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Christmas Celebrations at Varun’s School

Decorations

Varun’s school had Christmas party today.

All parents were invited with their kids for a morning of celebrations with cake, music and some dance dressed in the red and white theme. The school teachers had set up a Christmas tree ( obviously an artificial one in this tropical climate) and nativity scene to remind the kids for why we celebrate Christmas.

Decorated Christmas tree

As the parents gathered, teachers greeted them. Varun realized its  something different as parents and kids were standing around chatting. Few kids went and sat with the staff as instructed but others like Varun were simply running around.

Kids in red and white

Dressed up

Rathi and Aarvin

The party began when ‘Santa’ ( A teacher dressed in a red cap and a white beard)  arrived jingling a bell. They sprayed fake snow to get the feel of a real Christmas. Parents were invited on by one to sing carols, tell a story or even dance. Some kids sat and watched while others chased each other around.

Here comes Santa Claus

Sparying snow on the kids

Dhruv looking on

Varun wouldn’t leave my side and insisted I sit with him on the lawn beyond where he could play away from the celebrations. He doesn’t like large gatherings. Later he went onto play by himself in the sand pit.

Varun trying to run away

Playing in sand

Then the teachers cut the cake with all the kids and we all snacked on cake, wafers, biscuits and some sev. Rathi, a friend and fellow parent at the school had specially made a marble cake for the occasion and it was over in no time.

Santa then handed out mini toy cars and chocolate bars to all the kids as a gift. Kids were happy with the chocolate and most of them left the wafers and cake to munch on the chocolate bars.

By this time it was getting late for work, so we decided to leave the party.

Varun cried his heart out as he didn’t want to be left behind – his first in this daycare. I guess the sugar, the excitement of playing around , change in the routine and the large gathering left him overwhelmed. I am sure he must have calmed down once he was back in the daycare.

Its wonderful that the day care’s and schools celebrate all festivals here. Its fun for the kids, teachers and parents. I saw other kids whose names I have only seen in the register. I saw parents who held enthralling story time at the school. I saw teachers dressed up for the occasion. The laughter and happiness around was infectious and warming.

That’s what the holiday season anyways is all about – sharing joy and happiness.

On this weekend before Christmas, stay warm and enjoy the snow. Sip on some eggnog, have that plum cake and make merry!

From my family to yours – We wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Hope the seasons showers you with the very best!! Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas

Vipul and Varun

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Varuns Trip to the Hospital

I was debating whether to write this up or not; but finally decided to go for it. We had very stressful last couple of days since the time the doctor declared Varun has some foreign body in his nose.The actual scheduling of the operation, financial counseling, the fast and the long wait, actual surgery and the post op waking up – was an ordeal.

I have had one surgery in US and it was smooth. I knew what they are going to do to me and when. We knew what to expect. Here other than a number for taking an appointment and a vague idea of the procedure we didn’t know much. I was in too much of a shock to really ask anything to the doctor.

Day before the procedure

After the initial shock of prospect of Varun having to undergo a nasal procedure and more importantly be sedated/ get anesthesia, I read up online and found that it’s not as uncommon as I believed. I mean there are other kids who put stuff up their lil noses.

With that sorted, I called the number to schedule the appointment. Of course it was too early to call them at 9:00 am so we had to wait till 10:30 am when the scheduling guy, Mr D, came to office. Once in office, Mr. D wanted to know about insurance before he would give us an appointment. He told me about hospital package – can you believe it – like a vacation package that includes doctors charge, anesthesia charge, Operation room charges, medicines  and being in the common recovery room for 6-8 hours. I actually didn’t care about the charges. I told him if the insurance doesn’t cover it I will pay for it – just schedule the damn procedure!

My bigger worry was about fasting and how to keep Varun distracted while he was bound to get hungry and want milk at the very least ; and the side effects of anesthesia.

At the end of the day almost around 5:00 pm, after making several calls and back and forth on insurance, we got an appointment for 3:00 pm. With a stern instruction to not to eat or drink after 9:30 am. Okie. It wasn’t gong to be easy.

The evening before the procedure

I had read on parenting sites that kids handle hospitals and surgeries better if they know what to expect. But other than the fasting aspect and sedation and I V, I didn’t know what to tell him without scaring him.

So, I told him that it was a special day when the doctor was going to fix his nose and his cold and for that we all had to fast – which means no milk, no food and no water. He nodded and laughed and went about playing with his blocks. I think I must have repeated it all evening. Before going to bed he said ‘no water, no food – but mama give milk!’

I felt so bad but simply held him while he went to bed.

The morning of the procedure

We woke up by 7:45 am and decided that we will give him a nice breakfast so he won’t feel hungry. But unlike adults, kids don’t eat more than what they are used to and so he ate half a pancake, some milk, and some pomegranate.

By 9:00 am I tried to give him some juice and water but he simply refused.

He was busy playing with his cycle, blocks, pillows that he didn’t miss food till at 11:00 am he asked for water. We tried to distract him with some cartoons. In the car, he asked for milk and even took out the bottle from the diaper bag. Anticipating this we had kept the bottle empty so he knew there was no milk. Again, I reminded him about the fast and distracted him with hoardings on the road. Thankfully he cooperated.

Once in hospital, we were asked to go to the  emergency room for checkup: weight, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure. Varun was irritated with the cuff on his arm but somehow managed to keep it on. The nurse wrote his weight and temperature incorrectly and we had to correct it – and began to wonder what all we would have to watch for that day.

After the check, we went to meet the anesthesiologist. She asked for allergies and Varuns history. In turn, I asked her questions – how will they give him anesthesia ( via IV), do they have pediatric IV’s ( plastic v/s metal – they do have kid friendly baby ones), when will they give IV ( while he is awake), can they sedate him before IV ( she was OK with it), how long before the sedative takes effect ( 5- 10 mins), when will they give sedative ( 30 mins before surgery), side effects of anesthesia and sedative ( nothing major) , and when pressed for side effects ( Said something about taking long to wakeup from anesthesia and irritability then).

I was a bit worried but didn’t really have much of an option.

After the meeting we were asked to wait in the lobby and then get admitted at 1:30 pm.

Varun got hungry and thirsty. Every time he saw anyone pass by with water bottle he asked me for water. It’s so hard to refuse water but I knew if he did drink any we would have to reschedule and go through this ordeal all over again. Somehow we distracted him with other people waiting and tired, he fell asleep. I also slept with him sitting up in the lobby.

In the meantime Vipul went and paid the deposit for the operation’s package. And we waited.

Before the procedure

Promptly at 1:30 pm, we were asked to admit him. We went back to the ER where I waited with sleeping Varun. One attendant came to give Varun IV which I refused. I asked that he be admitted first and given sedative before IV.

Eventually 15 – 20 mins later, we were in a waiting room outside the operation room. The nurse gave him grape flavored syrup which was supposed to make him sleep in 5- 10 mins. Varun was grateful to drink something after the long morning and was asking for more. In 5 mins he was loopy but not at all sleepy. He tried getting up and reaching for cartoon posters and climbing down the chair but his hands and legs gave away and he was like a little drunk bouncing around. I had to hold him tight to prevent any other injuries – but in hindsight it was cute to see him like that giving our big smiles.

His doctor came at 2:45 pm to check on him. I asked him more anesthesia related questions – is general needed or will local be enough? what happens if you don’t find anything etc. He answered briefly and went away to scrub in. Couple of minutes later, the nurse whisked him away to operation room luring him with ice cream.

We were not allowed in.

After the procedure

My heart sank as I saw the double doors close behind him and we were asked to wait outside.

Barely 10 mins had passed when an attendant called us in. I was sure that they were unable to get the IV in or some such. But the doctor stood with a metal tray with 4 thumb nail sized sponge pieces on white sterile gauze. Shock, awe, relief , disbelief swept over as the doctor recounted how they found one piece after another ( 3 in one nostril and 1 in another) and were amused in the operation room. He wondered how it didn’t cause him any symptoms and how we could not have noticed it/ brought him in earlier. I was so ashamed, embarrassed and annoyed at myself for not catching this earlier. What kind of parents are we if we can’t keep tab on our only child??

The doctor left asking us to be careful next time. I guess if we were in Norway, we would be in jail and Varun would be in a foster home. A new low even by our standards 😦

Post Operation Recovery

Happy that it went well, Vipul and I waited for Varun to come out. A few minutes later we heard low earthy moans of ‘mamma mamma’ with the nurses fervent pleas to hold him. I ran to the door and saw Varun, drugged and disoriented, trying to take out the IV and the ID bracelet. He looked scared on not finding us around.

I ran in to pick him up but in that semi awake state he was irritated with the nurses and the restrictions. He wouldn’t calm down till we took out the ID bracelet. He was so agitated that the nurses had to give him more sedative. Those 10 minutes were the craziest part of the day. Varun screaming to remove the IV, couple of nurses trying to pin him down, others trying to give him sedative, yet another trying to tie the IV to a splint around his wrist with tape. Finally I asked them to take off the IV and they begrudging did. They got this giant cotton swab to prevent blood loss and that started another bout of screaming and crying. He simply didn’t like them touching him. Luckily another nurse had sense to get a small cotton ball and I held it on his hand while we waited for the blood to stop flowing out.

After a long time he calmed down and asked to lie down on the bed.

The sedative was finally taking effect – or so I thought. Varun then realized that he hadn’t seen Vipul and woke up agitated asking for Dada. It took few more minutes to calm him down. Then he wanted me to lay on one side of the bed and Vipul on other while he nuzzled between us. The hospital bed was so narrow that we couldn’t fit. That brought a fresh bout of tears.

We moved the bed around so Vipul could sit on another side while I climbed into the bed with him. The nurses were amused but I couldn’t really see a way out. Thankfully they drew the curtain to give us some privacy and dimmed the lights.

I hoped that Varun would calm down but some nurses – doctors were talking on the other side of curtain waking Varun every time with their conversation. By this time I was losing my patience and mentally was on verge of asking everyone to shut up!  Finally after desperate pleas, being hit by  him in the process, and after drinking a bottle of water and another of milk he calmed down.

Within minutes, another patient was rolled in for post operative recovery and the fresh activity aroused Varun. The nurses put the lights back on and woke him up. More whining, crying, begging followed. Fed up, I picked him up and took him to show the other recovering girl. Distracted he began to calm down. Even in this state, he noticed that the girl was crying and repeatedly asked her to ‘not cry’. Don’t cry didi, don’t cry! My baby !

Vipul used the opportunity to pay the bills, collect medicines and leave. We had to pay more than the package price which Vipul was in no mood to argue about.

The sedative that was supposed to knock him out didn’t work at all. Varun felt better once we were in the car. He had more water, paratha en-route. By the time we got home, he was back to his usual self. Playing with the cushions, his car, blocks etc

We were exhausted and starving after a long day. We had some tea and quick dinner and then climbed into the bed to watch TV and just vegetate while Varun continued to play.

I am so glad 12/12/12 was over. It was a memorable day. There is no better way to secure a seat in ‘lousy parents’ camp. The sight of Varun disoriented and groggy, struggling like a chained lion to break free and asking for us is etched in my memory. That’s enough for me to ensure we strive hard we don’t have to go through this again.But with both our childhoods being ‘eventful’ its not going to be an easy task!

On Diwali Eve

Diwali Preparations

This being the last weekend before Diwali, its been a busy day prepping for the festival.

Malls and standalone stores look festive with all the decorations and lights.

We bought diyas.

And put up hanging lantern.

We wrapped gifts before rest of the family arrives tomorrow.

…And received the annual box of sweets from mom.

And of course, we bought firecrackers. We went firecracker shopping after more than a decade. Varun is scared of loud and noisy firecrackers, so we got only sparklers, fountain pots and zameen chakra. Can’t wait to burst them tomorrow!

In the evening, we lit a diya – looking forward to more fun and festivities tomorrow!!

Reality Bytes: Eight Months Later

Diwali is around the corner. Family is in town. Lights, lanterns, festivities, shopping, sweets and delicacies and fire crackers. We celebrate Ganesh festival, Dusshera and even smaller festivals like Kojagiri Poornima.This truly encompasses what being in India is all about.

Our last two months have been more on adjusting to life in India.The usual suspects are still lurking around.

Traffic

Traffic is bad. I feel even more now that I have started driving. With our small car, we had to take the car seat out when we had family in town for a month. Now Varun refuses to sit in the car seat though he usually sits only on backseat.Once a valet didn’t come forward on seeing us as he suspected Vipul was a driver as he saw Varun and me in the backseat. Since then Vipul insists on all of us sitting on front seat at least when we go out dining. We even did a long road trip recently ( though Varun was on back seat on the long drive). Most of our long distance driving is restricted to-day time; but I must confess I have been on one trip with colleagues when we drove at night with kids on laps. But in our defense, these friends are used to driving in India at night and the highway was divided as well as lit – so its didn’t feel as dangerous as I would have once assumed it to be.

Lifestyle

The temperature has become more bearable. We have made several trips making most of the good weather. Mumbai and Lonavla for Gauri and GanapatiKochi and Kumarakom with my brother and SIL, Kurnool with colleagues and Srisailam with parents.  Only one regret we couldn’t visit a waterfall and have a good soak this monsoon. Maybe next year.

We visited several in Hyderabad as well – Lotus Pond, Shilparamam, Jagannath temple – photos will be shared soon!

We have shopped a fair bit – Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Promod, Marks and Spencer’s, Pantaloons. Cant always defer to US or Mumbai trip for shopping. Next up is a quest for a tailor.

One good part about Hyderabad is that there are several Sunday brunch places around the town. Westin, SO, Taj Krishna, Novotel – have a buffet style brunch that you can indulge in. Varun runs around, tries his favorite pasta and chicken, bread sticks, juice and ice cream and dozes off on the way home. We don’t have to worry about what to order. And as we eat early, almost always are first ones on the scene. Fresh food, attentive service, happy Varun- what else can I ask for.

Working at IDC

Finally with release of Windows 8, Vipul is now a bit free and relaxed. We went to Ramoji Film City for his Ship party and made a movie – It was insane. Varun and I went along with him ( family was invited) and we stayed overnight and had a custom ‘Nizam night’ hosted to celebrate the team shipping and watched the movies made.

This past month was also a month-long Giving campaign at Microsoft. At IDC, this takes a new dimension as one of the goals is to ensure everyone participates. So variety of events were planned at team, division and at Microsoft IDC level. On our team we had a sports tournament (where I was named MVP as I had most points..hahahah!) , Talent show (where all girls on the team performed a medley), Auction and a Family event (where we invited families and hosted them for an evening with Bingo, food, music and fun!)

It was a fun way to bond with team mates over the month.

We had our ship party as well as released in October as part of Office 2013. Our ship party was in Leonia Resort where we spent the day and then did the Gangnam Style performance.

Yea, its been most fun at work with manageable work loads. The atmosphere is more college like with all young recent grads actively participating and leading these events.

Chores and Help

Our honeymoon phase is definitely over.  Our cook left us for some unknown reason and we had to scramble to find another one. This new cook is getting used to our taste and schedule. She comes twice a day and prepares better food than the previous one – although charges a lot more money than the previous one.

Our maid is still the same – though she sometimes skips work and we are stuck with a pile of dishes to clean. I am seriously considering getting a dishwasher. And a dryer is on the list as well since our existing one died on us.

The guy who cleans the car comes regularly though does a poor job of cleaning the interior of the car. Vipul or I go down once in couple of weeks and deep clean the car. Varun loves this part as he can make a mess, play in water etc.

A lot of folks ask us if we will stay or return. We still are on the fence. I have seen quiet a few folks return due to work reasons, charter changes, reorganizations etc. I have seen quite a few folks not move back but find another role in IDC. I have seen a steady stream of imports as well ( as our PM directors calls us ;)) in management positions. Returning to Seattle will be very hard. I don’t look forward to the rainy drizzly overcast winters. And living with out all this basic help outsourced will be harder now that we have had a taste of good life. But we are nowhere near to rushing out to buying our own house and settling here.Lets see. Time will tell. We had decided to try it out for couple of years before we make up our mind.

I have heard about 12 month mark being a true life changer. Onwards to that. Till then I have Diwali, sweets, shopping and fire crackers to think about!

Reality Bytes: Six months later

It’s hard to believe that we left US 6 months ago. We left before spring and now it’s almost time for Fall.

I miss Seattle all the time, the friendly faces, familiar neighborhoods, stores, organic produce and most importantly all our friends. I miss our home – I wonder if the lilies bloomed, and the blueberries ripened on the bushes, I wonder if the new owners sit down on the deck with a cup of tea after work soaking in every bit of August summer, if horses still trot down the trail behind our home…and then Vipul gently reminds me that it’s no longer ‘our home’. Someone else lives there and are making it their own.

As far as our Hyderabad home goes – it’s actually good, once you get used to the life in India.

Traffic

Traffic is gnarly. Vehicles of every size possible (trucks;  mid-sized,  mini and nano sized cars; cycles, auto rickshaws and bikes/mopeds) form 5-6 lanes (where there are 3) and weave in and out of each others’ path just in the nick of time. People jay walking and sometimes even buffaloes join the fun. Driving is stressful as you have to be alert all the time.

To add to this chaos, the local municipal corporation, decides that monsoon is best time to dig up roads for utilities work. There are no advance warnings, re-route information or anything. You see these massive dig outs along the road side. Traffic jams around these work areas are the norm and what should take 10- 15 min ends up taking at least 30-40 mins.

We use this time to point out tiny shops, vehicles and even butterflies to Varun in an effort to ‘edutertain’ him!

Restaurants, Groceries and Lifestyle

Hyderabad has many good Indian restaurants but for anything beyond that the choice is limited. I long for a good salad bar, dumplings at Din Tai Fung, French food at Rovers, brunch at Cafe Flora, thin crust gourmet pizza from Serious Pie, good cheesecake, Can-am pizza  and assorted wines from all over the world. Oh, and all the home cooked /baked goodness by my best friends! I think you make tastier fare than most restaurants in India – I kid you not.

I sorely miss  Trade Joes, Fred Meyer and Costco. You get decent variety of ‘international foods’ at QMart for a premium (Rs 600 or ~ 11 USD for a box of Cheerios? No, Thank you.) but if you need anything beyond standard stuff ( good quality baking chocolate, aluminium free baking powder, non stale tasting frozen berries…)- tough luck. I have heard Bangalore is better than Hyderabad in this respect but till then I have to beg friends to get me things from US  when they come visit.

India is expensive for folks like me who have champagne tastes but don’t have quite the budget (or should I say paycheck) to match. Before we moved, we had an excel spreadsheet that listed typical expenses and ball park range of what we thought we will pay and it seemed that we will be able to live happily and have some money to travel. Now , it is possible to live within that budget – just not in the same lifestyle that you are used to in US.

In US, food, beverage, and most necessities in life (clothes, medicines, shoes, even entertainment) are discounted. Most folks never pay full Retail price for anything – there is always a coupon or a discount code available – yes, even for designer clothing, perfume, accessories and more. I haven’t found any such things here (other than air line travel and credit card rewards) so yes, paying full price is painful. It would not be as painful if I get the same quality as in US, but for most stuff that I have shopped for ( Varun’s clothes, toys), the quality is a hit or a miss.

Working at IDC

Working at IDC is almost the same as in Redmond. In IDC, we have more exposure and access to senior leadership team – be it working with SLT on campus recruitment, or GM reviews, demos and compete study’s.

Work life balance is still a bit off. Mainly because Vipul’s team is in release mode and he spends most nights on call followed by emails etc. And then he travels at least once a month on recruitment trip. Add to that Varun’s activities that seem to go in a high drive in the evening, we almost get no evening to sit down and have a glass of wine 😦 At least in Redmond, Vipul never had evening/night calls so he could share in ‘Varun caring’ activities – nowadays most evenings I chase him around and have no energy left.

The other challenge I see at work is that as folks want to be polite to each other, they don’t say ‘no’ enough. So either they burn midnight oil to deliver, and this happens over and over again or when shit hits the fan complain about impossibility of the task.

Chores and Help

Oh, and you will do a lot more chores in India than you ever did in US – inspite of having to do your cooking, laundry, ironing ,dishes and much more yourself. You see, you will have to manage the maids that come to do all these chores for you. One day, they will call in sick, next, they may not show up at all. You can get the clothes washed and ironed, but you have to be careful not to give your favorite shirts lest there is an iron mark or worse a tear due to high heat.

You will have to track and pay various bills – by check as online bill payment is still in its infancy and may not be accepted by the provider ( rent, daycare, electricity, maintenance, water is all paid by check on various days of the month).

Also, you will act as marriage counsellor, financial advisor, teacher , doctor and a shrink to your maids. They will tell you about their families, kids, in-laws, extended family etc. While its fun to share and listen to every day stories, it’s very hard to react when one of them comes with a swollen cheek as her husband got drunk and beat her for money. As an outsider, I don’t know whether to help her cope through this or help her out of the misery.

But all these issues are overshadowed by getting to meet family often and spending festivals and birthdays with them. Having them around is a blessing as then I get to catch my breath and do something fun and creative (like the photography class we took!). Varun hates when grandparents leave and this time around he is missing them more than ever.  every evening when we come home he runs into grandparents room to see if they have ‘returned’. Can’t wait for mom and dad to visit in October!

Someone had told us that have a clear reason in your mind as to why you are returning to India. You will question yourself over and over again, at every turn, as to why you uprooted a perfectly happy life and moved to India. For many its  taking care of aging parents, following a particular religious sect, or even a better career opportunity. For us it was to experience work life in India, being closer to family and travelling in and around India.

When I watch Varun play with his grandparents while I sit back and enjoy a hot cuppa of tea made fresh when I arrive, I think  our reasons for moving back are playing out perfectly as imagined! Now, on to the next trip planning 🙂

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