The light of the world

Here’s wishing all of you a warm and happy Diwali. It was particularly touching that kids around us all swore off firecrackers for a variety of reasons – pollution, the noise and disturbance to old folks, babies and animals, and finally, child labour in Sivakasi. And with all that effort we woke up to a fairly clear and clean day. Impressive.

We met some people who were surprised that kids were aware of such things. Lets not burden them with issues they have no understanding of, let them enjoy themselves, they said.

I smiled and said nothing. Yes, apparently I am growing old. *ugh*

We burden our kids by informing them early about their caste, community and the notion of an omniscient God (and I really haven’t met too many adults with an understanding of God), but we don’t believe they have the capacity to understand that little children like themselves are sitting in a dirty factory making crackers that are harmful to their health? Why is it hard to tell our children that animals are terrified of the loud sounds, when we don’t think twice about telling them that it’s wrong to pull a dog’s tail? Why is it hard to point out that we’re just burning up money instead of doing some good with it? Why can’t they have memories of drawing rangolis, making sweets, lighting diyas and stringing up garlands of marigold? Who decreed that fire crackers are de rigueur? We had a lovely time last night with friends, family, good food, laughter and light. I hope you did too.

A few glimpses of our home done up for the festival of lights

I love this malevolent frog!

Laying the table for a traditional Diwali dinner cooked by the OA

Merry Christmas – 25.12.2006

I had planned to go chronologically with the posts from Ye Olde Bloge but it seemed like a good time to pull out this old post – actually I was over enthu and had three posts up on X’mas in 2006. We were in Allahabad and this was Pre-Bean. Do you remember a time before the Bean? I don’t. It seems like I’ve just always been her mother. I present the X’mas season posts that week. Have a great X’mas and a Happy New Year you all. If you don’t hear from me in the next week – it’s because I’m busy travelling. Catch you on the other side.

But where is the X’mas tree?



This year since I am going to my parents’ home I decided not to put up an X’mas tree… it would gather dust while I was away and my son would pull it to pieces when I got back… So I just put up a twig with red and gold baubles and filled the vase that holds it with red and gold star and heart shaped baubles… It’s nice… but oh to have put up my very own tree!
Maybe next year when the Brat is older…. oh damn.. that is when the next one will be swinging on the branches….I think my tree is going to stay wrapped up in bubble wrap and tucked away for a few years yet…

Rocking around the X’mas tree


For those who are wondering why I haven’t blogged in a while… this is the reason why… I am at my parents’ home for X’mas and have just been too lazy to get on to the www…. I have been lying on a rug in front of the fire place, watching the flames for hours on end, sipping hot cups of tea and listening to music while my son sits on his haunches and methodically takes decorations off the X’mas tree and rearranges them… Sorry if I gave you guys a scare…

Last night I was dancing with him in my lap and in the mirror I saw another mother and child…. with almost identical features dancing to the very same X’mas carols, cheek to cheek, around the grand piano almost 25 years ago…Thanks for some beautiful memories, ma…

is what the OA and I have been most of this vacation on a rug in front of the fireplace…

For those who knew we were going away to a wildlife reserve for a few days, well that got cancelled. All that eating rich food and partying late finally got to me and I am laid up with some amoebic infection and surviving on toast and tea… Bah. Merry X’mas indeed!

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Compliments of the season from the little drummer boy

…who only opened his gifts on X’mas morning..

began opening gifts at 2 am, when we returned from church after the midnight service…. shall soon show pictures of all my loot!

Father and son

…..have spent plenty of time bonding this vacation and I don’t know how my son will deal with the lack of space and lack of company once we get back to Delhi…playschool, here we come.

Sugar and spice and everything nice…

If you glow it’s a boy they say, some turn the theory around and say you glow if you are carrying a girl. If you carry to the front it’s a boy, but if you gain weight all around, it’s a girl. We even tried my wedding band on a chain and then on a strand of my hair to see what I am carrying. Old wives tales abound and women have for centuries tried every trick in the book to find out whether they are carrying a girl or boy. Friends and older family members want to know why I am so keen to know the gender of the baby.

Well, right from reasons like asking my brother to buy me cute baby stuff from abroad to picking the colour of the bassinet, there are a dozen reasons…. but the biggest reason? Well I don’t know about others, but I am eager to know just like so many women over the last few centuries… There is a life growing inside of me and I am not willing to be just a blank vessel!! I am eating healthy and taking every precaution to make sure that little life is nurtured and cared for. And I would like to know as much about it as possible. I am signed up for four different baby mails a week and I can tell you which body part is developing this week and how big baby is… and after all this surely it comes as no surprise that I am eager to know the gender.

My brother did buy stuff from abroad for baby bean…Baby bean’s first X’mas gifts..even before she has arrived…..Merry X’mas my little angel… Only God and my blogging friends know how badly I want a daughter!!!

My parents who have a vague grasp of blogging were very aprehensive about me posting this entry. What if it turns out to be a boy after all, they ask. Well, I will be disappointed for a while, but I will grow to love the little fellow anyway. And he will have to wear pink for the first few months because that is all the poor Mad Sibling could get, no gender neutral colours available. And as for those who read my blog…. I think they will understand my disapointment more than anyone else and be my greatest strength. For now, thank you all those who prayed for a little girl…Now all we need is a healthy pregnancy or what remains of it… and a healthy baby.

Happy Holi

…in advance. This is something I got as a forward and I figured I’d pass it on to all of you who want to play with safe colours. If there are mistakes or typos, please excuse them – haven’t had a chance to sub it!

The legend from which the tradition of playing colours started is full of colours in itself. The story goes that the very colourful god, Lord Krishna was jealous of his soul mate Radha’s fair complexion, since he himself was very dark.
Naughty young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about this injustice of nature. To placate the child, doting mother asked Krishna to apply colour on Radha’s face and change her complexion according to his choice.
Playful and mischievous Krishna appreciated the idea and implemented it. The game of applying colours thus gained so much popularity that it became a tradition and later it turned out to be a full fledged festival.
Till date, lovers desired to colour and be coloured by their mates. The application of colours has in a way become an expression of love.A great way to play holi is with colour.but in order to avoid chemicals in the readily available ones in the market,here are some natural substitutes;

1. Green-use henna powder, separately or mixed with flour. Also finely powder the leaves of the Gulmohur for a green colour or crush the tender leaves of the wheat plant to obtain a natural safe green Holi colour.

2. Yellow- Use turmeric powder with double quantity of besan (gram flour) Flowers like), Yellow Chrysanthemums, Black Babul yield different shades of yellow. Dry the petals of these flowers in shade and crush them to obtain a fine powder.

3. Red – Red sandalwood powder or dry red hibiscus flowers in shade and powder to make a lovely red colour. Red colour can also be obtained from juice of tomatoes and carrots. This can be diluted with sufficient quantity of water to remove the stickiness.

4. Blue – The Jacaranda flowers can be dried in the shade and ground to obtain a beautiful blue powder also crush the berries (fruits) of the Indigo plant and add to water for desired colour strength

5. Magenta -Slice or grate one Beet root. Soak in 1 litre of water for a wonderful magenta or boil the peels of 10 – 15 pink onions in half litre of water for an orangish-pink colour. Remove the peels before using to remove the smell.

6. Saffron- Mix a pinch of sandalwood powder in one litre of water for an instant, beautiful and fragrant saffron colour or soak a few stalks of saffron/kesar in 2 tablespoons of water. Leave for few hours and grind to make a fine paste. Dilute with water for desired colour strength.

7. Brown – Kattha ,the one eaten in pan, when mixed with water will give a brownish colour or boil tea or coffee leaves in water. Cool and use.

8.Black – Boil dried fruits of Amla / Indian Gooseberry in an iron vessel and leave overnight. Dilute with water and use. Extract juice of black grapes and dilute with sufficient quantity of water to remove stickiness.

Have a safe and happy holi!

Life after X’mas sucks

… because there are no more heaps of presents to look forward to or for the Brat to play guessing games with …

… because the Bean will have nothing to spend hours arranging… and re-arranging

…Because Tambi Maama will go back to the States and give his endless patience to some other baby…

… and come up with a million ways to entertain someone else’s brats….

…. And no one will lift up the Bean to grab hold of Banyan roots…

… and there’ll be no one to partner Dada as he tosses the Brat back and forth

.. because Dada will no longer hang from bars with a brat dangling off his legs… and there will be no corresponding Maami hanging from the bar with Tambi Maama holding her up…

Because there will be no G’pa who makes afternoon naps fun by sleeping out on the sunny balcony with a Brat and a Bean – and there will be no sneaking away after he dozes off to slide down on the poor unsuspecting gentleman..

And because there will be no Maami to brush their teeth, make their hair, cuddle them to sleep, whisk them away before they get a yell from Mamma for something naughty, make meal times fun and generally threaten to rob and put into her suitcase and smuggle back to the US.

Way before the mad sibling got married, dated or even knew the pretty woman who is now his wife, I was a hysterical pregnant woman who called up her sibling in the middle of the night to say, “Okay, I know it’s a little too late to have plan Bs, but if the OA and I die, will you keep my baby? And love him or her as your own?”

An understandably shocked mad sibling reassured his hysterical, pregnant sister that he would do all of that. And then proceeded to yell at her for thinking terrible thoughts.

But there was always a niggling doubt –  wondering if the woman he married would love my children as her own. Wondering if even he would be able to love my babies as his own.

I think this visit put all those fears to rest when my children within 36 hours of meeting their Maama-Maami got on to a train with them willingly and trustingly, waved me a cheerful goodbye and chugged off into the distance. I knew then that if the OA and I decided to jump off a building (what do you mean why would we do that?! Just go with the flow, will ya?!)  – they’d be happy, they’d be safe, they’d be loved and never know want. And yes, I often say that no one can love you more than your parents can. Except maybe your parents’ siblings. What say?

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

… and no I don’t need pennies in my hat.

We put up our X’mas tree a few days ago and it’s been such fun. The kids were squabbling early on about who gets to put the angel on the top of the tree. Fortunately X’mas already came to us once earlier this year when my parents came back from the US. They paid excess baggage and errr… about 50 kilos of it was for us. Anyhow, one of the many things I got was another angel for the top of the tree. It simplified life for us this last weekend because each of the kids got to hang one and our tree is burdened with its load of heavenly beings!

The OA, babies and Cousin K set up the tree.

Leave it to the kids and all the baubles as well as the angel make it to a lower corner of the tree.

The TWO angels guarding the top of our tree!

Some of the other Christmassy stuff I have out.

The Brat tickling the Bean … She’s wearing a hairband that has two jiggly reindeer on it and sings Jingle Bells.

Eventually they both fell asleep with all the excitement of the day.

After we were done putting up the tree and were ready to wrap the lights around the decorated tree, Cousin K came up with his brainwave – lets wrap the lights around the tree trunk, on the inside of the tree. The OA glared at him and looked for something heavy to throw at him – “What? Now? After we’ve set the entire thing up? Couldn’t you have thought of this 3 hours ago? And anyway, I don’t think its possible.”

At this, Cousin K quietly got to work and the OA and I drifted off, leaving him to figure a way around the problem. The boy crawled under and into the inner recesses of the tree and I heard some banging, smelled some burning and saw much activity, but stayed out of it.

He did it. And it looked brilliant.

It was also a subtle reminder that we’re already ‘the next generation’. At 19 he has better and brighter ideas, more enthusiasm and a lot more energy than I do at 31. I’m not really old in my head, but then something like this happens and I have to remind myself not to grow into one of those cranky old women who insist on doing X, Y or Z because its tradition and its always been that way.

People tend to be crankier and more rigid in matters of festivals and religion and those perhaps are precisely the things we need to be more willing to experiment with.

A little later Cousin K stood back to admire his work and then said to me, ‘Next year we’ll get only red and gold ornaments for the tree… or another two colours and create a theme.’

And thats the only thing I disagreed with. Our tree is a mish mash of stuff because every year a friend adds on an ornament or two. Everytime we travel we pick up something new. It’s not just a Christmas tree to me, its a tree full of memories and loaded with love.

Here are some of the ornaments I’ve got over the last two years from kind friends and guess what – some of them are desi ornaments! Thank you all of you.

And here’s wishing you compliments of the season. In case you don’t hear from me for a week or two, you’ll know I’m busy doing the Christmas thing – eating, drinking, making merry, singing loudly around a bonfire, cherishing family and cuddling the babies.

These two are from a friend who has wickedly said I can’t blog about her. So err… well, she knows. And she knows I love and appreciate them.

This lovely Kashmiri one from this friend. 


Penguin and Snowman photoframes for the tree from Kuns, with old pics of the Brat and the Bean.

And of course a Jagannath given by Art last year.

All lit up already

So, where were we? Ah, thats right, at G’pa-Nani’s place.

Poor old grandparents were shocked out of their wits when we drove in. The gates were thrown open by my aunt, the dogs all ran out on the road barking, we hopped out of the car and went tearing down the road calling them back, the kids rushed out and just generally began to squeal and yell in excitement. I think the neighbours went deaf.

My aunt and uncle who were in on the plan had made some awesome biryani for us with a lovely raita I’ve only eaten made by my aunt. It’s soya methi, rai and raisins in curd. Yummy. We’d thought of keeping the visit a secret from them too, but given my parents’ penchant for surprises I was terrified that we’d land up here only to realise that they had just landed in Delhi. And so this was the control mechanism. It was my aunt and uncle’s unenviable duty to keep the old fogies under lock and key.

Post heavy lunch we passed out and the old house was finally silent. There’s a certain amount of peace that can only come from going to sleep in your old bed in your ‘maika’. By the time the OA and I woke up, refreshed and ready to take on the world, the house was buzzing with activity. They’d decided that if the OA was here with them they were going to give him the best Diwali ever, pull out all stops.

With all the house help on leave my parents and uncle, aunt and cousin were in a frenzy, digging out our Christmas lights from storage, pulling out pretty candles that were hoarded and never lit. And most of all, racking their brains over a rangoli. It’s easier said than done to make a rangoli if its not part of your growing years and culture and I was bowled over by what my talented aunt and cousin put together with fresh flowers. And kurta pajamas were hastily dug out, ironed and donned, silk sarees worn and the best was my little cousin J, wearing a lovely bandhini saree in honour of celebrating Diwali with her brother-in-law, the OA.  I take extra pride in these two little cousins of mine because I consider them to be my first set of babies. Such an absolute pleasure to grow up with that I promptly had two of my own the moment I could!  The Bean in a little pink and yellow lehenga, the Brat in a lovely orange kurta, the OA in a kurta similar to his son’s and me in a cream and gold Mallu set mundu/mundu veshti with  a red and gold chanderi blouse.

Lots of wine, cheese and a heavy dinner late we went out in the garden for pyrotechnics! I was of course one terrified mother as the two pests ran around lighting firecrackers. I think one of the greatest pleasures of being a father is in teaching your progeny to play with fire. Or so it seemed from the look on the OA’s face as his spawn gleefully lit rockets and anaars while I sat there gritting my teeth and telling myself that we were not going to go up in a ball of fire and that other mothers had survived this trial by fire so I’d live to see dawn too. The grandfather added to my terror by generally encouraging them.

The next two days went by on the swings, frequent rides on scooters and bikes, playing with the dogs and generally chilling. The trip back to Delhi was as nightmarish as the trip from. The train was 6 hours late and by this time the OA and I were pros. Leaving the kids to shimmy up and down the berths, look out of the windows and generally fend for themselves. Teeth were left unbrushed, hair uncombed, bread and eggs (why do they always taste so good on the train?) for breakfast and dry fruit thereafter, with an unusual indulgence – sips of tea from our cups!

And then we were back home, in Delhi. Safe, sound, tired and in no mood to get back to work. In case you think that isn’t enough I had a teeny accident, bumped my foot and ended up with a suspected fracture. I’m fine of course. Nothing serious.

Here are pictures of the Brat and Bean enjoying the fresh flower rangoli – careful not to touch it and ruin it

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The rangoli  – for your viewing pleasure.

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The brats doing all in their power to scare the crap out of the fish. I bet they stopped laying after this…

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One of the endless rides. Cousin K is persuaded to take them for a ride.

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Her highness is preparing for the races… in Nani’s hat.

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Anyone remember these ugly, snake pellets? The kids freaked out over them….

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The OA has the pleasure of introducing him to his first mehtab….

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G’pa teaches him to light rockets in the middle of the street….

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The Bean surrounded by dogs. We’re reaching a crazy stage with her where we can’t go out on the streets without her chasing strays to pet them. I know, I know, she needs a dog but for chrissake, does anyone realise how much I have on my plate already?!!

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And yet again – on the scooter… this was one trip where they were constantly on some vehicle or the other!

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Car-o-bar. The Delhi system of serving booze out of your car boot at a wedding. In this case, adults are knocking back beer while the babies lie in the boot of a car left open in the garden so that we can listen to music.

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This has been one of our most hectic trips and its also been the landmark one where the kids come back rather upset. They’re usually quite accomodating and I shuttle them around mercilessly. This time I’ve heard one tiny voice or the other say every night… ” Mamma… can we go to G’pa-Nani’s house tonight?”

Light it up

Alright folks. Here’s the first bit of the Diwali post. For those wondering why I was so silent on it, it is because I was madly busy. You see, my parents make it a point to spend Diwali with us and over the years we can’t imagine it any other way.  This year they’d just got back from a month-long trip to Europe and the US and were reaching back to their own home and businesses that had been languishing all that while. Ma wasn’t too well and it simply wasn’t possible to tell her to come back.  As she passed through Delhi, just a little less than a week before Diwali she sadly mentioned how disappointed she and my father were, that they couldn’t be with the OA and the kids for Diwali. She’d already told me this on the phone however, and I was all prepared.

You see, the OA and I had planned to take a trip back home for Diwali and surprise them. The problem with surprises and me is that most often I can’t keep them. So every day while she was travelling we’d speak and she’d try to convince me to come home for Diwali and I’d literally be hopping from foot to food in an effort to keep my mouth shut.

However, the plan was made rather late in the day considering it was the Diwali weekend and we only got reservation on a holiday special train going to Bihar. Most other trains were fully booked up by August so as you can guess, this is yet another crazy train story.

The run up to the day was crazy with both kids down with a cough and cold and rather cranky. I just kept their spirits high by telling them that we were going to visit G’pa-Nani’s house and praying that they kept shut about it. They did. An hour before leaving I was rushing around lighting up our home because I didn’t want to leave it dark. The OA was on a conference call and was the lucky recipient of the dirtiest looks I could give him.

My brother called up and wanted to know what I was up to. Told him I was lighting diyas before leaving and the true-blue NRI that he is, he gasped in horror ‘Its a fire hazard!! How can you leave lit diyas and go off?”  “Oh” I replied seriously – “See, you’re the middle piggie with a wooden American house. I’m the eldest piggie in a stone house. It won’t burn down.” Yes, I said it in all seriousness – apparently I’ve been reading too many kiddy books. I then went on to point out that I was leaving a maid in the house – something he hadn’t factored in!

Being the night before Diwali we were advised to leave early for the station. What with the heavy traffic and the firecrackers. We left 3 hours early, the streets were deserted and we ended up sitting on the platform for hours. The train, though it originated from Delhi, showed no signs of appearing at the time it was meant to and the platform was so crowded that I was terrified of getting shoved on to the filthy tracks.

You know how they tell you kids will always adjust to the circumstances, well they (whoever the hell they are!), are right. We put down our luggage, surrounded by filth. Bits of food, spilt tea, a mother making her infant pee on the platform before putting his shorts back on, huge rats, paan stains. We often travel by train, but we usually get to the station just in time (sometimes too late, as you guys are aware!) and get on and we’re off.

As we put the luggage down, we wondered how to keep the kids entertained. It was past 10.30 at night and way past their bed time. I’d been debating this with some friends and decided to test it out on this trip. I usually carry books and toys and crayons to entertain them on long trips and I wanted to see if they’d hush up and entertain themselves if I didn’t keep providing them with entertainment.  Call me foolhardy if you will….! Plus we just had so much stuff this time that I didn’t want to add to it.

My parents who had passed by on their way back from the US had left one of those huge suitcases that everyone brings from the US and we were stuck taking that back too. I was loaded with Diwali gifts for the family and the green basket I carried had rabbit and elephant shaped planters in it that weighed a ton. There was wine for before dinner and some glassware as gifts. The OA glared at me balefully while I stood my ground and glared back – which member did he not want to carry a gift for?!

Surrounded by our sea of luggage, we waited for the train. The minutes ticked by and then the hours. The number given for enquiry was not being answered, it was past midnight and the kids were drooping with sleep and exhaustion. To say nothing of coughing and sneezing.

And yet they found something to smile about. We gave them coins to take their weight (anyone remember the old machines that give you your weight, an ugly distorted picture of a filmstar and a completely unbelievable fortune?) and they kept taking their weight and playing with the cards that popped out.They eventually fell asleep. The Brat draped across the big suitcase and the Bean in my arms. It was exhausting and as luck would have it, the train came in at almost 2 am and the tinny voice on the loudspeaker kindly informed us that the platform had changed and it was now 7 platforms down. A cheer went up as the hordes surged up the stairs. The OA and I looked at each other in horror. With a super human effort I hiked the Bean up on my shoulder, picked up an assortment of bags and let the crowds push me and my bum knee up the stairs. The OA stood there holding a sleeping Brat out of harms way as people pushed and shoved and stepped all over our remaining luggage.

I made it to the coach and the OA called me to try and put in place a plan B incase he missed the train! I couldn’t leave a sleeping Bean on the berth to go help him and he couldn’t leave the luggage and bring the Brat alone. Finally he dragged in the last pieces with a sleepy Brat dangling around his neck. We needn’t have worried. The damn train didn’t move even after that. Chaos ensued. This is one of the trains where Laloo had tried his infamous scheme of adding a third berth in the RAC section and then removed it after much opposition. The berth numbers were painted over and there was chaos for a good hour as people juggled and shifted and argued instead of simply waiting for the TT to come and clear things up.

The AC compartments were full of ticketless travellers on the floor right up to the toilet and I was horrified at the thought of the newly potty-trained Bean having to hold it till I stepped over people to the loo, waiting for them to get out of the toilet (yes, people were squeezed in there too). So I sorrowfully took out the diaper I was carrying for emergencies and she took one look at it, shook her finger at me sorrowfully and explained to me as though I was an imbecile “Mamma, I am a big girl. I don’t wear diapies now.”  Yes darling, you ARE a big girl… even if you call your diaper a diapie….  :( Fortunately she did me a favour by giving us adequate warning, holding it in as long as it took for the long-legged OA to step over prone bodies to the toilet, and then helpfully hovering over the seat and not dirtying her botty!

We woke up to realise  we were still three hours late. Do you know what its like to sit in a train with no pantry car, stuck in the middle of nowhere, with two little children who have no books or toys to entertain them?!!!

Surprisingly painless! Yes – they just sat at the window, looked out and counted birds, got yelled at if they got off the seat and dirtied their feet, learnt to shimmy up and down to the top berth, getting me giddy with the movement and terrified that the Bean would fall off each time she peeked over to give me a big grin!

The train crawled and stopped and crawled again. It was quite funny because at one point it picked up speed and the Brat looked at me in delight to say ‘Look! the train is moving!’ as opposed to just starting, coughing and shuffling forward embarrassedly (no, it’s not a word) and stopping.

We reached at noon. Tired, cramped and dirty and five hours late.  Nani-G’pa were thrilled to see us and Nani who had fallen down a month ago and injured herself, did herself more injury by rushing down the stairs from her first floor bedroom the moment she saw a little baby face peep out of the car. More about Diwali in my next post, this one’s been long enough!

Thanks Boo for this lovely diya stand!
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The balcony lined with little pots holding diyas inside them…
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A regal cat planter, a Bean-ish finger reaching out tentatively to pet it, a candle standing by…

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A moose lit up out in the garden…

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My favourite jaali lamp…

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A bored Brat lies on the suitcase and watches the world go by. Eventually he fell asleep on it.

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Counting compartments for a change as trains whiz by and ours refuses to show up.

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The Bean playing with her weight tickets. Don’t ask me what she did. I was just grateful to see her amuse herself with a bunch of grubby bits of card.

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Finally – on the train in the early morning, up and chirpy while a sleepy and cranky mamma aches for a caffeine fix.

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