So much to share! I'm taking a few moments out from working this week to blog. Life has been on warp speed lately with the challenge of keeping two little mites occupied, when it's 113℉ outside!
Mostly we go swimming every afternoon. (Fortunately we have access to a pool.) This week, we also have cratefuls of delicious, ripe mangoes to gorge on! India and mangos feature in some of my fondest childhood memories. I remember, age 4, I spent a year living with my cousins in Jammu. On summer weekends, the entire extended family would picnic on the grassy banks of a canal. Mangos would be tied in a mesh bag and lowered into the frigid, fast-moving water to cool them before slicing the soft, tart, treacly orange flesh. When I'm dead, I'll probably still crave the sensation of scooping out sweet, sticky mango pulp from the tough skin with my teeth!
Yum yum yum.
Yesterday, my 3-year-old, who is now addicted to 'ice lollies' (that's the British equivalent of 'popsicles')... demanded a fourth one after lunch. I've been freezing a little apple juice mixed with water for him and he just sucks and crunches them relentlessly in this heat.
Then I had a brainwave -- mix chopped up mangos with some thick cream and sugar! (Ok, not a brainwave exactly, though I felt pretty clever when I thought of it). So hey, presto, today, he's slurping down homemade mango kulfi-sicles!
(Hang on, he's down for his nap, now's my chance to nab one! Sound of freezer door opening... 'crunch crunch crunch!' Mmmmm... note to self: infuse a little cardamom in the cream before freezing!)
Otherwise on the home front, I'm back to taking on freelance journalism assignments. Mostly, I go off to do interviews while my 3-year-old is at school between 10 and 12 every morning. The little one has only just turned 6 months and is still breast-feeding, so she has to come along. I've strapped her on and taken her into a warren of lanes in Old Delhi to interview the Love Commandos ... rocked her with my feet under the table at a coffee shop while talking to Americans living in India... or left her in the car with the nanny, a/c running full blast while I spoke to man who investigates the thousands of children going missing here every year.
It's a big juggling act. And like most working mothers, I get all kinds of reactions. Mostly, people are incredibly taken with her, and very gracious. For most Indians, children are a completely natural and pleasurable part of everyday life. Hip young men with gelled hair and earrings will go completely cuddly and gooey around a young child. Most probably already have one of their own at home, or if not, then certainly nieces and nephews.
But occasionally, very occasionally, I'm reminded of how unnatural children are for some people.
Yesterday, a rather pompous young man I met at a coffee shop for a quick interview, told me curtly, "You can pick up your baby if you need to." Translation: "Why did you bring your kid with you. I'm finding her presence extremely annoying."
A couple of weeks ago, while corresponding with a new editor for some freelance work, I got this rather terse email:
"Any progress on some story ideas? **** was asking about you and saying you were dependable and professional."
My first inclination was to send back a virtual middle finger. Had the editor been standing in front of me, I think I might have given him a bloody nose. Breathe. Breathe. Ok, he doesn't know me, or my situation (which makes writing such a shitty message even more of a schmucky thing to do).
Her point about parenting not being as respected as being committed to religion, or sport is pertinent. As is the squeamishness of highlighting family commitments at work. Her comment about a work colleague asking her not to talk about her kids all the time struck a chord, as did her insistence that anyone introducing her ought to mention her two children along with her academic and professional qualifications.
My husband and I were talking about all this... and he pointed out that we've both made very conscious decisions not to have jobs where we are constantly having to choose between work and family. He's right... but it doesn't necessarily make me feel settled. I'm hyper-aware that as a journalist, my profession - while championing parent's working rights and equality in the workplace - is also one of the poorest at implementing these rights. And as a result, I'm now freelancing, rather than working full-time.
Then again, part of the problem here is our obsession with 'having it all'... and how all-encompassing that 'all' has become!
So with that, I'm off to the freezer again, for another homemade mango popsicle!