My nine-year-old son is the center of my universe. This is the story of his childhood as it unfolds. Please read the first post, "Why I started this blog," to know more.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Childhood Scenes - 1-8

I've just decided to document some memory flashes from Munchkin's childhood. Scenes that I think are worth remembering. Times when I wished I had a camera to capture the moment. Since I couldn't get a picture, I guess descriptions will have to do instead.

I - 'You look pretty, Mommy'
I kid you not. It was April 2002, which meant that Poppet's head hadn't steadied yet. We'd been invited to a baby shower and it was the first time that I'd dressed up after having my son. He was asleep when we left the house, waking up 10 minutes after we'd started. In the car, as I played with him on the back seat, his eyes widened in curiosity as he looked at every inch of my face. Slowly, he smiled. He seemed to like what he saw and gurgled his appreciation the rest of the way.

II - 'She's here!'
He's always been very attached to my mother. This happened when he was a little over 4 months old. Mum had just finished all her post-lunch work in the kitchen and hurried into his room to give him a quick hug. She lay down on the bed and hoisted him over her. The brat beamed and exclaimed what sounded like: Aayeehai. In Hindi, that transaltes into: She's come! Mum and I both burst into laughter and the brat beamed some more.

III - 'You have no idea what I've been through'
We were at the hospital for his vaccinations. Most children cried when the needle pricked their soft thighs and the nurses took advantage of their howling to put the polio drops into their mouths. The bitter taste made them howl some more. This time, Poppet howled when he was given his shot. But as soon as the nurse put the drops into his mouth, he stopped crying and smacked his lips instead. I brought him outside, where Mum was waiting and he promptly started to 'cry' again - wailing to complain about his recent ordeal. He wrangled a few hugs and kisses and plenty of baby talk from Mum on the way down to the car park where my father was waiting. As soon as he saw his grandpa, he started the whole wailing-complaining bit all over again until he'd had his fill of attention and affection.

IV - Windy Ride
We went out for lunch and the only way to get there was to use an autorickshaw since the car wasn't available. We'd put a hooded blanket on Popppet and I held him close to me. It was his first windy ride and he opened his eyes to look out. The wind was too much, prompting him to squeeze his eyes shut at once and bury his face in my neck. Five seconds later, he dared to check out the view again, and was once again forced to shut his eyes because of the strong wind. But he refused to give up. I tried to put him between my Mum and I but he wriggled and yowled his way to the windy side, only to be forced to close his eyes again. He kept it up until we reached the restaurant and then fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.

V - 'Am I being stood up?'
We were getting ready to go out somewhere and were in a rush to leave. Poppet was all dressed up and looking forward to getting out of the house. Mum scooped him up in her arms and walked out of the room. Suddenly, she remembered something she needed to take, came back into the room and plonked Poppet on the bed. He looked up at her with the utmost misery - a look that clearly said: you put me down! why? Needless to say, he was promptly scooped up again and hugged and kissed even as he milked the situation for all it was worth, snuggling against her neck and coo-ing his way to even more affection.

VI - 'Drooly Kisses are the Best Medicine'
Mum had a really bad throat and the cough refused to go away. I've rarely seen her so upset. One afternoon, she sat him down on the table in front of her and said: "Poppet, do something. Grandma has a really bad throat. It hurts so much."
The next instant, Poppet put his little hands on her cheeks and gave her a kiss on her nose and then a few all over her face, all the time with an I'm-so-worried-about-you look. Mum was pretty taken aback but loved the affection he showered on her, drool and all.

VII - Clap, clap, clap...with my feet!
Mum was teaching Poppet to clap his hands. He tried a few times but couldn't co-ordinate very well. After a few minutes, he threw his head back and lay down on the bed. The next minute, he had raised his legs in the air and started to clap with his feet. As Mum turned to look, he gurgled and shot her a mischievous smile. A couple of months later, we took him to visit his great grandmother and she would request the feet-clapping performance three times a day. Like the good great-grandson he is, Poppet obliged every time.

VIII - Bouncy, Bouncy Toes
If you held Poppet under his armpits and if his feet touched any surface, he would start bouncing on his toes and could keep it up forever. Hey, I have a video of this somewhere. Must dig it out. We also had this little song for him: How does the tree dance? Like this, like this (he would sway from side to side) How does the baby dance? Like this, like this, like this (he would start his toe-dancing routine.)

Yelling and Screaming, Again

Munchkin went back to school today, all dressed up and ready to give out his belated birthday chocolates. At around 2 pm, I phoned Mum to find out how he was doing and I could hear some happy screaming in the background. In case I haven't written this before, Munchkin has the habit of babbling nonsense when he's happy and contended. He'll add a tune to it and sing-song pure gibberish. Not a chance of finding a familiar word - and this is with five languages in the family!!

Anyway, so there was this background score and Mum pointedly asked me: "You're asking me how he is? Just listen."

And I did. The loud babbling continued and paused only to yell: "Don't talk to Mamma, come and play with me."

Which means he's fine and maybe he won't be so clingy again. The edge of my face and my neck is full of pimples because Munchkin's been playing play-doh with the area. I have a glam do to attend in less than 4 weeks and much as I love my kid, I'd like not to look like a pimply teenager at the annual office event.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Time flies when you have a fever

Sunday, 20th Jan, 2008: I thought Munchkin had a slight temperature. But since he was still his hyperactive self, there wasn't much I could do. Later that evening, Mum came down with a mild case of food poisoning (weird, since she hadn't eaten anything that hadn't been cooked at home). So Munchkin and I spent the night with her. By midnight, he was burning up.

Monday, 21st Jan, 2008: (incidentally, also my 34th birthday) Mum was weak. Munchkin still had a fever so I took him to the doc. That evening, his fever climbed to 104.4F despite the medication. And he hates sponging. The last time his temperature crossed 103, I'd panicked and taken him to the hospital. That was around his 4th birthday. All they did there was start him on antibiotics and do some more sponging. This time, he finally agreed to the sponging around 11 pm. He was so sleepy and I wanted to kick myself. Here was a kid who I've spent half a lifetime putting to sleep. Now that he wanted to sleep, I had sponge him! Hated myself.

Tuesday, 22nd Jan, 2008: All of Poppet's appetite was gone. And he had an upset tummy with the loosies. The doc put it down to medication and I started him on some pro-biotic meds. The fever kept coming and going throughout the day, although it was better in the evening. In the afternoon, I was giddy and feverish. Seemed to have caught the viral fever from the kid. Sigh.

Wednesday, 23rd Jan, 2008: Mum has the viral flu thing, too. So does DH. He went to the doc who confirmed the diagnosis and put him on antibiotics. Poppet was much better today. So we all thought he could have a decent enough birthday after all. As it is, we had to pull him out of the Republic Day celebrations in the apartment complex because he simply couldn't go for practice.

Thursday, 24th Jan, 2008: Munchkin's sixth birthday. He coughed all night and the fever was back. And he was very weak. So we saw the doctor again, and this time, he started the antibiotics. This didn't help his upset stomach but at least the fever stayed away. He was cross with me for not taking him to buy his gifts. Thank God he had his Criss Cross Crash set this morning. He was so tired out, though, that all he could do was smile at the sight of the big box.

Friday, 25th Jan, 2008: The brat and DH were better but Mum and I seemed worse. For me, shuttling between DH and Poppet, there was simply no time to visit a doctor. Poppet's tummy pain still won't go away. :-( He was also very, very cranky. I lost my cool twice and Mum was pretty irritated with me for that, but seriously, I was at the end of my tether.

Saturday, 26th Jan, 2008: Munchkin was very weak and still very cranky. Got scolded by Mum and DH too. He missed the flag hoisting in the complex but enjoyed the RD parade on TV. In the evening, he howled because we were missing the program downstairs. "All my friends are enjoying themselves and I can't go," he wailed. DH enticed him to watch Superman Returns on HBO. Then he watched a bit of a Hindi film on my laptop and the evening went off well enough. He said he wanted to sleep at Mum's again and that led to all kinds of chaos....

Sunday, 27th Jan, 2008: Munchkin is better, DH is better, I'm better, Mum's not. The day went past in a daze as I coped wtih mounds of laundry, bland food for everyone, DH's mood swings, Poppet's crankiness and my own exhaustion!

Monday, 28th Jan, 2008: The brat was supposed to go to school today but his tummy ache was back after the loosies refused to go away. Finally took Mum to the doctor because her throat was getting worse. I was just about falling to pieces, too. In the afternoon, I grabbed a quick nap. Munchkin came to play "play-doh" with my cheeks again but fell asleep next to me. On his own! I can't remember the last time that happened. Anyway, in the afternoon, I took him to Landmark - the much belated birthday-gift trip - and he bought himself a basket full of toys with the money he got from his dad and from my father.

Tuesday, 29th Jan, 2008: He couldn't go to school today either - more tummy cramps - and was in tears that he wouldn't be able to distribute chocolates to his friends for another day. The antibiotics end today (or is it early tomorrow) so I do hope his tummy is okay by then. He's sick of eating the same old bland stuff. I'm sick of feeding it to him. He's lost a lot of weight although his appetite is back despite the antibiotics.

Get well soon, kid.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Munchkin is Miserable

If Munchkin is miserable, that's a problem for me.

My dear husband (DH) went back to work a little while ago after spending 13 months at home writing a novel. And when he comes back, he grabs a bite and heads straight for the computer. (One of these days I need to post about the fact that I'm an Orkut/GTalk widow!) Now, although the little fellow is busy playing with his friends until it's almost dinner time, he's taken to announcing that he wants to have dinner at my mum's place. Which we found weird at first but the little rascal is quite attached to her. And given his Coats condition, we don't want him to bawl for no reason. So he's been packing up his dinner and heading down, sometimes making quite a fuss about coming back upstairs to sleep.

Worse, his class teacher at school is not coming back this year. A few months back, she had a severe back problem and has had spinal surgery. Poppet's class got several substitutes until the new teacher settled in. He doesn't seem to like her very much. So he's been moaning in the mornings saying he doesn't want to go to school.

But this morning, he was positively miserable. Virtually in tears. Last night, he got a major scolding and spanking from his father for making a huge fuss about going to sleep and how many stories he could get before bed-time. Earlier in the evening, he had cried his eyes out saying he wanted pizza for dinner because we hadn't ordered in for a long time. (This is true, it's been a few months, I think. And his father took up his cause. So the two of them had pizza.) At any rate, the little fellow was quite petrified at the end of it all and I had a tough time calming him down. Then I told him a story and made sure he smiled before he went to sleep.

Now, I've scolded him plenty of times before when he wouldn't sleep on time. Past 11 pm is much too late for a four-year-old and yet, he would simply not sleep before then. His sleeping pattern has caused huge fights between my husband and I. None of it is Munchkin's fault, his father self-confessedly needs food on time, peace and quiet, and 8 hours or more of sleep and goes ballistic if there's any noise in the house when he is in his "I-need---" mode.

Anyway, this morning he got ready after the usual whining but when I was putting him into the van, his eyes were brimming over. I promised him we'd take pictures tonight - he loves the new camera - and that seemed to cheer him up a bit. Nevertheless, he stuck his arm out of the window of the van as it was driving away and yowled: "Bye, Mamma!"

I have a feeling he's feeling neglected. I've never pampered him much. But the thing is, he senses that things have changed around the house now that his dad has returned to full time work. And 13 months is a long time in the life of a six-year-old. For my part, I've made sure I have no chores to do once I'm home except laying the table and heating the food. It was a conscious decision to be able to free up time so I could do whatever he wanted me to do. But I think he misses the stuff he and his father did together. It wasn't all that much, but still, he's just a kid.

I hope to remedy the situation as soon as I can. I did raise the issue - in a roundabout kind of way - with DH, but he put it down to the changes in school. Before she left, his original teacher - whom Munchkin had quite a soft spot for - had told me that he felt unchallenged in class, bored even because he seems to know so much more than the other children. So one solution is to move him to a better school. Tomorrow, we'll know the results of an entrance test he took last Saturday. He didn't know several of the spellings they asked for but did everything else fine, including the addition and coloring. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. There is one other very good school but seats are subject to vacancies - so we'll know about that only in March or even later.

Also, this other school is quite expensive. Since I am sure that I will quit my job at the drop of a hat should my son want me at home, DH may have to support us all for a while. I reminded him of this - important, because what he really wants to do is sit at home and write novels and make a living from that. He says he'll aim for a better position somewhere in a couple of years. I can live with that. At least he's open to the idea.

In the meantime, I need Poppet to be a happy little boy again. His sixth birthday is just around the corner and he deserves to be really, really happy after the tough year he's had.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Camera Confessions!

I finally bought a digital camera earlier this month and have been clicking away. So why aren't any of those pictures up on the blog yet?

Confession#1: There's some software I have to load onto the computer and I haven't found time to do that. I keep forgetting (I can just hear my son saying: "Bad Mommy....what's your Blackberry for?")

Confession#2: I keep forgetting to borrow a card reader from my friend (which is one way to upload the pics without the whole load-the-software hassle).

Confession#3: I want to put up all the wonderful pictures we've taken of my son over the years but I'm still wary of putting up his photos on the Internet for fear of God-knows-what might happen to them. (Feel free to tell me why my fear is unfounded and I'll have a slideshow up in 7 days - that's a promise!)

Confession#4: I've always thought of myself as possessing some semblance of a talent for photography. I love random images and I'm wondering if I'll make a complete fool of myself for putting those up here.

So here it is in black and white. My resolution to put up some pictures on this blog in 7 days' time.

Image of the Kodak M853 from the Kodak website

When I turned into a prude!

I wrote this in July 2002, but never bothered to spruce it up to send somewhere to get it published. Some of the stuff may seem outdated - Britney Spears, for instance, has come a long way from her virgin-till-I'm-married days. Anyway, now that I have a blog, I thought this piece to be 'out there.' It's a little bit of history. (grin!)

My son is just 5 months old and I have turned into a prude. I don't know whether it's a permanent thing or whether it's a phase that every new mother (or parent) goes through. Of late, the kid has been showing a whole lot of interest in newspapers and magazines. Put one in front of my little laptop and if you keep turning the pages regularly, he'll stay mesmerized for 20 minutes even. But every time I come to a page that features a "bold" ad -- by which I mean lots of skin-showing or suggestive lines (shudder!! Did I actually use the word "bold") or a graphic representing India's options in an all-out war with Pakistan, or the photo of a most-wanted terrorist, I find I'm cringing inwardly and find myself quickly skipping those pages and settling for showing the baby some "nice" display featuring colourful, attractive but "innocent" stuff.

It never used to be like that. I'd been seeing these very ads get bolder (Oof! There's that four-letter word again!) over the years. And they didn't seem that bold (Grrr…. where's a thesaurus when you need one). Sure, there used to be a big hoo-haa every once in a while when some ad crossed the line, so to speak, and steamy pictures and suggestive lines popped up in between boring TV programmes or even more boring political analyses. They were a topic of animated conversation to find out which side of the fence you were on, or in more intimate circles, an excuse to drool over the models' fabulous abs and vital statistics. Good for a few giggles, that's all.

Yet all of a sudden, it feels like there are simply far too many of these skinny, big things splashed all over the place. And there's this fish market inside my head going: Makers of innerwear and condoms justified in featuring semi-nude models. Semi-nude? Hah, there's hardly anything left to the imagination. Wait a sec, isn't that something my grandmother once said? Or maybe my Mum? Uh-huh. This is me I'm hearing. And I have a couple of years to go before I touch 30! Besides, it's not just innerwear, it's the (un)veiled ads for cigarettes, alcohol, shoes, colas and art paper. Even ads for clothes feature more of the model than the garment. Eeeeks!! I can't believe I just said that. Plus all that on-screen smooching and sexual innuendo on for-all-the-family sitcoms, not just the Dharma and Greg variety.

Then there's the violence. Till a few months ago, shows like NYPD Blue were good timepass and even Schwarzzenegger films didn't seem outrageously violent. The fictional guns and car chases and explosions were just a part of the action. Even real-life events, like the Columbine high school massacre, were a tragic news story I had to decide how best to position on the foreign page of the daily I worked for. Sad and scary till the "issue died down" and the stories stopped coming in. Now, it all seems very real and too invasive for comfort.

Since I refused to put my rising anxiety levels down to post-natal hormone changes (as advised by kindly neighbourhood ‘auntie’) I decided to an insta-poll outside the family. It's natural, said a friend with a degree in psychology but now selling insurance.

"You're afraid of all the stuff you have to protect your child from while he's growing up. Sex and violence in the media is something our parents worried about too. We watched cops and robbers on TV, we turned out okay. And when everyone grows up with it, everyone's cool with it." Is that so, I countered. So why does the Western media still mention Britney Spears' lack of clothing and her celibate-till-wedded vow in every little tidbit featuring her? The psycho shrugs. "Look on the bright side," she assures me. "At least we don't have topless models on the metro supplements and tabloids."

Not yet, I thought, remembering a colleague who was at his wits' end wondering what to tell his three-year-old son asking him why the "didis" on the cover of a daily's city supplement weren’t wearing proper clothes. "Chill out," the psycho ordered, "The discussion about the birds and the bees and the facts of life in specific are far away. He'll know how to cope." I'm sure he will. But what about me?

"Well, you should have thought about all that before you decided to have a kid," declared another, more forthright friend who admits the prospect of global warming and WWIII round the corner is a serious obstacle in way to becoming a Mum. "You've got to be kidding," I tell her. "While you're at it, you might as well worry about AIDS and cancer and pollution and water wars and the ozone layer and…." Gulp. I stopped to listen to myself and my anxiety levels went up some more.

Calm down, I told the voices in my head. Tried doing some breathing exercises, failed, and came up gasping for air, only to open my eyes and find my mother looking at me in a rather amused fashion. She knew what had been bothering me.

"Your friend is right. You have other, more challenging things to worry about before you get to the birds and the bees and questions of how much skin is okay," she said.

"Like what?"

"Toilet training."

I had to ask. Sigh. Thank God life happens one day at a time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Finding Nemo! Every night....?

Finding Nemo was the first full-length animated feature in English that my son sat through. He was around 5 years old then and we watched it on TV. The movie was then shown on the kiddie channels dozens of times and the little fellow loved to watch it over and over again! After a while, it stopped being shown so often. A few months later, in some crazy my-son-likes-this-story-moment, I bought him the full comic book. (Um, apparently, they call it a 'junior graphic novel' these days. Thank God for the 'junior' or else I'd have felt like a perv!)

He wasn't overly enthusiastic about the book and for a couple of months, it joined a pile from where he randomly pulled out books each night for me to read to him. Then one day, he fished out Finding Nemo but took his to his father to read to him. Hmm...good enough, at least he's shown some interest.

A couple of days later, he came to me with the book and I told him "the story," complete with explanations that would make sense to him. The next night, he wanted me to read him Finding Nemo again! So I changed my narration a bit and kept the little rascal happy. I also hid the book the next morning. But Nemo was duly found and waved in front of my nose that night. Sigh! I was too sleepy to tell him a story so I thought of a way out. I just read out the whole book - if he'd understood the movie, he could follow the book. I did all the different voices - which he loved - and this gave me the opportunity to skip through certain portions. (As a working mom, I do not have the energy to read every printed dialog.) Big mistake. He absolutely loved the voices. Declared that his favorite part was where the starfish in the dentist's aquarium announces: "Good morning everyone. The sun is shining. The tank is clean....The tank is clean!!"

He made me do that part over at least 5 times, doubling up with laughter every time I said it. That was a sight for sore eyes...but my eyes were very sore indeed and I desperately needed some shuteye!

The next night, I told him to get his father to tell the story instead. I mean, how many times in a row can you do the voices or tell the same story without wanting to throw the book out the window? His unsuspecting father cuddled him up and started to tell him the story in a we've-never-heard-this-one-before manner. Complete with explanations. They were still on the first page when the little fellow announced to his dear Dad that his narration was BORING! You can imagine what happened next. The brat got a minor scolding and was more or less kicked out of the bedroom for saying that "Mommy does it better, with all the voices."

So I put him back on his bed and started on the voices. Somewhere between the trench that Marlin and Dory were supposed to swim through and not "over," and the sea turtle ride to the EAC, I fell asleep mid-sentence. "Mamma, wake up! Do the sea turtle's 'dude' voice," commanded the offspring. I felt older than the sea turtle but I managed to finish the book, falling asleep once in Sydney Harbor and once when Darla was shaking the bag. I reckon I got a minute each time because he woke me up saying, "The commercial breaks don't last longer than this!" Talk about media influence!

The next morning, I wanted to burn the book. But that's just not done so I wearily went through the whole routine again. This time, I had to do only three re-runs of "the tank is clean!" because he fell asleep right after that, halfway through a peal of laughter, with a grin on his face. He looks like an angel when he's sleeping, especially when he's just dozed off. I kissed him goodnight and turned off the lights. Sweet dreams, munchkin.

Finding Nemo Image © Pixar Animation Studios

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bad ankle, Bad drivers, Good son!

Okay, the movie was good. (Taare Zameen Par - see previous post) I cried a bit and my son cried a bit more. The kid in the lead role was fantastic. The movie theater wasn't all that great. The incline was so shallow that neither I nor my son could see without maneuvering our heads around a bit. Fifteen minutes into the movie, I put him on my lap to give him a better view. The fact that I had an aisle seat helped.

On the way out, he ran ahead with his friends and I was trying to make sure I didn't lose sight of him in the crowd. On the last step out of the hall, someone hurried past, knocking me sideways. I twisted my ankle on the edge of the step and fell down. Thankfully, a few people helped me get up. I tried to get my bearnings and find my son. He was playing with his friends and one of the mothers was supervising them. Another had taken her son to the rest room while the other had gone out to pick up her daughter, whom her parents were dropping off.

I limped across and told my son I'd fallen down. "Oh," he said, but went off to play with A, his best friend. Outside, the parking arrangements were crazy: cars and bikes seemed to be coming from everywhere. I had a tough time keeping my son within grabbing distance. And all he was bothered about, was being with A. Now, A is more than 2 years older than him and that much more boisterous. They ran off to a corner and I couldn't follow. When we finally managed to get all kids in one place, my son was still trying to get away to go stand with his friend. That's when I gave him a hard slap on his rear. He started to bawl, but my priorities were clear: keep him with me and get out to the road without letting go of his arm.

We didn't get an autorickshaw so we had to cross the road to the other side. That was painful! We finally got one to agree but he drove like a maniac, threatening to offload us half way home when we told him to go slow. There were three kids on board, but he blandly said that was none of his concern! My son was a brat throughout the journey home, while my ankle continued to throb painfully. After getting home, too, all he was worried about was drinking his milk so he could go out and play with A.

Later, I suspect my mother knocked some sense into him because when he came back home after a short visit to her place (my parents live in the same apartment building) because he said he would do anything I told him to and I could rest. (Aw...that was nice.) And he did do all kinds of little things that saved me a couple of painful rounds around the house.

This morning, he listened to me a little more than he normally does. Which is to say we all got ready on time despite my limping around. I put him in his school van as usual. Ten seconds later, the van stopped, a window slid open and the little fellow's head appeared. "Aren't you taking the car today?" he asked, frowning. "I am," I replied. "Then where is it? You won't have to take an auto, will you?"

That's when I realized that our driver hadn't brought the car around like he usually did. My husband probably hadn't locked up and come down yet. "It'll come. Don't worry, baby," I told him. "Okay," he relented, smiled, and closed the window. The van sped off.

I couldn't help smiling to myself. He'd asked his van driver to stop so he could make sure I wouldn't have to walk out to the main road to take an autorickshaw to work because I was limping. And he knows how tough it is to get one during the morning rush hour. It was his way of showing his concern. Thank you for caring, Poppet! :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

'Taare Zameen Par' - Parent trap?

This Sunday, my son and & I - and another 6-odd kids and their mothers - are supposed to go see a movie called Taare Zameen Par (roughly translates as Stars on Earth). I wasn't particularly interested because although it is supposed to be a very well-made film, it is a tear-jerker. True, it is critically acclaimed and supposed to be a 'children's movie,' but something tells me I'm in for a rough time.

It's not even the kind of movie that the little fellow typically enjoys. Let's put it this way. The first full-length film he sat through in the movie hall was Dhoom 2. And that was after he saw the original Dhoom on TV and discovered it was all about fast bikes, thrills, spills and other such things that boys revel in.
The other thing about the little fellow is that he empathizes (perhaps a bit too much) with the characters on screen, crying his eyes out unabashedly when something sad happens. Once, we were watching a rented DVD of the mind numbing Heyy Baby! (Three Men and a Baby at its mutilated worst) at a neighbor's house as part of a weekend get together. There's a scene where the three 'heroes' abandon the baby outside a church. It starts to rain, the baby nearly drowns and is hospitalized with little hope of survival. Poppet started to weep the minute they abandoned the baby and kept crying even after it made the inevitable miraculous recovery. ("People cry from relief and happiness, too!" he howled back after his friend's mother teased him for still crying.)

And TZP is all about parents and teachers not understanding children and forcing them to toe lines of convention. Quite frankly, I'm afraid the clever fellow is going to use all those situations against me. Why? Because I'm pretty strict that he has to finish his homework and studying before he can go play with his friends. I do emphasize the importance of school work. I was never "forced" to study too much - unlike some of my other friends who were literally beaten into 4-hour study sessions every evening. And I did pretty well for myself. So I'm unlikely to constantly give him a hard time about his grades.

Besides, if I'm going to spend weekend rates for a multiplex tickets, I like to be entertained, not dragged into the 'reality' of life! That way, the very shakily scripted Om Shanti Om was paisa vasool (worth every penny) and a good way to pass a lazy afternoon. So as far as TZP goes, I'm keeping my fingers crossed because anything that we see can, and is most likely to be used against me (as a parent)!

ps: other movies that we've enjoyed watching together on DVD have included relatively new movies like the Don remake, and classics like Gol Maal and Khoobsurat. I've also bought Angoor and Naram Garam and hope he'll enjoy both as much as I did when I first saw them. Of course, there aren't any blazing guns and smashing fists involved, nor are these movies slick like today's fare. But they're simple and they're easy to identify with. But more on that later.

Pictures © TZP: Aamir Khan Productions, D-2: Yashraj Films

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

More confusion...

Yesterday's visit to the doctor (not the retina specialist but the neighborhood eye doctor who first suspected my son had Coats) was confusing, to say the least. My aim was to find out if the little brat needed glasses. A macular problem would also show up in an eye exam (because of the gray spot I mentioned earlier). But on the first visit, the doctor said he needed to dilate his eyes.

So yesterday, that's what they did. And after looking at his eyes for a really long time, the doc announced that the exudates had increased since he'd last seen my son (in July, when he first suspected Coats). "He needs more laser," he said.

We explained the at the retina specialist had said that he would do some more laser if the exudates didn't get absorbed on their own. And this was just two weeks back. "Well, it's not an emergency, but from what I know of this disease, things can deteriorate very rapidly," said the doctor. My heart sank. Worse, he said that there was some refractive error (meaning he might need glasses) but because his eyes were dilated, he couldn't make a definitive diagnosis. (Okay, so why did he dilate the little fellow's eyes in the first place?) I felt like kicking myself for having started the whole vision check thing in the first place. And suddenly, there was this moment of hatred because this doctor seemed to be raising an alarm for no reason. And hatred for the fact that he could be right.

Anyway, we have to take our son back there after three days ("once the effects of the dilation wear off completely") to see if the refractive error is significant enough to warrant glasses.

In the meantime, my husband and I discussed what we'd been told and came to the conclusion that logically, it made sense that there were more exudates since July since the blood vessels kept leaking between July and October. Also, we trust our retina specialist. He's very blunt and doesn't mince his words, so we doubt he'd have ignored something that was urgent.

We also don't want Poppet to go through another "dilated eyes" episode so soon. The current plan is to take him to his retina specialist a couple of weeks from now, just to be sure. And also ask him a bit more about floaters and other precautions that our son should take to avoid eye strain or inadvertently worsen his Coats. There's also another, very well respected doctor in another city from whom we took a second opinion. I hope to get him on the phone and speak to him also, but that would be weird because he can't see my son's eyes right now and so, asking for an opinion would be unreasonable.

My instincts are usually good, and this time, something tells me it should be okay to wait a couple of weeks and take him to his retina doctor on the 21st. My husband and my mother agree with me on this. Please, God, I hope I'm not wrong.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dilation neeeded, sigh!

My son got his vision checked yesterday. First, the doctor's assistant ran through the usual chart with the occluder (covering one eye at a time) and then using the pinhole as well. He read most of the stuff and plainly said when he couldn't read a particular line. It looks like he will need glasses.

From what I could see the assistant writing on his chart, the vision in his good eye has fallen a bit since his initial Coats diagnosis. It's now 6/9, whereas it was 6/6 earlier. His Coats eye had a 6/9 reading then, and I'm not sure what it is now.

After the test, I asked him about the gray spot and he said it wasn't there. So it was probably a floater - coming and going.

There was a long wait after this, during which the brat got awfully impatient.

It was finally his turn and the doctor started to check his sight with various lenses. After a few minutes, the doctor said he couldn't do a proper job unless the eyes were dilated. This, he absolutely refused to do because he knew he'd have to keep his eyes closed for a long time. "Can we come back tomorrow?" he asked. The doctor's assistant tried to convince him to let him put the drops and that's when the little fellow burst into tears and buried his face in my arms.

I know he hates getting his eyes dilated, so I requested the assistant for another appointment. He finally agreed. So we have another appointment today. I pray for good news.

My mother has always ensured that he gets a balanced diet - enough of vitamin A, iron, etc. because she wanted her grandson to have good vision. I got my glasses when I was 16 and my husband doesn't use glasses at all. But if the little tyke needs glasses, so be it. Anything to ensure that his eyes aren't strained. Maybe over time, the vision in his good eye will further improve.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Last year's birthday brouhaha

The little tyke's sixth birthday is due in around two weeks and I can't help but remember the ruckus he created over the date last year. The thing is, he was born three days after I turned 28.

Last year, it dawned on him that his birthday came after mine and decided that wasn't fair. He said nothing to me, launching a tearful tirade at my mother instead! :)
"You gave birth to my mamma, why couldn't you wait until after the 24th?" he asked her, tears brimming over.
"Sweetheart, you know that's not in our hands. God decides when babies are born," she tried to explain.
"Yes, but you're the one who gave birth to her. Couldn't you have waited till the 25th or the 26th?" he sobbed.
Mum was at a loss. He sulked for days whenever the topic of his birthday came up. "But Mamma's comes before mine!" he would announce and walk away to mope in a corner. Nothing, absolutely nothing could make him feel better. My mother felt worse, despite the ludicrousness of it all. I'm certain she actually wished it was the other way around!

On my birthday, which I prefer to keep low-key, I got a bunch of balloons and a gift from my colleagues in the office. I took home the balloons and that cheered him up. He gave me a big hug and said it was okay that my birthday came first. I know he meant it and coming from him, it meant a lot to me.

Three days later, he had his friends over for a noisy celebration and all was forgiven.

A few days back, he talked about the chocolates he wanted to give out at school on his birthday and then ran off to build another Lego house.

"Has he remembered about his birthday coming after yours?" my mother enquired in hushed tones. I assured her he'd said nothing. She heaved a sigh of relief.

Let's wait and watch, though. There's many a tantrum due between now and the 24th. We're praying we won't have a 2007 re-run!


Another Gray Spot Scare

The little fellow was particularly boisterous all weekend. Last night, just as we were about to turn in, he came and asked me whether the redness in his Coates eye had increased. My heart skipped a beat. His eye has been very mildly red in the area where he underwent a second round of cryopexy in mid-October. The doctor says it will take time to fade away.

Anyway, I looked at his eye and it looked just the same. I asked him if he was in pain. He said the gray spot was back. (He'd mentioned this once in November and we took him to the doctor, who said it was probably fluid pressure. It would go away in a few days, he said, and sure enough, it did.)

I wrote down a few words which he can read, mixing them up with numbers and taking care to see that he couldn't look at what I was writing. I wrote it lightly in pencil, on a white sheet and we were in a room with no bright lighting. Then, I closed his left eye and asked him to read the stuff with his Coates eye. He did that without any problems whatsoever - without taking extra time and without tilting his head to peer out of the corner of his eye. He also said that the gray spot was there, but that the pencil was darker so he could clearly read everything.

I then made the mistake of asking him whether he saw any flashes, or floaters - bits of light appearing and disappearing - and what color they were: gray, orange, red? The story took a turn after that. He said it was orange and then green and now it wasn't there anymore. But he also drew me a proper picture of his earlier gray spot with his crayons.

To cut a long story short - and after having thought about this half the night, I think this is what happened. He probably does have a gray spot in his vision again but it is possible it has disappeared. I'm not going to worry about the other stuff because knowing him, it is possible that his imagination had interfered! But I do know he's not the kind of kid to have come and enquired about redness in his Coates eye if everything was fine.

We'll take him to the neighborhood eye doctor today. He was, after all, the person who first suspected that my son had Coates Disease. So I trust him. His specialist is in a hospital that's a fair distance away and there's usually a long waiting line. Besides, the little fellow hates to have his eyes dilated. I'm hoping that won't be necessary this evening.

Last night, I also explained to him how important anything about his eyes was. I told him it was more important than just about everything else. And if he felt anything out of the ordinary, he had to tell us as soon as he could. He seemed to understand, but was also impatient to have his bedtime story.

Dear God, please let this be a temporary problem with no greater negative implications.

Friday, January 4, 2008

"You wake me up so nicely"

For the past three days - and earlier before his school closed for the Christmas holidays - my son has been insisting that I wake him up.

Normally, I'm in the kitchen, frantically trying to finish the cooking before I can give him a bath and get him ready for school. So it's my husband - who has been on a sabbatical for over a year - who wakes him up and packs the little fellow off to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Besides, Papa's always been his favorite because Papa's not as strict as I am. And I tend to yell when we're running behind schedule. In fact, the biggest fights my husband and I have had have been over my strictness and getting our son ready for school on time. Things got so bad that my husband told me point blank: "Whenever you wake him up, you make him cry. So leave him to me!" (Talk about making sweeping statements!! Grrr....) So that's what I did. And after that, I've been accused of "drifting away" from the two of them by "trying too hard" - whatever that last bit means. But that's another story.

Waking him up means I lose 5-10 minutes from a very tight schedule but it's always a pleasure so I look forward to it. I hug him, I cuddle him, tease him, play little games, talk about whatever he wants to talk about and then he's up and about. Getting him to brush his teeth is a different matter altogether, but at least I get him out of bed soon enough.

His bath is also a rushed affair. Yesterday, there was no hot water because the geyser was accidentally switched off. So I gave him a really quick hose down with the hair & body wash I reserve to shampoo his hair. I was cleaning his neck when he suddenly asked me: "Mamma, why do you wake me up so nicely?" For a second, I didn't get what he was saying. So I said, "That's how little children need to be woken up. How else can you wake up a child?"

"Well, every day it's 'wake up, wake up, wake up,' that's all," replied the little tyke with a matter-of-fact look on his face.

My heart went out to him. And I felt guilty. I really should have continued waking him up that way. My husband is in his worst moods for over an hour after waking up. So I should have guessed that the little fellow's "good morning" greetings weren't exactly the stuff of dreams. But I'm so busy in the kitchen that I have no idea how he's woken up every day. After all, almost a year had passed since those terrible early morning fights. And the little fellow is growing up, becoming more aware.

I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and told him not to worry, I would wake him up like that every day if he wanted. "Yes, I'd like you to wake me up," he said solemnly.

The sad part is, I can't do it on my own, not without risking those when-you-wake-him-up-you-make-him-cry accusations. So I'm going to wait for him to ask for me. Yesterday, too, I could sense the anger in my husband when he told me that the little monkey had asked for me. When I took around 3 minutes to just wrap up a few things on the stove, he came back: "What happened? Isn't he waking up?" I told him I hadn't gone yet and he stalked off to Orkut some more.

For all I know, it's a passing phase and the next time we're short of time, the little angel will throw a tantrum and say that I make him cry all the time. It's his favourite emotional blackmail weapon! But for now, my day is made! And I owe it to the little rascal. Once again, thank you, dear!

Liking Mommy, for a change!

During the Christmas week, I worked only half-days at the office, choosing to spend time with my son during his school holidays. One morning, went to a mall I normally never take him to. There was some aimless wandering, some eating of junk-like food and a couple of tussles over what he could and could not buy. But it was worth it. At least I could spend time with him. He likes that.

One morning that week, he didn't want me to leave for work. Which is unusual, because normally, he can't wait to get rid of me. :) But none of his friends were around and his father was alternately glued to the TV or to the computer.

The little fellow finally decided he wanted to play with the Kaleidoscope puzzle (650 rupees well spent) so I dropped him off at my parents, where he keeps the set. It was a relief to leave him a contended kid. Have a good day, Poppet!

My Christmas Dream Comes True

In my last post, I mentioned how I'd always had this feeling that Christmas was meant for something. When I attended a school run by nuns (grades 7-9) I'd have the time of my life singing hymns, Christmas carols, listening to stories from the Bible and doing up a crib in the run-up to Christmas Eve. The school held a contest and the class that put up the best, most realistic looking crib won a prize. Nobody was more enthusiastic than I was. But at home, naturally enough, there wasn't much to do at Christmas except wait for our Catholic neighbors (and there were plenty) to send us the goodies!

On Christmas morning, my son woke up in the morning and announced that he wanted us to bake a cake together. It was probably courtesy a set of measuring cups my mum gave him the day before - he was itching to try them out 'for real.' I wasn't sure I had all the ingredients for a cake but the little fellow announced solemnly: "We'll make adjustments."

So flour got substituted with whole wheat and the brat spent an eternity extracting egg whites. But he worked away like the proverbial elf in Santa's workshop until an hour later, we had a soft, spongy chocolate cake with nuts in it. "There's less sugar in this," he remarked. "Grind some in the mixer and put it all over the top. Then it will taste better," declared the young chef. So I did as I was told and voila, it did taste better.

In the afternoon, I took him to the amusement arcade near our house. On the way down, he spotted small, plastic Christmas trees on display and asked if we could buy one. I told him we'd get one next year and then he could do it up himself. After all, it was already the evening of the 25th, a bit late in the day to put up a tree, I thought. But fate willed otherwise. The enthusiastic salesgirl announced loudly that all Christmas decorations (the tree included) were on a Buy-one-get-two-free offer. The little elf's ears perked up, and I knew it was a lost battle. So we came back home with two trees that were less than 3ft high and one even smaller. The ornaments went up and my son's face was brighter than the fairy lights on the tree.

He then took the smallest tree down to my mum's house and put that up as well - and beamed again!

What is it they say about parents living out their dreams through their children? My son doesn't know it, but he made one of my earliest childhood dreams come true yesterday.

Thank you, sweetheart. :)

Thank you, Almighty

This morning (Monday, December 24, 2007) we took our son to the doctor for his eye check-up. I have been waiting breathlessly and simultaneously dreading the visit. It was the day we would know whether or not the second round of cryotherapy worked. The little tyke hates these visits and I don't blame him. A hyperactive 6-year-old having to to sit with his eyes closed for nearly an hour is torture. Anyway, we somehow managed that with stories and "fact-stories" and occasional pick-me-up-and-carry-me-around requests.

Then it was time for us to go in. This doctor is a rather to-the-point kind of fellow. So he carried out his examination and with the same deadpan expression, proceeded to look at each and every page of the kid's hospital record. And we waited...and waited...and waited. I was sure my heart was about to fall right out of my mouth when he finally spoke: "Well, it is stable." The best four words I've ever heard.

We then asked questions to get some more details. Turns out that there has been no fresh leakage over the past 2 months, which means the condition has "stabilized." And then the doctor said something even more heartening. "If it stays this way, we can leave it as it is. The exudates (leakage) will get absorbed over time or we can do some laser to get rid of it."

I sat there gaping at him. I know I did. I couldn't speak and I couldn't gulp.

The kid's next check-up is in March to see if it he condition remains stable. My understanding is that if the second round of cryopexy worked, then he has a good chance at beating this thing altogether. Of course, the other doctor's words still haunt me: Be prepared for multiple treatments.

I am prepared, but today's results were God's doing and I thank the Almighty like I have never thanked Him before.

PS: Ever since I was around 8 years old, I've always had this "great expectation" feeling around Christmas. It's weird because we're not Christians, so the feeling that the day was somehow significant seemed baseless. Over the years, I learned to put it down to the whole commercialization of expecting a gift and doing up a Christmas tree and whatnot. (Score one for the Americanization of the world, etc.) Today, that void was filled...and how! It was the best Christmas gift I could have ever hoped for. So once again, thank you, God.

(Originally posted on Monday, December 24, 2007 on an earlier blog)

Why my son can probably never be a fighter pilot

My son has a rare eye condition: Coats Disease. It affects 1 in 350,000 people. Some abnormal blood vessels in the back of the retina begin to leak and the leakage begins to collect in the retina. Eventually, if the case goes undetected, when the leakage starts to collect in the center of the retina, it affects the vision, prompts all kinds of other painful symptoms which I don’t want to think about. Worst case scenario: the retina detaches, can’t be surgically reattached, and results in blindness in that eye. Sometimes, the eye has to be removed and replaced with a cosmetic eye.

Now for the good news. The doctors tell us it’s been detected early (stage 2A) so the chances of arresting the progress of this condition are “very good.” They did the first round of laser – to blast off the existing leakage – and some cryopexy to freeze the abnormal blood vessels. A doctor from whom we took a second opinion told us to be prepared for multiple sessions of cryopexy. So we were. No, change that. We knew he may need multiple sessions. But we weren’t prepared for it.

Another talk with the second-opinion doctor reveled that they can do this kind of treatment only around 4 times.

That’s because every time you send that sub-zero beam into the eye, you freeze (read: destroy) that portion. So while cryopexy is just about the only thing that can control this disease, it is also slightly destructive in nature.

Oh, and he will probably never be able to go up in a roller coaster because those kind of fluctuating pressures can worsen the condition. What am I going to tell him when he insists he’s old enough to try out the more adventurous rides in an amusement park? He can probably never become a pilot like he wants to. Yes, all boys want to become pilots at some point in their life, but having the choice taken away from you sucks, right? And this is a kid who can spend eons acting out dogfights with two of his toy fighter jets!

Anyway, once the cryopexy is done, you need to wait for a month or two before you know if the treatment is working. But before that, you need to get through the procedure, done under general anesthesia. That’s always scary. Everyone in my family has been under GA at least twice. I don’t remember ever being so worried before. Is it because I’m older, or because this is my son we’re talking about?

The second time he went in for the treatment, I waited outside and mouthed prayers incessantly. I was a nervous wreck already – partly from worrying myself sick, and partly from not being able to display my emotions. I was ashamed of myself, because unlike most of my countrymen, I hadn’t been able to make a vow with a deity. I should have done what I had commonly heard: heal my son and I will bring him to your shrine within a year. Why hadn’t I been able to do it? The thought had crossed my mind a hundred times over. Was I weak, or just plain practical and scared? What if I made a vow but was unable to fulfill it? Besides, my family has never been into these things. Our faith is private and personal. Was I being tested? Was my faith not strong enough? Should I have been telling the Almighty: “I know you will heal him,” instead of saying, “please heal my son”?

Coats Disease can sometimes inexplicably reverse itself. A miracle, in other words. Should I have been praying for a miracle? Sworn to change my religion, like many others had, if my son was cured? Or done something equally intense? Was I too selfish? Was I not taking this thing seriously enough?

I was still saying my prayers when a woman with a cute one-year-old baby came up to me and asked me which member of my family had been taken inside the operation theater. I’d seen her when we’d come in. She was bottle-feeding her baby. The child looked like her left eye was smaller than her right eye. I told the woman briefly what had happened. She told me her story in turn.

Poppet came out on a stretcher this time, with an oxygen mask and drips. And his eye was bandaged. He wasn’t crying and howling in a semi-conscious state like the last time, but this was scary too.

I later saw the woman and her husband talking to the doctor. She looked worried, he was asking a lot of questions. The doctor, a reticent fellow, was answering their questions with the same expression he always wore: deadpan. So it was difficult to make out much. After a little while, I went over to ask them. This time, she kept quiet. Her husband did all the talking. “They are saying they could not reconnect the nerve,” he said. A nerve had been disconnected? “They tried, but they could not reattach it. So now they are saying nothing can be done.”

What did that mean? Would she be blind in that eye? “They are saying there is no vision in that eye already,” he said. “They are saying it will become smaller and smaller and they will replace with it with a cosmetic eye. But I will take her somewhere else also. This is very serious.”

And then it hit me. Their daughter was already blind in one eye. And they couldn’t accept that. He was talking about taking her to other places. She was very quiet.

I wanted to run away from there.

My son's procedure had gone well. Of course, we’d know only by December whether it had worked. And if it hadn’t, he still had two more shots at a cure. Was this curable? I’d never heard or read about a cure to this condition? Was it simply ‘managing’ the condition? Would Poppet need to worry about this, or ‘manage’ it for the rest of this life? That suddenly seemed preferable to what I had just heard. For one second, it seemed like some bizarre way of destiny preparing me for what was to come.

And I couldn’t deal with it. Not then, not that day.

So I ran away. Very selfish, very petty, and very cheap of me. But that’s what I did. I mouthed some nonsense about not losing hope, feigning misunderstanding of what they had just told me. And then I fled. Back to my son demanding to know when we could go home.

“Just as soon as you can keep some food down,” I told him. “Twenty minutes after that, we can leave.”

An hour later, after he had managed to keep down two idlis for 15 minutes and shown no signs of throwing up, we left for home.

Post Script:

The little brat has been chosen to MC a part of his school's annual day celebrations (Kindergarten section). Last year, he was in a dance which he really enjoyed. A few days before the show, he came down with high fever. Although he recovered, he was really weak on the day of the show and couldn't take part. His teacher later told me his partner, Chinmayee (who tied a rakhi on his wrist that year) cried her heart out. This year, he told his teacher he didn't want to be in the dance. So they've made him an MC. His check-up is due the Monday before the show. From what we know, whatever the doctor tells us that day should not affect his performance on the day of the show. I continue to pray...

(This was originally written in November on an earlier blog, now deleted.)

Mommy and the "Mahatma"

The Brat decided he wanted to dress up as Mahatma Gandhi for his fancy dress contest at school.

ME (mentally drawing up a list of things I would have to borrow and buy to get the poppet in costume): Why?

He was the leader of ALL the freedom fighters.
Hmmm....well, not ALL, but common sense rules that you don't start explaining politics and history to a 5-year-old.

(continuing with smug, so-there look): And he's on ALL our money. He's the most famous. That's why!" Gen Z knows an opportunity when they see one.

I'll put a stocking on your don't have to shave it off.

Gandhi didn't wear a stocking on his head. He didn't have hair. So I can't have hair. Can we go to the barber now?

You'll regret this later, your hair won't grow back for 3 months.

(arms folded in defiance): What's regret?

What indeed!

List of things to get/do in the next 4 days: dig out 3 clean, white dupattas, buy one pair of seriously old-fashioned Bata slippers, bargain for round glasses from the optician down the road (Rs 275, after M-I-L style haggling), borrow stick handle of old mop from Mum, search for brown sticky tape to make it look like a walking stick, delve through piles of make-up to extract kajal to make a moustache, talcum powder to make the moustache look grey, paper and tape to make a watch, return early from office to make trip to the barber the evening before the event...phew!

End Result:

1. One hour of listening to introductions, slogans and what-am-I-doing-here looks from 7 Gandhis, 11 Nehrus (the costume is easier), 13 Rani(s) Laxmibai-with-doll-tied-at-the-back, 6 Kittur Rani(s) Chenamma, 4 assorted freedom fighters, and 17 Subhash Chandra Boses (the costume can be hired from just about everywhere.)

2. Consolation prize for the poppet. ("He forgot to say his name during the introduction," informed the teacher. "But you already told everybody who I was!" replied the brat. He had a point, but lost a few anyway and slid down the list.

3. Consolation prize for me too: Freedom from fighting with him to comb his hair early in the morning.

Moral of the Experience: One less squabble a day for the next three months is worth the effort.

(This was originally posted on September 26, 2007 on an earlier blog which has now been deleted.)

Why I started this blog...

It’s simple. My world revolves around my almost-6-year-old son. He makes life worth living, worth fighting for, and the future worth dreaming about. The moppet is sharper than a whip and can throw unbelievably long tantrums. He can turn on the tears in a nanosecond and take forever to calm down, especially because I don’t usually fall for the waterworks.

My mother - who he’s very close to - says we share a strange relationship. If you couldn’t see us together but just heard our conversations, it would sound like he was my younger brother - that’s what she says. It probably stems from his attachment with my mother, who has played a very vital role in raising him for most of his life.

When he was younger, he would get awfully jealous if I hugged her or she hugged me in front of him. “She’s my mother and my grandmother, nothing to you!” he would declare forcefully and leap into her arms. He’s learnt to “share” her with me and I unabashedly use that to my advantage whe I need to get him to do something.

He’ll be six in a couple of weeks and I can’t still believe that I’ve been blessed with the little darling. He is more than a handful most of the time, but like I said, he makes life worth living.

I have another blog, but this one is going to be the story of his childhood - incidents past and present.

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