## Letters To My Berry #60

Yes. I’m messing with mumma’s numbers. The last one she wrote was #33. However, since we used to write one every month when you were little, I decided this should be called #60. 12 times 5. There are 12 months in a year.

On that note, you know how to multiply now. And divide. And add and subtract, of course. You’ve also learnt fractions, and prime numbers and square numbers, most of them from school but some of them because I try my experiments on you.

And you are an amazing and eager learner.

One of your and my high points in the last 3-4 months has been the quizzes. In March or April, mumma started taking you for this “Qshala family quiz”. While you would know the answers to most questions there, you would never get a chance to speak out the answers. And that would make you unhappy, and you would cry.

So we decided you needed your own quiz. I’ve had a blast setting them. At the young age of not-yet-5, you have been introduced to the concepts of “list it” and “stage 2”. Don’t be surprised to see a long visual connect before you are 6.

The kind of stuff you are interested in is incredible. I had randomly found a nice periodic table map on Amazon, and got it for you. And it turned out that you not only know all the Noble Gases, but you know it all in ORDER. One day you and I were doing a Sporcle Periodic Table quiz together, and you surprised me with how much you knew.

You are also amazing at recognising countries from their football shirts (basically mapping to their flags), from their shapes, flags and all such. Some day I was watching some random football video, and you recognised the flag of North Macedonia! Mumma was flabbergasted.

The time since the last time we wrote a letter to you coincided with another big wave of covid and lockdown. You had been happily going to offline school, even if only on two days a week, when we wrote the last letter, but then everything shut again.

However, the difference between this lockdown and the previous ones was that by now you had learnt to read. And you devoured books. During a family zoom call during this period, someone asked you what kind of books you like, and you replied saying “I only read non fiction”.

Barbie sent you a book on the human body and you demolished it in one evening. You surprise us once in every few days based on what you know. And when you speak, or tweet from my account, you can get really profound.

Like today, mumma told me “get a life”, and you asked what “life” means. The other day, you tweeted this:

In terms of profundity, though, I was (positively) amazed at one of your actions when we visited your cousins Mahika and Arhita last month. We had taken along a cake, and all you children cut it. The cake had a piece of chocolate on it, and two other kids were negotiating on who gets that, and what toppings the other child would get. And as they were talking animatedly you calmly put out your hand, picked up the chocolate and ate it off!

You are not afraid at all to ask questions. Now that school has started again, you love going there, and have started taking care of the younger children in school and showing them works.

Oh, and in the last month and a half, your reading pattern has changed considerably. It started with a visit to this wonderful bookshop called “Lightroom” in Cooke Town. I, as usual, bought you a whole bunch of non fiction books. Mumma bought you a whole bunch of fiction books.

And suddenly, after that, you only read fiction. You still don’t read “big people books” with lots of text and no pictures (so no Tinkle yet), but love your little stories. You would read them so often that the other day mumma decided to put away all your fiction books in a shelf, so that you can get back to reading non fiction.

Five year old paaps! You are a big girl now. And literally. You have had a growth spurt in the last month or so, and are now so heavy that mumma can’t carry you.

On most days you sleep by yourself in your room. In fact, now you’ve gotten a much bigger room for yourself as we swapped what was your room with the study. You have SO many things that you need such a big room. You sleep there all by yourself, surrounded by your toys. You wake up in the morning and make your own bed, if you haven’t sneaked across the house to our room in the middle of the night that is.

You know – I’m actually feeling conscious writing this because I know that you are fully capable of reading this now. There might be the odd word here or there that you may not know – but will make sure you ask – but reading this should be a breeze now. And os I’m conscious that I shouldn’t make this too long – else you might put NED to read this.

And since it’s been so long since we wrote this, there is still so much more to say. So I’ll just do this in bullet points:

• You’ve recently gone back to a “appa do like this” phase. You make weird shapes with your hands and want me to copy them exactly
• Mamma has gotten you hooked to Jurassic Park, and similar “dinosaur movies”. And you love watching and re-watching them. Of course, you get scared as well! That is just part of the game
• You have restarted voice training classes with Mads.
• You can brush your hair and tie it up into a “monkey jutta” all by yourself
• You are self sufficient enough now that we don’t have to supervise your online school. You open my laptop, find the calendar notification and join the Zooom meeting
• Thanks to the second wave, there has been no travel, unfortunately in the last 6 months. Hopefully we can correct this soon. Then again – you got your passport renewed in this time
• You still ask for permission when you want to see cartoons. That said, you don’t see much of cartoons nowadays. Books and Khan Academy are more interesting to you

OK I guess it’s really time to stop now! Happy birthday, sweetheart! Have a great year ahead.

Today was a landmark day in the life of the daughter. She looked at a bus this evening, and without any prompting, started trying to read the number on it.

Most of today hadn’t been that great for her. She’s been battling a throat infection for a few days now, and has been largely unable to eat for the last couple of days because of which she had developed high fever today. As a result, we took her to hospital today, and it was on the way back from there that the landmark event happened.

Having got on to the bus at the starting point, we had the choice of seat, and obviously chose the best seat in the house – the seat right above the driver (I’m going to miss double decker buses when we move out of London). She was excited to be in a bus – every day on the way to her nursery, we pass by many buses, prompting her to exclaim “red bus!!” and expressing a desire to ride them. The nursery is five minutes walk away from home, so no such opportunity arises.

I must also mention that we live at a busy intersection, close to the Ealing Broadway “town centre”. From our living room window we can see lots of buses, and the numbers are easily recognisable (it helps that London buses have electronic number boards). And sometimes when Berry refuses to eat, her mother takes her to the window where they watch buses come and go, with one spoonful for each bus. Along the way, the wife reads out the bus numbers aloud to Berry. So far, though, Berry had never tried to read a bus number from our house window.

But sitting in a bus herself this evening, she “broke through”. Ahead of us was bus 427, which she read as “four seven”. I asked her what was in between 4 and 7, and she had no answer. Maybe she didn’t understand “between”.

A short distance later, there was bus 483 coming from the other side. She started with the 3 and then read the 8. And then the bus passed. And then there was bus E1 in front of us. Berry read it as “E”. I hadn’t known that she can recognise E. I know she knows all numbers, and A to D. So this was news to me. Getting her to read the number next to that was a challenge. 1 is a challenge for her since it looks like I. After much prompting, there was nothing, and I told her it was E1. Five minutes later, we encountered 427 again. This time she read in full, except that she called it “seven two four”.

I grew up at a time when our lives were much less documented. The only solid memory I have of my childhood is this photo album, most of whose photos were taken by an uncle who had a camera, and whose camera had this feature to imprint the date on the photos. So I have a very clear idea about what I looked like at different ages, and what I did when, but the rest of my growing up years were a little fuzzy.

There is the odd memory, though. My grandfather’s younger brother, who lived next door, had a car (a Fiat 1100). I loved going on rides with him in that, and I used to sit between him and my grandfather. I don’t remember too many specific trips, but I know that my grandfather would make me read signboards from shops, and I would read them letter by letter.

My grandfather’s younger brother passed away when I was two years and seven months old. So I know that by the time I was that age, I was able to read letters from signboards.

It is only natural for us to benchmark our children’s growth to that of other people we know – ourselves, if possible, and if not, some cousins or friends’ children. Thus far, I had lacked a marker to know of whether Berry had “beaten me to it” at various life events. I know she started walking quicker than me, because my first year birthday photos show me trying to stand on my won. I know she spoke later than me because multiple people have told me I would speak sentences at the time of our housewarming (when I was a year and half old).

Thanks to the memory of going on rides with my grandfather’s brother, and reading signboards, I know that I would read them before I was two years seven months old (or maybe earlier, since I’m guessing I did it multiple times in his car else no one would’ve told me about it).

And today, at two years and two months, the daughter started reading numbers on surrounding buses. She doesn’t know the full alphabet yet, but this is a strong start!

I’m proud of her!

## Flaneuring once again

So I wrote my Day Two report too early. A few minutes after I filed it, the daughter woke up and refused to eat the lunch I had got packed earlier. The prospect of feeding her and keeping her entertained meant that we decided to go out again. And we decided to revisit the historic city of Munich (Marienplatz and surrounding areas once again).

And what a difference some sun makes! Streets that were largely empty yesterday morning were full of people (most likely tourists) today. Restaurants and cafes had set up lots of tables right in the middle of the road (a bit like Les Rambles or Rambla de Catalunya in Barcelona). The street musicians seemed better. And the whole place seemed more welcoming.

After some walking with Berry in her baby carrier, I decided to set her down and let her lead the way. The bigger squares in the area (Marienplatz and Odeonplatz) seemed to be gearing up for some festival that will happen this weekend. Stages and temporary stalls had come up for that purpose. We walked past them when Berry said something to the effect that she wanted to eat.

We walked into a bakery, and when I wasn’t sure of what to buy, we walked out. Soon, Berry said more vehemently that she wanted to eat. I found a nice looking restaurant, and we went in.

Now, the optimisation problem wasn’t so bad since I had already eaten and I only had to optimise for Berry. But this was a large place with lots of variety in food so I couldn’t decide. Thankfully Berry bailed  me out when she screamed “thothage! Thothage!!” (sausage). I duly ordered a Bratwurst with ketchup, which she then demolished. I felt truly happy that she had bailed me out of my decision fatigue.

Through this afternoon’s “beat”, I was thinking about how having a limited vocabulary and communication skills, Berry is not yet very demanding. The only things she’s demanded in the last two days were yesterday’s bike ride and today’s sausage. And when she demanded specific things I was able to fulfil what she asked for rather than having to second guess.

i realise that soon enough she’ll become more demanding, and while for a while it will be good in that I can simply focus on execution, it will also mean that she might take more control of my life then! I don’t know if the last two days’ training will help in that case.

Oh, and this wasn’t the last time we went out today. Later in the evening all three of us went to the outskirts of the city to meet a friend of mine from undergrad (and his family) who has recently moved to Munich. That experience deserves a blogpost on its own. Hopefully I’ll write!

## Mini me

Two years back when we were expecting, relatives would wonder if it would be a “mini Priyanka” or “mini Karthik”. This was their way of wondering whether it would be a girl or a boy. Having spent the first half of the pregnancy in Spain, we knew that it would be a girl, but in most cases refused to answer this “mini Priyanka/Karthik” question.

In hindsight, it’s a bit annoying – to assume that the kid is the mini version of the parent she shares her gender (or should I be saying “sex”, as a Brooklyn-based friend recently remarked) with. What makes people simply assume that a girl should be like her mother and a boy should be like his father, when it is clear that irrespective of sex (take that Brooklyn, I got it right) the kid receives the same number of chromosomes from each parent.

And as it happens, our specimen is a clear exhibit of being like the parent of the opposite sex. She might be a mini Priyanka in that she is a girl, but that and her Bambi eyes apart, she is uncannily like me in pretty much everything else. In fact, upon seeing her as a baby, her godmother remarked that “Karthik could have married an old shoe and still produced a child that looks exactly like this”.

Save for her eyes, she looks nearly exactly the same way as I did at her age. Just like me, she’s outgoing, and likes to go aimlessly wandering (to go “on beat” as we would say in Kannada). For the large part, she likes the same kind of foods that I like (a notable exception is her affinity for Maggi). Just like me, she looks out for cashewnuts or peanuts in whatever food she is having.

This list is a long one, with the list of her similarities with her mother being much much shorter.

And on top of all this, she is also attached to me. She doesn’t let me get out of home without insisting that I take her along (I clearly remember doing this a lot to my father as well), while she happily says “bye” to her mother. When she wakes up, she starts screaming “appa” and “ka” (short for “kara” which is short for “Karthik”. it’s a nickname used mainly by my wife and one of my cousins). She calls out to me from the other end of the house in a way she’s never called out to her mother. And she doesn’t trouble me like she troubles her mother!

I had been told by several people that fatherhood can change you, but one thing I hadn’t bargained for was that it would make me more emotional. But then I guess having a little version of you who you can totally empathise with around can do that to you!

## FaceTime Baby

My nephew Samvit, born in 2011, doesn’t talk much on the phone. It’s possibly because he didn’t talk much on the phone as a baby, but I’ve never been able to have a decent phone conversation with him (we get along really well when we meet, though). He talks a couple of lines and hands over the phone to his mother and runs off. If it’s a video call, he appears, says hi and disappears.

Berry (born in 2016), on the other hand, seems to have in a way “leapfrogged” the phone. We moved to London when she was five and a half months old, and since then we’ve kept in touch with my in-laws and other relatives primarily through video chat (FaceTime etc.). And so Berry has gotten used to seeing all these people on video, and has become extremely comfortable with the medium.

For example, when we were returning from our last Bangalore trip in December, we were worried that Berry would miss her grandparents tremendously. As it turned out, we landed in London and video called my in-laws, and Berry was babbling away as if there was no change in scene!

Berry has gotten so used to video calling that she doesn’t seem to get the “normal” voice call. Sure enough, she loves picking up the phone and holding it against her ear and saying “hello” and making pretend conversations (apparently she learnt this at her day care). But give her a phone and ask her to talk, and she goes quiet unless there’s another person appearing on screen.

Like there’s this one aunt of mine who is so tech-phobic that she doesn’t use video calls. And every time I call her she wants to hear Berry speak, except that Berry won’t speak because there is nobody on the screen! I’m now trying to figure out how to get this aunt to get comfortable with video calling just so that Berry can talk to her!

In that sense, Berry is a “video call” native. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that she’ll find it really hard to get comfortable with audio calls later on in life.

I’ll turn into one uncle now and say “kids nowadays… “

## 2/13: Motherhood statements

It was a casual chat we had sometime during Pinky’s first year of MBA. We were talking about making babies, and started wondering how it would be to make one right around the time she graduated. “Imagine going up to receive my degree with a big belly”, she’d laughed.

Incredibly, it happened. When she came to Bangalore for an extended break after her exchange term at U. Michigan, we gave it a little go. And on New Year’s Eve 2015-16, if my calculations are correct, the artist first known as Larvesh came to be conceived.

Larvesh became Pupesh a month later when the pregnancy app told us that the embryo had got attached to the walls of the uterus. Three months later, when we found out it was a girl, Pupesh became Pupeshwari. And she came out as Berry in September.

IESE is situated in the hilly Barcelona suburb of Pedralbes, and unless you have your own vehicle, you need to climb a steep slope to get there. Pregnancy during the last term of school was hard for Pinky since it meant climbing the hill from the bus stop each day. Having to frequently use the restroom didn’t make matters any easier. Yet Pinky didn’t give up.

She actually took extra credits during that term of MBA, since there was a course she really wanted to do. She remained active as ever in extra curricular activities, organising two mini conferences. Given that Pupu was a tiny baby, nobody at IESE had an idea of her existence!

Pinky got her post-MBA job offer deferred so that she could have the baby (effectively getting unpaid maternity leave), but was determined to work in the gap between her MBA and job start. And so Marriage Broker Auntie happened.

The day before Berry was born, Pinky was taking calls on her hospital bed, advising clients on blading strategies. After Berry was born, Pinky refused to go to her parents’ (the standard practice in Karnataka), arguing she wouldn’t be able to work from there. Indiscretion on my part meant Pinky had to take care of Berry alone for long periods, and she did that without complaining, while running Marriage Broker Auntie on the side (it was only recently when I started looking after Berry by myself that I realised how exhausting taking care of a baby can be – my respect for Pinky shot up on that first day of house-husbanding).

A lot of people wonder how we’ve managed to move continents when Berry is so small, especially when Pinky has started such a demanding job. However, Pinky has managed the whole process so well that I scarcely imagine that we’ve done something people find so challenging – it all seems so normal to me (my part in the move and settling here has been minor – I continue to be a lazy bum and put NED)!

Back at the IIMB reunion in December, which Pinky and Berry attended for one evening, one of my friends commented how she found Pinky to be “so sorted” (in terms of motherhood). Coming to think of it, that’s an excellent summary of how Pinky has handled motherhood.

1/13: Leaving home

## Letters to my Berry #6

So you turn half today. And I’ll let you write this letter yourself, since over the last week or two you’ve been trying to get to the computer and operate it.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRLXXXSDbdp/?taken-by=skthewimp

OK I gave you two minutes, but unlike what you’ve been doing over the last one week, you didn’t try to get to the computer today, so I’ll write this myself.

This last month has been one of big change, as you made your first forin trip. It was a mostly peaceful flight from Bangalore to London, via Dubai. You hardly cried, though you kept screaming in excitement through the flight, and through the layover in Dubai. Whenever someone smiled at you, you’d attempt to talk to them. And it would get a bit embarrassing at times!

Anyway, we got to London, and we had to put you in day care. The first day when I left you at the day care for a one-hour settling in session, I cried. Amma was fine, but I had tears in my eyes, and I don’t know why! And after two settling-in sessions, you started “real day care”, and on the first day it seems you were rather upset, and refused to eat.

So I had to bring you home midway through the day and feed you Cerelac. It was a similar story on the second day – you weren’t upset, but you still wouldn’t eat, so I had to get you home and give you Cerelac. It was only on the third day, that is today, that you finally at ate at the nursery!

The biggest challenge for us after bringing you to London has been to keep you warm, since you refuse to get the concept of warm clothes, and refuse to wear them. And so for the last 10 days you’ve not only got a cold and cough for yourself, but you’ve also transmitted it to both Amma and me 🙁

London has also meant that you’ve started travelling by pram regularly, though after one attempt we stopped taking it on the Underground since it was difficult to negotiate steps. When we have to take the train, I thus carry you in your baby carrier, like a baby Kangaroo!

In the last one month, you’ve also made significant motor improvements. You still can’t sit, but you try to stand now! It seems like you’ve taken after Amma and me in terms of wanting to take the easy way out – you want to stand without working hard for it, and sometimes scream until we hold you up in a standing position.

Your babbles have also increased this month, and we think you said “Appa” a few times in the last one week in the course of the last one week! Maybe I like to imagine that you say it, and maybe you actually call me that! It’s too early to say!

Finally, one note of disappointment – on Monday when you were all crying and upset and refusing to eat at the nursery, I rushed to pick you up, and hoped to see you be very happy when you saw me. As it turned out, you gave me a “K dear, you are here” kind of expression and just came home! Yesterday you actually cried when I came to pick you up!

It seems like you’re becoming a teenager already! And you’re just half!!