Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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While You Were Sleeping…

My grandmother was a busy woman. She used to work at her gas agency from 8.30 in the morning to 1.00 in the afternoon. Then she’d come home for lunch, pop a handful of pills (she had heart disease and high blood pressure) and settle down for a nap. She napped every day from 1.30 to 3.00. She was a light sleeper and when one of the million clocks in her room chimed she’d jump out of bed and get dressed for work.

When I was growing up in my grandma’s house, I would get back from school after my grandma had left for work at 3.30 in the evening. But come weekends, my grandma would insist that I go lie down next to her and take a nap. She wouldn’t take no for an answer so I’d end up in bed with her, a big blanket over me. I’d lie absolutely still until I heard soft snores emanating from my grandma’s side of the bed. I’d wait a couple more minutes and then gingerly slip out of the bed and head to the door. Now this was the tricky part. Like I said, my grandma was a light sleeper and the smallest noise would rouse her. Ever so gently I would push down the handle of the door and slip outside. As I closed the door and released the handle as slowly as I could the metal would touch the wood and my grandma’s eyes would fly open. She would give me a look of disdain as I turned away and snuck outside to play.

I would cut up leaves of various hues in the garden and grind some bricks to make chili powder. Then I’d arrange the bricks to make a stove and cook my leaves in tiny steel pots and pans which my grandma got for me. When I was older my grandma had young maids and they were my playmates. So when my grandma and the older maids were taking a nap we’d play all sorts of games and I would teach them how to write their names in English.

It didn’t matter if you were a kid or a grandma or a middle-aged person, anyone spending a day or more with my grandma would be coaxed to take a nap. If she was very close to the person, she’d fetch them a pillow and blanket and ask them to sleep right next to her. In 2009, just days before she passed away I lay beside her with my daughter. I held her soft hands and fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion. I woke up hearing the nurse talk on the phone – her pulse is going down – she was saying. Two days later my grandma was gone.

I’m not much of a napper but when I had my first baby I started taking naps in the afternoon. My daughter was quite a good sleeper and she woke up just once during the night. It was when my son came along that sleep deprivation took on a whole new meaning! His schedule was erratic. He woke up every 2 hours at night to feed or be comforted back to sleep. I couldn’t nap in the afternoon because the two of them wouldn’t nap at the same time. I would be dying to take a nap but I couldn’t and my long day would end only at 11.00 p.m. Just as I dozed off, baby number 2 would wake up screaming!

I would wander around like a zombie and get irritated if someone buttered the toast too loudly! I was on edge and would start yelling at the slightest provocation. By the time my son was one I was ready to wean him and let him cry himself to sleep! My husband jumped in to my rescue and he tried feeding my son from a bottle. My son however never took to the bottle or formula for some reason and after 3 days he stopped waking up at midnight.

I didn’t need naps anymore but I did need some downtime. So I got the kids to nap at the same time. It was tricky because my son would want to roll off the bed and go play. I had to put him in the middle and hug him ever so tightly so he wouldn’t wriggle away. My daughter was really getting to the age where she didn’t need naps but she used to humor me (angel that she is! ) Once they feel asleep they’d only wake up after 2 hours.  Those 2 hours were when I watched the Oprah show or read without the book being yanked off or spoke to friends on the phone without being interrupted. I developed great respect for the concept of napping.

And soon after that I was terrified of napping while my kids were awake. Here is what happened. We had gone on a trip to the West Coast and when we got back home I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on the couch while my kids were playing around. My son decided to try shoving a straw up my nostril and I woke up startled. As they got older the fear dissipated and sometimes I would nap in the afternoons and let them play. They would assume it was ‘their time’ (unsupervised time). So they’d run out to the patio with buckets of water and start washing their bikes or doing some messy craft that requires adult supervision.

I rarely nap these days and on weekends when my husband sometimes takes a nap, the kids and I play board games. When we go back home to India to visit our parents we end up napping because of the jet lag. Also all the travelling and running around visiting friends and family gets us exhausted. Probably when we are old and gray (second childhood!) we’ll go back to napping the way kids did when they were babies!

 


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Vegan or Vegetarian?

I turned vegetarian when I was 16. I saw a goat being slaughtered on television. I saw chickens with their feet tied to the handlebars of bicycles, their beaks grazing the wheels. My taste buds kinda died that day. I lost my taste for mutton and chicken and even seafood. I went a bit extreme and gave up leather footwear and handbags. Handbags I wore well but my feet blistered the moment I wore PVC shoes. Jute shoes and online shopping were not popular back then. Heck! I had no credit card. So I reluctantly went back to leather. I reckoned they used the hides of cows that are slaughtered for beef anyways! Wrong! The beef and leather industry haven’t made the connection. I thought until recently that all dairy products are manufactured humanely. After all no animals get killed right? Wrong again! Cows have their calves taken away from them so they can be milked solely for human consumption. Some calves are shut away in cages to make them veal entrees at fancy restaurants! So last month I decided to become vegan and then I realized how hard it is. It meant giving up eggs, milk and yogurt which is about the only protein I get apart from lentils. So I started by giving up milk and then I realized I don’t drink black tea. So a little milk trickled back into my diet. Then I was making pancakes and eggs were included in the recipe. So I had that as well. Being South Indian means yogurt is a big part of my diet. So I couldn’t suddenly stop eating yogurt.

Then I decided I should just not buy milk and yogurt anymore. But then what about the kids? They need 2 glasses of milk everyday and yogurt to go with my spicy cooking! So I took my daughter grocery shopping with me and told her I was going to buy soy milk. She screwed up her face and said – please Ma! I don’t want it! Then my husband’s face flashed before me. He would not approve of soy milk tea – not in a million years! It’s a good thing I didn’t buy soy milk because a few days later I read about genetically modified products in the very same soy milk I was tempted to pick up. So right now I’m swimming in information that makes me feel guilty every time I have dairy! Sometimes I just wanna scream. As you may have guessed my stint as a vegan was short lived and very unsuccessful.

I remember someone I met long ago who was relating to me why he had turned vegetarian. When he was a kid he had a chick in his backyard that he raised as a pet. The chick soon grew into a hen and he was really attached to it. One day he came back home to find the chicken gone and guess what was for dinner? His uncle had come for a visit and was craving chicken. The boy was crushed, mad, angry. Of course he would have rather starved than eat his own pet chicken. So that day he swore off meat.

I know many people who love animals but still eat meat. It’s like they would never dream of hurting their pets but as long they don’t kill the animals they eat, it’s fine. Some say if we don’t eat fish the oceans will have too many fish. Actually the opposite is true. Over fishing is rampant everywhere and if we don’t stop we’ll run out of fish soon. Some think the vegetarian diet is not wholesome. Again we are not true carnivores. We cannot eat raw meat and survive. Our teeth and our intestines are designed for plant based diets.

Sometimes I wish I never knew any of this. Ignorance is truly bliss and peace of mind and easier times at the grocery stores. I  think it’s up to people to decide what they put into their mouths. So for years I have been a passive vegetarian – I don’t go around trying to get people to stop eating meat. But the problem is not about what you put into your mouth. There are bigger issues than that. It’s about being humane, saving our oceans, saving species from extinction and in turn saving ourselves. There is too much information out there and in the end no one can force you to make the decision. Read about fishing and the meat industry and dairy and make a conscious choice. Even if you don’t become vegetarian or vegan at least support farms that treat animals well. If we have a choice when it comes to what we eat I think they have a choice too. A choice to live, be treated well and die a natural death!