Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!

Now that I'm entering the third trimester, I wanted to stock up on the baby's first library - just 5-6 books. You won't believe how absurdly hard it is to find baby books in India. You get plenty of the paperback know-your-alphabet, know-your-numbers variety, but books that don't serve a specific (fairly boring) purpose don't seem to be in vogue. 

I shop online for the most part, so I checked BabyOye, Firstcry, and Landmark. No books for infants. Crossword had a children's fiction section, and I got excited, until I realized it included Twilight. Enough said. Flipkart actually had the best collection of all, but you wouldn't know it if you didn't search for specific titles, eg: Goodnight Moon. Otherwise, whether you sort by popularity or by price, the first few pages of search results are full of the read-to-learn type books. 

It's pretty depressing. Is no one reading to their infants just for the fun of it any more? Given most of the classics cost above Rs. 400 (for the paperback version!) and online pricing tends to be demand-driven, I'm guessing Indians aren't buying them by the bucketload. Dr. Seuss books seem to be the exception, so hopefully someone's reading those and/or they're being published here, instead of all being imported.

This super funny video says it better than I could:

One bit of silver lining was discovering a Facebook group called 'Best Book Deals for Kids.' Parents sell their used children's books here on a first-come first-served basis. I really like some of the titles posted. The only downside is that you can't guarantee seeing titles in the age range you're looking for, or that you'll be the first to grab them when they do. 

Meanwhile, if you'd really like to read to your infant but aren't sure where to start, here's my top ten list:

* The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
* Mother Goose by Iona Opie/Sylvia Long
* Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
* Balloonia by Audrey Wood
* The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
* Dr Seuss' Sleep Book
* Dr Seuss' One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
* Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
* Each Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
* Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney

I have nothing against Indian authors, but I haven't heard of any books with alliteration or simple language for very young babies. If you know of any Indian authors who write for infants, I'd love to check them out. 

This is just a list off the top of my head, and I hear it's a fact that your brain literally shrinks in the third trimester. So are there any classics I'm missing? Let me know! Reccos are also welcome for slightly older babies.

Why I Quit My Job At Google: A 4-Year Lookback

Everyone seems to be writing these, recently. And unlike most of those authors, I've had more than four years of retrospective wisdom on my decision to quit. 

Google was my first job outside college, and it was fantastic. I met some of my favourite people in the world there - I even married one. I loved having resources to what was going on in the bigger organization, and in the internet space in general. It was easily the easiest job I've ever had (the brand sells itself). And it goes without saying that the perks made my life in a developing nation  more privileged than that of many people in first world countries. So why did I quit? 

1. I was scared I was getting too comfortable.  There's a limited amount of time you can spend in a cushy job before you get entrenched there out of fear, or inertia. It's like the frog in the frying pan - turn up the heat slowly, and it'll never notice it's being cooked.  
2014 Me says: Pschah. It was the right decision at the time, since this was my first job, and I wanted to make sure I wasn't a one-trick pony. My resume's definitely the better for it, not to mention my self-esteem. But if this isn't your first job and if you don't have some burning passionate career ambitions/start-up dreams, just stick with it. This is as good as it's going to get in any job where you aren't your own boss. 

2. Without sounding like a complete baby, I missed being home. Many of my close friends at Google had already quit, Hyderabad was a strange city, and I was craving some place familiar where I could be taken care of. Plus my parents were going to start looking for marriage matches, and it just occured to me that I'd never get a chance to get spoiled by them again.
2014 Me says: When you've stayed away from home for that long, you find it hard to be someone's child. I totally enjoyed it after the initial disorientation, but I think a long vacation may have served me just as well.

3. Honestly, cutting out all the diplomatic stuff, I thought I was capable of bigger, better, more creative, more challenging things. I was learning a lot from the organization and some people in it, but not enough from my role itself. And was I really going to work with just one product all my life?
2014 Me says: Again, not a great thing from your first job. Not the worst thing if you plan on an office job all your life - especially given how easy it is to move horizontally within Google, so you're constantly picking up new things. Since I'm being honest, I think our generation believes each of us is destined for greatness. And the truth is, we're not necessarily. Not for lack of talent even, but just for lack of discipline, or luck, or the guts to say stuff like money and social comparisons don't matter. I have this theory that the smartest people are the ones who don't bother. There is nothing wrong with doing a really great job at something that comes easily to you, and spending your time outside work learning, and doing whatever really energizes you. 

4. I was getting increasingly disillusioned with some of my colleagues - not because they weren't smart, but because I saw shortcuts being taken, and politics were becoming visible in certain factions.
2014 Me says: Every organization has idiots, and empty-boasters, and work shirkers. So Google wasn't an exception, despite the myth that only the best are hired. Big deal. It's not the end of the world.

So, to sum up, quitting Google was exactly the right thing for me at the time. Not because I've since found a career that fulfills or completes me, but because I've realized from working in different roles in different organizations that it's not up to a job to do that. It's up to me.

Changing the Rules

I'm completely rubbish at being Indian - I didn't think twice about leaving my husband at home while I travelled around for two months, but the idea of staying at one of our parents' places for the last two months of pregnancy is absolutely untenable. 

I have a great set of parents - natural, as well as the ones I inherited when I married. Both sets go all out to take care of me. But that's hardly the point. Marriage, as I see it, is a partnership. If you choose to parent, that becomes an inherent part of that partnership. Why, with all due respect, should we change the rules during pregnancy? Anyone else who wants to get involved is welcome but not, to be perfectly honest, vital.  

Is this just one more of those traditions that everyone takes at face value because it's too much trouble to question? I agree that if you stay in a joint family rather than with just your husband, you may be happier at your parents' place when you're heavily pregnant. But otherwise, I just don't see the logic. As long as you marry someone who's really your equal in every way, it's absurd to suggest you'd be more comfortable at your parents' house than in your own. I genuinely don't think I could be pampered at my parents' place any more  than I already am in my own. 

When he realized we're going from Double Income No Kids
to No Income One  Kid
Yes, I obviously do more work in my own house. But cooking for two or three people is hardly a hardship, especially given I'll have a maid around to clean up and wash the dishes. India, of all countries, really isn't a place where house work is ever very hard to conquer. Outsource the cooking if it gets too hard, or even the grocery shopping - in my opinion, it would be worth the slight additional expense to have A around.

He has been my partner on every step of this journey. He comes with me to doctor's appointments, and inspects maternity wards, occasionally even without me. His role does not - it can not - end when I'm seven months pregnant and begin again once I come back home with a 3-month old baby. He deserves to experience the birth of his baby... he has no less right to any of this than I do. He's the one I'm having this baby with. He is not some person who has visitation rights over weekends.

There are quite a few things that I do because I'm Indian, regardless of whether I personally believe in them or not. As I see it, if doing something doesn't trouble me, and if it pleases my relatives or my in-laws, I'm happy to oblige. But this is one of those times when tradition's just going to have to suck it up.