Welcome Baby Bub

And I’m an aunt yet once more. :) Happy days are here again. Tambi aka the Mad Sibling and the SIL had a second son on the 7th of November. Bub weighed the same as Baby Button and looks nothing like him yet, but you know how babies change. This is the first set of two boys we’ve had in our family. We’ve had 4 sisters (my grandma’s sisters) and other variations. And in our immediate family we’ve always been two siblings, a boy and a girl. Namely, my mum and Chhote nana, my brother and I, Cousin K and J, the Brat and the Bean. We hadn’t even considered the possibility of another boy but hey, he’s ours and he’s adorable and absolutely edible. 

I’m afraid this delayed post already looks like second sibling neglect but its nothing of the sort. With the family accident and all that we’ve been going through its been quite crazy around here. 

So just a quick update and now I’m off. Our family is now complete. 

PS: Here’s a Baby Button-ism for you. He tells his parents a story every night, starting, Wonta, ponta time. I can’t tell you how it makes me go all warm and gooey hearing him say it!

35

So my 35th came in (25.09) without the bang I’d hoped for. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t post about it as I usually do.

You read in the papers about this family that was going for a funeral or a wedding and  everyone was together and they crashed up and you say – damn… all of them injured? How tragic. *shudder*
Yes, well, that was our family. A tragedy to crown a tragedy.

We had a death in the family on the 31st of August and those who could, set out for the funeral immediately. A car carrying 8 family members crashed up – and 5 ended up in hospital with serious injuries. Little cousin J, my baby, the one I still hold in my arms and rock even though she is 20, was the one who pushed open a door, crawled out, and hailed truck drivers on the highway to help them turn the car around and get the rest of the family out. The Scorpio, if you see the pictures, looks like scrap metal. Truck drivers tore it open to inexpertly pull out some of the people who were crushed into it and caused a lot more damage to their limbs. They then rushed them to a small road side dispensary. Calls were made. Cousin J called me first and all I could hear was her sobbing, while others in the background screamed in terror and in pain. It was almost like being thrown on to the sets of a rather scary film. I kept asking, What’s wrong, baby? And she couldn’t explain, just kept crying, ‘accident, accident.’ I didn’t know where they were or what I could do to help. I quickly made the rest of the calls to my parents, to family friends, others who were close enough to help. I joined within the day, leaving the kids with the OA.

I’ve spent the last month in and out of various cities and it’s not been easy. We’ve all had a sick kid, sick parent, ailing elderly members – but having five family members in hospital is not easy. Nursing them in a strange city? A nightmare.They were all in different rooms, had different needs and now I am an expert at sponging, feeding and so on. With just three caregivers we were stretched beyond belief and sleepless, tired and worried.  All the patients had different needs, and were soon split up across 3 specialty hospitals. We went mad keeping track of them but it was worth it to get them the best treatment.

We had to stay in a hotel right by the hospital, often got back too late to get a meal, skipped meals by the dozen, survived days on roadside tea and buns because no homecooked food was to be had, slept on the floor outside the ICU, ran up astronomical hotel and phone bills, called everyone on earth to get doctor recommendations, had to buy essentials like clothes and underwear, and pillows (silly things, but things you don’t realise until you are in that position) and just kept going. Tambi flew down from the US immediately and my Uncle (Chhote Nana) took one look at him and said – Am I so seriously ill that you flew him down to say his final goodbye? No, he was not on his way out. But that’s what a lifetime of love and goodwill gets you. Your entire family around you in a moment of crisis.

Getting blood, has my God, been a nightmare (and all our friends abroad were shocked that hospitals don’t organise this). We’ve always been blood donors, which is why we took it for granted that there’d always be enough blood if you needed it. But there wasn’t at first. We mobilised blood donation on a war footing. Calling friends, who called other friends, who called other friends and found us blood in Lucknow. A miracle. A blessing. True friends. At one point I was flopped on the hospital floor, my knees aching from the stairs, when I looked up and realised that every single person in the blood bank right then, was there to give blood for my uncle – and not a single one of them was a familiar face. Forty or so strangers, all giving something as precious as blood.

I learnt something that day, that wasn’t a part of my culture – I learnt to fold my hands and say thank you. I saw my mother fall at the doctor’s feet when he came out of the OT and said that my Uncle was alive and breathing. Another thing that is not part of our culture, but comes so naturally when someone gives you back a piece of your life.

This is also that time when you realise, you are THAT generation, the one whose time has come to step up to the plate.  There is no one else to come here and handle it. The younger ones are too young, the older ones, too old. You are the one that needs to care for your children, and also tell your father that it isn’t his place to stand outside the OT and wait. To go back to the hotel and rest and that you will call him and your mother after the surgery. To tell them to put their feet in your lap and give them a foot rub after a day of standing in various queues. I also learned that you don’t have to give birth to someone to feel a fierce love, to want to protect them with every fibre.

We have a neat little divide in our family where everyone openly picks a favourite. My dad’s pet is Cousin J and after the accident, she pulled him into her hospital bed, broken arm and all and slept curled up against her beloved Uncle. Cousin K is my mother’s precious brat – and through the last month, she has been his strength as he is the only one unharmed in the family of four. My aunt, chhoti nani, thinks the sun rises and sets with my brother, Tambi and when he walked into her room, jetlagged and tired, she took one look at him and pain disappeared for a while. I am my uncle’s pet – with my sharp tongue and ready smile and impetuous nature, I’m everything he likes in a person. And so it was that I fell naturally into the role of caregiver for him while others organised blood, hotels, medicines, ambulances, organised our homes over the phone and fought the endless battle over insurance.

As I wiped my uncle’s mouth after a sip of  water, pressed his forehead until he fell asleep, I realised there was no way I could ever do for him what he did for me when I was a child. Everyone gets their turn to repay family debt – you just don’t get to do enough. Who is he to you, the nurses ask, because at 47 he doesn’t look much older than I probably did at that time, careworn, sleep deprived and unwashed. I looked old enough to be a wife, too old to be a daughter. I’m his niece, I’d say and they’d frown, unsure of why a niece should be so frazzled and devoted. They believed it on the days I went wearing jeans. On salwar kameez days they looked doubtful. People are uncomfortable if they’re unable to slot you. And with our varying age gaps, early marriages, early kids, its hard to put us together for a family photograph and be able to identify who the couples are and which kids belong to them. After being asked how I was related to my uncle, for the nth time, my tired retort was – He’s everything. Everything to me. Uncle, father, brother, son. As you can imagine, that answer didn’t go down too well. We’re a convoluted, complicated family and I’m unable to decipher today, what a niece’s love is meant to feel like. I just feel what I feel.

We’ve finally shifted the patients back to our hometown and I’ve had to have the kids miss school – it’s interesting how many people are so shocked that the kids are MISSING SCHOOL. I have to keep reminding people that the kids are in Class 1 and 3, not taking entrances to medical college. That a seriously injured family is a little more important than missed sessions in the sandpit. That this is an early lesson in what it means to be family. They are hanging around with me at my parents’ place while we care for all our patients. It’s been a good experience for them too, to learn consideration, to have a meal delayed, to get no attention, to fetch and carry, to know pain and sorrow up close and to be strengthened by it, to know a missing limb and not be repulsed by it. They’re doing fairly well, my little stalwarts, bringing cheer and happiness and occasionally getting away with too much TV.

Most of our other patients are healing well, but my Uncle got the worst of it and will need many more surgeries and many months before he walks again.

If I had to pick out the worst moment, it would be the one where we shifted him from one hospital to another in an ambulance that had no air conditioning. To begin with, it couldn’t leave the parking lot because of the number of vehicles parked in front of it. Cousin K sat holding his father on to the bed and I sat holding his hand and stroking the sweat off his head – unable to do much more than beg for them to start moving. At some point my parents, Cousin K, all hopped out and began to scream at people to move their bloody bikes and cycles out of the way and the frustration was palpable. As we drove down the streets of Lucknow, the siren blaring, people chatted on phones and with loved ones on the seat beside them, callously and stubbornly refusing to move out of the way. All the while my uncle was losing his life, and we were talking to him to keep him awake, conscious, alive. My parents drove along the side, my dad and mum sticking their heads out and screaming at people to move. At some point Cousin K and I dropped uncle’s hands and leaned out of the ambulance, pleading, begging, abusing people and asking them to move out of the damn way. The ambulance driver nodded casually and said – If this were a heart patient, he’d be dead by now.  Right. Good to know.

But perhaps the best lesson I learnt in all this is to be a better friend. I’ve always been the one who felt awkward to call in friends in illness and death. I’ve wanted to help but not known how. I’ve said – Let me know if I can help, and then wondered why no help was demanded. Well, I’ve learnt how to offer help now. By not offering, just doing.

A friend collected and gave me her air miles since I’m travelling back and forth. Now this is a blessing when time is of essence and trains not available and travel plenty. Another just came and stayed with the kids at our place on a day the OA had a meeting post their school hours and needed to leave them. She figured they’d be most comfortable in their own environment when their mother was away. A third picked them up straight from school and kept them at her place until the OA got back from another meeting on yet another day. A lot of others offered to keep the kids but needed the OA to drop and pick them – something that made no sense in a city as big as Delhi. Someone else offered to bring in dinner to my uncle every evening. This helps even now on days that there is no cook and we’re all madly rushing round. Another just comes and sits for 2 hours each evening so that all caregivers can go home and bathe, rest, just do whatever else constitutes their life and is on hold. A friend who is in the army got us a whole lot of jawans to donate blood. Another found out rates of helicopters to fly back our patients. We didn’t use it, but it was amazing to see how their brains were working overtime to help us. Yet another called a friend to call his brother who is a senior police official in the area and see if strings could be pulled in anyway. We didn’t need it, but the thought counted. Yet another bought a new bed pan (ha!) because they said the hospital ones have been used by so many people. I could go on. Someone else brought disposable glasses and plates for the attendants/caregivers/us to eat in. Another sent us aromatherapy for sleep, because most trauma patients have trouble sleeping – did you know that? Yet others offered to show the medical reports and x-rays to well known physicians they knew. Another got us a discount on the ambulance that takes one of the injured people for dressing everyday. Some have offered us a wheelchair, another has given us two hospital beds that can be cranked up and down. Others called up friends in the hospital administration – from the head of security to a low down accountant to the CEO of hospital, we had friends call each one of them and ask them to look out for us. And they did. We were the ones who got offered a little stool in ICU. So many of them offered to call up friends who worked with the insurance agency and speed up our paperwork. It goes on.
Many messaged saying, let us know if we can help. Well, here’s something I’ve learnt in the last month – I don’t know what you can do for me, so YOU let me know how you can help. And in future, that is what I will offer. Concrete help. Be it a box of pastries that the attendants can take a break with or a flask of homemade cold coffee. A care package with wet wipes and some tetrapacks of cool juice are a blessing. Every bit helps. Every bit gets them across that difficult patch. What doesn’t help is the endless text messages and long phone calls – we just don’t have the time or energy to respond, and yet we’re forced to out of civility.

I had wanted another tattoo to commemorate 35 years on this earth. I didn’t get a chance since I haven’t really been back to Delhi yet. And I’m wondering if I need it – this experience has left a mark on me that no tattoo could match.

And so on this year’s birthday post  (if you can call it that), I’m sharing a few Facebook statuses I’d put up through the last month.

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Lessons learnt in a hospital.
1. Superheroes don’t always wear capes. Sometimes they wear surgical masks and disposable gowns.
2. Call the nurse Chechi, smile at the ward boy and flirt with the plastic surgeon even if your heart is breaking and your mind with your loved one. Makes them take special care of your patient, give you extra minutes in the ICU and brightens their day. They too are sick of people crying and snapping.
3. Leaning out of an ambulance and screaming at people is more effective than a siren. Abusing them might be undignified but it is effective.
4. There is no adequate thanks for a blood donor. Folding your hands and thanking them is all you can do when you’re tired and worried but grateful.
5. College students are the happiest and most generous donors.
6. A blood bank spilling over with donors for your family says something.
7. Nothing brings a family close like an accident and a shared hospital thaali.

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A crumpled car, crow bars and truck drivers pulling him out, bleeding for 12 hours, a dirty little highway hospital. He went through it all and after 5 hours of surgery has come out alive and well… my stubborn mule of an uncle didn’t give up. Thank you all for your prayers, wishes and help.

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May those who don’t heed the siren of an ambulance, never know what it is to sit in one, hanging on to a loved one’s hand, watching in despair as traffic stubbornly refuses to give way.

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There’s a 6 year old on the next bed in the ICU. She was out on the bike with her parents when they had an accident. She hit her head – and then a bus ran over her arm. It is now in 3 separate pieces and will take a year or so to reconstruct over many surgeries. Her parents say they will have to sell their house and land to pay for it.
She screams in pain each time they give her a shot and her little body is swollen with the IVs she’s had in for days.
Even being witness to it is a nightmare. Right now if anyone who tries to give me gyaan or tell me this is God’s way of testing us or pichchle janam ka karma or paap or tries to explain or rationalise her agony in any way, I will bite their head off. This world makes no sense.
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Okay, so we’re managing, somewhat, to take care of our various patients. Just help us to get by, without asking us how we’re ‘coping up’. We’re not coping up, we’re coping. Not cope up, simply cope.

We’re going through enough trauma without having to deal with shitty grammar. Thank you.

I am now going back to the ICU and regular programming shall resume when my shift ends.
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Interesting how many people thank the OA for ‘sending/letting me come home to care for my family’. I wonder how many cows he gave my family in exchange for me.
Also, how come no one thanks a wife for letting her husband go home and help his family in times of need? Morons.

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Hospital learnings:

1.When you have a loved one undergoing surgery, an hour measures 120 minutes instead of 60.
2. Even if you’ve been married 10 years and are worried sick about said surgery, you can still have plenty to talk about with your spouse, sitting outside the OT on the floor.
3. The midnight shift is when you really need to befriend hospital staff.
4. When the staff ask you how you’re related to the man on the ICU bed, saying that you’re his niece just doesn’t seem adequate.
5. Everybody hurts. Including those who were not in the accident.
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After a long day of attempting to work from home (something I’ve done for 8 years now :-/) while the kids go on with their various activities, back from school, lunch, nap, swimming, homework, playtime, the OA collapses in exhaustion and observes – Raising children builds character.

Absolutely. That is why I am so character-ful.

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She was an elderly lady with chubby red cheeks and the cutest little jet black top-knot, wobbling in outrage on the top of her head. And she was driving my uncle nuts. He was in the bed next to hers and just as he drifted off to sleep hooked up to various tubes, his exhaustion overcoming his pain, she’d let out a loud cry of Hai Allah and wake up the entire ICU. All in various stages of sleep and pain, the other patients would yell for her to shut up.

She had only two men (about my age) to attend to her and they stood at a safe distance, looking helpless. She’d yank off her oxygen mask and push it up on her head like a party hat and say – ‘Look, this little trickle? It’s getting to my nose. This is where I will wear it.’
Every day I’d flirt, smile, beg, plead, charm my way through doctors and nurses and ward boys, into the ICU to feed my uncle (against the rules) who was being troublesome in his own way and refusing to eat.

We approached her out of sheer selfishness. To get her to BE QUIET for a while, so that my battered, bruised, weak uncle could get some sleep. I know Ma had a little more love than I did – she feels strongly for all old people after she lost both her parents.

We acted chatty and held her hands in a friendly way, to keep her distracted so that she didn’t pull off her oxygen mask, we rubbed her arms that were sore and red from days of IVs, I gave the nurses a break and fed her after I’d fed my uncle, I chatted with her while they changed her diapers. I’d tell her that she must have been prettier than Mumtaz Mahal in her youth. And she’d say, Get me off this bed and I’ll take you shopping for the best chikankari in Lucknow.

She began to look out for us and we grew attached to her.

I’d pass her sons in the corridor and waiting areas and glare at them until one day I couldn’t take it anymore – Can’t you be a little more helpful? Why do you just stand and stare when she’s yanking out tubes and pulling off oxygen masks?
They shrugged helplessly- She’s a ladiss. We don’t know what to do with her.
I never berated them again.
For a few days after I left the Lucknow hospital she kept asking for me.
She died on the 14th.My mother sobbed. I was too tired of death and pain to cry.

Her son calls my mum every few days, offering to come down from Rae Bareilly, arrange for blood, give us money if we need – says he will now help us get my uncle back on his feet since he has no one else. We need nothing, but it’s good to hear from him. He refers to my mother as Ammi too.
Everyday there is a little hospital story to tell.
Moral of this story? Hospitals are not the place to get attached to people.

Conversations from the mad house

And because you’re missing the Brat and the Bean, I offer you some of the FB statuses I put up in the last year.

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I was travelling and the OA was getting the kids dressed for school. A disapproving Brat looked at the OA’s ratty night shorts and said ‘Dada, you can’t go out dressed like that to drop us to the bus stop.’

The Bean piped up – ‘Yeah, they will say, Pitaji ki patloon, ek bilang chhoti ho gayi.’

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Me, teaching the Brat multiplication and trying to put it in a context he’ll enjoy: Okay baby, at what speed does a cheetah run?
Brat: 105 kms an hour.
Me: Cool. So how many kms will it run in 3 hours?
Brat: It can run at that speed only for 30 minutes!

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Bean: Dada, I love you soooo much.
Me: Oi! Only I am allowed to love both of you. No one else is allowed to love another.
Bean: Mama, we all have our own place in this world.
Yes, maate.

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Reason # 1, not to assume your husband is not on speaker phone: You start singing Pritam mat pardes padharo the moment he answers your call, and entertain a car full of his colleagues.

#FacePalm

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An oversmart Bean leaves her lunch, comes stumbling towards me holding her belly and says, “I think I’m having a heart attack. I can’t eat any more.”

A scornful Brat responds, “You’re not having a heart attack. Only people who watch too much TV get heart attacks. We barely get to watch TV at all. We’ll never get heart attacks!”

Great. I didn’t need to step in.

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Bean, while watching the Lenskart advt on TV – If that girl doesn’t want to go and have coffee with him, why doesn’t he leave her alone? If someone says no, you should let them be.

Me: Right. And if they don’t listen, what do you do?

Bean: I tell my mother and she will give them a jhaanp.

Err.. Well, she’s getting there. At least she has the basics clear!

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Bean, listening to her father have an endlessly long and loud phonecall, working from home: Mama, I think Dada should go to office so that we can have some peace and quiet around here.
I agree.

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When your mother is a feminist, you say -

“Why do people say ‘Early man did blah blah’. They should say early man AND woman, or early people.” – Brat.

Excellent. My work here is done.

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The OA is on the phone talking to endless credit card companies and what-nots. I’m listening to him and thinking – Ours might be the last generation where the secret question by default is,’What was your mother’s maiden name?’

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Bean to another little girl in the park: If I do that, my mother will scream, and jhaanp me up and put me in the corner and give me no food for a full day.

Me (shocked): When have I ever done that, baby?

Bean (annoyed at being overheard): Well, you said no screen time yesterday, didn’t you?

Yes. And that is entirely the same thing.

(Later it was explained to me, that unless she claims dire consequences, she cannot wriggle out of peer pressure issues. I see. )

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Sorting out my cupboard and making piles of clothes to give to orphanage, some to repurpose and some for my cousin and mother. Bean looks at the growing pile and says – Oh, so the ones you feel hot in and are all rubbish you’re giving to Nana?

*gulp* I swear that’s not true, Ma!

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Brat busy entertaining a bunch of young adults in the park, by reciting animal facts like a machine. I go up to rescue the adults and relieve them of my son, but they say they’re enjoying his company. So I introduce myself. And one of them says his name is Brahm.
To which Bean says, Rum? Oh, of course, we know Rum. We have lots of that at home!
Youngsters fall over laughing and look at me as though I’m one of those lushed up aunties. Sigh.

#SwallowMeNowEarth moment right there.

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We’re so quick to criticise and so slow to praise. The Haryanvi man is possibly the most abused in the country. And we all know *everything* about those rude drivers and guards who have sold crores of farmland in Gurgaon and now only work to pass time. Here’s my contribution to the good.Guard in the new complex who has seen me obsess over my garden, folded his hands today and asked me if he could please bring me some pudina to plant in my garden, and wheat and bajra for our personal consumption. Only because ‘Didi, aapse pyaar ho gaya, aap log sab izzat se baat karte hain.’ After getting over the shock of being told he is in love with us, I also folded my hands and thanked him and said I’d take some pudina, how much would he charge? He looked injured and said he’d never have offered it for money, only out of love. And then we both folded hands and nodded at each other for five minutes, grinning like idiots.

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Bean- Yes, I’ll have a fried egg for lunch.
Me: Eh? Who asked you if you wanted one?
Bean: You just asked me ten minutes ago.
Me (to self): I must be losing my mind.
Bean: Yes, yes, you are! So stay with your mind lost and let me have an egg.

Bean: 1, Me: 0

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But then I have the proper little gentleman to make it up to me.
Me: Brat, did you get any homework today?
Brat: I did, indeed.

Indeed? Err. Okay.

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Brat: Mama, today is Thank you- vaar.
Me: ???
Brat: Friday, Ma, Shukra-vaar. Thank you- vaar.

Ugh. Nerd.

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A little boy knocks on the kitchen screen door – Aunty, do you have a son? My big brother and some other boys said a very nice boy lives here, so I’ve come to play with him.

Six years of being a victim of bullying and the tide has turned over the last two years. We’ve moved thrice in three years and within a week of each move he has friends trooping in and out of the house. Who’d have thought this quiet, dreamy, vague little boy would be popular in spite of, or maybe even because of those characteristics?

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You know you live in a condo in India when you get this sort of an email.

“You are right,the langoor was on the regular pay roll of RWA earlier,but his services were discontinued because employing a langoor to scare away monkeys became forbidden under the Animal protection Act,the same act for stray dogs.”

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Things that must go on social media even if we can never show our faces in public again #751 -

The Brat walks in on the OA crouched above a prone me, massaging my back and shoulders to ‘break the fever’ as suggested by many people. Frowns, looks interested and poses an academic question – ‘Are you mating with mama like a male leopard mates with a female leopard?’

He has no idea why the two of us fell over in a pile and laughed till the tears flowed.

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Calling the kids back from play as we go to run errands, the OA explains to them “… blah blah and the didi will be alone and a thief might comr blah blah…”
Brat – …and if a thief DOES get in, you expect US to take care of it?
Good point.

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It’s amazing to hear kids express their love. The Brat got back from a visit with his grandparents while we moved house, crawled into my lap as I dripped sweat and unpacked cartons – I missed you so much, mama. Your sweat also feels good.
And Bean said- I missed you like, like, like I’ve never had a mama EVER!!

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Me: What flavour ice cream do you want? Chocolate? blackberry?
Bean: Blackberry? That’s not an ice cream, that’s a phone!

Sigh. She was right of course. ——————-

On context and keeping it simple.
Bean: Mama, I have to lose loads and loads and loads of weight.
Me, dumbstruck, mentally preparing a speech on body image issues and individuality.
Brat: Why?
Bean: So that I’m as light as this butterfly I found, and I can fly with it.
Brat: Don’t be silly. You’d need hollow bones for that.Me: Oh good, I’m not needed here. I can get back to wasting time online.

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Bean, playing with my phone and examining sections, reaches Favorites: Oh, so Dada is your favorite husband?

Umm yes. Only until Farhan accepts what destiny has in store for us.

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Burned some rubber on the highway with the Scorpio aka Uddham Singh, while the OA took a nap. Took the kids through mental maths games while at it without screaming SHUT UP OR WE’LL ALL DIE!! Kids encouragingly said, ‘Good job Mama – you’re not jerking us or saying any bad words.’

Oh – well that is progress!

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Reason # 36 to have a son.
Me, dressed for party: Brat, am I looking nice?
Brat, earnestly: you always look nice. In fact you only ever look nice. And sometimes you look better than nice.
Me: Bean?
Bean: Your nail polish doesn’t match.

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The Bean has just asked for some ‘watermelanin’ to eat. Let me treasure the last bit of baby talk.

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Took the monsters to see Iron Man 3. One went in a mask. Lost interest after 15 minutes. That’s not the bad part. The truly horrible part is that the father put the mask on and walked about the mall as I tried to pick up some essentials, freaking out adults and kids alike. Never mind that he was accompanied by two brats and one salwar kameez clad amma. No, shopkeepers stopped serving me and stared at him, kids hid behind their parents, adults watched open mouthed and teenagers were thrilled. Me? I’m not going out with him anywhere, ever again.

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The MM and OA have both, woken up with eye infections. The husband lovingly, tenderly, solicitously and liberally dosed my eyes with ear drops. If he is trying to get rid of me there have got to be more efficient and humane ways. :(

See you on the other side of this darkness, folks.

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What Dr Spock didn’t tell you about getting your kids to eat – Put on some good old bhangra and dance with the other parent, do the balle balle and have them giggling through dinner (Choking alert here) – if the two of you can contrive to fall backwards over the sofa arm as the grand finale, you have a winner. Works like a charm. Everytime.

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You know your kids are dying of boredom and pushing every rule about not disturbing you while you work when they come up on either side and say, ‘Let’s whisper through her ears and see if we can hear on the other side.’

Then one blows a word into your ear and the other presses up their ear against yours, waiting for the word to come through.

Technically, THEY ARE NOT TALKING TO YOU OR FIGHTING WITH EACH OTHER, so you can’t say anything to them.

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The Brat looks up from the stack of animal books he got on his birthday to ask me: What is the most dangerous predator in the sea?

I sit up, I’m on high alert. I know this. He’s already told me what each shark weighs, the length of each whale and how starfish and jellyfish and what not protect themselves. I MUST remember what the most dangerous predator is…

He doesn’t wait for a response. Disappointment drips from his voice, ‘It’s the human.’

I’m sorry, son. I’m sorry I was responsible for bringing you in to a world that constantly disappoints you.

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Me: Bean, eat your lunch.
Bean: I don’t feel like it. I might eat one bite.
Me: I might give you one slap.
Bean: hmm.. okay, I might choose the slap. It depends on whether it’s a tight slap or a loose slap.

For the record, she saw murder in my eyes and ate many bites, without the slap.

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Never a dull moment around here. A bee flew into the Brat’s ear and he came in shrieking and screaming. I got scared and screamed even louder – WHAT IS WRONG?!!

Finally figured that something had flown into his ear, began making him stamp and shake his ear, him howling, me terrified, the Bean getting underfoot, patting him and saying, think nice thoughts.

The cook suggested he hold his nose and blow. Lo and behold, it worked, the bee flew out. SO, parents, please keep this trick in mind, should this, God forbid, happen to your child.

———————–

“You are not my choice of mama. Cheerio” says she.

I was too impressed by her choice of words to be worried about her choice of mama.

——————–

Dear OA, Your son is turning into YOU.
He walked out of home without his school bag. I turned into a banshee and started screeching at him to come back and take it.

He turned around, walked back slowly, his little face the picture of calm, walked up to me, pulled me down, kissed me on the forehead gently and walked away. Again, without his bag. MEN!

——————–

Bean: Mama, is my punishment over?
Me: I didn’t punish you.
Bean: Okay then, is the consequence of my action over?

I give up.

——————–

You know they’ve grown up when the 7.5 year old takes the 6 year old to the bathroom when she starts coughing, holds her over the pot, rubs her back and encouragingly checks the puke out and says, ‘That’s a good one, keep going.’

And when you enter the bathroom in concern and say, We’re fine, we’ll manage, you go back to work.

———————

The joys of being on an RWA mailing list.

You think I can make this stuff up?

Yes what I say that “I am at your disposal” I mean it and elloberate that i am at the disposal for help to the residents to the best of my capabilities and worst within limitations imposed by circumstances and heirarcial proceedures.The meaning which you have derived from my statement is purely your wishful imagination.I do not want to further elloberate on this.

—————————-

Dear early morning ill-mannered lout,
The correct response when a child wishes you ‘Good morning Uncle,’ is a smile and a Good morning. Not a roll of eyes and ‘Yeh kya sab karvate ho bachchon se?’ He’s learning manners, not a performing monkey. And in return I’ll refrain from pointing out that you’d do well to teach your child the rudimentary and perfunctory Hi, if nothing more.
sincerely,
a very ruffled mother hen

——————————-

I bumped into a familiar looking lady in Fabindia last year, beginning of the school year. I thought she might be mother to one of the new kids. She also looked at me and we both went – “Seen you someplace.”Finally she blinks and says, ‘I know! You’ve seen me in school. I’m the Bean’s mum.’And I’m like, ‘Err, noooo, I am the Bean’s mum.’So she blinks again and says, ‘Oh. Then I’m her teacher.’

As you can imagine, it’s been an entertaining year with her.

—————————

In other news, the Universe continues to torture me by making sure I receive one of these emails everyday. This one to our community egroup.

” a cricket coach who is tipped to be our cricket coach for coaching of cricketing children “

You don’t say.

——————————–

Met a woman today who introduced herself saying, ‘I’m married and I live in Gurgaon and I run an xyz store with my husband P.’

She didn’t even think of telling me her name.

——————–

Has spent the evening cooking (the most awesome juicy burgers with bacon, cheese and onion jam blah blah) and then giving her husband a massage (don’t let your imagination run away with you – he’s had a terrible stitch in the side for the last 24 hours and its not going away)…. and then feeding kids and putting them to bed.

Can someone please call up MM of end Feb 1996 and tell her not to freak out over the upcoming board exams? She’s not going to need any of that stuff or the degrees, specially since any old crap will get published these days.

Thanks.

————————–

Mother and son walking in the sun. Son holding mother’s hand.
Mother looks at son fondly and says, ‘Even though you’re such a big boy you like holding mama’s hand?’
Brat: Yes.
Then his innate honesty that cannot be repressed, bursts forth – ‘And also if I let go, you’ll start poking in my ear.’

Err.. okay. Sorry I asked.

——————–

Reason # 827 to have a baby:

So that your son can go and heat his face on the heater at the far end of the room and then come back and hold his soft, heat-reddened cheek against yours so that ‘your root canal doesn’t hurt while you’re working’.

Apparently at the grand old age of 7 you need excuses to lay your cheek against your mother’s. Not that we’re complaining.

———————–

Bean deliberately lying with her foot in a sick Brat’s face. He pulls off her socks in annoyance. She whines. I tell her to move. She responds, Salman Khan style (ugh!) – Once I lie down and make myself comfortable, I don’t like to move.

I respond telling her that my foot will make itself comfortable on her backside if I get anymore cheek from her. She shifts grudgingly and tells him in a stage whisper: I don’t know why you’re getting special treatment. You’re only sick, not dead.

Brat responds sensibly: If I were dead, I wouldn’t be pulling your socks and you wouldn’t be so whiny. You’d be missing me.

Dear God, how much longer before they leave for college?

———————-

A frustrated, irate Brat trying to make himself feel better, and convince others that this too shall pass, “She’s just an optical illusion. The Bean isn’t real.”

—————————–

If you have imagination it won’t matter that you’re growing up in the middle of a concrete jungle. The Brat looks dreamy-eyed at steel and chrome towers in Gurgaon and says, The Convergys building is The Black Pearl and the DLF one is The Flying Dutchman.

—————————

The day kicks off with drama. The Brat has a pink eye and the OA is chasing him with eyedrops. He is captured and screams, “you’re putting poison in my eyes!” And the Bean decides to give the background score singing “You’re poison…poison running through my veins”, loud enough to drown out the screams.

Apparently you’re never too young to be an Alice Cooper fan.

——————-

Bean: Brat, your tongue is green! Either you ate something weird, or (looks closer and frowns) you’re turning into a mutant.

——————–

Proud of my man who was recently interviewed and said – I am a Gurgaon based husband to a freelance journalist (who is also a pretty famous mommy blogger), father of two delightful children and a worker ant in the financial services sector.
Don’t think I know many others who introduce themselves as Husband to….

The changes are a coming. Slow and steady.

———————-

Beanism of the day – I drank so much water in school, so much, so much… that I was drunk.

Sigh. Soon there will come a day when she *will* be drunk and I will not be putting it up on FB so happily.

———————–

‘Be the bigger person.’ ‘Take the high road’, I’m begging. Such a waste of honourable words when the disagreement has degenerated to the level of ‘Smell my stinky socks’, ‘I’m going to fart in your face’.

Parenting is not for those with refined sensibilities.

———————

Cousin K after an exhausting couple of hours with the kids, “Yaar, your kids are like kattas (country pistols). Never know whether they’ll hit the target or explode in your hand.”

Sigh. It’s so good to be sick in bed and have someone else man the show.

——————

Lady at decoration store: Woh jo Krishnaji ka rath hota hai na? Arjun ke liye chalate hain? Woh ha? Arre haan, yeh wala.
Picks a snow covered sled out of the midst of X’mas decorations at the store, pays and walks off.
Oh well, what matters is that the customer was satisfied!

———————————

The Bean patting the blanket covered lump next to me in bed gingerly: Daddy, is that you?

Me? I’m hoping if it’s not Daddy it turns out to be Farhan Akhtar.

————————-

Me: Bean, why don’t you just finish your lunch and make my life a little easier?
Bean shakes her head and says ruefully: But life is never easy, Mama.
#OneTightSlap

———————

Me: Brat, WHY must you start a new book at bed time.
He gives it some thought and seriously replies: I think I just like to be contrary.

You think?!!

—————————

An irate Brat looking at his lunch plate piled with winter veggies: When I grow up I’m going to create a veg-free zone. Only meat will be allowed, and we’ll have a vegetable embargo.

Sigh. It’s a good thing we’re in positions of power for a few years more.

——————

OA watching TV and cracking up. Bean asks him why he’s laughing. He can’t explain and says – Long story. After two minutes he cracks up again and she asks him what is so funny. He responds again, ‘Long story’.
Bean: You say that only to shut me up.

———————

How do you know you’ve lived in Delhi a long, long time? When your daughter gets thoroughly confused and says, Do I have to wear my Pajeros to bed?

———————–

Cousin K is playing fetch with my daughter. He throws a pen, she barks, holds up her paws, pants, wags her ‘tail’, and goes on all fours to pick it up in her mouth. I just want to record this so that someday I can treat his kids like puppies. Vengeance will be mine.

———————

Jab Tak Hai Jaan might have been a better experience if the OA hadn’t spent the entire four hours sighing and groaning theatrically and punctuating all that with sudden shouts of ‘ab marega saala’.

Because JTHJ wasn’t bad enough, I’m torturing myself further with Rowdy Rathore. To top off the experience I’m going to walk on broken glass and chew on bolts and poke my eyes out.

—————————–

So it finally happened.

She shows up with a Barbie wearing an outfit that leaves nothing to the imagination and says – Mama, can you make me a dress like this?
Before I can respond the brother scornfully says, “You want to get dengue? You need to be covered a little more than that if you want to be safe from mosquitoes. That’s a very silly dress.”
Thanks Brat!

——————–

The Bean lying in bed and waving legs in air and screaming out a song tunelessly about hard days and snot and puppies. Finishes the raucous performance and asks, “Was that annoying?”
Err…
No, she says? Then I’ll try again.

Argh!

————————

You know the tables have turned when you stare at two mugs hard, and then pick one for your daughter and pour her water and she responds with – ‘Good job. You really read my mind there.’

—————————

Reason # 169 why kids should not watch superhero stuff indiscriminately.
Brat.. and blah blah, Green Lantern blah blah, goes to sleep with his girlfriend.
Bean: How can you sleep next to a girlfriend? She doesn’t live in your house.
Brat: Uffo! they must be having a playdate and a sleepover, na! That must be why.

—————————

Reason # 361 why I’m glad to have a daughter – I come out after a bath and she grabs my towel, sits on the floor and gently dries my feet. I could get used to this

——————-

“Suraj ki galti nahi, chanda ki galti nahi, acche time ki galti nahi, burey time ki galti nahi…” the Bean is singing.
Did you make that poem up, I ask her?
“No, I’m singing a Michael Jackson song in Hindi..” she says.
Which of you have figured out what she is singing?

————————

Proof that my son is well-trained- he tells his father,”husbands must do what their wives tell them to.”
I think I can ask for dowry for this one. :D

———————–

Dear Jabong,
Bellies are not shoes. A belly is the lower portion of your trunk, your abdomen. Now if you mean ballet pumps or court shoes, we can talk. Please, I beg of you, remove that advertisement banner from HHC.
A well wisher

—————————–

So your husband has made it a habit of inviting people over for dinner and informing you at 7.45pm. You scramble around organising a dinner, and then as you’re laying out the hors d’oeuvres your pestilential daughter shows up and grabs a seaweed cracker ruining the pattern you’ve laid them out in. You turn around, ready to bite and she grins cheekily at you and squeaks, “Polly wants a cracker.”
Yes, of course I let her off easy.

————————————

The Brat is writing a poem in Hindi as part of his school homework.
One line goes, Ma ek, kitabein anek.
If all he associates with books is his mother, I can die happy.

———————-

The OA doesn’t know any Megadeth songs and Cousin K has only heard INXS with the Fortune guy. And I have to live with people of this sort. :-/

————————

You know you should change the way you speak to your kids when you hear an almighty crash in the nursery and your daughter yells out, ‘It’s okay, nobody died.’

—————————–

Brat explains to Bean: Boys must only kiss girls if they want to be kissed. You can’t force someone to kiss you back.

Chalo OA, at least we’ve taught them something.

———————————

Insanely cute new physiotherapist tells me he’ll have me running the marathon next year if I keep working on my knee regularly. Adding, ‘Wahi toh jeena hota hai. Nahi to sirf EMI bhar rahe ho.” Word.

————————-

A much-Onam-influenced Brat stuffs his face with a layered paratha and asks, “Can I have another Mahaballi paratha?”

———————-

Bean: Amen means Goodbye. You know, you finish a prayer and then say Bye to God.

———————

Bean: And blah blah

Me: No, it’s not like that, it’s actually yaada yaada.
Bean: Oh, oops, that was silly of me.
Me: That’s okay… it’s not silly at all.
Bean: Yeah, but I came pretty close to being silly!

————————–

Bean to me after I’d stuck back the nth broken something: Mama, you’re the bestest fixer in the world.
Best compliment a mother can receive if she’s not a sportsperson.

—————————

The OA  looks happiest when he is holding hands with both the kids, walking towards a restaurant.

—————————

The Brat catching sight of a music channel while I surf, “what is the name of that person?”

Me: Which one?

Brat: That one under the actresses’ bum?”

*groan!*

——————————–

Should I be seeking help for my daughter if I find her sitting in a corner, yelling into a conch shell “Helloooo? Is there anybody home?”

—————————-

Me to cousin K – Oye, go get some biscuits to have with our tea.
Brat: Don’t order him around. You’re treating him like the Britishers treated the Indians.

—————————

Father and son disagree. It’s amusing to see two identical faces, separated by 30 years, bound by blood and the same stubborn nature, lock horns. Someone get me some popcorn.

——————————-

Brat: Mama, why don’t you iron your hair and take the fur off your arms and legs before a party like the ladies on TV?
Ah the joys of being a male brought up by a wash and wear mother.
Me: Because I’m doing some girl a favor by not nurturing those unrealistic standards and pointless expectations, darling.

—————————

Me: Stop muttering you two, I can’t understand a word. Can you speak any louder?
Bean: No. Gentlemen and ladies don’t talk loudly. It’s bad manners.
Me: *gulp* Whatever, go play outside. Such lovely weather.
Bean: If it is so pleasant, why aren’t you coming out with us?

Damn. Hoist by my own petard. See you later, FB. I’m out to get some sun.

———————

Kids’ bathroom reeking of Savlon. They decided to pour it in their bathwater. When I walk in and say “But why?” they give me back my own words mock penitently -
Bean: This is ENTIRELY our own fault. We take the blame.
Brat: Everyone make mistakes, we’re only human.
Dear God, so glad I’m leaving them with the grandparents tonight. Yayyy!!!

—————————-

Me to a filthy Bean: You’re going to drive me to an early grave.
Bean, helpfully: Okay, but you’re going to have to wait. Dada said I can only drive after I turn 18.

——————-

TMM is having a midnight feast of ghee-rice, chicken momos and hot chocolate with two mischievous little gigglers, while He Who Must Not Be Disturbed snores on. This is the life.

Thai High

So the Thailand trip to celebrate 10 years of marriage happened and I’ve come back with rather mixed feelings about the place. The plan was to spend some days in Pattaya and then hang out with the rather mad Aneela and her delightful son in Bangkok.

It was a long and complicated holiday plan. The OA, kids and I drove half way around the country spending time with friends and family before we took off to Pattaya. I was the recipient of plenty of shocked comments – Taking kids to Pattaya?!

Yes, yes we were taking them. And we had a lovely time. Our hotel was right on Jomtien Beach and inspite of the Brat running temperature 5 days straight, we went out everyday and he lived to tell the tale. I’m glad we took the kids though, because it took us to parts of the city most others wouldn’t bother with.  From the Underwater World to running in the rain around the Million Year Stone park, we saw animals we’ve never seen and generally had a great time.

Bangkok was next and I have to say I was a tiny bit disappointed by my experience. For one, it felt a lot like many Indian cities, just, on speed! Rush, rush, rush. Which is like NY no doubt, but my God the heat and humidity were not for me. I can’t stand coastal cities, so to have to rush around in one, was my worst nightmare come true. Fortunately though, we had The Aneela to hang out with and it was amazing to have an almost local show us around and take us to cat cafes and cute little local parks.

I loved the motorbike taxis and recently someone on facebook suggested that India needed them. I’m not sure if India is there yet. For one, the guys driving them smell good and look a lot cleaner than our local auto drivers  – call me a snob, but if I have to hang on to a man for dear life, I’d like it to be a tolerable if not a pleasant experience. For another, I don’t know if Indian women would be happy to jump on and ride pillion with a strange man. I was most impressed to see women come out of office in their formals and hop on to a bike and zoom off home or to the tube. And finally, the traffic here is far more disorganised, making a bike ride as safe as tight rope walking over a river full of crocodiles. I certainly wouldn’t want to trust a stranger’s skill on it!

The malls were dazzling, prices were decent, but after a point I went nuts. When I got home and made a mental list of what I’d bought, I realised I didn’t need any of it. The consumer culture there is a lot more than one realises and there are huge collapsible suitcases on wheels for sale – shop, fill up a suitcase and roll it home.

I of course indulged myself with the famous massages and the OA and babies would quietly lie down on the comfy chairs with a book and wait for me to be done. I kept begging the OA to try one but he hates people touching him and has never been a massage fan. I finally succeeded towards the end of the holiday and he converted and how! Like all new converts he couldn’t stay away and was most disgusted at himself for not having given it a shot earlier.

The massage parlours also showed me how easy it is for moral and ethical lines to be crossed. The very same parlours that give you a full body massage are willing to, for a small price, give the men a ‘happy ending’. Apart from my rage at the unfairness of men being offered happy endings and women, not, I am also shocked at how easy it is to cross that little line. Unlike the effort it takes to cross a mental barrier and go over to a seedy brothel in a separate district, these parlours are safe, clean, shiny happy places, right in the middle of the regular shopping and residential districts. I could be sitting in a lazy-boy with my child reading a book by my side, while upstairs some guy is getting his rocks off. It shook me up.

I also finally saw what people meant about the flesh trade – its so in your face that you get immune to it after a point. Loads of older white men with young Asian girls, barely old enough to be out of school. The girls are picked up to keep house while ‘servicing’ the men. What an amazing deal. It’s like going back by about a 100 years or so. Young, beautiful, available, doing the laundry, keeping house, submissive, all for a price. We were chatting with the owner of our hotel who said they are called summer wives. That the men all say that this is a great break from their Western life where the women are equal, strong and expect them to help around the house. Food for thought. Where people can buy submission, they will. The desire to be equal, fair, is not a common one. And as women get stronger and less willing to take bullshit, there will be men who will hunt for other options, even if it means paying for them. And there will be women who will be happy to sell them that illusion. Le sigh.

I teased the OA that people probably thought we were one of those couples – he is almost fully white haired now and often gets mistaken for Italian/Lebanese – and I am almost always asked if I am from Nagaland. It was probably thanks to the kids that no one thought I was his lady for the night! Well that and the fact that I was in kurtis and tracks for the entire holiday, not dressed to the nines like those ladies.

What impresses one is the Thai willingness to work hard. Unlike the Western world where shops shut at 6pm and leave you high and dry, shops here are open till late night. And oh the hawkers! At any time of night or day, there are pavements overflowing with clothes, toys, quick eats.  I also learnt something rather interesting – apparently traditional Thai homes did not have kitchens. Even in villages, one home was selected to be the one that cooked and fed the rest, while others were given other responsibilities. Even now, many Thai people eat out and it’s easy to see why. Hot, juicy sausages on sticks, fresh cut fruit, sticky rice and glistening chicken in little takeaway boxes – I could eat all day!

We spent a lot of time on Jomtien Beach in Pattaya and that place was the best example of indulgence and hedonism. Lie back on chairs put out by someone, eat fresh sea food grilled right under your nose and then have a little old lady sit down in the sand by the foot of your chair and give you a pedicure. This is where I drew the line. I just couldn’t stand the idea of looking out at the gorgeous blue sea while my children built sand castles and my husband took a water scooter for a spin, while I lay back, stuffed my face with delicious prawns and a lady old enough to be my grandmother, sat under the hot sun in hijab, and pressed my feet. Call me a fool, but that’s probably what I am, then.

And perhaps that is what I learnt on my holiday. That money really can buy you anything. Except the ability to stomach some of it.

The very cool and rather anal, Cat Cafe. I like cats as much as the next person but they fussed so much and made us wash and sanitise our hands a dozen times - and even then we had to wait for a cat to decide if it wanted to come or not. Err.. whatever.

The very cool and rather anal, Cat Cafe. I like cats as much as the next person but they fussed so much and made us wash and sanitise our hands a dozen times – and even then we had to wait for a cat to decide if it wanted to come or not. Err.. whatever.

The Bean shows off her new slippers

The Bean shows off her new slippers

Stopping by a dhaba for chai as we drove through the country.

Stopping by a dhaba for chai as we drove through the country.

The beautiful Jharkhand roads.

The beautiful Jharkhand roads.

The cable cars at Science City, Calcutta

The cable cars at Science City, Calcutta

A traditional Thai dance performance as we ate dinner.

A traditional Thai dance performance as we ate dinner.

Jelly fish glow in the dark at the Underwater World

Jelly fish glow in the dark at the Underwater World

The beautiful tent over Underwater World

The beautiful tent over Underwater World

Don't pee or fart in a Baht bus!

Don’t pee or fart in a Baht bus!

Don't molest women either. Although the Bean read this as - 'Mama? Women shouldn't sing loudly on the baht bus?'  The Brat then enlightened her. :-/

Don’t molest women either. Although the Bean read this as – ‘Mama? Women shouldn’t sing loudly on the baht bus?’
The Brat then enlightened her. :-/

When you come from India, it's rare that you get to call a plant exotic.

When you come from India, it’s rare that you get to call a plant exotic.

Adjutant clerk bird - well named!

Adjutant clerk bird – well named!

Grilling fresh seafood on the beach

Grilling fresh seafood on the beach

You may say, I'm a dreamer... but I'm not the only one.

You may say, I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one.

A very funky mobile bar. And peace prevails around it. I can imagine what the Right would do if we set these up in India!

A very funky mobile bar. And peace prevails around it. I can imagine what the Right would do if we set these up in India!

A light installation made of sunglasses.

A light installation made of sunglasses.

A food court in a mall - never seen one so quiet or classy.

A food court in a mall – never seen one so quiet or classy.

A beautiful restaurant on a quiet lane. Moon River or something.

A beautiful restaurant on a quiet lane. Moon River or something.

Old electronics reassembled to make robots and figures. Chatuchak market

Old electronics reassembled to make robots and figures. Chatuchak market

Did not know they'd moved into the food business ;)

Did not know they’d moved into the food business ;)

Some of us indulged, yes.

Some of us indulged, yes.

The entrance to a mall done up with transparent umbrellas

The entrance to a mall done up with transparent umbrellas

Brat warming a shivering Bean at the airport

Brat warming a shivering Bean at the airport

Cal junta, have I done justice to your famous bridge?

Cal junta, have I done justice to your famous bridge?

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

2

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

3

The jellyfish from the Kukucrate kit hanging from a lampshade

4

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

5

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.

6

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

7

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.

8

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

9

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

10

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!

Welcome and goodbye

Perhaps the greatest pleasure of ‘growing up’ is hosting your family. And I have that simple joy pretty often. From being local guardian to my cousins in college, to my parents who travel through the NCR every two months or so on business. Friends, family who I have never met before at times and acquaintances who just need a place to crash, at times. But my favourite, by far, is having Chhota Nana and Nani (or my maama and maami) over, every summer.

In their mid-forties, they’re young, enthusiastic and fun. And yet, they’re older so I hand over the reigns of my house to them and party like an animal. The kids sleep with them, eat with them and breathe down their necks, staying out of my way, giving me an illusion of being childless, footloose and fancyfree in the Capital again.

It’s just like having my own parents in town, without the hassle of controlling my temper after day 3 as I always have to do when my father and I are in the same house. Invariably tempers fray and doors are slammed and the foundation rocks, as we scream at each other over something completely inconsequential. My mother and the OA pale and come up with creative ways to dispel the tension.

So these times with Chhota Nana and  Nani are some of the best times as a hostess (if you can call me that, when I am barely surfacing before 9 am each morning!). Chhota Nana walks around the house pulling at door knobs, knocking against walls to check for termites, servicing my AC, hanging up the last few pictures we’d dumped in a corner, adding a little block of wood under a shelf that has a broken leg and fixing my cooler for better cooling. Chhoti Nani reads to the Brat and Bean, stitches little satin roses on to anything the Bean produces, cooks up the most delicious kebabs and biryanis and comes carrying jars of mango chutney. By evening Cousin J and I share a Breezer and are quite giggly and the whole family sits around roaring with laughter and cracking the silliest jokes. Cousin K turns up his 21 year old nose at his two drunk-on-a-shared-Breezer sisters and dutifully helps the OA get my kids into pajamas. All in all, a brilliant situation.

Socialising while they are here is fun too, because most of our friends are in their late 30s and early 40s, with kids the same age as ours. And then there are these youthful grandparents who confuse them – should they call them Uncle and Aunty, considering there is not more than 3-4 years of age difference? At a party last week, Chhote Nana carried the Bean around on his shoulders while the other dads hung around sipping their drinks and saying it was too hot to be bothered. They were fine when they met this young, slight, fit man in his jeans and tee, until the OA made the mistake of saying this is his uncle in law. An awkward pause followed by the sudden realisation that they should call him Uncle. And then my as-yet-not-greying Uncle looking at me in barely disguised horror as many bigger, paunchy, grey, men began to call him Uncle. I teased him about it for days. At some point they began to discuss bikes and I think they forgot to call him Uncle after a cigarette had been passed around.

It’s an odd situation because their own daughter is 20 and studying, but I am their daughter too in every way that matters. Thanks to me they’ve had the pleasure of grandchildren far earlier than anyone in their group of friends – and my cousins who have barely left their teens are disgusted at how besotted their parents are by my kids and wonder aloud why they were not allowed to get away with murder, the way mine are. The oldies (if one can call them that) love our new house and I love walking into their room in the morning and watching them read the morning papers, framed against my backyard and the lilies in the pond. I love the sound of their voices over a cup of tea while we go about our daily business. I love being their child who is now old enough to take them out for a meal or drag them away from their own house for a bit of a break. Of course they are unable to sit still here either, but it’s a little better than being home and working.

When they leave, after the mandatory 2 weeks that I insist they must stay, I feel the light go out of the house. They fit so beautifully into our home, complementing and supplementing, without ever making me feel like I need to do anything, that I feel the void intensely. For days after they leave, the Brat and Bean mope. Which is not something they do with anyone else, other than Baby Button. Thankfully this year they’ve left and barely two days later I have followed and dropped the kids back home.

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I’ve left the babies with my parents year after year since they turned one, for an annual break (they as well as we, need it!). It’s a great idea because the two sets of grandparents – Nana-G’pa and Chhota Nani and Nana, get a chance to spoil the kids rotten without me hovering over them, looking like a thundercloud each time a Kachcha Mango Bite is offered or they watch an episode of Doraemon. A time of absolute freedom, not hampered by the sandwich generation. I know its important for kids to get a break from the schedule of home, that they get to throw routine to the winds and unlearn order. That they realise TV is not the enemy Mama makes it out to be and eating a chocolate before breakfast will not kill them. All very important childhood lessons I am sure. My son is playing cricket with the boys on the street this summer and my daughter is sitting on (not at) her grandfather’s desk, telling his staff that will one day she will run G’pas office. Thankfully its a small town where people find that rather amusing.

Each year I tell them that I’m leaving them there and going off with Dada for a break. This is the first year that the Brat objected. He is Baby Button-crazy and after the first few days of nodding, he suddenly snapped and said – But why can’t we go. Err…. good question. Because its expensive and because your father and I haven’t had a good old holiday since I was expecting you – X’mas 2004in London. Because there will be lots of walking and with two torn ligaments and a bunch of missing cartilage in my right knee, I’m going to be hard pressed to carry myself, let alone anyone else. He agreed and floated off, albeit rather morosely.

Actually I have no idea why we’re not taking the kids other than sheer tradition. This annual ritual is usually a 3-4 day one where we take a break and spend sometime just being a couple. Having had them so early in our married life, the OA and I have been parents almost our entire relationship. We come back refreshed and ready to handle the rigours of parenthood for the rest of the year. And the kids have by that time ingested enough sweet to keep them bouncing off the walls for the next month or two. They show no grief when I am leaving for the station, they’re too busy screaming and running around the living room with some family member. (Actually they’ve never cried at a single parting, be it starting a new school or leaving for a holiday – makes me wonder if I’m such a bad mother that they’re happy to be rid of me. But that is fodder for another post!). Last night was the first time they came to the railway station to drop me. On the way, the usually vague Brat looked up and under cover of darkness, said, ‘I’ll miss you, mama,” out of the blue. I was shocked.

My poor kids have had to live with an overly emotional, extremely expressive mother. I spend at least 20% of my time rolling on them, squashing them, squeezing them and telling them how much I love them. The Brat takes after his father, solemnly accepting his fate and suffering in silence. The Bean takes after me by knocking on the bathroom door about 3 minutes into my bath and saying, “Hurry up and come out, Mama. I’m already missing you.” You get the picture.

This year too, they planned excitedly for their summer break with the grandparents. Packing a bag of things to do on the train, helping me pack their suitcase, calling the grandparents twice a day to remind them that they want to do X,Y or Z once they’re there. The Bean has held back on her haircut for the last 2 months saying she will only get Aunty P in Allahabad to cut it. They’re going to go swimming with my parents, and will be off to Banaras this weekend and Madras the weekend after that for 10 days, sun, sand and egg dosas.

Friends who don’t have parents to leave the kids with, envy us. I on the other hand envy friends whose parents live with them and take care of the kids while they work. Anyhow, the point remains that next year I think we might not be able to leave them behind. Not because they won’t agree to stay. But because I don’t think I can do it anymore.

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And here’s a sample of the idiocy we’re busy with when we’re home. A picture of the feet of three generations of women. They get progressively fairer (my mother is strangely dark for being the product of a pink and white Garhwali-Punjabi father and light skinned Bengali mother) starting with my mother’s dark but beautifully shaped foot, my medium toned but very plain foot and the Bean’s fairer foot – but she, poor child has unfortunately got the OA’s really ugly feet.

Girls just wanna have fun

Endless summer afternoons

It’s 48 degrees in the shade and Delhi is not baking but burning to a crisp, like bacon. The proof is the oil dripping off my face. I do my best to not fight it, to embrace the heat. I try and remind myself that there are people across the world who yearn for a bit of the bone warming sun. And I do my best to make the home comfortable, with thick drapes, chilled aam panna, cool creamy lassi and the good old desert cooler that fills our home with the lovely fresh scent of khus. But it’s an undeniable fact that the North Indian summer is deadly and kids on a school break feel trapped inside the home.

For years I’ve flip flopped between summer camp or not. Last year a friend ran a special summer camp at a very special school and suggested I send the kids with her. It suited me because the kids travelled both ways with her and I didn’t have to organise the logistics. Her kids and mine are friends and it worked out well for everyone. I’d even sent them in the earlier years in Delhi because we were locked into our third floor house and the kids couldn’t get out of the house until 6 pm. It just seemed cruel.

This year, now that we’ve moved into our lovely little house with a garden, I decided I’d keep them home. The entire point of a summer break is to give them a break from routine. To let them lounge like lizards and come up with something of their own to do. To let them whine, ‘I’m bored, mama’. And then tell them what my grandmother often told me – ‘Only boring people get bored; interesting people have a whole world of fun going on inside their heads.’ My brother and I hated it when she said that. And yet it taught us so much. We learnt to entertain ourselves. And we learnt to be still.

They say an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, but I disagree.  Left to themselves kids can be amazingly creative and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with some of the things they’ve come up with. It’s not easy, particularly since I work from home and that means the kids bang on my door ever so often with a ‘What shall we do?’ or a quarrel to settle. But I soldier on without succumbing entirely to the tempting air conditioning of malls. Remember this post on keeping kids out of malls?

What is lovely about the new locality is that there are so many parents who parent just like I do. We may have nothing to say to each other (but funnily we do!) but we agree almost blindly on matters of parenting. So each morning the kids go off to have lunch with someone and every 3rd or 4th day I have about 4 kids at mine. They play hide and seek around the house, they paint, they create entire farms of playdough, they lose their tempers and throw the ludo board at each other with accusations of CHEATING!, they drag bedsheets over chairs and create castles and pirate ships and put on feather boas and masks and create stories. On a Saturday the OA plays math games with all the kids while another mother runs them through their Hindi workbook for a quick revision. I do a storytelling activity followed by a quick art and craft session. In case you don’t know how to come up with stories, you can take a little help from this game the kids were gifted (thanks Aneela!) that I thought I’d share with you. It is called Shape Your Story and is very handy to keep the kids entertained. There is a set of cards, a dice and a marker. All you need to do is add to the shape and create something. And that is the starting point for your story. Much fun and much inspiration for the wildest of stories.

What is nice about this system is that each house has it’s own set of games and at another home located at a dead end, they play cricket and football. A third home is  bang opposite the park so they run out and play in the shade. The kids learn to eat pure vegetarian at one home while the vegetarian kids learn that meat will be put on my table even though I will ensure that they don’t touch it. But every single one of these homes offers only healthy homecooked food and fresh fruit. And very limited TV viewing. I couldn’t ask for more or better.

In another two weeks the kids are off to spend 3 weeks with my parents while the OA and I take a much deserved trip to Istanbul and the US. Before we know it, these long lazy summer vacations will be over. Real life will begin and they will never know more than a 20 day break in the year. Until that happens, I want them to know what it feels like for a day to seem endless, a night to be cool and restful, a break to be never ending and a week to be full of possibilities.

I leave you with some pictures of what they’ve been up to.

Breaking a lump of clay to discover Dino fossils. Some of the toys you get these days are amazing. Just right for my geeky son.

The Brat creates an octopus from a couple of sticky straw thingies.

The Bean draws the Taj Mahal from memory on the chalkboard I’ve painted in a corner of their nursery.

The Brat’s latest obsession – big cats. I think he was trying to copy a Serval or something here.

A friend joins them on the mess mat for an afternoon of finger painting.

The Bean’s ladybird on canvas

Planting veggies for the summer