Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day Musings!

This Mother’s Day, the Aalayam authors got together to muse about the real  gripes and gushes of Motherhood, and to candidly chat about what Motherhood (round 2) looks like in our households!

Cliché? Not at all. It is only fair that we take a moment to acknowledge the one job that defines our identity, takes over our life, and generally drives us nuts! (and yes of course, the job that is the most fulfilling one in the world!) 

And what better day to take a bow to the job itself, than today! So here’s Deepa, Divya, Smitha and Supriya’s renditions of Motherhood. In their own words.

Deepa says: "This mother’s day is special – I am a mom, again!......after 12 years!  There’s another tiny being in the house that makes our life so much more meaningful – she truly does and I am often amazed at how my heart has expanded to accommodate all the love I feel for this little girl when I could never imagine being able to love anyone else as much as my first born. I am a different kind of mother now – there is so much demanding my attention – my older boy, a super stressful job, the house and the husband and somewhere in the shadow of all this chaos, my little girl is growing - every day and silently. I have accepted that this second stint is going to be VERY different She is going to be 8 months soon! And of course, there is a tiny hint of motherhood guilt as well. I was at home with my boy for 6 years, cherishing, documenting and celebrating every milestone but with her my break barely lasted 6 weeks and then there is also the guilt of focusing mostly on our little one these days making me wonder how my older one is handling all this.

 Being an older mom and a veteran (if I may call myself that) has its advantages too - I am not as jittery this time around, there is much less hysteria around feeding and nap times. There are fewer pictures too. And it seems o.k. This little girl is loved and she knows it and has adapted to the cacophony of the household well.

There are days when I am completely stretched thin and her little coos and my older one’s warm hugs bring me back to the present. These two ground me and help me keep my priorities straight and that is the best thing about being a mom! Our family is different and our struggles are different and yes, there are times when I wish we had handled late night feeds, diaper fiascos and teething tantrums for both kids in one fell swoop. The age gap between our kids defies convention. None of my friends have kids this young and some days I wonder if I will have the energy to keep up with a feisty toddler. But as a family we have always embraced our challenges and this one is no different!

And at the end of the day I am having a lot fun raising a beautiful daughter – she is my latest fashion partner, my dolled-up diva! And I look forward to the challenge of raising a self -assured young girl and encouraging her to grow up into the person she wants to be!"

Divya says: In the last four and a half years, I've been puked on, sneezed at, had my hair smeared with gooey baby food, even had the occasional poop explosion all over my clothes!

As any other person, I have all these naturally strong feelings about not wanting to have another (little) person's snot all over me, or wanting to be able to wee in peace, and you know, just being me.
There are two sides to it, though. The slightly challenging, testing my nerves, make-me-want-to-scream-like-mad side. And then there's also the other side. The beautiful, dreamy side where I've been hugged by tiny warm hands, smiled at like a gazillion times, been kissed by Nutella-smeared lips and been showered with the happiest giggles. The joys and woes of being a mother! The happy things far outweigh all the small inconveniences. Yes, there are times when I secretly wish someone would take them for a day, a few hours, a few minutes so I could actually finish my cup of coffee while it's still hot. But that isn't a real wish, no. It's just some weird chemical reaction in my mad-mommy brain sometimes.

I want their playful presence, the constant chattering, and the never-ending inquisitive questions. I want my Little Miss to tell me all about how she made a picture for me at preschool, I want her to plead me to paint her toenails (with all the colours of the rainbow!), I want her to kiss me goodnight every night. I want my Little Man to hum nursery rhymes all day, I want him to ask me to help him tow his toy truck, I want him to scare me with his loud dino roars.
I want it all. I want all of it, I want every bit of being a mum :-)

The difficult bits, the happy bits, the challenging bits, the fun bits; the love, the laughter, the tears, the frustration; the quiet times, the noisy times, the hunger tantrums, the nap times - I love them all. Because I'm a mum! And because I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Happy Mothers’ Day to all you beautiful and loving mothers!”

It’s Smitha’s turn:Being a mother is learning about Strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed “

Flash forward my life to baby number 2, she was as unexpected as she was a blessing.  Although I was miles away from my mum and loved ones, I took this experience in my stride and didn’t stress about the small stuff; gone were the first time jitters. As there was no one else telling me what to do, I pretty much did everything to my heart’s content.  I stayed out late, I partied hard, and I might have even downed a glass or two of champagne once the trimester had passed. I didn’t play the recommended music to my in-utero baby nor did I read to her. I was so exhausted from working full time and keeping up with an overactive 4 year old that the days rolled into weeks and months very soon.

My only concession to my pregnancy was that I ate out every day. I always chose to eat healthy and funnily enough the smell of curries actually put me off.  So I had to figure out different types of food that I could actually keep it down; eventually I alternated between Korean food and Subway. Today my daughter can demolish a half foot subway in the blink of an eye. Once I introduce her to Korean food no doubt it will be the same. My point is our state of mind during our pregnancy has a direct impact on a child’s personality. No doubt the external factors will also have bearing in a child’s formative years. I always tell where Google fails, a mother’s intuition comes very handy.

Of all the different hats that I wear every day, none as proudly as that of being a mum. Now that they have both grown up a bit, the monologues in my head have converted into fun conversations. I am enjoying their thoughts and their reactions on sports, sex, politics, food, clothes, privileges, gifts and so on. Not every day is like that though; there are days when I just want to be left alone and let them know in not so uncertain terms; it seems harsh but the no-nonsense attitude works for them.

I remember talking with my hubby recently and he was teasing me about the fact that our son is now the same age that I was when I attempted to run away from home with my cousins.( Almost 2 and some decades later, I am still unable to live that incident down!) I was amused at the comparison but I also knew that kids these days wouldn’t give up the luxury of an air conditioned personalised room with unlimited data time on their iPad for a small matter of having an adventure. As funny as the comment was I was also struck at the fact that kids at a certain strata of the society are hardly exposed to the harsh realities of lives. I highly doubt if my kids understood what poverty or homelessness entails. I have since made it my mission to tell my children that I live an ordinary life so that they could do extraordinary things with theirs. I feel passionately about everything in life. I feel like all wrongs have to be righted. This might sound unrealistic to some of you, but we forget that one  day one of our children will rise to lead a nation, be a sporting legend, be a music maestro, be a dancing sensation or a movie star or a celebrated writer or an Astronaut…or whatever their little heart desires. They are only limited in the extent that we let them dream. I have made them promise me that in their lifetime they will work to eradicate hunger - once again I can dream can’t I? and who knows?

It’s that time of the year to take stock of the brave mums who sacrificed their sons and daughters just like ours, so that many others could be safe within their homes. My mother’s day musings are incomplete if I don’t shed a tear to all those mothers and their families who have been cruelly, barbarically and systematically decimated in recent times in the name of religion.
The journey of being a mum is a lot of hard work, loads of fun and infinitely rewarding. Being a mum to two kids’ means that I am constantly performing a juggling act between, work, home and family.

However, as someone rightly said Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own; to teach the hard lessons to do the right thing even when you are not sure what the right thing is….and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.

Once again to all the beautiful mothers everywhere you are what makes the Earth and the Sun move and don’t you ever forget the strength you have to never give up, despite all the struggles”

 And all Supriya has to say is “Motherhood  brings out the worst in me. It brings out my obsessive need for control, my itching compulsion for order and organization, my panicky fixations at the responsibility of shaping two little girls’ futures, my dire impatience at child-like curiosity and pace when we are running against the clock, my competitive fervor that raises my expectation of myself and my kids to the zenith, and of course, my apoplectic rage when my twin girls gang up on me to push all my buttons at the end of a long, invested day at work. 

Motherhood also brings out guilt. Tons of it. It manifests itself as self-doubt at my parenting philosophies and shortcuts, serious contemplation at my purported inadequacy in comparison to my self-imposed high standards (and of course, the standards established by society, and it’s expectations from moms, who are supposed to be the paragons of patience and tolerance and values!), and paranoid musings about a million “what-ifs” because I am not spending every minute of my kids’ free time with them.

But you know what, Motherhood, albeit with stretch marks, that have only slightly faded, grey hair that are sprouting in the earnest, and love handles that do not go away, stubborn, stubborn, is not that bad. 

Actually, it’s pretty awesome. What started as a never ending saga of giggles, cuddles and canoodles with my chubby little ones (why do those cheeks go away!!), who used to hang on to my every word, listen to my fashion advise, and laugh at all my jokes, now has turned into a slightly more mature, and roller-coasteresque relationship, full of candid conversations during bath times, serious confessions during our walks to the park, impromptu sing-alongs during car rides, and  mild wardrobe wars and existential arguments on life, love and ladybugs. If this is what Year 6 is like, God give me strength for the teenage years.

As the days progress, I am seeing that Motherhood is bringing out the best in me too.

Happy Mother’s day to all the brave and tireless moms and mom-like figures in your lives. 

Mother's Day may not be the same in many households and we recognize that there may be some who are not as blessed as we, or our kids are. 

Celebrate Motherhood nevertheless. It’s the most difficult job in the world”

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Expanding the Aalayam repertoire: Sights, Sounds and Smells of a Place Called Home!

It’s been nearly nine years since we packed our bags and flew over the Indian Ocean down to the southern hemisphere to sunny Australia, now our home (away from home!). Over the years, we’ve created our own little comfort zone around us- a wonderful mix of the Aussie way of things and our very own Indian values and traditions. Nevertheless, the home we grew up in always stays very close to our hearts, like that first love. And there are certain things that always, always make me feel totally at home, take me back to the familiar warmth and comfort of my country. I think you would agree and nod knowingly at my pick of ‘Five Things that Instantly Take Me Home’. All I need to do is close my eyes J

1.     The Quintessential Pressure Cooker

“Shhhhhhhhhhh!” says the pressure cooker in my kitchen almost every morning and late evening, almost as if calming me down, bringing back memories of Amma’s mildly spiced sambar and soft fluffy rice. And it’s kind of incomplete without the stacking stainless steel pans which reassure me that they will take care of the dal and the rice and the vegetables, all at once! One of the many familiar sounds from the kitchens of India.

2.     Filter Coffee

Growing up in a traditional Kannada household, my mornings always had a hint of fresh coffee wafting through the air as I went on with the business of properly waking up J And even now, after all these years, as the kettle boils and I pour hot water into the coffee filter over a spoonful (and more) of ground coffee, my mind instantly goes all the way back home. It’s almost a ritual, as if to say “I hereby declare that this morning has begun!” With the latest addition of the traditional ‘davara-tumbler’, the very first sip of strong frothy filter kaapi keeps our Indian homes snug in our hearts.

3.     Indian Bedsheets

In a land of fitted sheets and flat sheets and doonas and pillow cases, my beloved ‘bedsheets’ and ‘pillow covers’ from India haven’t lost their place. Yes, those fitted sheets are a boon, like really! I mean, who wouldn’t like a sheet that stays put and doesn’t jiggle and shimmy and find a way towards the middle of the bed? But let’s face it, as fitted as they may be, they’re a tad too boring and plain for me. Maybe that’s why the patterns and colors and the little flowers so daintily embroidered on the bedsheets from India make me smile! Make that freshly laundered, sweet smelling, Bombay Dyeing bedsheets and I’m like a little girl running in a meadow, grazing my hands across flowering plants, soft breeze in my loose hair with the sun lending an angelic glow! Yeah! I go cuckoo for clean, fresh, crisp sheets!

4.     Nighty, Nightie Night!

I’m a plain Jane when it comes to bed time. No satin PJs for me, no siree! Don’t judge me now, but you know what I want to get into after a really, really, long, tiring day? The ever forgiving and ever comforting Indian nightie! When I slip that soft cotton, longish, flowy thing on, trust me, I (almost) attain nirvana! No, seriously ladies, what better to remind us of our mums, and aunties and pretty much all of our favorite women back home? It’s like they’re literally wrapping their arms around us and giving us a warm reassuring hug!

5.     Agarbathi

Sometimes, when I want to find my inner calm (or when the house smells kind of damp), all I need to do is light an agarbathi and a calming feeling pervades. It takes me back to the beautiful temples of India, brings back memories of my father doing the sandhyavandana (evening salutations) and my mother reciting prayers in the early evening. Such a simple thing, a slender stick wrapped in incense, but it has the ability to merge my Indian home and my Aussie home ever so subtly!

So, there you have it! Five of my favorite things that remind me of the home I grew up in. 

What are some of the quaint little things that remind you of your home? Share them here with us and take us back home with you!

Lots of love,

Here's more about me:

Typical Bengalooru Girl, with familial roots in Australia! Blogger, Mom and Artist! You may remember me from my guest posts in Aalayam! (

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brand new Aalayam author tells all about the charm of Traditional Games!

Absorbed in Aluli Guli Mane (Mancala World) game

2016 seems to have started with a flourish and a bang. The holiday memories are long faded and relegated to a distant past. As we all struggle to achieve that happy medium of work-life, family, friends and kids, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if I am doing enough as a parent.  I am always comforted at the sight of my kids engaged in creating something (as messy as it gets afterwards!) or reading a book rather than with an IPad. Interestingly enough this year marks six years since the advent of the IPad - technology which was pretty much delivered into the laps of our babies.

Chauka Bara is a delightful throwback

I am all for Technology, Innovation and Science. I understand how this positively enhances and makes our lives so much easier; I also understand that the benefits of IPad are multi-fold. Kids obviously love them, learn new things quickly and tend to be absorbed and remain quiet while playing with them. IPads are now part of School Curriculum and are replacing textbooks. All this however, scares me a little. The fact that our kids now inhabit the virtual world more than we do. We now seem to be raising a generation of kids who are missing out on developing crucial social skills.  

Hop Scotch - or our very own Kunta Bille

I feel like our kids have forgotten how to write or enjoy a good old fashioned book. I will be the first to admit that I resort to my phone as a stress-buster or turn a blind eye when my kids have been longer on the phone or IPad than they should. 

Snake and Ladder - the traditional version

I remember some 12 years ago when my son was being raised in Bangalore (India), even regular mobile phones were a luxury and we only had a serviceable one for the family. He spent most of his waking hours exploring the neighbourhood, making friends creating crude toys with bits and pieces and generally enjoying his time out in the Sun. Our daughter born overseas was a totally different story. She could identify and sing-along to her favourite T.V characters before she turned one and she was able to nimbly swipe through games and apps before she was potty trained. The uncomfortable truth for some of us is that Technology is here to stay.

Carrom is an all time family favorite

Days when I can’t work something on my phone or my laptop, I run to my kids for help. I am happy that they are not fazed by technology as I am and can problem solve issues, if need be. However, I have to wonder sometimes, what tools I am enabling my kids with to jump-start their imagination and create a thirst to explore and invent. I sometimes go back in time to my memories when I was their age and wondered what I enjoyed the most. 

The gorgeous colors are a draw in itself

I remembered the endless days when we played kuntu –bille, Aeroplane or hop-scotch for some of you on the streets and spent hours scrounging construction sites for a perfectly smooth stone for the game. I remember how I spent a whole summer with my brother and cousins in the backyard trying to create scented erasers from pencil shavings and a rubber plant tree. 

I also remember how we scraped tamarind seeds (left over from mum’s cooking) to play Ali Guli Mane (Mancala World), Chawka Bara (Race game) with traditional bronze dices, Carom board and of course our all-time favourite Snakes and Ladders with a twist -  because back in the days some of them came as Ramayana and Mahabharata board games.

After all that reminiscing it was exciting to find some modern version of these games available at Ikea.  I am very thrilled to try these board games with my kids and re-live a bit of my carefree childhood days with them. My kids also came with an innovate idea to make the hop-scotch game work for them. They decided to paint some of our paved area to make up this game. 

This means a run into the local paint shop squabbling over colours and brushes and the dramas and some tears that I already anticipate; but I am quietly excited. This means another weekend where they will not feel the urge to resort to IPads to deal with boredom. I know that they will eventually tire out of these games. But I find that the challenge will be to just keep one step ahead of them and keep them guessing and keep them busy. As one mum rightly said – my child will take all of 5 mins to master the IPad but for me it’s important that she has memories of riding a bike, playing with her friends, getting messy, having fun and just enjoying herself. 

Indian version of Chess!

They don’t understand yet, but we are helping them create fabulous memories of their happy days that they can go back to when they are all grown up, that can hug them like a warm blanket on a cold winter day.


And here's a sneak peek into who I am: A mom, a fashionista, a career woman, and a newly minted blogger. Excited to be part of the Aalayam family.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Aalayam is looking for Writers!!!

Aalayam is looking for writers!! 

One superpower both Deepa Uj and I wish we had is the ability to generate more hours in the day. Our beautifully and carefully curated baby Aalayam is sitting on the back burner of our super busy and multi layered lives. However, we both believe that we will make time for Aalayam, to continue to meaningfully and non-stressfully integrate into our lives. So, in case you guys were wondering, the blog is not going anywhere!

Now, what we are looking for is fellow bloggers! Writers! Creators!! Someone who can jumpstart our dormant blog with their creative vision and verbose talents! 

Any takers?! 

Write to us as if you are interested, and we can start a conversation!

Supriya & Deepa

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 2015: A Visual Anthology

As the glorious end to 2015 fast approaches, I'd like to take a self-indulgent moment to look back upon the year that was, and anticipate the year that will's presenting to you, my dear readers, a visual anthology of my very interesting 2015.

Replete with travel across the USA, to beaches, conferences, theme parks, workshops and strategy sessions, I raked up some airline miles, and decided which were my favorite airports. Although faced with the awful conundrum of being away from my kids, I must admit I did have guilty pleasure in "me" time and room service.

I did have some culinary adventures (and misadventures) at home with Mexican, Thai and Italian food (my family and friends recipe book is growing now!!). Of course, I had fun whipping up some crazy heavy Indian desserts (Kesar Kalakhand anyone?) and signature family favorites.

Home decor and blogging took a back seat this year, with in-laws visiting and all the above mentioned travel. I chose to be at the beck and call of my husband's parents, be the traditional bahu that they anticipated me to be, juggling expectations, temperaments and temper tantrums. Primarily my performance anxiety gave me a hard time, as I was balancing my desire to be the best at the home front too, even under sub-optimal circumstances.

Parenting presented it's own challenges, with alternatively recalcitrant and angelic girls, who grew taller, more articulate, more well read and stylish as the year progressed.

Travel, culture, food and festival came in equal parts. 2015 was a salvation to my wanderlust and culture savvy!

I had the privilege of meeting my best and closest friends, catching up for laughs after a decade of being in touch only virtually. And we had not missed a beat!

Home became a sanctuary as Fall approached, as I got ready to get my almost 6 year olds into First Grade, breaking the State of Virginia September 30th school age cut off. And Yes, they made it to First Grade, although they were not 6 years old at that time!! (Woot Woot, Parenting win!). Who knew, First Graders had school readiness evaluations!

I had the amazing opportunity to meet my blogging partner in crime - Deepa! As you all know by now, she is the proud momma of a cute lil baby girl, who joined the Aalayam family in 2015. I had the privilege of being one of the co-hosts of Deepa's gorgeous baby shower! Fun times.

Oh, and we lost our first tooth in our household. Amidst much excitement, and joyful yelling (mostly from me!), the tooth fairy made her first visit to our home, and promptly followed up with many more!!

And of course, there were some bittersweet moments of Parenting..knowing what to say when kids win...and don't. Managing the fine balance of teaching kids a strong work ethic, but watching over them so they don't beat themselves up (too hard) if they did not do a good enough job. (Tiger Mom much?) 

Lots of Desi Chaat party hosting!

Some DIY Dasara decorating!

Some Butta chomping ! (look out for my Seattle Travel Ramble in 2016!)

Some controlled excitement and angst about my kids' first Bharatanatyam performance! (ever secured a long braid (times 2) on 6 year olds with really short curly hair? Now I am a pro at this! But it took quite a lot of bobby pins, some deep breaths and a few anxiety management lessons)

Lots of holiday baking! (pictured below is a birthday cake I baked for my baby sister, who joined us for the holidays from Germany!)

And uncontrollable family giggling! (Yaay, to my parents visiting in 2015!)

And the cherry on top of the cake - my closest friends and their families got together over the Christmas holiday in our home in Virginia!

Amidst countless selfies, dressathons, non-stop food, and oh-so-fantastic memorable gift exchanges, we got a chance to chill, be ourselves and get to know each other all over again, not just as friends, but as wives, moms and daughters-in-law.

Here's to evolving friendships!

As I wrap up this visual anthology, I humbly thank my people - my husband, my parents, my kids, my friends, my clients and coworkers, Deepa and you, my dear readers for a fantabulous 2015.

Here's looking forward to a gorgeous and stimulating 2016! Do share with us how your 2015 went. I am curious to take a quick peek at your year's highlights!


p.s all pictures in this visual anthology are mine, and mine alone, so please do not bother copying/reusing it!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Aalayam's holiday editorial

Hello! Merry Christmas. Hope you are all having a lot of fun counting down to 2016. We wish you a Charlie Brown Christmas - wholesome holiday cheer and lots of good will as you revel in the Joy of the season. I leave you with some images of Charlie Brown's Christmas as well as our parlor decked for the holidays -our tree is swathed in pink this year and you know why!
Thank you for another great Aalayam year dear readers!

And with that, I am signing off for 2015. Have a very merry christmas and a happy new year!

All charlie brown images are from google images and the rest of the images are from my home and may not be used without permission.