No longer sorry

amy

I saw this on Pinterest today and it spoke to me.

A few days ago the Brat walked in with a recipe book he’d borrowed from a friend’s mother. The OA and I took one look at him carrying a book bigger than his body and fell over laughing. But here’s the truth – he loves food and he wants to learn to cook.

This brings us to an uncomfortable situation. I am home more often than the OA and most often it is I, tossing up a salad or a sandwich for a quick meal. And so naturally the kids are drawn to watch me cooking. If it’s on a slow day, I’m tolerant of their presence in the kitchen. If not, I tell them to get the hell out of my way if they want anything to eat, because I have to get back to work.

The OA on the other hand, enjoys cooking and encourages them to join him in the kitchen. Having the disadvantage of only recently taking up cooking as an interest, he watches and records hours of food programming and even after all these years, doesn’t know as much about food as I do, theoretically. How did this come about?

I grew up with a feminist grandmother who didn’t believe every woman needed to know how to cook. What every woman should know, she’d often say, is how to earn. And once you’re capable of supporting yourself, you can decide if you want to cook or hire a cook. And so she, my mother (who is a superb cook) and I, hired cooks and went out to work.

But no matter what your family environment, there is no denying social pressure on a woman to cook. My in laws were horrified that their son had not married a Havell’s appliance (please see the series of advertisements here if you haven’t already – they’re fantastic). And I cannot begin to count the number of women in my own generation who felt there was something wrong with a woman who didn’t enjoy cooking, didn’t feel her heart burst with joy at the thought of homecooked meals for her children and didn’t rush to pour out hot dosas every time a belly somewhere growled.

I was young and gave in to pressure easily so I bought recipe books, and cooked when I got a chance (less than most others because wild horses were usually required to drag me to the kitchen) and even joined cooking e-groups etc for the tips. I am now a competent cook, guests expect a fairly good table at my place and I know a good deal about cooking – but I still hate the drudgery of it. Still get tired thinking of even brewing a cup of tea, still hate joining conversations on methods of layering a biryani.

At some point I realised that the OA too, was fighting his own demons. He had a love for food and cooking that had never been discovered or encouraged. He’d walk into the kitchen while I was cooking and try to be helpful, end up bossing me around (because of course I *was* doing something wrong) and be sent off with a sting in the ear for his pains. And so I established a tradition – he began to cook our Diwali family dinner. It started out pure vegetarian, the entire family revolted and the next year it was beer batter fish. Over the last year as the kids have grown and he has more time on hand, he’s been cooking more and more and I’ve eased out of the kitchen almost entirely. The kids make their own sandwiches, the cook does the daily fare and if the OA wants something fancy, he makes it.

It took me years to get to this point where I could back out of what is a traditional female role and encourage the OA to step up to the plate and do what he enjoys doing. The patriarchy screwed us both over and yet we took so long to make this handover. It wasn’t easy watching the cook begin to take orders from him, guests turning to him to ask what was on the menu, and the kids coming to him with their requests. Particularly because working or SAHM, mums run the kitchen in most homes – I felt like a bit of a failure even though I hated the chore to begin with. I continue to handle the day to day running of our home since I work from home, stepping in when the cook is absent. But on the whole, if someone comes in bursting with the excitement over something they want to eat, they know who to take that excitement to, and its certainly not me.

And so it was that the Brat staggered in with his massive recipe book and a demand that we cook something out of it. I looked at him with deep love and much affection and said – You have to be joking if you think Mama is getting up to cook complicated stuff.

And sure enough, he and the Bean nodded and turned to their father, taking it in their stride. ‘Oh yes, Mama dislikes cooking and finds it boring. Dada, you enjoy it, so lets plan a meal. Anyway, you’re the cooker in this house. Mama is the doctor.’

And the three of them bent their heads and began to pore over the book. I turned back to work and heaved a sigh of relief. It is done. I am no longer the default cook in this home. And the next generation has already come to accept home cooked food as Papa ke haanth ka khaana and not Ma ke haanth ka khaana.

I feel a twinge of something and suppress it. I think it is social conditioning calling and I’m not home to receive it. It really was this easy and if only I’d stopped fighting my limits some years ago, I’d have not wasted time making elaborate meals and trying to ‘fit in.’

I’m off to sign off the cooking groups and sign up for a few more on my interests. When I get home, there’ll be a hot meal cooked by husband and kids awaiting me. Life is good.

Rain drenched and sated

When the Brat turned a year old, I got the entire family to write letters to him and those were posted on my old blog. My dad’s letter said -‘Your father is a great guy, but there are two things I can teach you that he can’t – trout fishing and playing a guitar.’

The Brat turned 9 this year and G’pa has neither taught him the guitar nor taken him trout fishing. So we planned to go to Munnar this summer, to show my kids where their mother grew up and the lawns she learned to cycle on. The original plan had been to go with the mad sibling, aka Tambi and his family. But their trips to India are always rushed and my kids are growing really fast and I don’t have the luxury of time. So we booked our tickets and and decided to go ahead without 40% of the group. And then Ma broke her leg. Clearly she couldn’t join us.

So we dithered. Clearly we were not destined to go without Tambi and Family!

And while we dithered, flight tickets got more expensive and hotels got booked out. So finally we decided to use the tickets we’d booked and go south only. Stopping off in Chennai to catch up with family and a cousin who is due any moment now (yayy! More babies in the family).

Our last visit to Kerala was baby-free and we wished we’d brought them along. So we fixed that by a quick trip to Pondicheri and then on to Cherai Beach, Kerala. My dad decided to keep to the program and he came along with us.

It was a bad time to go to Tamil Nadu for sure, because the heat had me sapped. Pondicheri was fabulous and the hotel was lovely, but nothing made up for the heat.

Early mornings and late evenings were spent in the pool or on the beach and afternoons were spend reading in bed. The Brat has taken to Tinkle comics and I heaved a sigh of relief. I’ve always worried that our children will turn up their noses at what we enjoyed, as poor fare. And yet here is a brand new generation reading a brand new Tinkle, a holiday session, laughing with Supandi.

Lost in his book

Lost in his book

The Kerala leg was simply fantastic. Heavy rains, lush greenery, everything screaming GODS OWN COUNTRY. I sat by the window and watched the rains pour down, the sea lash wildly at the shore and the skies darken dramatically, while we all sipped on hot chocolate. And then it would clear up and we’d all run out to play. I fell in love with Cochin too – the port, the ferry… the Jewish area. Everything had so much more character than the high rises and sameness that I returned to. I almost always have post holiday depression, but I find its getting harder to handle over the years. And this time I was wiping away tears as we drove to the airport. The city gave me a grand send off with grey skies and driving rain. If the kids hadn’t been in the car I’d have sobbed like a baby.

The last time I visited Kerala I remember observing that men in Kerala wear mundus even now. Which is fantastic. It’s perfect for that weather. Makes me wonder why so few men in the North wear kurta pajamas or dhotis. Temperatures soar here too and it must be so much more comfortable than trousers and jeans. Oh well.

Also, it’s interesting how Kerala is home to so many more communities than any other place – each one retaining its identity. Syrian Christians, Mappila Muslims, Jews, Goud Saraswat Brahmins who are native to Cochin and so on. They’re specific to this area and co-exist fairly peacefully. They’ve managed to do it while retaining their culture. Why is the rest of the country unable to do this? This is what one would call truly cosmopolitan.

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Breakfast buddies

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Made by man meets made by nature

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Because there is nothing as hypnotic as staring into the depths of a pond

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Backwaters ahoy!

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Bumchums

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Mine

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Daniel Craig. Or not.

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The Bean hanging on to my hat as she takes in the seaview from the hotel reception

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I like big eggs in my biryani and I cannot lie

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Sticks and stones

When the OA and I started dating, we were so madly in love that we could see no wrong in the other. I gave in gracefully to anything he wanted. He indulged me like a favoured child. Any disharmony in our lives was purely because his parents didn’t want us to get married. Nothing else.

And then we got married and the fights began in earnest. Our own issues. The OA is the good cop in our family. By which I mean, the unpleasant tasks are usually left to me, and he’s the calm, zen, happy person who never does wrong. Which is why its always hard for people to accept that he can defend himself and put up a fight with the best.

Anyhow, the fights were spectacular – full of sound and fury, but rarely vicious. That’s because we were establishing boundaries. So we yelled, we slammed doors and brought up the last time you did this and the first time you did that. Often I’d walk out of the house to cool off because I couldn’t stand being in the same place as him. Once I hopped out of the car at a traffic signal in Connaught Place and walked away with barely any money and just my phone, at 9pm or later. He had no choice but to drive on and by the time he parked he couldn’t find me, was panicking at the thought of me getting harassed and eventually called up my parents to find out if they had heard from me. My mother called me the next day and made me promise I’d never do that again. Party pooper.

Over the years we’ve settled into a routine and our give and take has been established. We fight less because we know what the other won’t budge on. And when we do, it takes too much energy to keep it up and we usually make up in a while because we have friends coming over or some chore to do and its quite ridiculous to do it in cold silence.

And then a couple of days ago we had a disagreement – we’ve had a problem that we’re facing as a family (even though the kids don’t know it, obviously) and it’s been a while and the OA and I feel like failures because neither of us is able to snap out of the vicious cycle that it draws us into, and work on the issue to save us all.

The argument started small and we kept our voices down. And then in quiet, cold, calm, bitter voices we hurt each other far more than if we’d physically beaten each other up. Just a few short sentences. It was over almost as soon as it began. And we both knew that we’d breached a line we never should have. Opened a Pandora’s box we knew better than to.

Within an hour of our quiet, bitter disagreement we made up. Precisely because both of us knew how horribly we’d hurt each other, how low we threw our blows. And what a rookie marriage mistake we’d made  – instead of teaming up to sort out the problem, we let it get big enough to make us turn on each other.

We’re okay, we’re fine, we’re talking. But I can never forget what he said to me and I can’t take back what I said to him. The sad part is that we both know that the things said about us are true. And that’s what makes them hurtful. It’s only when you’ve been married so long that you can efficiently wrap up a fight in ten minutes, cut each other to the quick with a few lethal words and get on.

I woke up the morning after feeling like his words were tattooed into my skin. I’d always been aware of the failing he pointed out. I just didn’t need him to articulate it. And vice versa. It’s been a while and we’ve consoled each other, apologised and tried to move on. Because we also turn to each other in pain, for comfort. But we’ve unleashed the Kraken and there’s no putting it back now. Whoever said sticks and stones can break my bones but words can do me no harm, did not know what they were talking about.

Forty and fantastic

The OA turned 40 on the 1st of June. Try as I might, I can’t get used to the idea of being married to a man who is 40. Middle aged :D Of course I’m right behind him and will get there in a couple of years.

I finally see what older people mean when they say they feel no different. I feel 22. And to me he still feels like the 26 year old I dated. Except for the odd dressing down I receive, reminding me that the honeymoon is over.

I spent a lot of time mulling over how we could celebrate this big one… Frankly I don’t know why I bought into the hype that this is a big one. I suppose its just nice to pick an occasion, any occasion and fuss over a person.

The OA comes from a rather dry, unemotional, practical family and it’s taken him years to get used to my flights of fancy, my nonstop chatter, my thirst for excitement and the desire to celebrate everything and all the time.

So when I asked him if he wanted a big party or wanted to travel on his birthday, he shrugged. Disinterested. It didn’t really matter to him – we travel and party often enough for his birthday not to require the same. In fact, he gave it some thought and said – No party please. We end up playing host and making drinks and serving people and don’t really get to enjoy their company.

I offered him a bike (mid life crisis alert!), a new TV, a new music system… and finally I gave up. Until I came up with this one – I decided to ask his friends and family to mail in birthday wishes and memories and pictures, and I made a book out of it. Words are my currency and I strongly believe they make the best gifts.

This coincided with my exit from Facebook ( I deactivated because I needed some time to get used to the fact that I was actually friends with right wing voters and supporters. How?!) and I had no way to get in touch with 90% of the people from his life and past – specially since this was to be a surprise.

Suffice to say, I spent days and weeks calling, mailing, following up. My husband is a very easy going, charming man who rarely states opinions to the contrary, rarely speaks on contentious issues, is always helpful, kind and warm. And yet, few people considered it important enough to respond to me and send in their birthday wishes by the deadline I’d set.

Ma says people have their own way of showing affection. Fair enough. But that doesn’t excuse one from showing affection in the ways someone asks for it, once in a while. Like attending a wedding even if you hate crowds, because the groom is a close friend. Like going to a kiddy birthday party even if you hate kids, because it’s your little nephew’s first birthday. And so on.

People might be busy, they may not like to write notes, but these notes were requested to celebrate the 40th birthday of a very charming, kind, warm man – not his rather controversial wife!

Many didn’t bother to even acknowledge the mail, or reply and say that they couldn’t be bothered! Some replied way after my deadline. There were certain people without whom I felt the book would be incomplete and so I harassed them in the most polite way possible, reminders, mails, messages. I’m sure they felt that I was piling on – but all they had to do was say No. And I’d have backed off. Instead I got endless excuses about how they were traveling, or busy, or blah blah.

And I have to admit, if they said No, I’d have thought less of them because they are people who claim to be close to him – friends as well as family. What good are family and friends if they can’t dislodge themselves from their comfort zone to do something for you?

Which is not to say it was all bad. The letters that came in, brought tears to my eyes. Warm, joyful, affectionate, reminiscing and telling me a little more about my old man. Hideous old pictures of him looking like something the cat dragged in.

I got in touch with a friend who was estranged over a rather serious and bitter issue – it’s been many years but he responded promptly and warmly and made my day. Reminded me that old friends truly are the best.

I had planned to print the book online but thanks to all the delays I knew it wouldn’t get done and delivered in time. I asked a friend to help me out and we laid it out across two days and took it to a printer locally.

That was the last day before we were to travel and we had house guests, the book, packing, last minute plans…. I came home with a new row of pimples on my chin. And a shiny beautiful book tucked under my arm.

The Bean and Brat had written to their Dada too and the Bean helpfully told her father – “I know where Mama went, we all know where Mama went – but we can’t tell you.” Cousin J picked her up, put a hand over her mouth and walked out of the room. The rest of us rolled on the floor and laughed helplessly.

The OA’s birthday was on Sunday and we dropped the kids off at my parents’ place on Saturday. That meant spending his birthday on the road. We’d left one car there on our last trip and when we got in to their place we gasped – As his birthday gift, my parents had painted it, changed the tyres, changed the music system, put in blue tooth, shampooed the seats… The works -it was almost brand new. I’m thinking we should accidentally leave our Scorpio aka Uddham Singh there next time.

We’d planned to have a karaoke party because the OA loves singing. When the local DJ rolled in speakers that reminded me of the Michael Jackson Black or White video, the cat was out of the bag and the OA began to exercise his vocal chords. My parents had rather apologetically asked me who I wanted to invite for his party given that they only had old fogeys in town at that point of town. I have to admit I love all the old fogeys who are great fun, don’t mind shaking a leg, are never disapproving of what the young people are wearing, drinking or doing – so I said lets have them all.

Fortunately some of our friends did end up in town and that changed the atmosphere. After a lot of Blue Bayouing and Jailhouse Rock we ended up raucously screeching out Metallica and finally by the end of the evening, it was my turn. And I only belted out Bollywood cabaret numbers from my childhood. Jawaani Jaaneman, Laila o Laila, Pyaar Do etc. It was crazy because everyone went wild dancing and screaming and the Bean was jumping in a corner going quietly insane with excitement and the Brat rolled his eyes, told me I was an embarrassment and walked away. And all this without me touching a drop of liquor. We wrapped up at 1.30 am and left for Delhi the next morning.

The car decided to give some trouble on the way – I guess they’d messed something up while denting and painting it. By mid noon we were on the hot, dusty highway, wondering what the hell to do. We managed to get it down a dirt track and find a shack where a mechanic opened it up, took one look, told us two cylinders were not working, and fixed them. The OA got a bazillion phone calls and since the kids weren’t with us, we just drove along without stopping, chatting with people we hadn’t spoken to in ages and knocking back sandwiches and brownies.

We got into Gurgaon late at night, had a quiet dinner with the OA’s brother and SIL and called it a night. Starting last night though, we’re back to celebrating. Since we’re child free and footloose, I’ve planned not a birth’day’ surprise, but a birth’week’ surprise for him. Every night after work I’m taking him to do something new/something he hasn’t done in a while. From massages to plays, to live music… the week ahead is packed and the old man is all set to party. As a policy we’re even avoiding material gifts for our kids these days and only giving them new experiences so this works out beautifully.

As someone said to us, with the kids all grown and out of the way, our 40s are over the hill, but then that is where you pick up speed, don’t you?!

 

Edited to add: Yes, of course he loved the book. He spent days poring over it, reading each letter, reminiscing, gasping in shock when he read one from a friend he lost touch with years ago… It now sits by his bed side and he picks it up and flicks through it every little while.

 

 

 

Celebrate good times, come on!

The Brat’s birthday celebrations are always a nightmare. It’s May, it’s bloody hot and I no longer judge people who plan their kids’ birth for a particular time of year, admission season, auspicious dates or anything else. Right now I wish I’d planned at least one child in winter and had a lovely winter afternoon picnic among the Delhi ruins.

Last year at the Brat’s splash pool party with the AC blowing up, the kitchen door getting mysteriously locked so that we were forced to run around from the outside of the house with hot puris, the water tank springing a leak and emptying out, and fatal puddles everywhere as the kids dripped all over the house, we thought it would be a disaster, but everyone had a blast.

A couple of years ago we were on the 13th floor and the house was a furnace inspite of all the ACs being on. For his 4th birthday (I think) I’d planned a splash pool on our Delhi terrace and there was a storm so that we were all forced to take shelter and I had a bunch of kids and no other games planned. Somehow we’ve always had a lot of laughs and fun, but oh how disaster has struck each time.

This year I was exhausted way before the planning began. My day job drains me and I am mostly in a vegetable state by the end of the day. We moved house in July last year. In August my family crashed up. I’ve spent most of the year rushing back every spare weekend, which left all chores to be fitted in on weekdays. My mum broke her foot at the beginning of April, my SIL brought the babies down from the US and then my nephew, Baby Button, fell off the huge old antique bed and broke his shoulder. And life goes on, because, well, this *is* life.

The Bean’s birthday party was low key because she just kept falling ill and I lost half the birthday guests to my frequent changes in dates. So by the time the Brat’s birthday came around, I was feeling rather low. I had nothing planned, I felt wrung out like a dish cloth in the heat and he wanted a rottweiler theme. Yes, it’s easy to smile indulgently when its not your job to organise a party around that theme.

I refused of course. The second most aggressive dog breed on earth is not an appropriate choice of theme for a nine year old who is rather gentle. We also decided that this year on it would only be his friends from school. Having had our kids early, most of our friends have are newborns and toddlers. They are loved hugely by my kids and us, but its almost impossible to find games that are appropriate for both a 9 year old and a 2 year old. So after much thought, we decided to take all his class friends for Amazing Spiderman.

Until I decided that I was not going to claim exhaustion and taxing job and throw him a McBirthday – at least not while he was still in single digits! So as usual I came up with a theme that had the OA groan but get to it. We decided to turn our family room into a movie hall and show the kids a movie at home. Particularly since I wasn’t too hot on taking a bunch of 9 year olds to watch Spiderman. We hadn’t seen it and I wasn’t sure if there was any objectionable content – not something I wanted on my conscience, not something I wanted on my watch.

And so we borrowed a projector from a friend, and spent a goodly amount of time trying to set it up. Not an easy task because all our walls are painted or have carpets or art or photographs or books shelves. When we found a blank wall it was across a staircase and dangerous. It went on. With great difficulty we decided on a wall that we denuded, removed the light fixtures, took the TV off it and taped sheets of paper to close up all holes. We then put in thicker curtains but realised it was still pretty bright. We finally resorted to hanging 2-3 layers of bedsheets to cut out all light. Finding a high enough spot to suspend the projector was another problem. We needed to ensure that no child knocked it over or tripped over the wires, that they didn’t get in the way of the projection when they stood up as they were bound to. Furniture was moved, a tall bookshelf relocated to hold it. And finally that was done.

Then we organised seating at different heights, to create a balcony and so on. We printed out tickets that the Bean wrapped and stuck around the guests’ wrists – ADMIT ONE, and we had filmy signs up indicating a party. We also got popcorn and juice for the show. And finally when the guests arrived, the room was pitch dark with the Brat directing them to their seats with a torch, blushing madly when he saw the excitement writ large on their faces.

I’d asked all the parents to ensure that the kids arrive on time so that no child was disappointed at missing the beginning of the movie. It worked miraculously, in Stretchable Time NCR and most kids arrived a few minutes before 5pm with the rest getting in within 5.10 pm. The OA ran some trailers on youtube like you would have in a cinema theatre and the kids roared in excitement.

By the time the movie started (we ran a vote and the contenders were Rise of the Guardians, Hotel Transylvannia, Despicable Me 2, Book of Dragons and a few more) – Despicable Me 2, the kids were in alt at the thought of their own private screening.

Two of the mums stayed back to chat over chai with me and I had a lovely time too! The kids enjoyed the movie, begged us to have the same next year and we were run quite ragged by the end of it because the OA insisted on playing the movie at are-you-insane decibel levels and the kids had to roar to be heard over it. As did the rest of us.

But Cousin J is in town for her internship and the moment the movie ended she and I whipped around the room, swept up the popcorn and juice and made place for them to sit down to a simple dinner of chhola, puris, veg and non veg kebabs and tamarind chutney and massive bowls of fresh fruit. The cake was fresh mango with a rottweiler on it. I had to give him at least that.

The party was not even over and the kids were crowding around us demanding we do it again, next year. We kept return gifts simple – bars of good chocolate. I am hoping we’ll be out of this damn return gift stage soon.

By the time we finally wrapped up, the Brat was done unwrapping his gifts and had curled into a corner with one of the million books he’d got. The house was fairly unharmed, the food was mostly over except for about 5 kilos of chhola that we’re still eating.

And we’re finally free until next year….. Did I say finally free? The old man turns 40 this year and I need to put on my thinking cap again.

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The next day was Mother’s Day and I’m not one for majorly celebrating myself but the OA said I needed a break and so we headed off to Monkey Bar in Vasant Kunj for their rather famous breakfast – my Bangalore gang of friends have praised it to high heavens and I was really looking forward to it. As luck would have it they had a  Mother’s Day special on and it was good fun!

I don’t know what the Bangalore venue is like but this one is in the erstwhile Ministry of Sound building so its a crazy glass pyramid surrounded by greenery. Most unexpected in the middle of a regular DDA type shopping arcade and yet, what is Delhi if not full of the unexpected? The decor is very kooky and the kids walked around identifying musicians and cartoon characters and laughing at the quotes while the OA and I had an amazing breakfast of Louisiana style biscuits and patty sliders, a brie and mushroom omelette and waffles with caramelised bananas. The cold coffee was brilliant but the piece de resistance was the Brat’s breakfast momos. Brat and momos are synonymous at our place and no matter what sort of fine dining we offer him, momos trump everything. So the  sausage and bacon momos at breakfast came like a double birthday surprise whammy! They had a little spa corner and I got my aching feet rubbed while the Bean kicked some 14 year old’s butt at Foosball.

They had some awesome jazz versions of current pop hits playing and I am now trying hard to hunt down copies. The Brat shocked the OA and me by listening to the first line or so and telling us which song it was. I’m shocked mostly because I didn’t think he had a head for music and because with all my classical background and love for music I wasn’t quite as fast as him. Somedays he ceases to frustrate me and makes me burst with pride.

All in all, a great weekend. Now I need some time off to recover from it!

 

 

 

Bad luck hi kharab hai

The Bean has been sick for more than a month now. Fever, cough, cold, a bout of urticaria, an allergic reaction which gave her boils in her nose, her ear and her face, and a chance that she had an intestinal obstruction. And of course the ever present asthma.

She’s a fiery little spirit and apart from the days when she’d thrown up too much to be active, her sharp little tongue and sharper brain, kept us entertained and reassured that she was going to be okay.

She began class two a couple of days ago, but hadn’t been to school in weeks. So I finally gave in to her pressure and sent her to school. With her nebuliser in her backpack.

She can assemble it in a trice, and knows how to pack it up and fit it back in the case neatly too. As she slung her heavy bag on to her skinny little back, waved her fragile wrist cheerfully and set off to school, I felt my heart break into a million pieces.

No child should know how to do this. And no child should have to carry her nebuliser to school.

In other good (!) news, my mother slipped in the toilet yesterday and smashed her ankle. A little piece has separated and she might need surgery to see it through.

I teased her that this was text book old age – Slip in the bathroom and break a leg.

I sit here chewing my nails in worry as I surf the net for a ticket. I keep an eye on my phone in case the school calls saying the Bean needs to be sent home.

And all the while I wonder how people who have terminally ill patients, be they parent or child, manage to do this endlessly. Perhaps they make their peace with it.

All I know is that I’m emotionally wrung out.

Chhote Nana had his last surgery day before yesterday and they had to give him 8 times the dosage of anaesthesia that they give to regular patients. He now has 15 rods in his leg that they keep fiddling with, keeping him in a constant state of agony. Seven months and he’s not out of bed, nowhere close to walking.

I’ve lost count of the number of surgeries he’s had and I worry for Cousin K who has been with his father through all of them.

He’s only 23 and he’s been through more than most of us have experienced in a lifetime. Three of the family of four in hospital. One close to death.

We’re watsapping each other on the family group and the phone pings madly through the day and night. The US arm, the sleepless invalids, everyone is up at all hours. I suggest that our generation take a vacation once all the oldies have recovered. We deserve it. The parents chorus  – Yes, you all do.

I’m busy checking on who has eaten, who is in pain.

Cousin K messages – I’m on hospital duty and Dada has had his breakfast.

I suggest something else.

And a weary – No one gives a rat’s arse about what I’m saying -is the response.

I giggle inspite of myself.

Yes, we’re highly irreverent.

My mother responds immediately – What nonsense, I’m doing as I’ve been told.

A weight lifts off me slowly. The tickets have come through and I can be by her side as she undergoes the procedure tomorrow.

Don’t come, she begs. Stay with the Bean.

My mother with a badly smashed ankle.

My daughter so badly asthmatic that she takes the nebuliser in her stride and merrily heads off to school.

Do I stay or do I go?

The OA gives me a look – Do you really think I’m less capable of caring for the kids than you?

No. No, I don’t. In fact he’s more meticulous and careful than I can ever be.

But I’m good for cuddles, laughs, stories and general smothering.

I tell my maid not to skip work while I’m traveling because Bhaiya will be managing office and kids alone. I tell her why I’m going – my mother has had an accident.

She tsks with real concern – How terrible. Now who will take care of your father?

I resist lecturing her and head off to pack my overnighter. It takes me a couple of minutes because now I have a mental checklist of what I’ll need in case of an emergency in the family.

Hopefully this is the last we’ll see of illness for a while.

Or as Cousin K helpfully suggests on our watsapp group – Anyone else want to break any bones? Please do it now. We have a room booked in X hospital and might get a group discount.

Laughter really is the best medicine.

See you on the other side.

 

Celebrations!

I realise I’ve really neglected this blog over the last year or two, so time to try and play catch up! First off, the Bean’s 6th birthday. She had just attended a dozen mermaid parties with fake curls, tiaras and mer-tails so she had that playing on her mind when she asked me for a party with mermaids. We chatted about it for a while and I broadened the scope to make it an underwater theme. Not being too committed to mermaids that suited her fine and we soon had a whole underwater theme going.

As luck would have it, I’d just ordered a box from Kukucrate (they make up theme based kits and you can subscribe to them for a funfilled month) for a trial and the theme for the month was Underwater! Such a stroke of luck. The night before the party was spent with the Bean, Brat, and a friend and her son helping me make decorations, wrap return gifts and generally organise things. One of the items in the Kukucrate box was thermocol half-globes that we painted and inserted pipe cleaners into, to make jellyfish. This we hung from a lampshade in the living room and it looked lovely.

Surprisingly I had a lot of blue cushions, blue curtains, blue table cloths and fish shaped tableware so the house was dressed up to suit the theme. We hung green and blue crepe paper cut into strips to look like seaweed and hung up strings of blue and green balloons which burst the moment we hung them in the garden. The children have outgrown their swimming tubes- a turtle and a something-or-the-other that I hung up in the garden. A basket of soft balls was given and the kids had to aim through the centre of the tube. Many of them got it and Cousin K and the OA who suddenly realised they were running out of gifts, began to up the ante. Began to shake the tube so that it was harder to aim at, the kids still got it. Then put the trampoline at the start line and began to make the kids jump on the trampoline while aiming, while Cousin K kept shaking the tube around.

It was hilarious fun and by the end the OA, Cousin K and one other mother who had stayed with her daughter and I, had collapsed in a heap, laughing. The kids of course loved the way the game got tougher and tougher and surprised us with their ability to keep up with it. I picked up some face painting crayons and made tattoos for the kids  – sea themed. I have to say the kids were rather gentle in the way they looked at my handiwork pityingly and said, ‘It’s not too bad, Aunty. You could be a great tattoo artist someday if you keep practising.’ Err, thank you. The OA manned a third corner where the kids were fishing for paper fish on paper clips, with magnets. This too was from the Kuku crate box and very popular with the kids. The fourth corner was a rug with crayons and sheets of sea themed animals for the kids to colour.

The cake was a two tier fresh strawberry cake with crabs and other sea creatures crawling all over it. Fantastic. A lot of the food fit the theme too. I opened up strawberry cream oreos and placed small white marshmallows in them to look like oysters, bought a small fish bowl and filled it with goldfish biscuits, cut a yellow capsicum and studded it with olives to look like an octopus and stuck it in a bowl of hung curd dip. Also had bowls of grapes and pomegranates. And one huge dish of sausages and another of popcorn that was a huge hit. The Bean had begged me with the world in her eyes for Maggi and so for the first time the banned item made it to my dining table in a huge fishy dish. I can’t tell you how funny it was to see the adults dig into it when they came to pick up their kids. I’d honestly imagined I’d be struck off their X’mas card lists.

For the first time this year I politely requested all parents to drop kids and pick them up. We usually like our parties full of kids, parents, a few cold beers and lots of fun. But increasingly I realise kids misbehave when their own parents are around. Left to our tender mercies they play according to rules, don’t push or fight and generally end up being far better behaved. The party ended with a few friends staying back for a drink, the kids sliding into a pile on the carpet and watching some TV and all of us polishing off the simply fantastic cake. Burp. 

Pictures now.

The octopus taking a dip

The octopus taking a dip

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A huge dish of Maggi with veggies, the oyster oreos, sausages, popcorn and goldfish in a bowl

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The jellyfish from the Kukucrate kit hanging from a lampshade

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Green and blue balloons and a turtle shaped swimming tube to aim balls through.

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The kids spent a pleasant few hours cutting out these sea creatures and colouring them. Then we stuck them on a ribbon. It is currently being used as a banner in the nursery.

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Some portions of the house that were in keeping with the blue/sea theme.

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The Kukucreate items that worked with our theme – jellyfish made of thermocol and pipecleaners, and the paper cutouts with clips to fish for with magnets.

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Was most thrilled to find a fishy cushion I’d picked up at Fabindia on a whim.

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For those who wanted to sit by the pool and chill.

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I have more fishy bowls than I realise!

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The tenth anniversary was supposed to be in Bora Bora. But then we had kids and I stayed home and we were wondering if we’d even be in a position to make it to Baroda. ;) Anyhow, the plan is a convoluted one. A quick short trip with my parents to Orchha, on the weekend pre-anniversary, the day off for the OA and I to spend together in our pajamas and then go for a fancy dinner, on the anniversary. And a slightly delayed big holiday with the kids to Bangkok, again, to celebrate 10 years of being US. People did suggest we leave the kids and go, but as I’ve said often, my kids might be good for nothing else, but they’re fantastic travelers. And what are we celebrating at the end of these ten years if not our love and the product of that love.

It was not the best time on earth to go to Orchha but we’ve been wanting to do it for ages and as luck would have it, the weather was great – grey and a slight drizzle. The OA got me books, flowers, jewelry. I thought and thought and thought and finally thunked. I knew what to get a man who didn’t want anything else for his anniversary – a wife who would drive. Yep, I’ve begun to drive and it was quite useful because I’d barely done ten days when I found myself being shoved behind the Scorpio’s wheel while the OA went off to clear up a traffic jam on the highway. I was terrified as I took the wheel, but I guess there is something to being forged by fire. The kids were majorly tickled by seeing me drive and I guess the only thing left now is to not give up as I have before. It’s killing my knees, but I’m going to hang in there.

My parents joined us for the weekend and it was particularly significant for me because if they hadn’t supported us, it would have been just another quick court registry before we got on with life. They’re still quick to support us in our times of need, tell us off if we’re behaving idiotically and basically be the best support system anyone could have.

So, back to Orchha, we stayed in some lovely tents, visited the Orchha fort, went for the light and sound show, drove to Shivpuri and spent a day at the Madhav National Park  – sighted crocs, blue bull, deer, a variety of birds (all mostly spotted by the Brat even before the guide could open his mouth) and much more. Is it just me or are guides mostly picked for their ability to annoy and patronise? Even a lovely boat ride where we spotted more crocs and birds. Back at the hotel the kids spent a lot of time in the pool while I read a book in peace after a long time.

On the last day we drove into Jhansi and visited the Fort and also Rani Lakshmi Bai’s palace. An old lady sat at the door charging us Rs 2 for entry and taking the tickets back as we left, no doubt to charge someone else. A guide wandered around trying to educate us, mixing up fact with fiction and telling us that Aurangzeb died because Ma Kali appeared before him and scared him to death.

These were the greats of our country. For Rani Lakshmi Bai to do what she did, when she did, was commendable. And now her personal palace lies in ruins, the gardens overrun, a smelly toilet left open, paan stains in the corners and the rooms empty, covered in cobwebs, the building falling apart. So little is left of a life as magnificent as hers, what do you think will be left once we pass on? We don’t even have a legacy such as hers. No poems, no stories, nothing.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s rousing poem (she happens to be from my part of the world!) on the warrior queen came rushing back to mind and even as I wandered around the decrepit building I felt the tears rush to my eyes. Khoob ladi mardaani woh toh Jhansi waali rani thi. I began to recite from memory to the kids, the OA joined in and my voice broke – we both looked away, embarrassed at how overwhelming it was.

It was a rushed trip, all this covered in a mere three days, including the drive. So much of this beautiful country left to see, so little time. And now, photos of the trip.

Different views of the Orchha Fort. Simply stunning.

Different views of the Orchha Fort. Simply stunning.

Because I couldn't take anymore stairs.

Because I couldn’t take anymore stairs.

The light and sound show at Orchha.

The light and sound show at Orchha.

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Can you spot me and the babies?

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The Bean admires the view from a jharokha.

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You can almost hear the sound of payals down this corridor.

Our hotel was built around ruins. The gardens were stunning.

Our hotel was built around ruins. The gardens were stunning.

A ruin right in the middle of the Madhav National Park.

A ruin right in the middle of the Madhav National Park.

The Bean falls asleep with my hat on her face, as we settle the hotel bill.

The Bean falls asleep with my hat on her face, as we settle the hotel bill.

The OA tries to make up for me not being able to take the stairs by describing everything to me. This is why I married him.

The OA tries to make up for me not being able to take the stairs by describing everything to me. This is why I married him.

Loved this train track running through Gwalior, people hopping on and off as though it were a bus.

Loved this train track running through Gwalior, people hopping on and off as though it were a bus.

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The aangan in Rani Lakshmi Bai's palace. I'd love to sit here with a book. I wonder if she ever got to enjoy it in peace.

The aangan in Rani Lakshmi Bai’s palace. I’d love to sit here with a book. I wonder if she ever got to enjoy it in peace.

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The Brat’s 8th birthday was one of the most rushed plans ever. I was supposed to be travelling on a shoot and back in time for his big day, but I was only coming back late night on the 4th and didn’t think I could get everything ready for the next day. So we planned for the next weekend. And then the shoot got cancelled and we decided to let him have the pleasure of his party on his birthday and everything had to be rushed forward by a week – crazy! We hadn’t thought of anything other than the cake and the rest were quickly thrown into place.

Now that the kids are old enough for organised games, we picked a version of Pin the tail, in this case, on a dino. The OA decided to draw a T-rex for his son and I was as usual, shocked by how good an artist he is. He is my favourite example of eldest son primed to become CEO and nothing less. Free of social pressures and patriarchy, this man who never picks up a pencil other than to teach his kids, would have been a good artist. If nothing else, the peace on his face when he sketches, says something. If I could give my husband one thing, it would be a fresh start. One where studies took a back seat to the many talents he has, be it art or cooking or sports. Anyhow, lest you think I’m a fond wife gushing, check this picture out. He drew it without erasing anything and then let the kids colour it.

The T-rex being sketched by the OA. The Brat coloured it after his father was done.

The T-rex being sketched by the OA. The Brat coloured it after his father was done.

I have become the official tattoo artist after the Bean’s party and have been painting themed tattoos for the kids. Most of them take one look at the tattoo I’ve made, shake their heads sadly at me as though – You poor deluded woman, you call yourself an artist? And then walk away without a word so as to not hurt my feelings. They all came back for seconds, thirds and face painting after a while.

The food was deviled eggs, pancakes, fruit, popcorn, sausages and Maggi – again, since the Bean had asked for it, the Brat had to, too. We made little signs and stuck them on ice cream sticks that were dug into lumps of Plasticine – saying Carnivorous and Herbivorous to mark out veg and non-veg food. We also made up funny names for the rest like Primordial Slime, for the Maggi and Oviraptor Eggs for the devilled eggs. The kids had a lovely time and the OA and I actually finished cleaning, sweeping and swabbing the floor by 9 pm and got into bed in time to watch a few episodes of our latest obsession – Homeland. The Brat got an insane number of books, most of them on animals; clearly his friends know him well. :)

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The OA working on his masterpiece.

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We moved pots around to create a jungle entrance to our place.

We moved pots around to create a jungle entrance to our place.

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The OA’s T-rex fruit salad is almost ready. We added some pineapple and mango to the watermelon.

'Oviraptor' eggs!

‘Oviraptor’ eggs!

Pancakes

Pancakes shaped like dinos, with marshmallow eyes. These were a hit. 

The cake was fresh mango and sprinkled with cocoa powder. The fossil was fondant.

The cake was fresh mango and sprinkled with cocoa powder. The fossil was fondant.

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Some need a little help with conquering the ferocious T-rex.

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G’pa gets in on the action while a bunch of pint sized contestants distract him!