July 19, 2017

reminders

everywhere i turn, i am reminded
of times that were great
and even ones that were good
why, i'll even take the ones that were better
than now

and it's not just at home
but on the streets
as i walk past stores
and restaurants
and tea shops

sometimes i pause
and think for a bit
i try to relive
i try to recall
memory, and muscle memory

those times that we chatted
even something irrelevant
those times that we hugged
and maybe when we kissed
or held hands

i have to be honest
that it's a struggle
thoughts are so powerful
and they sometimes
override memory

that's the thing
memory fades, quite quickly too
i haven't forgotten the feeling
but i have forgotten the feel
yeah, there is a difference

what helps then are reminders

pictures, as faded as they may be
 and keepsakes, no, not ones bought
but a tissue that we wrote on
or a coaster stained with booze
a shell that recorded more than the sound of the sea
a bill from a bus ride
a goofy smiley scribbled
a codeword we created

anything
something
to keep going
hoping
feeling
believing
living

July 4, 2017

friendship and chocolate

thick hot chocolate
coats and warms my cup and heart
like old childhood friends

June 28, 2017

#notinmyname

a silent protest.
their first of many, i hope.
never in their names!

June 27, 2017

un-see

what happens when you
see your life differently?
how do you un-see?

June 21, 2017

The Very Tired Butterfly

i saw you lying face up
when i went to the terrace this morning
you were in a corner
with you feet up
in a position of surrender
a position that showed no fear
a position that you, maybe, finally took when you went to rest

i kneeled down and peered closer
your face looked peaceful
and i could almost see a smile
that's how one looks in death, i suppose

i turned you over
you were so beautiful
like a tiger
orange, black and a bit of white

what did you eat for that orange to glow?
clementines aren't so bright.
what made the black look blacker than pitch?
blueberries aren't so dark.
and that pure white, where did it come from?
did you eat fresh snowflakes when you last played?

what all did it take for you to become a tiger, oh butterfly
and was it too much that you couldn't hold on for just one more day?

June 20, 2017

June 6, 2017

achtung!

soft
like cookie dough
crumbly
like a cookie
but she was firm under fire

June 3, 2017

stagnant

wind won't stop blowing
the ocean won't stop churning
let go and let live

June 2, 2017

an end, and a beginning

almost five years now,
honestly though, more like ten
i've moved on, have you?

May 13, 2017

on mother's day

i'm not sure how i feel
about mother's day
even though i've been a mother
for more than a decade

do i need a particular day
to feel like you care
breakfast in bed and gifts
can't i get them at other times, however rare?

i wonder sometimes if i deserve it
have i really been so great
or have i just done what i was supposed to
as determined by the fates

i've birthed and nursed and cleaned
and fed and wiped and burped
i've read and sung and danced
and clapped until my hands hurt

i've sat down when it was time for lessons
and read and taught as well
i've cut out pictures from books
and cursed the glue for its smell

i've driven back and forth from classes
and then played down in the park
i've run up soon after to make dinner
before it's gotten dark

as much as i hated those PTMs
i've gone to school off and on
to smile, sign and say see you soon
before the next term rolls along

i've done all these things
without thinking about them a lot
but do i want to feel special on one particular day
no, but here's a fond thought

i want you to remember
all the things we talked about
when we weren't discussing lessons or chores
yes, those few times you didn't pout

about friendships and love
and about the world that we live in
for there will come a time
when all of it seems like it's sinking

then, i may not be close by
and yet i won't be far
so call, ping or text me
let's catch up in a bar

and talk, cry and laugh
about everything under the sun
we'll need it, and then some more beer
before we go off and have some fun

that's actually all i want
this mother's day and the next
and the next, and the next
cheers, until you send me that text

May 11, 2017

0 numbers

one two buckle my shoe, three four shut the door
and so on went the nursery rhyme
but what would've happened if there had been no numbers
since the beginning of time?

we would've learned history
without having to learn dates
they would've just been stories
of people and their fates

we wouldn't have complained
in english class
about the number of pages
we had to read, to pass

when we sketched maps
in geography
scaled or not
we wouldn't have to worry

science labs might've been
so much fun
explosive, likely,
they would've become

not to forget physical ed
and the bore
of counting sit ups and
push ups galore

and imagine not having
a math class ever
arithmetic, geometry, algebra
never!

accounting, taxation
and similar subjects gone
no P&L and balance sheets
to make us moan

have you realised by this time
that numbers and i mix like milk and lime?
yes, their coming together makes great cheese
but only in small doses for me please!

May 10, 2017

loss

it's been just a week
but memories of four years
feel like a lifetime

May 1, 2017

may day

it's may day today
malls and stores remain open
for labour to splurge

April 28, 2017

why do humans speak?

humans miss signals.
a tender look
a familiar smell
a gentle brush
an unspoken word
hence, humans speak.

humans miss sensibility.
tears equals weakness, but anger means strength.
hence humans shout.
sadness equals depression, but revelry is a panacea.
hence humans scream.

listen, think and feel. don’t always speak, dear humans.

April 22, 2017

moves

moves are painful

they force you to look at
all the stuff that was boxed up
all the things that were hidden from sight
all the dust balls that were quietly swirling

they force you to decide
what to keep and what to throw
what has done its time and what has a few years
whether something still has a place in your life

they force you to recall
moments from photos
memories from keepsakes
milestones from cards

they force you to confront
what was beautiful before it turned ugly
what was memorable before it became a memory
what was once your life before it killed you

they force you to say goodbye, even if only temporary
they force you to express, which you may not have otherwise done
they force you to appreciate, when you might have taken for granted

moves are painful but they are necessary
to help you remember why you did what you did
to help you process why you're doing what you're doing
and most importantly, to help you see why you're better for it

April 11, 2017

memory

how vague and one-sided it becomes
how seamlessly it merges, yet also tears things apart
how it brings back a fondness, or unleashes wrath
how it formulates new feelings conveniently overwriting the old

what was once affection turns to anger
what was once concern feels claustrophobic
what was once best left unexplained, becomes inexplicable

was it a joke, or was it masked prejudice?
was it a shoulder to lean on, or was it a crutch?

same people and same situations, but disparate memory.

March 25, 2017

hope

parched land and dry wells everywhere
hot days, getting hotter as time passes
but dark clouds loom
and a small bit of green struggles to break free
hope

long days and longer nights
never-ending pile of deliverables
but an unexpected ping
and an offer to share the load
hope

a sleepless night and a tired morning
upheaval and uncertainty yet again
but wide smiles and tight hugs
from big mouths and little arms
hope

hope is easy. sometimes.

when what we want, happens
when how we envision, others see
when what we see, is beautiful
when whom we want, is there

but there are other times when
hope takes a rain check
hope goes missing
hope seems impossible
and hope is all but a lie

but don't stop dreaming
reach out
look up
hold someone
hope

read and write
sing and dance
run and jump
stretch and fly
hope

do what you do best
do your best
and hope

March 18, 2017

black dog

the dark cloud covers
but its approach you can't feel
till it is too late

March 7, 2017

is there an easier goodbye?

special covers,
lines highlighted,
the smell of time,
dog-eared pages.

choruses,
the one line that healed,
the one tune that choked,
scratched beyond recognition.

faded,
torn,
worn,
small.

gang of girls,
PJ parties,
chocolate and calorie sharers,
fellow drunks.

small,
spunky,
spirited,
scratched and dented.

it's never easy to say goodbye
to a missing book, a favourite tape, that pair of jeans, friends or a lovable car.

yes, i know change is the only constant.
i've learned it enough at school
and i've experienced it enough in life.

people come and people go, and it's the same with stuff.

keep the connections and the memories, and let everything else go.
that's what i tell myself, and that's what i've done, too.
i think.

because then, it's easier to say goodbye.
just slightly easier.

My baby couldn’t latch on to my breasts

This post was first published on Zenparent in November 2016.

I remember it like it was just yesterday. Nurses standing around me supposedly helping me understand Nursing 101, which was to get my six day-old daughter Aditi to breastfeed. She hadn’t figured out how to latch on, and we were both struggling. She because of hunger—she was yet to regain the birth weight that she had lost—and I because of the worst possible pain every time she tried to nurse. The nurses weren’t helpful in the least because all they did was to keep reiterating that breast milk was the best and that formula wasn’t the way to go, even if the child was crying due to hunger (these are also the same nurses who looked at me with disdain because I had decided to take an epidural.) Something in me snapped, and I decided that I couldn’t deal with this lack of sensitivity in addition to all the other things—hormones mainly—that I was dealing with. So I left the hospital and instead turned to the internet to find an answer to my nursing woes.

Breastfeeding support groups were a dime-a-dozen. Most of the forums were US and UK-centric but breasts are breasts and breastfeeding is breastfeeding whichever part of the world you’re in, so I began to read. I learned about the different holds—football (American, obviously!), cradle and side-lying are the ones that immediately come to mind—that had worked for different people, and the immense relief they felt on accomplishing what felt to me a mammoth feat. I tried them all and failed. The more I read, the more of a failure I felt. While words of encouragement were aplenty, they all had an undertone of sympathy—poor you, you aren’t able to do the one thing that most mums do and must do at any cost.

My mum told me a hundred times over to start Aditi on formula, but I wouldn’t hear of it. This, despite her telling me that she didn’t nurse my brother or me and that we grew up on Lactogen—something that I love to eat in powder form even today! In my defence, I had just moved back from the US a few months earlier and was fresh with information on how breast milk is the best milk. In addition to the La Leche League, the most famous support group for breastfeeding mothers around the world, I had been introduced to numerous other sites that had me convinced that if I didn’t breastfeed, I wouldn’t have a bond with my child, and that neither of us would be healthy in the long run. Most of the forums that were set up to offer support seemed militant in how they pushed you to breastfeed at any cost.

Try as I might, I didn’t succeed, but instead of listening to the sensible advice from my mum, I turned to technology again. Enter (drum roll) breast pump. As the name implies, this gadget—available in single and double—pumps the breast for milk. It mimics a child’s suckling motion and ‘tricks’ the body into lactating. It was tough at first because I was not only dealing with engorged breasts but a urinary tract infection thanks to the episiotomy that left me with a high fever and unbearable pain.

The principle behind nursing is simple. You feed a baby whenever it is hungry. It takes the body a little time to understand how much milk and how often the baby needs it, but once it gets it, it gets it. End of story. With pumping, however, it isn’t that simple. Since you can’t pump just when the baby is ready for a feed, you always have to be one step—or one pump—ahead. You’re on a schedule, and one that can’t be changed so easily because the body is ready with the milk whether the baby is or isn’t, so you better pump it out!

I got through four months in this completely mad fashion. I barely got any rest, but I was sure that I was doing the right thing. Breast milk was best, right? When Aditi neared the five-month mark, her paediatrician asked me to introduce her to solids. I don’t know if it was coincidence, but she also began to sleep a lot better from then on. With better rest and sleep comes…ummm…more sense? I realised that I couldn’t go on pumping endlessly because it was taking a toll on me. (Hats off to those working mums who continue to do it through their child’s first year or more!) So I slowly reduced my pumping, and by the time she was six months old, I was completely done. She was on the bottle drinking a formula called NAN which stank to the high heavens, but I didn’t smell like a milk factory any longer so I didn’t care!

When my son was born two years after this experience—yes, many ask how I had the guts to have one more child—I decided even while he was inside my tummy that I wouldn’t put myself through the experience of pumping even one more time. I couldn’t. If he didn’t latch on, he was going to be on formula. With steely determination, I put him on me minutes after he was born and voila! He latched on immediately like he’d done it all his life! (Well, yeah, he had!) I was relieved on so many counts. I could sleep when he slept, I wouldn’t have to wash and sterilise bottles, I wouldn’t have to get out of bed at night to warm up the milk, and most importantly, I wasn’t a failure. It’s funny how that thought that I had failed with Aditi had stayed with me. We got through nearly 9 months of nursing (not exclusively, though) until one day, he pushed me away. And that was that.

I have shared these experiences with my children and the conversations they bring about are always interesting. I’ve corrected my son Yuv quite quickly when he hinted that he was smarter because he latched on while Aditi didn’t, but I can see that she still thinks about it and wonders why she wasn’t able to. It will take a series of conversations that will come with time for people to understand that nursing isn’t the only determinant of how good a mother you are. It’s not even only having a child biologically, and it’s not even only being a mum to a human. Yes, the love and bond between a mother and her children is special, but so are the bonds of many other relationships—and they don’t have to be only by blood or breast milk.

I started this story saying that I remember it like it was just yesterday, but it’s been nearly 11 years since Aditi was born. I’m happy to say that I have a close bond with both my children despite one not being breastfed at all. We are all in pretty decent health, too. Yes, there are moments (many) where we all get on each other’s nerves, but it’s not as if the breastfed one bothers me any less.

Why this long ramble? Because I hope my story brings some comfort to new mums going through the struggle, tending to a new born, accepting the changes to your body. Hang in there, ignore preachers, chat with your friends (preferably ones without children), and get a glass of wine once in a way. You’ll at least get a few hours of sleep. And so might your child.



Rekha Raghunathan is a full-time mum and editor and a part-time writer. Madras and Bangalore are her homes, and Roger Federer is her obsession.

February 23, 2017

phantom menace

a thin, white, minty stick the size of my ring finger
with a bright red tip, the memory of it still lingers

i've smoked it many a time
with friends, of course
i've tossed and caught it well
like the movie star, of course
i've held it between my teeth
to look cool, of course
i've blown many rings
imaginary, of course

phantom sweet cigarettes, are they to blame
for the fascination or is that an excuse, lame

what you see when you light up is probably just my frown
but it's because my heart beats a lil' faster knowing that yours is slowing down

February 21, 2017

benevolent babas

left and right i turn,
bearded men with palms raised
compete to bless and sell

February 14, 2017

February 12, 2017

boxed-up feelings

i wish there were boxes inside of me
and that each of them was labelled
with all the feelings that i'm feeling right now 
clearly demarcated

fear, anger, sadness
confusion, love and envy
each one sealed in its own box 
without them getting all muddly

because, in and out of their boxes,
they very often seem to jump 
causing mayhem in my mind 
because they treat it like a garbage dump

was it anger that caused me to act in a particular way
or was it sadness, instead, that had plagued me through the day
how can i forget fear and confusion
when both emotions have left me in a sticky situation

out pop joy and love
suddenly giving me some respite
and in go the others
thankfully without much of a fight

many a time i notice
that all of them sit tight
inside their boxes, doing nothing
especially late at night

and it's at these times when i am blank
that i write about how i feel
with objectivity, i think
that helps me, with life, deal

i wonder what would happen
if i switched around the labels
would they act their new part
and spin me some new fables
or would they continue to jump
in and out with glee
and leave the acting of the part
solely to me

February 9, 2017

raindrops on my face

the breeze felt warmer,
the road seemed longer,
and the trees didn't sway as much.
there was a stillness.

she felt more deliberate too,
like she had to think before taking a step.
the fluidity was gone,
and so was the lightness.

it was a usual evening.
she was off on her walk
just the predictable routine,
a few rounds around where she lived.

but something felt different, something felt off.

was it the tunes?
but she had heard them before.
was it the place?
but she'd been there so long.
was it her thoughts?
her head was so full!
was it her heart?
it felt so heavy.
whatever it was, it was too much.

suddenly, something changed.

it got cooler and the leaves began to rustle.
the breeze blew her hair every which way
and she felt herself moving faster.
faster and faster!

she felt a few drops land on her face,
and then, the tears which had been brimming for awhile, flowed.

January 20, 2017

any town

moulded plastic equipment, child-safe of course
waveboards, skateboards and roller blades in a rush
beyblades spinning, basketballs bouncing
trash talk with foreign accents at every corner
gated community with ID cards to enter and exit
spic and span walkway regularly mopped
swimming pool, fancy gym and manicured green spaces
california palms neatly lined

bengaluru, not bangalore

January 19, 2017

the story of ori

a dog! should we adopt one?
the kids had been asking
we had thought about it too
but it seemed a little daunting

would it be a lot of work?
we'll clean her poop
they said with a smirk
and then we went into a loop

going back and forth a bit
with one of us feeling unsure
her reasons were many, all legit
but he, he was sure

sometime around then, i chanced upon a post
of a goofy looking cutie, with eyes the colour of toast
a black and white body and one floppy ear
she looked so perfect, and out went my fear

it felt just right, was she the one?
to show to the family, i wanted to run
i hoped that they would feel exactly the same
and be even more excited when i told them her name!

what's she called, they asked with glee
oreo i said even more excitedly!
i said to the kids that they could change it up
no it's cute, no need, it suits the little pup!

so we set up a time to go and meet her
june 12 post lunch is when we greeted her
i was nervous, but they didn't seem to be
felt like they had decided, you see

we met her at the park at her foster home
wagging her tail and bounding along
she was so friendly and she was so free
we knew that our lives had changed immediately

she walked with us and got into the car
oh she enjoyed her ride even though it wasn't far
excited and thrilled, were we all that day
our love had multiplied in so many ways

it's been six months since she came home to us
yes there have been times when i have cussed
when she chewed up spectacles, wallets and toys
all the while looking extremely coy!

she knows she can get away with this and that
she just rolls over for a belly rub and pat
oreo aary kumar is her full name
ori, my third munchkin, she became





January 11, 2017

permanence

one week since i fell,
the scrapes and bruises have healed.
scars, old and new, stay.

January 5, 2017

wounds

oh come on
it's not so bad
it happens all the time
and it will happen again
it's just a small scrape
and a little bit of blood
it's not so bad
i say

his eyes well up
even more than when he came home
his lips quiver
and his voice shakes
it's small but it hurts so badly
and it's bleeding so much
you don't know how I feel ma
he says

i've fallen a lot, and i know how it feels
so bear with it just a bit
a little medicine, it won't sting
really, it won't
i've used it a lot
you're so brave, come on
i say

aaaahhh it hurts
you lied ma, it stings
you don't know how much it hurts
no I'm not brave
don't touch it
just leave me alone
he says

and i do, i walk away

lost in my thoughts, i wander the aisles
lost in my thoughts, i check off my list
lost in my thoughts, i pay the bill
lost in my thoughts, i step out of the store

and thud!

too lost i was, i paid no heed
to what was on the floor
bags, purse and more scattered around me
a sharp pain, one that i had forgotten
and a smear of blood that wouldn't stop
and a heavy feeling, one that i can't explain
is what I took back home

the stinging didn't go away
neither did the bleeding
and the worst part was
that the tears didn't stop
i told myself all that I told him
and i did to myself all that i did to him
but it wasn't enough
it wouldn't go away

i thought of something then
about memories and remembrance
how fleeting they can be
and about hurt and pain
how fresh they can be

maybe what we need
is hugs and commiserations
not, despite what's all around,
bravery, or stories of it

he saw my wound, maybe he felt my pain
he called it gross and smiled
it was his turn to put on the meds
and it was mine to cry
he hugged me and I cried some more
but it wasn't in pain this time

January 3, 2017

resolutions

come december every year we tend to take stock
of the things we set out to do when it was 00:00 on the clock
of the new things that we hoped to try 
and some old things we wanted to modify 

somehow everything seems possible at the start
even those half marathons, not for the faint of heart 
but as the months go by the optimism is faded
leaving us only more and more jaded
12 months go by with another 12 to follow
should we make a new list today or wait until tomorrow 

why does this happen at the start of every year 
january arrives and fills us with fear
because december is just a few months away 
and the cycle will repeat until the end of day