Celebrate good times, come on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

For the oneth of June

Beanism of the day: Dada’s birthday is on the oneth of June.

Yes, it was yesterday. We got him a gift, hand painted some cards and cut some Mango Mascarpone Cheesecake – I highly recommend the deli at the Fortune Select Excalibur. The cakes are delicious –  I’ve had friends bring them over for tea and so I finally made the effort to get the OA’s cake from there. Creamy, just the right texture, and being mango season it was a dream come true. They even had a fresh mango cake! The service was brilliant. I stopped there for a few minutes to pick up the cake and they bent backwards getting me water, offering me a chair and the newspaper.

After we put the kids to bed we went out to dinner to a little known place called The Banyan Grill at O Palacio. It’s got the worst location possible. Some MCD work going on and no parking so we parked far down the road and walked. A little crack between some asbestos sheets bang opposite the Hard Rock Cafe sign at DLF Place, Saket.  There were fuit vendors sitting around in the dark and flower pot sellers stacking their wares for the night. It was my idea and I checked twice with the OA if we should change our plans but he said we should learn to live on the edge. Right. I teetered in on high heels and a light cotton dress. And once we got past the worst a guard showed up, insisted on taking our keys and parking us in a safer, closer spot.

It’s one of those contemporary joints where art meets fashion meets food as we might have discovered had we come earlier than we did, at 11pm. Thank you, Gurgaon! The place opened up magically in the midst of the dust and dirt and the cliched but immediate image is of a lotus in a scum filled pond. A very Med feel with white washed walls, pebbled paths, fairy lights twinkling and tall palms waving majestically in the breeze. A tiny patch of  lawn and then high walls that open into a courtyard, a rickshaw full of potted plants parked in the middle of the greens. Steps lead down into the courtyard and the massive banyan tree  holding centrestage catches your attention. Tables scattered at many levels, windchimes ringing in the breeze, candles lighting up nooks, stairs leading off from the main area and an airconditioned room for those who choose to sit indoors. For a moment I wondered if it was haunted because it was deserted. And then suddenly the place came to light and staff rushed out.

The service was really fast and our crisp cool feta, rocket and pear salad was just right for a hot summer night. Actually, strike that, they had this huge pedestal fan in a corner and it kept everything cool and rather romantic with the leaves all fluttering in the breeze. I told the OA we needed one of those in the house. While waiting around we looked around and spied the boutique area – I’m told there are also sculptures by Yusuf Arakkal among others but by the time we got there it was really too dark and we were too hungry to feed our minds.

They had no alcohol other than wine. No sangrias unless they have a party, they said. Well, there goes my chance at imbibing, I shrugged. The OA who isn’t the type to get stewed to the gills unless there is scotch didn’t bother. I think we got high simply on the ambience and the  fact that we were the only patrons there. I don’t think it’s doing too well and if I had to find something to pin the blame on I’d say it’s the location. Haven’t they heard the rule of location, location, location?  I’m told it’s run by a designer, so maybe not.

The two girls serving us didn’t know much about the food but smiled sweetly and served fast so that they could head home, no doubt. The OA messed up my order while I wandered around taking pictures and instead of a Chicken in Veloute sauce I ended up with a Jamaican Jerk Chicken that I was just not in the mood for. The chicken was slightly undercooked but adequate once I got past the first bite.  The OA’s Rogan Josh (the man kills me!) was aromatic, delicious, juicy and served creatively. Portions were generous. My favourite naturally, was dessert –  Marilyn’s Lava Pear. A stewed pear drizzled with Belgian chocolate sauce  flavoured with star anise and decorated with walnuts, served with ice cream. Very nice. It does seem rather fitting that our birthdays are getting less boisterous and tastier!  I’d love to come back here on a winter afternoon and enjoy a relaxed lazy lunch in the dappled sunshine. There is a red snapper and a prawn in peanut butter sauce that has my name written on it. A meal for two should come to Rs 2500 without alcohol.

This review is the OA’s return gift to all of you. He believes that I write about everything except what he loves the most – food! And so since this is the family blog I’m going to make an effort to write more about everyone’s interests. And no, that does not mean there will be a dinosaur section.

PS: The pictures don’t do the place any justice.

 

Ice cream for lunch

… is a summer treat.

Eating it while sitting on top of the dining table  seems to be a bigger treat for some reason!

PS: Do go across to Saffron Tree and read my review of On the tip of a Pin was…. a sweet little story about exploring new avenues and being appreciated for who you are. Funnily, it was a well-timed read in the midst of the admission struggles.

Chip off the old block

Dear Nani,

Mama says I do you proud. No, not merely because I am a carbon copy of your mother, the looker in the family. But because I eat my chicken like any self respecting Bengali woman would. Right down to nothing. Which is like you and unlike her.

The family has usually gotten up and walked away post-dessert but I will be found wandering around the house, my sticky little face covered with gravy and a chicken bone chewed beyond recognition in my hand. It keeps me occupied for at least an hour after dinner and should anyone be foolhardy enough to even attempt extricating it from my grubby fingers, I scream blue murder. Just like you.

I’m thinking of permanently moving to live with you and G’pa since the philistines who gave birth to me don’t know how to appreciate a good leg of chicken.

Love

The Bean