Introductions

Brat: Mamma, why do some of your friends call you the mad momma? And I think I saw it written on a page in your laptop too.

Me: Because the moment I had you and became a mamma, I went a little mad. Mad with happiness, mad with all the work I now had to do, mad because you’re such a handful. Don’t you think I’m a little mad?

Some thought and then a nod. ‘Yes, just a little. But I like you that way.’

… and then he walked off.

Seven years of being The Mad Momma and the lead actors are slowly piecing the puzzle together.

A little mad

The “Just Married, Please Excuse” Contest

So, the very funny Yashodhara of Y On Earth Not, has a book out. I expected nothing less from her. Although how she managed three kids, a job and brought out a book, will always be a mystery to me. Titled Just Married, Please Excuse, it is pretty much autobiographical, telling the tale of Yash and Vijay’s courtship, and the early years of their marriage. While I’ve had the pleasure of learning her voice through her blog, nothing prepared me for the book. Kahani mein action hai, emotion hai, aur drama bhi hai. I’ll admit I wasn’t too excited before I picked it up, because hey, I read her blog… I know how this story ends. But it’s a whole different thing to have the gaps filled in and handed to you in the form of a book.

I read it through the night, fully knowing where it was going. And I guess that is the triumph of her writing. It keeps you engaged and amused to the very last page. I’m not going to tell you anymore – so buy the book.  What I will do though, is tell you a story of the OA and I, just after we got married. But before that, some stories from the week just before we got married. This is an entry for a contest she is running and since I love Mamagoto’s food enough to sell my kids and park myself there for a lifetime, I’m participating in the hope of winning a meal. Yes, I’m cheap like that.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that the OA and I had a rather filmy love story. Dashing Hindu boy meets shy Christian girl. Pursues her until she gives in. Suddenly realises he should have been working on his parents instead of her, but it’s too late. Boy’s parents dig their heels in, boy decides to follow his heart and the girl. Boy and girl struggle to put him through post grad college and true love triumphs.

This is where this story begins. Convocation was over and as he tossed his cap into the air, I felt a surge of pride. We’d done this without anyone else. A lot of other students had significant others attending, but they also had parents. We were a lonesome twosome with no adults (I still thought of myself as not-quite-an-adult) there for us. Our wedding was a week later so his parents were at the height of their outrage and mine were busy organising the event.

The next day we had a train to catch back to my hometown. Two heavy suitcases dragged to the gate, friends hugging at every step, congratulations being shouted out (he was the first getting married straight off campus), plans being made… and we were late for the train by, oh.. about an hour already.

As the cab pulled in to the station we heard the train whistle. We had it all planned. He’d rush ahead and pull the chain to stop the train. I’d follow with the coolies and the luggage. He raced off and I started running, urging the coolies to keep up. We jumped down on to the filthy tracks, clambered on to the next platform and repeated the exercise until we reached the correct platform. As I clambered on to the last filthy platform, my hands a mess, my teeshirt filthy, the train jerked to life and phlegmatically began to pull out. I screamed for the OA, frantically looking up and down the platform. He was nowhere to be seen. And then I saw him wave in my face as his coach flashed by me. “Throw me that suitcase,” he yelled. And I made the coolie throw one in. The train chugged on, picking up speed and I made the coolie throw the next one in to another coach. By now the OA was far ahead, while the other coolie was running alongside, collecting his earnings and giving change. I kept running along, realising (to my horror) that the end of the platform was nigh. I might have made a jump for it but the heavy bag on my shoulder would weigh me down. I needed someone to pull me into the train. But the love of my life, soon to be husband, was riding a train and disappearing into the sunset – without me.

And then, DDLJ style, a hand shot out of the coach and a stranger’s voice called my name. It was not the OA’s hand – the OA’s ugly, stubby fingers cannot be mistaken and this was a beautifully made, strong brown, male hand – but I didn’t care. I grabbed hold and the hand pulled me in with little effort, just as the platform came to an end. I gasped in relief and looked up at my rescuer in surprise. Who could he be? He was the OA’s batchmate and had taken the liberty to help when he saw me in need. I thanked him profusely and headed off to find the OA and tell him what I thought of being thrown over for a couple of suitcases of books.

Of course, being the OA and I, we were as disorganised as ever and the reservations had been done too late, with the result that we had only one berth to share all the way back. The last couple of days in college had been stressful and he looked exhausted, so I generously forgave him and obligingly squeezed myself into a corner so that he could get some sleep. The hours flew by and we pulled into another station. He opened one eye and I asked him, solicitiously if he’d like a cup of tea. He nodded, turned over and went back to sleep. Telling myself that the poor man needed some TLC, I headed off to hunt for some tea. I found one chaiwala eventually and he was mobbed. I waited my turn and as he handed me my cups, he said, “Madam, isn’t that the train you were on?”

Were on??

I turned around to see the train was pulling out of the platform and leaving me behind, for the second effing time that day. Flinging down the hard-earned, steaming cups of tea, I ran along the train again, the speed just that bit too much for me to risk my life. I hoped and prayed that the OA had realised I was not on the train and was looking for me. I should have known better.

Once again, a voice called my name and the now familiar hand popped out. I grabbed without a thought and jumped on to the train. The OA’s friend had seen me get off the train and realised I’d not got back on when it started. I pledged my firstborn to him and rushed to wake the OA and tell him of how misfortune was following me. He opened an eye, heard me out and then, disappointment writ large on his face, said, “You mean you didn’t get any chai?”

At that moment I deeply regretted not having managed to get the chai. I could have flung it in his face.

And yes, dear readers, I married him inspite of that. Shoulda married the other guy. He’s married too, now, by the way. Too late.

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But picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.

The night before the wedding we were a raucous household. Family from all around the world was staying at our place and of course the OA too. He had to be, considering he had nowhere else to go. He was part of my mehendi, I was part of his cocktail party. As we called it a night, happy and exhausted, my Uncle who was down from Australia after a gazillion years, recklessly volunteered to make breakfast and his desi favourite, mango lassi for everyone. But he needed some help. The distinct lack of enthusiasm from the rest of the family didn’t deter him. Finally, the OA, drunk as a skunk and always up for anything food related, offered to help. Yes, you can always tell which ones are not related to us by blood, because they enjoy cooking. No one in my bloodline is a happy cook! Heck, that’s why we live in India and hire people to do it.

Anyhow, he woke up at the crack of dawn and began to help Uncle. I, naturally, after all that   train-chasing, was getting some much-needed beauty sleep. An old family friend came by to see us in the early hours of the morning. She was too old to attend the wedding and reception at night, and wanted to wish us in advance.

Ma settled her into the living room and said she’d just sent someone to wake me up and I’d be awake and down in a minute.

The lady nodded understandingly and said, ‘What about the groom? Where is he?’

Oh, said Ma, he’s in the kitchen.

Right, said the sweet old lady… ‘having breakfast, I suppose?’

No, said Ma. She is honest to a fault. “He’s cooking it.”

It would not be an exaggeration to say the old lady almost fell off her chair.”Look, I know his parents are against the marriage, but surely you can’t treat him this way because he has no one standing up for him!”

I still split my sides laughing over this one. And yes, of course we cleared that up.

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Now while the idea was not to ill treat the OA because no one was standing up for him, we’re not the sort of family to stand on ceremony and give him son-in-law treatment either. And that is how he found himself on the railway station with my brother, at the ungodly hour of 4 am, picking up family coming in on a delayed train. Everyone was pulling their share of weight and I don’t think either we or he, even considered doing it any other way.

My grandmother and her siblings arrived and my brother introduced the OA by name to them. They weren’t particularly enthusiastic in their greeting and the OA and my brother put it down to age and exhaustion on their part. A lazy red glow spread as the sun rose and they drove home in silence until my granduncle asked my monosyllabic brother if he could take him to visit his old college, in our hometown. This is how the conversation went.

Granduncle: I studied in this city, 45 years ago. Do you think you could take me to see my old college?

Tambi: Actually Thatha, we’re pretty busy with the wedding arrangement and your college is on the outskirts of the city. We may not get the time.

Granduncle gesturing towards the OA: What about him? Can he take me?

Tambi: No, Thatha, he doesn’t know his way around the city. He’s not from here.

Granduncle, looking disappointedly at the OA: Oh I see. Is he here to attend the wedding?

Tambi (master of understatement) drawls: I sure hope so.

Yes, yes, granduncle realised his faux pas later, but this story has given us many a merry evening.

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And now finally, so that I don’t get disqualified on the technicality that I’m not married during these tales, I’ll share the honeymoon one.

When I met the OA and fell in love, I was rather in awe of him. He was older, wiser… and I thought he’d take care of me. Yeah, Sound of Music hangover. And to his credit, he mostly does. Except for when he doesn’t.

Poor as church mice, we took a bus from Delhi to Manali for our honeymoon. Hopes of a knight in shining armour were dashed to the ground rather rudely as the knight stuck his head out of the bus window and emptied his the contents of his stomach across the hill roads. I watched curiously, wondering how he could throw up more than he’d eaten in the last 6 meals put together. The only explanation was that he’d thrown up his intestines too. But I dutifully got him water, washed his face, begged someone to give us the seat up front and tried to (wo)manfully raise my shoulder as high as I could to give him a head rest. Too drained to care, he slept. Around us other honeymooning couples billed and cooed and necked. I adjusted the smelly puker into a corner and resigned myself to a rather unromantic couple of hours.

Half way through the night the bus stopped. It was eerie. The sounds of the jungle came closer. I woke up and being the nosy person I am, checked out the bus. There was no reason to stop. No roadblock, nothing – and the driver was missing. I waited for someone else to make the first move. Three old ladies, sisters on a holiday together, hobbled off the bus to get an explanation. It turned out that the driver had decided to strike because he was being made to work overtime and not being paid for it. He laid out a blanket off the edge of the road and was snoring before we could say ‘Manali.’

The old ladies realised they needed numbers and came back to recruit from the hordes of youngsters in the bus. Shy young brides looked up at their husbands in awe as the men got up and stretched and swaggered, ready to get down and take on the lone driver. One of them called out to the OA to join them. He opened half a bleary eye and chivalrously volunteered, “Let my wife handle him. You won’t need to send anyone else,” and went back to sleep.

Yes, yes, ladies and gentlemen, I still honeymooned with him. Not just that, procreated and continue to live with him. A silent, suffering woman, that’s me. The only good that came of that night, is that we still dine out on that story.

Kitnay Aadmi Thay?

Guess what! I was one of the lucky few, invited to lunch with Diptakirti of Calcutta Chromosome fame (or should that be the other way around?) for the launch of his book Kitnay Aadmi Thay along with the winners of the contest.

If you don’t know that his book about absolutely useless Bollywood trivia is out, then you’ve probably just got back from a space mission or been hibernating under a rock.  Lunch was a lovely sit down affair at Zura, a bistro bar in Gurgaon’s Leisure Valley area and we spent a pleasant afternoon ribbing the author and harassing him to make a speech. He didn’t. Oh well, at least the food was good ;) There was also an impromptu quiz in the middle of it that was great fun.

At some point though, I’ve got to put aside my rather sibling-ish irreverence aside and admit that the book is fantastic even if I’d never say that to his face. I may not be as Bollywood as some, but I do love my Hindi cinema. So it’s very convenient to have someone else put in a lifetime of research and produce a handy book that you can flip through each time you just NEED to know which film had animated versions of the protagonists running around through the credits. Or the most expensive film that didn’t get made. The ultimate handbook for anyone who lays claim to loving Hindi cinema, I’m buying and handing them out to all my friends.

Dipta’s trademark wry humour ties it all up into a neat package and it’s now on my bedside table. I’ve been trying to space it out and read a chapter a night, like a well loved blog, instead of greedily gobbling it up. If you love Bollywood, you just HAVE to own a copy. Feel free to order off Flipkart, Indiaplaza, Bookadda and a dozen other joints if you don’t find it at a store next to you. And when he’s rich(er) and famous(er) I’ll sell the autographed copy I have and it can be the Brat’s college fund.

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Next up is Priya Narendra’s You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky. Kajal is a curvy, zany, spirited copywriter who fortunately, never seems to have a dry spell in her love life. And yet, Mr Right has not turned up – yet. Hunky researcher, suave investment banker (yes, we all seem to have one of those ;) ) and jholawala neighbour are just some of the love interest options she has. Definitely a frothy romance, it is also an interesting peek into the world of advertising. Witty, pacy and a fun, fast read, this is one of those books that makes you stop and rush to check out the meaning of bathetic and enbonpoint. Possessor of a wonderful turn of phrase, Priya is not a first time author. Her Two Chalet School Girls in India is a book I am itching to get my hands on and sooner or later am going to click that buy button on Amazon.

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And while we’re on the topic of pals writing books, you do know that our very own Yashodhara Lal of  Y on Earth Not has a book out too, don’t you? Even if you don’t know, it’s best not to admit to such ignorance in public. Just nod along and then head off here for the book launch event (Epicentre, July 19th, 6.30 pm). Just Married, Please Excuse, promises to be a laugh riot like her blog so I’m quite looking forward to it.

Now excuse me while I get back to my library corner.

PS: With this, I also go into the has-the-most-number-of-published-friends category.

Bring your kids to the Young Zubaan event

Delhi Parents, don’t miss this one. Young Zubaan organises a great day for kids of all ages.

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After a really fantastic Take #3, The Feminist Kitchen, we’re getting ready for a children’s special Talkie on Thursday, May 17, for kids from 6 to 9 years. We’ve teamed up with The Pomegranate Workshop who are really professionals in the field of kids’ workshops and we’re really excited to present to you two very unique sessions that will unleash your kid’s creative and imaginative spirit.

Do spread the word. We hope it will help kick off a great summer!

You can register for either one or both workshops. They’re on the same day. Registration is compulsory, along with advance payment. We’ll be providing all the materials, and every kid gets a “Tales of Historic Delhi” notebook free!

BUILD YOUR OWNDELHI

Age Group: 6-9yrs

Session Duration: 11 am to 1 pm

Fee per child: Rs. 370

15 Seats Available

Premola Ghose’s Tales of Historic Delhi traces the journey of a group of friendly animals across the historic and cultural splendours ofDelhi. The book explains how different rulers acrossDelhi’s history have attempted to stamp their claim on it by building and rebuilding the city in their own style and to their own ends. As the character of Dr. Kamala states: “…it’s not even one city: it’s lots of different cities built one on top of the other.”

Through various extracts and pictures selected from the text, the children will be introduced to the story and to the many layers of the city built on top of each other, playing around with snippets of information and fiction that form the text. The children will then be asked to imagine themselves as future Kings of Delhi, and design a Delhi in the style that they would like it to be – replete with its structures, its monuments, its bazaars and of course their own palaces. The point of the session is for children to arrive at a deeper understanding of the city and also have fun playing around withDelhito make it their own.

The workshop will be conducted by a facilitator from the Visual Arts stream who will get the children to visualize a city of their own and then render it in their own inimitable way using a variety of art materials geared to stimulating the imagination and encouraging spontaneous expression.

HOW TO BECOME ALIEN

Age Group: 10-14yrs

Session Duration: 3-5pm

Fee per child: Rs. 370

12 Seats Available

Thanks to a profusion of films and books for children that are centered on Extra-Terrestrial beings, we’re fairly familiar with ‘The Alien’: A weird looking creature descending from a futuristic spaceship and bearing hi-tech gadgetry. Which is interesting because to an extra terrestrial we would seem to be a weird looking creature lacking even basic interstellar transport and wielding primitive gadgetry. In other words: to an alien, we’re alien.

You can be alien without being an alien. Monideepa Sahu’s Riddle of the Seventh Stoneshows puts us in the minds of two creatures who feel so alien that they might as well be aliens: it is a story of a rat and a spider who are suddenly transformed into a boy and a girl, and how they find it difficult to reconcile their new identities with their old ways.

This workshop focuses on Point of View as a means to exploring character. Children are encouraged to imagine themselves as different characters – from extra terrestrials to earthly animals to any weird beings that they want to be – and write short descriptive and narrative passages in the voice of their alien character. The children will read extracts from the novel and also from other stories about such sudden transformations, discuss their ideas on what it means to be ‘alien’ and also explore the concept of ‘alien’ as ‘different’.

The workshop will be conducted by a facilitator from the literary field who will get the children to flex their creative muscles, invent characters and create original stories.

Participation by registration only. Call Akshat Nigam 9582590444 or email akshat@tpw.in to register. Payment to be made in advance only, either to The Attic 10 Regal Buildings, New Delhi 110001 or to Zubaan Books, 128-B, First Floor, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi 110049

Cash or Cheques in favour of “Amarjit Bhagwant Singh Charitable Trust”

Interviewed on Blogadda this week

I do have something for you to read today, but it’s not here, it’s an interview on Blogadda. Regular readers probably know most of what I’ve said but you might want to drop by anyway.

What you don’t know though, is that I’m obsessing over this song from Agent Vinod. I’m going to smack the person who asks if it is Pyar ki Pungi. It’s Shreya Ghoshal’s Raabta. I asked around and learnt that raabta means connection. Have been striking poses and singing it to the OA who is most amused. The kids however, are not. They think I’m nuts. I guess it was only a matter of time before they came around to the realisation that their Momma is really Mad!

The word Raabta comes at a good time. I was just complaining to anyone who would listen on FB that I am sick of songs that have khumar rhyming with beqarar and zindagi with bandagi. Show some creativity, lyricists! The OA on the other hand, has been complaining that too many of the new songs have words he’s never  encountered, taking away from the experience. What new word have you encountered in a song and have you figured out what it means?

And oh, Agent Vinod? Sucks. Complete waste of money. I really should have trusted the reviews. Now run along and drop by blogadda.