Rules are meant to be broken

Dear OA,

When we were expecting the Brat I told you I’d kill you if you ever laid a hand on my kids. You looked at me in disbelief. Was there ever a child brought up without getting the odd whack? Well, I was. Hmm.. you said, that explains it. Of course the Brat arrived and the first hand to land heavy on his backside was mine. I’ve never seen a father look happier at his child getting a spanking. And then rush in to save him as an afterthought.

Way before all of this happened, when we were still dating you mentioned that you hated food on the bed. No chips, no meals, nothing. I shrugged, it didn’t matter to me anyway, because I eat all my meals at the table. And yet, who is it who gets the midnight munchies and gets into bed with chocolates, chips, murukkus and such like? Perhaps the last straw was a plate of Hyderabadi Biryani you got into bed with, at 2 am. Too tired to get out of bed to heat it, but wanting to do something, I fed you – with my own lily white mocha brown hand. And you blushed. Cute. Ten years and I can still get you to blush! I’m counting on this post to get me one more. And yes, I’m going to keep spoiling you silly, so sit tight and enjoy the ride.

I guess that is what marriage is all about. Laying down laws that you will never keep!

Love

MM

You are special to me

Dear babies,

This children’s day I just want you to know, that even though I’m too achy and breaky to take you for piggy back rides like your father does, even though I can’t spoil you like your nani and g’pa do, even though I can’t be with you all day much as I want to, even though I can’t give you all the time and money on earth that I want to – you are mine and nothing could make me happier or more proud. I love you and you’re special to me – more special than special if that is possible. Be happy, be free, be everything you want to be.

Your mad mother

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On handling the samdhis

After the last computer crash I gave up all hope of having any pictures of the kids pre-2009 February.  Until I realised today that my gmail account was full and I needed to start deleting. As I went through old mail I found a lot of pictures that I’d been clicking and foisting on to unsuspecting relatives. The first among friends and family to have a baby I had no idea how annoying it could be and to their credit nobody replied telling me to shove it up. So here’s a shout out to those who know me in the real world and might have old pictures that I mailed them ( unless you printed them out for dart practice and deleted the mail)  – pliss to be mailing me any old pictures you have of me and my beloved rats. I will be eternally grateful.

Anyhow… while scrambling around in the inner recesses of the inbox I came upon a gem my father sent to me and my brother and the OA. This was around the time my brother got serious about his now wife. Apparently I had a conversation with my father that left him rather shaken. Whereupon he woke up next morning and mailed us this piece, that begged a larger audience. My brother is happily married and on most days my mother has a better relationship with his wife than with me. God bless them. So I guess its safe to air this gem now!

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One of the signs that you are ageing is when you start getting frequent advice from your children, particularly if they are daughters. Now take last night for instance – I get a call from my daughter that since the other child, her beloved brother “may be thinking” of getting married to a girl he is presently friendly with, we better take some advice from her about handling the situation. The “maybe thinking” is delicately put as one has to be careful in forming an opinion in these situations where the kids are concerned.  Handling the situation could mean anything from “don’t annoy him” to “don’t be too nosey about the girl”, but here it was specifically meant on how to handle the in-laws or “Samdhi’s as they are called in this part of the country.

I was frankly taken aback and was scanning my brain to check if I had said anything rude or behaved badly with her in-laws when she got married a few years ago. But before check disc had even started she shocked me with her next sentence, saying that the wife and I were “too nice” “easy pickings” “push overs” etc etc. Her explanation was that if you are nice to the prospective in-laws they will think that you are dying to get your daughter or son married to their progeny and imagine that their son /daughter was too good for your son or daughter or worse still, something is genetically wrong with your kids. I began to defend our attitude with a “who cares what they think anyway” when she jolted me with an accusation that the other side probably takes your friendliness as weakness and gives them latitude to be nasty to your kids. This philosophy was as clear as mud to me, but then who’s to argue with the daughter, huh?

So the wife and I have started to practice being nasty. Fortunately it’s a little easier for her, but poor me is going to find it difficult to drop my 50 odd years of gentlemanly upbringing and get down to street level. Added to that is my deep aversion to religion and caste, to colour and cash – particularly the first two. Hey, as long as the girl or guy they want to marry is a genuine person and has a good heart, nothing else matters. As long as they love each other and he or she is going to make our son/daughter happy, we are prepared to be nice to the devil himself. That’s the way the wife and I think – but then do we dare ignore the daughter’s advice? So the friendly old pushovers are now busy planning our nasty strategy – I mean getting real mean.

1. For starters we are going to ignore the other side – they don’t exist.

2. When we finally condescend to acknowledge their existence we shall “consider” if we should actually meet them or not.

3. If we do get past that stage, we would then agree to meet them for a cuppa. We shall then dilly-dally over the venue. Definitely not their place – good heavens, no -we can’t risk being seen in that part of town. The club would be out of the question- can’t let the rest of the members snigger behind our backs. Maybe at a discreet restaurant on the outskirts of town.

4. Once at the restaurant we would not discuss “the matter” at all.  We would talk mainly about how terrible the tea is and how soggy the sandwiches are and leave, apologizing and saying that we had to get back quickly as our pet stray dog would be getting lonely by now.

5. After agreeing – very reluctantly- to a second meeting (definitely not at that teerrribble restaurant) we would then invite them home for dinner. After making sure the expensive carpets were rolled away we would then put out a seven course dinner and then embarrass the hell out of them with the long line of cutlery.

6. Now when we have them grovelling at our feet,  we will start on all the reasons why we find the connection unsuitable. They belong to the wrong religion, are of an inferior caste and are probably after my money (which I have very little of anyway) etc…..

If after all this they still want to marry each other then the best of British luck to them. My wife and I shall definitely not be gracing the wedding – probably be a bloody shoddy affair anyway. Now that should sure make their married life a whole lot better and earn us a whole lot of respect. So bring on the Samdhi’s – this time around we are ready.

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Needless to say – the letter is a joke and my parents were extremely nice to the samdhis. But we did get a good laugh out of the letter!

My birthday brought

- a missing OA (he was travelling on work), Cousin K who  was distraught that his sister was alone on her birthday and he couldn’t leave the college fest, an old friend M, who was a house guest and the kids! Cousin K came on my birthday eve and surprised me with a lovely blueberry cheesecake from Wengers. If you visit Delhi and don’t stop by Wengers, you’ve deprived yourself!

The kids went nuts while Cousin K and M tried to surreptitiously set up the cake  and light the candles. The Bean brandished the knife and almost blinded Cousin K (her other favourite pastime is wedging her fingernail between his braces and teeth and trying to yank them out) while the Brat kept blowing out the candles. Cousin K and M were only too happy to call me into the dining room and hand over my kids, the cake and the knife before there was an incident. There was another incident of shattered glasses next morning while I took my birthday calls but we won’t talk about that.

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The next day (my birthday) brought a bouquet and a cake delivered home, from the OA (who also bought me the gorgeous orange leather bag you see in the picture among many more gifts later including a sindoori red chanderi saree!). I woke up to a bunch of cards on my bedside table, neatly and dutifully written out by Cousin K on behalf of the rest of the family. One from my babies too, calling me the ‘Best Mum on Earth’. If only!! Of course he’d rushed to college at the crack of dawn so I didn’t get to thank him in person. It was a busy day work wise and I missed half a dozen calls thanks to being in and out of meetings, interviews and shoots.

After putting the babies to bed I took two friends out for dinner. Their husbands were travelling too and the Lonely Wives Club had a noisy dinner! The OA came home 10 minutes before my birthday ended, only to find me out partying!

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I got a whole lot of gifts (lots from friends I originally made on the blogosphere including that lovely grey saree with the blue border from Dipali or Doosi Nani as she is known in these parts, THE MOST AWESOME book on FRIENDS from Simply Pallu, shot glasses from Divya) and here’s the funny part – mostly delivered or couriered! So I barely saw anyone but I got more phone calls than I’ve ever received, text messages, mails, e-cards and FB wishes. Technology sometimes gives you a happy day.

I thought I’d share one of my mails with you. Sent to me by OJ, a friend from my pre-technology days. Almost another lifetime…

My dear MM,

Welcome, you’re 31. An odd number, wouldn’t you think, to be written about? 30 is the big threshold, maybe even 35, but 31, that’s the “it” number, because it’s here that things get odd. And firmly in your thirties, you realize whoosh! This thing here is life and it’s going to stay a while. Now if you’d allow me the merest of moments to flaunt my 60-day lead on you (and also because this is a letter and therefore you cannot interrupt with a grumpy “I don’t like the way you’re sounding”), I’ll begin with my laundry list of dirty wisdom for the decade:

Oh sure you’ll get wiser. You won’t have a choice. Because it also gets shittier and you have to suck it up and grin.

You’ll get stronger.  All that baggage doesn’t get any lighter with the passing of the years, but hey, at least you’ll have the character equivalent of muscles to show for it!

You’ll learn to bless the plateaus. And, unlike the wild rides of youth, they’ll keep you on even keel and let you soldier on, on the days when you’d rather stay in bed and keep the sun down.

You will let go. And you’ll look at yourself in surprise and ask where MM went and they’ll tell you she’s on holiday in Sikkim. Let her be. Every personality needs a hammock.

You’ll look back fondly at the girls we were, all of 24, talking about the great loves of our lives. You went on to marry yours. I did not. Love (mush alert!) lives on, regardless.

If you lived your 30s in your 20s, chances are, you may want a sudden decade reversal. Permit yourself the impulse. Regret will only oxidize your shining heart.

Your mouth may stay shut oftener and your opinions will be kinder. Maybe you’ll be aware of more imperfections, maybe you’ll be too tired to take on the world, maybe you’ll realize the recipients don’t matter. But hell, when you let it rip, will you mean it.

You’ll grab the years greedily. Take them by the arms and go waltzing. Limbo is death. Take it from someone who’s been there, and still, in many ways, is.

There’s only this much others can help, you’ll learn. But it won’t be earth shattering because you’ll sing Gloria Gaynor if you absolutely must, but hell, will you survive.

You will give to the earth. And it will be due to your parents, though you will believe your children got you to do it. This, my lovely girl, is the decade when you will become completely yourself and those two fifty-somethings in the shadows are more responsible for it than you may fully recognize.

Your friends will be fewer, deeper, gentler. And the ones you hold on to through this decade will acknowledge and support your life choices. 360 degree turns included.

You’ll take more crap from the ones you love and less from relative strangers. And you’ll get surprisingly good at knowing the difference.

A style change will occur. Or an impulsive spin on your look. Flow with it or you’ll yawn at the mirror.

That man you married will move into his late 30s. That should be enough to have you bouncing deliriously. Newsflash: In their 40s, they get better still!

You may notice men more than you have. Don’t forget to share that good fortune with your girlfriends.

Your babies will hurtle toward the end of childhood. Have fun before the tweens, honey. And stock up on gin and advice for me. (It’s early days yet for teetotalerhood for the both of us.)

Political propriety is bullshit, you’ll realize. May you not waste time and act on it.

You will love your home. As many as you have. But knowing you, each one will be The Home and it will be your pride and joy, second only to your babies and the strong ties you have with your family.

You may become an aunt. Oh you’re waiting, aren’t you? Then you’ll want your niece/nephew to grow up next to your babies. May that will happen, maybe it won’t. But even if you do resign yourself to circumstances, you’ll always want it anyway.

You’ll pick fewer battles but will know when it’s war. And when it’s all guns blazing, you sure as hell aren’t going down first.

Some bones already creak. They surprised you at first, but won’t for long. Because your mind will always swing to Dire Straits and you’ll be the gorgeous woman with a full, lush spirit and smile fondly and amusedly at your 20s.

You’ll still be irreverent. Or I won’t be your friend. And we’ll swap traditions and invent some and then change them at whim.

And at year 40, you’ll realize this was all a load of crock, but what the hell, for the ride, it was all worth it anyway.

Happy birthday, my friend. Make 31 wishes and may they all come true.

Much love and plenty of hugs,

OJ

If I knew then what I know now

Dear 15 year old MM,

Ammani asked us to write to our teenaged selves and I procrastinated like mad because I didn’t know which year to write to you! As I come to the end of my 30th year (a week more to go!), it seemed like a good time to get a move on the project even though the contest is long over. So I am going back to when I was half this age. Fifteen does seem like a good idea.

Let me begin by telling you not to let it bother you that your cup overfloweth not! People who weigh 40 kilos have no right to boobs anyway. You’ll eventually realise that clothes fall better on women who aren’t stacked, its so much classier to wear deep necks if you’re not spilling out of them and gravity hits the heavier women much before it touches you. Of course by the time you realise all this thy cup will be overflowing and it will be too late, but what the heck!

Love DOES make the world go round. Don’t listen to those who tell you otherwise – and tell you to ‘concentrate on your studies’. It doesn’t guarantee happiness or success. We might think differently at 40 but at 30 I still feel that way and I don’t think that is entirely terrible! Never mind the idiots swotting for hours for their boards.Especially that silly chick Nimisha something who was of the opinion that idiots study economics and management and the brains do engineering (Only in a small town will you imagine that the the engineers rule!). You’ll go on to one of the best colleges in the country and have the last laugh! As for Nimisha, last I heard she was doing a management course post engineering … ahem. So yeah – at this moment, from this vantage point, I don’t see the money coming in and it’s not really bothering me. If your home is full of music, books, plants, friends and the sound of laughing babies, (not in any particular order) you won’t miss much else.

Anyway, getting back to my favourite topic, louuu. Apart from it being a many splendoured thing and all that jazz, it IS what will make or break your life so think it through. No, I won’t ruin the surprise (if you can call it one!)  – but let me tell you, it’s going to be your guiding force. You will let your heart guide you right through and trust me, that is the only way to live life. Work, career, money, yaada yaada – they’re relevant, but not important. But I’m not really worrying because I know you already know that. And oh – let me let you down easy – the brilliant, beautifully-brown-eyed boy you’re head over heels in love with? Well, errmm…. that won’t last, but he’s going to stay on in your life in a permanent way and I can’t ask for more. What better than to hold on to your loved ones for life?

Babies. You love them, don’t you? Well you’ll have some. Soon enough. And they’re going to be the best thing on earth even if they run you ragged. And my bit of unsolicited advice since well, you’re me and so I have a right to give you some (!) is  – have them young. Really. Growing with them is brilliant. Being young and energetic and chasing them is fun. Being free at 40 to travel the world with the husband while the kids get their own life will be awesome. Enjoy every moment with them – they grow up too soon. Juggling is overrated and now that I am doing it, I can tell you, no one wins. You neither ace your career nor feel too brilliant about losing out on their growing years. Take your time with them, with life, in the garden, reading a book… everything. Dig your teeth in deep and enjoy every bite of life. There’s no turning back once you live it – all you can do is frantically write letters to your past that no one will read.

Friends. You have some good friends. And you’ll have them for life. And most of all you’re going to go back and get to know better some people you didn’t take the time to get to know earlier. When you’re my age, you”ll encounter a brilliant musician and writer called Monica Dogra. Check out her song called Oops (if you can time travel) and you will know what I mean.

There’s always going to be a bitch at work and it will be your privilege to work with her. There’s no escaping her and my advice would be to get a life beyond work (obviously you’re not taking my advice seriously because I find myself married to a colleague!). Yeah so anyway, get OUT of office. Media is a seductive employer. The work is fun, you meet interesting people at work, you waste time over lunch and coffee breaks and before you know, its midnight and you’re talking about the stock market in your sleep. But if there’s one thing you will do right, it’s to pick the right job after a few false starts (what made you imagine you should be an airhostess, you dimwit?! It’s a good thing you left before you whacked someone on the head with the teapot!).

Take care of your hair. And your skin – there will come a day when you love the colour you are. To quote Baz – wear sunscreen, and a good bra, (No, Baz didn’t say that, I did)! Take care of your friends. And your family. And yes, that damn pesky brother of yours is still going to be your favourite person at 30. Who woulda thunk it?

I’d advise you to learn patience, but that is a mere waste of breath because I haven’t got it down myself, yet! You’re hot headed and impatient and impetuous and quick to judge and frankly, I wouldn’t want you to be any other way. It’s what makes you, you. But do try and forgive. Hate is such erosive emotion. Don’t waste your time trying to get people to like you. Others are as quick to judge as you are (even if they don’t admit it) and once they’ve decided they hate you, there’s not much you can do about it and no point wasting precious time on them, is there?! It’s entirely their loss if you ask me! But even today I’ll tell you that I’d prefer to have half the world love me and the other half hate me than have all of it indifferent to me.

Let me end with your butt! It’s not too big. In about 3 years from now you will be known in the college for a ‘royal butt’ and that isn’t all that bad a thing. Someday you will realise the resemblance to Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez and wonder why the hell you were trying to starve it off! We won’t get into the futility of that notion.

You’re a great girl  – keep smiling, it’s the best part of you – and oh – on a cheesy note – I hope you dance! And oh yeah, I know you won’t believe this, but though you’re still a rocker chick at heart ( you get a tattoo in the future!), you will grow to love jazz like the oldies you turn your nose up at. Fortunately you still don’t understand the big deal with the Beatles!

Love,

MM

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Yes, that is me at 15 – white tee under a blue dress (jokes about my dress sense back then will not be taken well). I had to blur the other girls so that none of them sue me. We’re sitting on top of a rockery in my parents’ garden back home. We shut off the waterfall that ran through it and scrambled up there for a picture.

Dear Ma and Dada

This is an apology.

 I am sorry for all those days Tambi and I ganged up against you. I am sorry I didn’t tell you when he had an accident trying to take me for the Zee Antakshari audition and ended up with a hole in his stomach. I am sorry we were both more scared of you figuring it out by the scratch on his bike and found a matching nail polish to fix it. I am sorry he didn’t tell you when my first boyfriend who was his best friend told him that he was going to ask me out.

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you he was bunking school and going through the hole in the wall to the tapovan and God alone knows where else. I am sorry he didn’t tell you so much and I didn’t tell you so much.

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(Above – MM and Tambi on the old mango at home. Below: MM with sidekick – mottai Tambi!)

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I am sorry one of us is still likely call up and yell at you if you upset the other. Okay, I yell, he merely politely asks you to leave me alone. I am sorry there are still things we only tell each other and no one else on earth. I am sorry if that ever made you feel we’re ganging up against you and that our little mixed up gene batch made us a special twosome that no one else could ever be a part of.

I am sorry for all of it, not because I’m mature and honest and trying to be a better daughter. But because karma is biting my arse and my BRATS ARE DRIVING ME NUTS. If you cursed us, please write to the big man up there and take this curse off us.

This morning the Bean refused to eat her lunch so I gave her a timeout. Two minutes with her dining chair. But she bawled like her heart would break and the Brat, my beautiful sunshiney child who eats his meals without a fuss, threw himself on the floor and sulked until her time out was over. Argh!

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So kindly undo your curse, take off your jinx, stop grinning in revenge and spare me this trauma.

As for Tambi and I, well after 30 years its a hard habit to break, but we do promise to be a little less gang-ish! Oh who we’re kidding?! We’re never going to put you before ‘us’  so dream on :D

Happy Raksha Bandhan Tambi, I miss you my darling baby brother (okay, so you’re a grown up now!) .. and my own two dear little brats. Don’t mind your mad mother – stand by each other to the end.

Love

MM

So then readers. Any stories of sibling louu you’d like to share with us? Go on. Hit me with your best shot!

The long car rides

Dear Bratlet and Beanlet,

We just got back from dinner  – a short drive from home and both of you insisted on sitting in my lap so I held on to you for dear life while we sang loudly and counted red cars.

I just want to tell you that these moments are precious to me. This being-in-the-car thing. It’s silly but it means so much to me. I felt it the first time when I brought you back to Chennai, Brat, and Dada and the two of us were out somewhere.

I love your father’s driving. He’s capable and energetic and safe – and I am very happy to sit back and enjoy the drive. And as I sat there holding you in my arms I knew you were safe too. In your mother’s arms and with your father driving.

And now as I enjoy holding the two of you close – your heads under my chin, one, a mop of unruly curls and the other, a silky smooth cap, a bigger, sturdy body and a smaller, delicate one, I squeeze you tight and can’t believe my good fortune. My dream come true, my little babies, my little girl and boy, excited voices chattering as you look out the window, pointing to the moon here, a plane there, a crane there – unaware that mama is thinking senti thoughts, her eyes misty, holding on to silly, precious, ephemeral, evanescent, fleeting moments. Because what’s the big deal with holding two babies on a bum knee for a short ride home?

You won’t get it. You may never get it. But it doesn’t matter. I just want to thank you for giving me that moment without even trying. For letting me know what it is to have my arms and my heart full at the same time.

I feel it at home when we pile on to the bed for a Sunday afternoon nap in the semi dark, cool bedroom. I feel it more keenly in the car. Perhaps it’s the confined space. The four of us sometimes lost in our own thoughts, at other times looking out of the window, singing songs, chatting, scolding, having fun, as we drive on to a destination. I feel so happy to have my world and all that is important to me, right there, within that 4 foot by 7 foot space. That if I were to die right then, I’d die happy, with my world around me.

I don’t know what the protocol is with your own spawn, but I thank you again, for making me so happy, proud and content. Maybe I am a non-achiever whose biggest achievement in life is procreating! So be it. In you I find more peace than I thought I ever could and in these car rides I find completeness like nothing before.

I love you,

Mama