He turned over, we didn't talk much about it; he sat, we didn't celebrate; and now he is eating his solids without any praise. We have little over a dozen photographs of him, no foot and hand prints, no baby books and very few blog posts! I am guilty of not even exclusively breast feeding him for as long as I did Tarana - and the only reason to start the top-up bottle was the attention I have to give Tarana at bedtime!

Is he just an easier child, I have often thought. My theory though is that we are responsible for making T the more difficult one by constantly fussing over her, and R is the easier one partly because he just is and partly thanks to normal levels of attention given to him (though, to be fair, R does have two more people to cuddle, love and adore him compared to T!)

Theories apart, he is growing up just too quickly and I am already missing the new born phase.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Kiddie sports day

Run from mom to dad was the most successful of races at T's sports day last weekend! Unfortunately, that race was for the one and a half to two and a half year olds - the rest were under some pressure to perform.

The ones that felt the most pressure spent the morning in tears and refused to run without their favourite teacher or parent; and the ones who didn't feel the pressure were happy to run but often forgot the rules of the race. In one vegetable relay race the children were to pick up a vegetable on their track and hand it over to the next kid. Certainly too confusing for a three year old - most got to the vegetable and stared at it, some picked it up and then stared at it, others, who kind-of got the point picked it up and ran back (in the wrong direction), though a few, after a lot of cheering and hand holding (literally) actually ran with the vegetable in the right direction!

The toddlers looked adorable in their 'house' T-shirts and the morning was a real blast - full of laughter and fun.

Friday, 27 January 2012

T's observations

T looked down at her dress this morning and said "My dress doesn't have a button, it has got deleted"Later in the loo she said, "No poo poo coming out. I think it is stuck in a jam"

Thursday, 26 January 2012


A big fun Indian wedding

From this slightly biased sister's point of view, my brother's wedding was one of the most fun weddings I have been to. It certainly lived up to the stereotypical Indian wedding image of horses, loud music, lots of colour, flowers, glamour, food, food and more food - and I enjoyed every bit of it!

The wedding party span over an entire week - yes seven full days. The ceremonies started in Jodphur, from my paternal grandparents home; then moved to Delhi; came back to Jodhpur; took a short break in Osian and ended in Allahabad!

My parents were clearly very excited about this wedding as they spent a year planning, in great detail, for every small ceremony - trust me, a traditional Indian wedding, especially one in Rajasthan has many of them. 

The wedding started off by 'inviting and bringing' home Gajanan ji (Lord Ganesha) from a particular temple in Jodphur. Lord Ganesha is a big part of the Hindu household, He is specially remembered at the beginning - when one buys a new house, beginning of a festival or as in our case, at the beginning of a wedding. Tarana, living with her spiritually disabled parents, hasn't ever heard much about Lord Ganesha or any other Gods for that matter. So the trip to the temple, a slight novelty for her, was great fun specially the sweet prasaad that the priest gave her at the end. We had to buy a bag full of it as soon as we left the temple as she kept asking the priest for more!

My mom had planned every detail of this wedding. She even had a beautiful silver tray decorated with candles, kum kum (red powder) and sweets that she used to welcome everyone who came home during the week of the wedding. She had bought beautiful red wrist bands that I tied on the hands of women as part of the 'welcoming'.

The first ceremony, like most others, was more symbolic than anything else. It symbolised the process of preparing grains and spices to be used to cook for all the guests. In the olden days, before catering and super markets, this preparation included grinding grains using stones. Therefore the centre of attention for this first ceremony is the humble chakki or stone grinding mill.

The next ceremony, which consumed the rest of the day, was the haldi (turmeric) ceremony.
 The flowers and music brought the house alive. There were three different types of musicians, they had a kind of rhythm going - one would start when the other ended - though it did get a bit much at times.

Thanks to friends, in the middle of this extremely busy morning we managed a few lovely family photographs

 We were particularly worried about how Tarana would react to the wedding, specially the large crowds that are such a central part of the Indian wedding. You see, T is just not a people person, not grown ups and certainly not men. But how can a girl not love a wedding eh? T fell in love with the wedding from the moment the florist stepped into the house.

K got to climb the horse twice - once for a ceremony in Jodhpur (called Nikasi) and then for the actual wedding (baarat) in Delhi.

 And no matter how busy we were, we had to find some time to make cocktails for friends and family - even if it was only 11 in the morning!
No Indian wedding is complete without some dancing - the sisters danced, the mom danced, the aunties danced, the bride and groom danced..... 

 The wedding can't be all fun for the to-be-weds. The not-so-nice, well lets be honest, the extremely boring and rather exhausting part of an Indian wedding involves the bride and groom standing on a stage and meeting the guests (in this case there were over 500) for a few seconds each. The process - shake hands with the guest, smile to the camera, take the gift and repeat with the next guest! Here is proof of those cheesy moments. The bride and groom were subjected to the stage not just on the wedding day but during a reception in Jodphur and for another reception in Allahabad!
The actual wedding was beautiful - a huge fire in the centre, some chanting, a starry night, close friends and family (yes, that's the strange part of an Indian wedding - most people leave before the actual ceremony, only some family members and very close friends stay on!)

 And finally, as someone once said, after another "Triumph of hope over experience", the two walk away to a few more days of celebrations and finally some quality time together in the Maldives.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Desert safari

I have had the most fun week of my life. My brother’s wedding spanned seven days of celebrations! Seriously - seven full days of dressing up, eating, drinking,  and wedding ceremonies. It was one big and long party. Each day started early and ended in the early hours and so each morning the hangover of the previous day lingered even as the celebration of the new day took off. I am going to take a while to sort through the thousands of photographs from the wedding. So a blog on that a little later.

To unwind from the exhaustion of the wedding and get to know the new family better we drove to a place called Osian for a night. Sadly, Robin had to get back to work and missed out on caravan ride to Osian. My parents, the newlyweds (Karan and Nishika), Nishika's parents, the kids and I drove out in the evening when the sun was still rather bright in  the sun city of Jodhpur. We drove along the long straight desert highway with sand blowing lightly around us and camels munching on thorny desert shrubs. The drive was beautiful for the first 20 minutes but quickly the scenery became monotonous so I was relieved to hear that our destination was only an hour away.

The entrance to the India Safari Club, Osian was magnificent. A large fort gate in the middle of sand dunes. We got out of our cars and waited on large stone benches covered with yellow and saffron cushions for our came ride to the Safari club. Yes, all of us including 3 month old Raahi got onto camels! The evening at the resort was beautiful - a sunset in the desert followed by folk musicians singing songs of ancient wars and everlasting love. We all enjoyed our night in the tents Tarana was particularly fascinated by the tented toilets. Raahi showed his excitement by turning onto his stomach for the first time while we were in Osian. Osian is also famous for a 6000 year old, beautifully architectured temple that we visited on our way back to Jodhpur. We will have to go back to the Osian safari club once the kids are bigger to enjoy their two hour camel ride on the sand dunes and into the surrounding villages. Check out http://www.indiasafariclub.com.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Utterly butterly home

After a week of eating excessively in India I decided it was time to go healthy. Barely 20 days to go before my brother's wedding and I need to do something about my post pregnancy weight. Well, I will have to think of another excuse soon as 'post pregnancy' can't be used much longer

I shared my healthy eating ambition with my mother's cook, a rather large and affectionate women in her forties. After a week of eating steamed and roasted vegetables I walked up to her to tell her that I hadn't eaten steamed vegetables that tasted this good before. Her response, "I always top them up with a spoonfull of butter. After all, you should always enjoy the food you are eating especially when that's what your baby gets to taste!"

My mom has cooked for a number of my friends and they always tell me how yummy her food is. Though I use exactly the same recipes, I can never replicate her cooking. That's basically because she is a great cook but also partly because I can never get myself to use the amount of butter and cream she does! In this land of butter there is little hope of losing weight!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Travelling with two

I remember a time when travelling, even the thought of it, filled me with excitement. Reading through travel books I would mark all the things I wanted to do - often an overambitious list. Travelling to places that weren't new to me was also always exciting as it meant meeting old friends, rediscovering old haunts and looking for new ones. Unfortunately I have lost some of the enthusiasm around travelling after the birth of my second baby. I have never been capable of travelling light and my recent flight to India made me realise I have got to change my packing habits if I have to fly with two! I will blame the weather, obviously, for some of my packing woes - I am travelling to India at a time when I need to pack for summer and winter. To add to that, the most exciting part of this years trip to India is my brothers wedding - but just imagine what a big fat Indian wedding means in terms of packing! And of course there are half a dozen favourite books, her baby Kevin (not a living thing, but we won't tell her just yet), a few toys and her trunki that T refuses to travel without. A single buggy has now been replaced with a rather bulky double one. Raahi doesn't have a long list of travel musts yet but he makes his presence felt by demanding for milk at the most inappropriate time! With the second child, the romance around breast feeding is dying fast. The challenges started way before we tried to get all our boxes into the boot of the car. Tarana, who needs to be prepared for any change that affects her usual life, had spent the last two weeks saying that she doesn't want to go to India. These statements were often accompanied by melodrama so I asked her favourite nursery teacher to help out. After a couple of days of trying to tell the class adventurous stories about travel, Miss M finally gave me a call to say that there is little she can do to prepare T for the trip as any mention of India would get tears in T's eyes! So along with all the baggage I was tugging an unhappy kid on what was going to be a 24 hour journey from door to door! But like a few surprising moments in life, this one turned out to be easier than I ever imagined. The transit at Doha at 1am with too many handbags, two sleeping kids and no buggy or trolly was a challenge but besides that, people were helpful and most importantly, T who has been in India for a week now is absolutely loving it! I am probably going to jinx it, but she hasn't shown any sings of missing her home, friends or routine in Nairobi! I guess there is something very special about holidays with adoring grandparents.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Tarana tales

Animal loos - On our trip to the Nakuru National Park a few weekends ago, Tarana saw poo along the path that we were driving on. With a stern expression and in a rather commanding tone she asked "whose poo is this?" and we responded, "the animals". "Those naughty animals" she continued to say in an authoritative tone, "I will tell them to go to the toilet!" We couldn't help but smile while our little T continued to look disapprovingly at the poo!

Garanda - Our house has a garage for two cars at the front  and a veranda looking into a garden at the back. For a long time T called them both 'the garage'. Like always, she has her reasons - the two of  them look rather similar. The garage doesn't have shutters. It is open on one side with walls on three other sides. The veranda is a very similar structure but smaller. A couple of days ago, I decided to correct her and told her that where she was sitting was a veranda and where the cars are parked is a garage. She asked me why and I tried a couple of explanations none of which were logical enough for her. Finally she looked at me in that 'if you insist' kind of way and said, "fine, I will call it a garanda then". So a garanda it is!