Sticks and stones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forty and fantastic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

The engagement tag story

Noon tagged me for my engagement story and I am positive that everyone knows everything there is to know about the OA and my filmy affair. The running away, the tears, the fireworks… but never one to shy away from a tag I shall do it all over again.

I was in the midst of a break up with CB (college boyfriend) and the relationship just wouldn’t end.  Each time we sort of called it quits he would just turn up the next day smiling his huge smile and I’d sigh and figure that maybe there was something left to work on.

Now the OA was my shoulder to cry on through the breakup. In fact he just missed falling into the safe friends-zone (oh come on – the one Joey warns Chandler about?!)!! He patiently listened, didn’t advise or argue. He just bided his time dating other random women and acting like he wasn’t in the least bit interested in me. Or so I thought. He now says he was waiting for me to wake up and realise that he was the man of my dreams. So full of bullshit, isn’t he?!The rest of our office however couldn’t believe we were spending so much time together and still not an item.

The thing with CB finally ended and I was rather shattered. I don’t care what people say, I believe that even if you are the one to ultimately call it quits on a relationship, you are still rather devastated. You invest so much in a relationship and then suddenly one day you realise it isn’t working. You can either cling to it like a leech or have the sense to let it go while the memories are still good. Left single and sad and alone in the city, I hung out a lot more with the OA who was busy studying for his management entrances after office hours.

I was used to colleagues teasing me about the OA but after his impassioned avowal that he would never marry someone like me because I didn’t cook, I naively believed I was off the radar. I looked up to him since he was pretty senior in the food chain at office and was basically such a good guy. I don’t know when idol worship changed to love. It just happened.

The rides to and from office I would say, were where it all began and ended. Since I was the first he generously picked up each morning I’d sit in front while the rest slowly and sleepily piled in to the backseat along the way. We even discovered our very similar taste in music on those long rides.

Some days I’d get ready earlier than usual and so walk down to his place instead of waiting for the kind man to come and get me. Now he shared a flat with three other guys and with my Victorian upbringing I didn’t want to go in there alone. I was definitely not interested in catching some guy roaming around in his undies. So I would send him an SMS telling him that I was waiting at his door. He’d rush down, socks in hand and apologise. So I began to muster up the courage to go in because I hated having him rush down and then I’d sit on the edge of a chair in the living room and primly look away while he shoved his feet into sneakers and rushed around brushing his hair. (yeah okay, laugh all you want!) I think I realised the growing closeness when instead of the usual ‘I’m waiting downstairs’ message I began to send him just this – ‘Goodmorning  :)’ to indicate that I had arrived. He later on told me in a rare moment of mush that the moment he saw the smiley in the message he’d see my face smiling up at him. He has a good 9.5 inches on my 5’3″ so even after the metaphoric looking up ended I continue to look up to him.

Truth be told my mother told me he was interested in me, long before I figured it out. I’m a little slow like that. Practical and worldly wise, she didn’t understand why a young boy who could be getting in a lot more sleep was leaving for office half an hour earlier so that I could catch my shift, and coming out of his way to pick me up and hanging around after office in case I got late to give me a lift home so that I could avoid the dirty, crowded blueline buses.

I told her she had a dirty mind and didn’t understand platonic relationships. She told me she’d lived long enough to know a man in love. I ignored her. Now I eat my words. Mother. You are always right. Well, mostly right, if not always. Throw these words in my face and I will ban you from my blog.

So anyway, mother visited me, caught the OA as he dropped me off, offered him a cup of tea and left, satisfied that even if I did end up falling in love with him, he was a decent guy. She went home and told my dad that she could see it in his eyes but that I was too blind. And of course there was nothing she could do to keep me away from him, because as far as I was concerned she was being an orthodox old lady and there was really no reason to ‘keep me away’ from him. I stubbornly (so whats new?) kept meeting him and ignoring her because she was just an old fuddy duddy, see?

And so it went on. The OA wisely waiting. Me blithely ignorant. Or was I? I am still not too sure. All I know is that I saw him almost every waking minute and it just seemed right. He took a few days off from work and that is when it all began. The frantic SMSes. Willing the phone to ring or beep. Sending messages that you know you wouldn’t send a friend but still not sending anything that could be read as too flirtatious. How many times a day will you message a friend saying – ‘What you up to?’ I mean would you really care to know what a friend, even a best friend is up to, ten times a day, every single day?!!! How about – ‘Had dinner?’ Err… who cares?

A friend who took the ride to office with us called me aside and warned me – ‘I notice the look on his face in the rear view mirror. He’s nuts about you so if you’re going to break his heart, this might be a good time to tell him you’re not interested.’ Break his heart? What did I have to do with his heart? What the hell was wrong with the world and why were they all ganging up against me. Yes, I’ve always had a persecution complex!

Finery and liquor can do a lot to push a relationship to it’s culmination (I’m a teetotaller!). An office party happened and as usual he was picking up and driving a whole bunch of us there. The party was rocking but suddenly it struck me that this man I was spending most of my day with looked really hot when he cleaned up! That he danced like a dream and made interesting conversation. And that when the music came to an end, I didn’t want to stop dancing with him. Yes, you could call me slow. Why on earth was I insisting on setting him up with my best friend when I was single and ready to mingle? And my sales pitch to my friend – he’s cute and terrific husband material! So why was I selling when I didn’t mind buying?!!

I tore myself away and went and sat in a corner to sort my head out. Was I really interested or was it just the atmosphere and the fact that about 200 other people had been throwing us together? My phone beeped and the screen lit up..’What are you doing in that corner when you should be dancing with me?’

I looked across the lawn and he was standing with a bunch of colleagues and listlessly sipping his drink. I replied…

And so we kept at it. I don’t know if anyone noticed that we were sending messages for an hour. But it made me self conscious. When you’re in love, or when you do something you shouldn’t be doing, you do end up rather self conscious. You think everyone knows what you are up to. And to my mind the whole office knew and was probably reading our messages as they floated across the lawn with the music and the conversation. Finally he sent me a last one…’Let’s get out of here..’

But we couldn’t. We had to give 3 people a lift home. All looked rather disgruntled that we were leaving just as the party was warming up. But nobody wanted to fend for themselves in the wee hours of the morning so they knocked back their drinks and joined us.

We dropped two of them home and only my flatmate and I remained. The tension in the car was thick enough to cut with a knife. I wondered what lay ahead. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and see them dashed, neither did I want to make a fool of myself. And what exactly was he planning to say to my flatmate? How were going to get out of that?

But I needn’t have worried. My husband is a simple man and even then he had a simple solution. Turning to my flatmate he said he wanted to get out of the office party because it’s hard to enjoy a party when you’re concerned about getting drunk and making a fool of yourself. That he wanted to go to a real party now… ‘Want to join us? I’m taking MM to dance with me. She works too hard.’

Flatmate who was no fool and could see the sparks flying, mumbled an excuse and left. And there I was..alone with the OA in the car. Now I’d been alone with him a thousand times before. But it was never like this. I sat there in the darkness of the parked car and knew that the next answer would make a huge difference to my life.

‘Wanna go dancing?’ he smiled gently and now that I look back I can remember the distinct lack of enthusiasm in the voice.
No, I mumbled, wondering again if I’d misunderstood what were simply friendly or maybe mildly flirtatious messages.
I was dressed to the nines and my stilettos were killing me and I knew I couldn’t have danced if I wanted to, so I told him I could barely stand.

‘Coffee then? Drive?’
Sure… I replied hesitantly. What if I were found raped and dead the next morning, huh? I am nothing if not suspicious!

And so he drove and we chatted. And at some point he asked me to marry him. I kid you not. I have no recollection of what he said or how he said it. Simply because I was rehearsing my acceptance speech in my head. And perhaps because on the other hand I was also not expecting this to be the big night. I thought he’d perhaps confess undying love. Who in this day and age proposes marriage without dating for at least a while???!!! My honorable husband obviously.

‘Huh? What?I beg your pardon?’, I jerked upright in my seat.
I’d just heard him say… ‘…. when we’re married…’
Us? Married? Did I just miss my own proposal? Obviously. So full of yourself MM, that you miss your own proposal because you have other things going on in your head…
Apparently I’d just been proposed to. And then the womanly wiles kicked in and I made him sweat. Made him say it all over again. And again. And again. ‘You mean you’re in love with me? So why can’t you say it that way? Will it kill you to say the word ‘love’?’
From the way he changed gears I had a feeling I would be killed if I didn’t stop trifling with him!
‘Well if I’m talking marriage, obviously I am in love with you, right?’…
The age old thrust and parry of mating rituals.
‘Yes, but can’t you ask me properly? What makes you think I feel the same way? Have I said I want to marry you?’
He turned and looked me in the eye with a confidence that gave me my answer.

We had coffee at a 24 hour coffee shop and just sat and grinned foolishly at each other. I was finally at peace. I knew this was what was meant to be. There were no edges. Everything felt like it fitted. I can still see us in my mind’s eye. I in my black trousers, blue silk top and he in his beige trousers and black shirt ( He gave that shirt away to the guard recently and couldn’t figure out why that upset me so!). But for the life of me I cannot remember a single word of the conversation we had.

Sometimes the most significant moments in life catch you off guard. You imagine that when you are proposed to, violins will play in the background. That you will remember the scene and the words exactly. But that’s not how it happens. All I can remember is the dark highway stretching ahead, the glow of the instrument panel in the car and the strong hand that hesitated a moment before reaching out for mine.

I swore that I’d make him go down on his knees but we went through so much hell after wards that the whole knee thing seemed so trite and pale. When a man leaves his family and everything else that matters just to be with you, solitaires, poetry, roses, champagne and romantic dinners are just what Hallmark uses to sell cards. I never did get a proper proposal. I don’t think I care for anything more.

We had a huge engagement party in my hometown. He missed the train even then and came sleeping in the luggage rack of a passenger train but that is a story for another day. The engagement ring was beautiful. A square cut diamond with pink diamonds on either side. And since nothing conventional stays with me, it broke. A train door slammed shut on my hand and the ring saved my finger from breaking. But was squashed and damaged beyond repair. I didn’t get it repaired and I don’t remember the engagement date either. It’s either the 21st or 22nd of December. I must ask him.

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.

—————–

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.

——————-

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.’

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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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. :-/

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

Ten

Ten years ago this day, I was standing barefoot in my parents’ living room, wearing a grey and orange teeshirt and faded jeans, signing away my bachelorhood. The OA stood by my side in jeans, a white collared tee, lanky and pale, doing the same. I had dark circles after nights of worry. What if the inlaws showed up and dragged him away, kicking and fighting. Okay, so he was legally an adult and couldn’t be dragged away, but did we need that tension?

Within the next 24 hours we were married twice over and no one but we could dissolve it. I finally breathed a sigh of relief and began to live the life I’d dreamed of.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I truly have lived the life of my dreams. Married to a man I love, having two terrific babies with him, and writing, writing, writing as much as I please. Also reading, gardening and traveling. Sigh.

There are moments in life when you wonder if you made the right choice. Low moments, moments when you doubt yourself, when you second guess, when you feel your chest constrict with panic that it’s over. This is it. You’ve made your bed and it might be uncomfortable. We all have them. But with the OA, the blinding realisation that this is the best thing that could have happened to me, comes back time and again.

Was it Byron who said, Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, ‘Tis woman’s whole existence? Well, I hate to say it, but in our case, Byron was wrong. For me, yes, love, the OA, my babies, my home, are my whole existence. But I just lucked out because they happen to be the OA’s entire existence too.

This is the man who if he does succeed in waking up at the crack of dawn, will help me get the kids ready for school that day, rather than hit the gym. If he gets out of work early, he’s ringing our doorbell rather than catching a beer with the guys. His weekends are spent rearranging the heavier flower pots and cleaning the fans. And once he’s done that, playing football with the kids or reading to them before he takes his wife for a movie or a walk around the complex. I say this not as praise, but as a matter of fact. This is the man who chooses to centre his life around us. The man who shares my dream. Admittedly in his dream he wasn’t hanging quite so many pots or changing curtains so often. And just maybe, his dream might have involved some mountain peaks conquered and some bungee jumping, just as mine involved some travel and some being-Editor-of-a-magazine-at-25. But the basic theme of a home, children, and quiet evenings spent in a tangle of limbs while we all eat chocolate and watch Ice Age 2 is one we both share.

Years ago there was a competition on the blogosphere that I refused to enter for fear of the Furies coming down on my head. Which one is better, it asked – love marriages or arranged marriages. On this momentous occasion I’ll rush in where angels fear to tread. My head says, eventually we all end up in the same place, doddering old fools walking into the sunset. My heart says, No.

In this day and age I see no reason to get married unless you meet that one person who makes your heart skip a beat and your knees go weak. I don’t believe there is a right time to get married when you should start seeing suitable people of your caste, community, age and socio-economic status. We’re not cows meant for breeding who must get married before it is ‘too late’. It’s never too late to find the right person. I’d rather stay single than marry someone because the time is right, our bank balances match and his family likes mine. Acquiescing to the person you’d find it most comfortable to live with is not my idea of the good life. Falling so madly in love that you feel your heart constrict each time he walks into a room is a good start. Particularly if 10 years later you still feel it.

I come from a mixed background. I have Tamil, Bengali, Garhwali and Chinese blood. What does that say to you? It says that for the last 4 generations my family has chosen to follow it’s heart and not just marry because it’s the right time and the right caste. They’ve waited, for the right person.

If you’ve read my blog for more than 4 years, you know I’ve had a tempestuous relationship with my inlaws. It’s only fair that I tell you that things are far better now. Am I the daughter in law they’d have chosen themselves? Good Lord, no. Am I the daughter in law they’re fond of when they visit and see the happiness on their son’s face, their adorable grandchildren and a home filled with love? I think so. I look forward to my MIL’s voice now and the way she says Hello sweetheart, the warmth apparent even over the crackly, static-filled phone lines. My FIL however, is a story for another day. What? This is a real love story, not a filmy one where everything falls neatly into place. It’s been a long journey and it’s not been easy on either side.

But it’s been worth it. Everyday I ask myself if I’d do this again. Every morning I wake up and ask myself if there’s another face I’d rather see on the pillow beside me. And everyday the answer is clear. If I had to do it again, I’d do it. With one hand tied behind my back, blindfolded.

Admittedly I fell for him because he drove well (hah! you didn’t know that, did you?) But he drives like a cab driver on cocaine now so that reason is struck off. I now love him because he’s gentle, patient, kind, and all the things that one would look for in a wife. Yep. He’s my wife and I love him. Today as we complete ten years of mostly blissful, sometimes frustrating, wedded life, I thank God for the broken road that lead me straight to the OA.

People sometimes ask me what my kids could do to break my heart. I don’t know – I’d make my peace with them being beach bums too. But what would kill me is knowing that they ‘settled’ for someone and didn’t fall head over heels, tumble down that rabbit hole into love, the way we’ve done for generations. That they didn’t find that soul mate. That one person who sees right into the core of them, sees them for what they are and loves them for it. I come from a long line of love. And although we own no house, little money and not very much jewelry, the OA and I have this wonderful legacy to pass on to our kids and I very much doubt anything could top it.

On this tenth year, dear husband, allow me to remind you of the nervous, breathless, almost offhanded way you proposed to me  – So, we may as well get married then?

Yep. And now that we are, we may as well stay this way.

Here’s an old, cheesy one for you.

The “Just Married, Please Excuse” Contest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were on??

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

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

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

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

————————

But picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.

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

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

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

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

Oh, said Ma, he’s in the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

—————-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————————-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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