For the oneth of June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eight years come Easter

So the OA and I celebrated eight years of marriage on the 25th of April (cue to wish us, thank you), in Dharamshala. Our trip to the hills said something about why this marriage has lasted as long as it has. It was Easter (Hope you all had a Blessed Easter) and we were in a strange city and not attending Church. Actually I realise I am even more casual about such stuff than the OA. He tried to get us to wake up and attend the service at the lovely St John in the Wilderness Church, but I said I’d rather not drag the kids out of bed and rush them around on a holiday. At the beginning of this year we noticed there are a lot of long weekends and so we have a bunch of little trips booked up for the rest of the year. We did Sariska two weekends ago and have been using our Club Mahindra membership to the fullest. Yes, kam daam, full paisa vasool would describe us. Not too far, costs us nothing more than a tank of petrol and we’re off. We don’t shop, we eat at the local joints, we don’t even bother to ask for mineral water bottles.

We’ve been trying to get other couples to join us but most people are unwilling to travel on festivals and want to be home to celebrate, while others find it a nuisance to travel with babies. And in that one line I realise what has held the OA and I together. I dated guys who were wilder, I dated guys who were richer, I dated guys whose parents loved me. But I guess I married the one who thought just like me on these very relevant, daily issues. I don’t think I could have stayed married very long to someone who believed in going to the church/temple regularly and fasting and keeping rituals. Neither could I have married a man who couldn’t be a man and handle his share of parenting. Who didn’t think it was a lark to pick up a two month old baby and drive off to the hills with a wife burning with fever and a toddler puking out the window! Similarly he has a very healthy respect for women who are low maintenance and can handle their kids and still have a life. Anyone remember that post? We took the two month old Bean to Kasauli against all odds and that was still a fun trip.

So last weekend we grabbed two Easter eggs as a nod to tradition and drove off. We stayed one night with some friends who were once princely rulers and their old haveli brought much joy to the kids. Cows to be milked, orange orchards to be explored, old ruins (including a deeeeeeep well) and much more. We literally had to drag the kids out of there. They’d also dug out size  appropriate beds for the kids and the Bean got lucky with a little cot that she refused to get out of. She’s not over it yet and at six hourly intervals I get a request for a cot. *groan*

Good Friday was spent with the friends and everyone laughed at the irony of spending it exploring an ancient Gurudwara. Holy Saturday was at the Bhagsunag Temple and Easter Sunday was spent trying to see the Dalai Lama. None of it was intentional, but that is how it ended up being and for me, it was a good Easter because I was with my brats and the OA and that was all that mattered.

I came back all tired and grouchy and a friend teased me – But I thought you said the kids are no trouble. Well, they weren’t trouble, they were, well, just kids! They walked all over the place and only whined when they were really exhausted, at which point the OA and I, kind parents that we are, threatened to leave them sitting on the road if they didn’t get up and walk. That worked. No strollers, no carrying, nothing. Funnily they were all excited and raring to go the next day inspite of what I thought of as us traumatising them. They kept awake late most nights but the OA and I stayed up even later, reading for a quiet hour, sitting outside the room in the garden and chatting for a while, getting our own little hour of conversation. But then they’d be up bright and chirpy and the OA and I would bury our heads under our pillows and groan, telling them to go to the bathroom and not trouble us. Which they did willingly, except that they don’t really maintain boundaries. So they kept skipping in and out of the loo, sitting on our bed, having loud conversations while the two of us moaned and slid lower in the bed and snapped at them for letting the sunlight in. Finally with a broken extra hour of sleep we’d get out of bed and take them for breakfast. Ah, good times! But I think the biggest problem was the soft beds. The OA and I are not creatures of comfort and even our bed at home has been divested of its thick coir mattress and replaced with a local cotton handstitched mattress. It’s really good for the back and the hard bed now has us so hooked that other beds just end up being a pain instead of a comfort.

The anniversary was spent driving back to Delhi and we stopped along the way to play in a river, watch a bridge being constructed, examine some Stinky Williams and a quick lunch break (at 5pm!).  Healthy diets and timings usually go to the dogs when we travel and the kids ate pancakes for dinner and burgers for breakfast and butter chicken with roti at some point in between it all. Earlier I used to carry colouring books etc but I’ve realised that they don’t bother with them choosing instead to look out of the window. Neither do they need to be entertained with cartoons put on the laptop or puzzles or anything. I make up a bed out of the backseat by stuffing luggage in between the front and back seats and then spread a sheet over it. They fall asleep when they are tired, get up and look out when they are rested and chatter with us all the way. We now argue over the radio stations and if we do tend to fall silent for a while, the quiet Brat who never says much will suddenly pipe up in a very Itna sannata kyun hai bhai way. “I don’t want to talk,” says he, “but I want to listen to you  all.” It’s scary how much they pay attention even when you don’t think they are, because the OA and I were discussing an uncle’s heart attack and the two of them who had been arguing over something suddenly joined in with questions – what is a heart attack? Why does it happen?

Anyway, a lot of people want to know how and why the OA and I love travelling so much with two little kids so I’ve got my travel tips down pat. They won’t work for everyone, but its okay, we’ve got to do what works for us!

1. Carry lots of snacks and water. It’s a holiday and you’re on the road so it’s okay if you eat whenever you want and whatever you want. Healthy diets are for being at home. Funnily no matter how much junk we eat on vacation, we all come home looking leaner and fitter (and more tanned)! Sanitiser, tissues, umbrellas, toilet roll, newspaper for accidents, plastic bags to avoid littering. We also carry two big laundry bags and keep stuffing our dirty clothes in those instead of packing them back in the suitcase. It’s simpler to unpack when you come home. The laundry goes straight to the laundry room and the rest of the stuff takes very little time to unpack. Which brings me to the other point – always pack your stuff back neatly when travelling home instead of stuffing it higgledy piggledy. I find it saves me a lot of time when we reach home tired and sleepy with a full day of work and school the next day. Again, it really helps to travel by your own car because then you can just separate things into bags and stack them in the boot without worrying about how you’re going to get it all home.

2. Drive if possible, or take a train. Nothing like seeing each place as you pass, stopping to examine a big toadstool, getting off to eat hot fresh jalebis at a level crossing while waiting for a train to pass, splashing in a stream and collecting pebbles.  Don’t carry video games and laptops for the journey at least. Let the kids do what we did as kids – look out, play number plate games, count red cars followed by black jeeps, sleep, appreciate the silence, play antakshari and do some colouring. I hate to have them thinking that they need to be entertained. The journey is part of the holiday and they’re not doing us a favour by coming along. If they whine I offer to either offload them on a truck heading back to Delhi or ask if they would like to stay back in Delhi with the cook the next time we’re going on holiday. Admittedly I do carry some DVDs in case there is a problem. Case in point, a storm at Sariska where we were stuck in our tent for hours. No place to walk, nothing to do and the wind howling around us. We played for a while, read for a while and finally left them to watch some Madagascar while we read our books by the lamplight.

3.  No shopping for a hundred toys each time you pass a shop. I understand the excitement of a new place and let them pick up something small – as of now they think anything more than Rs 100 is very “inspensive” and so a plastic gun, a bunch of blocks, some rubber insects and they’re duly grateful for our largesse. I’ve told them that at least they are out having fun and so they must think of those who aren’t on holiday and so they get really excited about picking up gifts for those left home –  a shawl for M didi, the maid, leather boots are suggested for Baby Button and gently turned down. It’s really sweet to see them not go for a toy but pick up a spaghetti top for me and choose a shirt for their father – all sadly returned to the racks.

4. The idea is to sightsee and sights are what see, but within limits. I don’t pack the day with too much. And I don’t take them to places where they have to be quiet or careful. They’re too young to be forced into silence and fear of breaking something expensive.  If we see one temple/fort in the day, we spend the rest doing fun stuff with them, even if it is something simple like playing cricket/basketball in the hotel gardens. They pick one toy for familiarity, but more often than not they don’t even cast a look at it. I’ve often wondered why my kids had no comfort objects or transition toys. Clearly I am doing something wrong. No blankie, no teddie, nothing. Strange brats.

5. Eat local food. We love eating local food and the kids learn to eat whatever is offered. Maybe not much, just some plain roti and subzi but try it they will. Over the years they’ve learnt to try everything once. I am not one for getting into the hotel kitchen and requesting for sandwiches and pizzas – there is always some curd, rice, dal, roti available and if they don’t like the special local cuisine, they make up for it by eating the other familiar but available food. If they don’t, they are not allowed to go out and play. It always works. Parents with really young babies tend to take along maids to cook and feed the babies. But I find it more of a nuisance to drag along house help who would much rather take a break from duty and watch TV. I nursed the babies as long as I could and then fed them simple stuff available everywhere like boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, bananas, curd and rice. Zimble. At times like this I miss our firangi friends who are mostly pretty cool. On the other hand its so much easier to get highchairs and motels with toilets on the road abroad. Here I have to hope and pray that they don’t want to go potty once we set out because the toilets are filthy at stops.

6. Make friends. Travel is all about meeting people and we encourage them to make friends with other kids. The only rule I have is that they aren’t allowed into anybody else’s room unless I’ve carefully checked out the family. The last trip I allowed them into a little girl’s tent only after ascertaining that the only other person there was her mother, also sitting at the door like I was, reading a book. And here I have to say the new school has done them a world of good – they’re very inclusive. The Bean has become a bit of a mother hen – she walks up to shy children even older than herself and invites them to play.  It’s really rather sweet to see her hold their hands and coax them into a game of hide and seek or catch. The Brat is less proactive but has slowly grown into a strong, capable ringleader, holding his own when other more boisterous children feel nervous about taking the first step in a new place. I have to admit I feel rather tickled as I sit there watching the kids confidently invite other kids, make up a game, and in general display any degree of confidence. I often say I couldn’t care less if they become beach bums or engineers. I just want them to be happy and confident and good people. It’s a long road ahead and I might never know if it worked out that way.

7. Don’t fuss. If they fall asleep in their jeans or don’t brush their teeth one night, it’s not the end of the world. I am anal enough about it at home to ensure that they will not suffer by missing one day. By not sweating the small stuff I take a lot of pressure off myself as well as them. At one hotel the gardens were being watered and we played a game where we had to run under the sprinkler as it turned around, without getting wet. The kids had a blast and ended up getting quite soaked. One thing I never seem to have enough of, is changes of clothes! No matter what I do, we end up filthy. On the hills the kids end up puking. The last time I hopped out of the car really fast and rushed to open the door and let the Bean out. Too late – she threw up all over herself and down my pants. Not only did I wash her down on the highway, clean up the puke off the inside of the car (the Brat took one look at her and thew up too) but I also had to strip down to my smalls on the road and change into another pair of pants. If I thought delivering a baby lying pretty much naked on an operating table was the end of the indignity motherhood brought, I had another think coming.

8. Try and stop off and meet family/friends even if it is a little out of the way. Gone are the days when we had extended family holidays and got to meet everyone. Our kids are lucky to see their uncles and aunts once a year. So we ensure that we atleast have a meal or stay a night with someone we know. The kids get to see a different way of life – some places the ladies cover their heads, other places people take their slippers off at the door, some places we eat in steel thalis and although they are tiny details the kids soak them up and learn that people live differently and we have to follow the rules in their homes even if we don’t like it. This time the children who live in Delhi and never seem to have noticed turbans suddenly woke up to Sikhs in Punjab. “Why are they wearing that thing on their head, mama?” From there on to an explanation of religion and for the first time in 6 years I told my kids that their mother was a Christian and their father was a Hindu. They nodded vaguely and dismissed it – clearly we’re not as exciting as the “salwarjis” (the Bean’s cute mispronunciation – much cherished since she pretty much gets everything right these days) who are big and strong and have the best roads in the country.

9. Travel whenever you get the chance, regardless of the season. People thought we were mad for going to Sariska, Rajasthan in the heat. Hell, we thought we were mad too. But we ended up having a blast. Our safari was at 2.30 in the afternoon, open jeep, hot sun beating down on us, no sheltering trees – by 3.30 we were numb to the heat – I think our senses had died. By 5 it was cool and beautiful. By night we were using quilts. This was truly Rajasthan as we hear of it. The kids didn’t care about the heat and ran around all day in the sun, risking heat strokes and narrowly missing them I am sure. The off season times are better in resorts, you get more space, better service and more peace. The OA and I went to Kerala in the rains, against popular consensus and loved it. We went everywhere, got drenched and sneezed and dried off, but got to see the lush God’s own country at its most beautiful.

10. Don’t let a small hitch change your plans. I’ve gone on holiday with high fever, with a UTI and all sorts of other problems, simply because I didn’t know when we’d next get the chance. This last Dharamshala trip was jinxed. The Brat had fever and we were leaving on the third day of his fever. We took a calculated risk that the fever would come down by the third day and it did. He slept most of the way and took his medication on time, reaching the hotel fit and fever free and ready to bounce on the springy beds. We asked him if he was feeling too sick to travel and he shook his head and said he wanted to go on a holiday and see snow capped mountains. So we went. He’s come back apple cheeked from the mountain air. Two days before we left the OA was driving past some construction when he heard a blast. He turned around to see that our passenger window had shattered – no idea how. We sent the car in for servicing and it came back worse, jerking, shaking, shuddering to a halt. Frantically sent it in again – and it came back with the dashboard cracked open (wtf?!) and the music system giving an error. We got in and drove off anyway. On the way the fuel gauge packed up so we had to keep guessing our usage and topping up the tank. The charging point wasn’t working so no iPod, no charging our phones, nothing. But we soldiered on, managing with local radio and singing loudly when we were out of signal range. We came back and the car finally gave up the ghost when the OA was on his way to office yesterday. We were hopping mad at the garage but quite grateful that it laboured up to the hills and brought us home safely.

Okay enough gyan – here are some pics from both the trips.  Starting with the tents we stayed in at Sariska. Air conditioned so can’t really say we roughed it out. But the kids enjoyed the tents, constantly zipping themselves in and out and threatening to unzip and walk into the toilet when we went in. Pests!

*gasp* My kids playing the weirdest game of cricket ever. I have no idea who the Bean is bowling to. Neither does the Brat.

This picture tells you what it is like to be mother to the Bean. I was trying to get a picture of her sitting and balancing on the football. In the split second it took for me to click, she’d jumped off the ball and right out of my frame. Most exasperating.

She is incapable of sitting on her own butt or standing on her own legs. At any given point she is either clambering on to my lap or climbing on to her father’s back.


Refusing to get off even when he gets up to go someplace. Standing confident, the lithe little acrobat.

And on the other hand, my contemplative little Brat – collecting pods, pouring water and digging with his sturdy little fingers in an attempt to green the desert.

And now for the animals. I have to begin with the disclaimer – No, we didn’t see any tigers. But then I will go on to say, that I find a lot of people ruin their trip by setting it up as the tiger trip. It wasn’t for us. For us it was just the widlife trip and we were more than satisfied with the hundreds of sambar and bluebull that surrounded our jeep and nosed in. Similarly we didn’t set the kids up for disappointment by telling them we were on the hunt for a tiger. We told them we were going for a jungle ride and whatever came, would come. And this is just a fraction of what came..  The guide told us that unlike most other sanctuaries, this one has no real natural water bodies. The royalty built a number of watering holes for the animals. So kind of them, right?

Wrong. Because they built watch towers along side the watering holes and then bang! shot the poor thirsty animals. I don’t support shikaar, but this is positively the worst way I can imagine preying on animals.

I’ve never seen so many peacocks… Did you remember that the phrase for it is a muster or an ostentation of peacocks? The OA and I racked our brains and finally remembered it just in time to tell the kids!

And here’s an example of how close things were – this little bird came and sat on our jeep!

And now the pics from Dharamshala and McLeodganj. These are the rabbits at the hotel.

Followed by the ducks and the fish pond.

The Bean gets to watch the rabbits being bathed and then spends the morning watching over them as they dry so that a wild cat doesn’t get them, cuddling the younger ones who are petrified of the water and shivering.

This is view of the play area, swings to the left that I didn’t remember to take pictures of.

The beautiful, beautiful Norbulingka. I keep going back there. We had brunch there – waffles with honey and fruit. Whats not to like? The Bean threatened to drown a couple of times, but that aside, a wonderful time spent there.

Peaceful and serene. Even the Brat leaped over the little streams without a sound!

The OA keeps an eye on his daughter who began with sitting on the edge of the pond and then slowly climbed in when no one was noticing. At this point she is perched on the inner ledge and they are having a rather civilised conversation. I’d have simply pulled her out and shaken her up, if I hadn’t been so busy clicking pictures!

At the Bhagsunag Temple. The Bean is so tiny that the bell was too heavy for her to ring!

This is the swimming pool into which the water from the holy waterfall is collected so that devotees can have a dip. I was very impressed to see local swimmers practicing their laps in the freezing water, getting out and warming up and then plunging right back in.

The Bean wakes up to a view of the hills. She could get used to this life.

The OA helps the kids with their Easter eggs.

The Bean plunges into a stream with enthusiasm. We were driving by and it just called to us so we scrambled down the hillside and scraped our knees and hands but got there!

The family that prays together…

The Bean throws up all over her last pair of clean pants and goes home confidently in a pair of frilly bloomers… with Dr Seuss to keep her company. In case you’re wondering, that is a dupatta that I pushed into the window to act as a curtain and keep the sun off their faces.

This sign had us cracking up and I had to bring home a pic for you guys… Enjoy!

And finally, to the man who has spent the last eight years with a crazy woman, though thick and thin,  from pukey beds to stripping on highways to dancing under waterfalls to feverish kids to long drives, to empty pockets but never an empty promise, from crashed up cars to looking dashing at parties…thank you. Thank you for the best ride of my life. I have no idea where we’re heading to, but as the Bean says, This is a sooo fun trip!  This one goes out to you.

and this

and this..

Cheater cheater

Edited to add – this post was written in September 2009 and forgotten! Conversations, cheating and insults have grown more complicated in the two years that have gone by since.

So the OA and his brats play a game where they ‘insult’ each other by calling each other animal and bird names.

OA: You… wombat

Brat: You caterpillar

Bean: You elephant (What else?!)

OA: You eel

Brat: You pigeon

Bean: You amanello (She means armadillo)

Brat: You wolf

And so it goes on 45 minutes while I struggle to get some work done, turning around and once in a while throwing in a few insults of my own – You Kangaroo,  or you platypus!

And then suddenly the OA who thinks he is playing with kids and no one is really listening to him, goes: You clam chowder!

Without missing a beat or looking up from my PC I say: You cheat!

The OA collapses under the weight of his conscience and two children who throw themselves on him and beat the crap out of him for cheating. The truth shall prevail :D

——————

This nugget is from the present.

Cousin J asks generally, What have Dipta bhaiya and Tina didi named the baby?

Maid answers – Drishti. Bangali hai (in an attempt to explain why the name is an unfamiliar one to her)

The Bean pipes up – Bangali nahi, bachcha hai.

I love the clarity of thought kids have :D

—————–

Reason # 2348 for loving the Brat.

The Brat banging on the toilet door, “Mama, mama? hurry up and come out. I’ve come to hug you and love you.”

You want to what??

Dear father of my children,

I grew up in a home where we all trained in classical music. My grandmothers played the piano. My father and brother were rockers with the best. And so were the men I dated. I married you even though you had none of the credentials. Because I am generous that way.

I really didn’t even imagine you’d have anything to do with the introduction of music to our children. And without really intending to, I have introduced them to a variety of music from Pink Floyd and BB King to Abida Parveen and Illayaraja. Just while I am around the house, not deliberately.

And then you go and introduce them to  this

and this.

And then the three of you bop around the house screaming the lyrics and dancing while I go purple in the face. THIS is what you’re teaching my kids? Even Cousin J introducing them to Rihanna and Eminem was preferable to this.

The divorce papers are in the mail.

Your heartbroken wife,

MM

The wedding in the family

Fine, you little Oliver Twists! Don’t appreciate my garden post. See if I care.

The reason I’ve been AWOL is a family wedding. The OA’s cousin got married and I was surprised to realise that I was old enough to host the baarat. For my home to be a shaadi ghar. The excitement has been building up for months and when it finally arrived I didn’t know what hit me. I am in the midst of many work projects, I have no proper house help (again! so whats new?!) and I have two little children who I had to manage along with their sleep schedules and yet find a way to host so many people and enjoy the wedding.

I found myself getting up 6.30 am to get the OA’s 93 year old grandmother her bed tea and only going to bed after putting to bed assorted relatives who needed either hot water or milk with ghee before they called it a night. Mornings meant stepping over mattresses on the floor, a rush for the toilets, chaos as I sorted out the vegetarians from the non-vegetarians offering either aloo parathas  or bacon and eggs for breakfast. It’s amazing how even adults (in this case people in their 50s) need to be shooed out and bundled into cars so as to not miss ceremonies. I stopped to wonder when I went from the little girl who would scoot down to the bottom of the bed and refuse to get up each morning to the harried hostess. I guess it is time for our generation to step up and take the mantle. We can’t just show up and party – we have to organise it.

There was the usual wedding chaos, trains coming in late, flights missed, ailments, missing gifts, feelings hurt and misunderstandings. Sometimes the room was too small for us as well as certain family members who can’t stand the sight of me and would look like thunderclouds if they saw the OA hug his children or smile at me. But I met so many people who were affectionate, witty  and interesting that I’ve lost my ace card during domestic spats – “What do you know? You don’t have a single decent family member!” And I couldn’t be happier to be proved wrong. Some new friendships have been built, some old dislikes have been cemented, but I’ve seen my husband in his own environment and its a joy I can’t describe. I’m sorry I didn’t witness it before. We’re all such different people when we’re with family.

The kids were in their element. Such an adoring audience to listen to their tall tales and read to them. They did get freaked out at everyone speaking a language they didn’t understand and came to ask me – “Whats happening Mama? I don’t understand what they are saying!” The OA and I missed the beginning of almost every party, exhausted as we were with getting people out of the house, cleaning up the mess, rolling up and stacking away bedding, doing the dishes, getting our own kids ready and finally piling into the car and getting there. I had every intention of going to a parlour (for the first time!) and getting my hair done. Yet I somehow ended up getting there each evening with my freshly shampooed hair hanging lankly around my shoulders, minus the mallipoo I had planned on a low bun.

The Brat surprised us by unerringly hitting the dancefloor each time and actually displaying a left and a right foot. The OA and I had to lift our jaws off the floor. There were a lot of rough edges but it left us both pleasantly surprised. I think I’d done a post on the old blog where I’d mourned the fact that two music lovers like us had ended up with a child with two left feet and the inability to carry a tune even in a basket. I got some flak on that post for being so low  – but hey, the reason you read this blog is because I am honest. And I was nothing but honest when I spoke of how disappointed I was at my son’s lack of inclination towards music. Anyhow. He’s making up for it and how!

I’ve had my share of trouble with the OA’s family but my favourite people are his grandmothers. Having lived to be the age they are, they cut through the crap and get to the point. Warm, gentle, wise, funny and stoic they are everything one admires in that generation. We had long chats, they told me the family history and what they didn’t tell me I read between the lines and understood, getting to know better this husband of mine and the family I married in to. Understanding better the various reactions and sympathising more with certain members. Grateful to be loved by the two old ladies I bent backwards, helping them slip their toes into slippers, tucking the blankets under their chins, warming their hands, and sometimes just soaking up and storing away the feeling of what it is to be a grandchild. Even at 32.

I also feel that kids who don’t grow up with elderly family members around are not very sensitive towards them. For instance my children had no interest in the two older ladies while I walked around feeling like I was privileged to host them  – that their presence in my home would bless it. The children were not rude, but they had little to say to these two frail old ladies who they could barely communicate with. They were too old to run around and too old to read to them. I spent a lot of time just holding their fragile hands and thanking God for giving me another shot at having a grandparent. The OA and I often had to leave parties early because the two old ladies needed to go home and sleep and I don’t think we resented it one bit, so lovely were the two of them.

I think I got my annual dose of joy from the image of the Brat holding his 93 year old great grandmother’s hand and walking her to the car. It was late night, he was sleepy, she was tired and he had no idea of how to moderate his pace to match her old slow footsteps, swinging her into walls and furniture as he walked. And yet, it was such a beautiful sight to see the future hold the past by the hand and lead it home.The present? The present is rather content right now, smiling over a cup of hot chocolate.

More Taurean stubbornness

With the househelp  issues in Gurgaon, the OA and I are doing dishes, washing clothes, sweeping, scrubbing kitchen cabinets and what not. All this along with our dayjobs and child rearing and socialising. And this is not a good time for anyone to idiotically mention what they do in the West because I swear I’ll rip you to pieces and feed you to vultures.

As a result we’re short on patience and time and temper. We’re also having a huge problem now that we live in a  complex and kids keep dropping in to play. Toys are scattered all over the nursery and the house. The Brat and Bean are regular babies who scatter toys around the house, yes, but this is unbelievable. So here is question number one, wise internets – How do I tell other children that they have to put back stuff they pull out? Even though they come with maids, they walk away leaving the nursery looking like a battlefield. Is it rude and unhostessly?

Anyway, so while the Brat and Bean are mostly cooperative in putting their toys away unlike most of our little sahibs and memsahibs who are used to maids cleaning up behind them, there are off days too. This morning the OA and I cleaned up the entire house and came back to flop onto our bed, only to realise it was covered with toys. The OA told the kids to clear up and the Brat who was caught deep in prehistoric times, couldn’t snap out of his time warp and get back to 2010.

He refused to take his stuff away in spite of many warnings and finally the OA swept everything into two little baskets and told them it would go into the dustbin if it wasn’t taken back to the nursery. The Bean grabbed one and but the Brat’s legendary Taurean stubbornness struck and he refused to budge. I was loathe to interfere so I just watched. The Bean who was struggling to carry one, tried to take the other too, but the patient OA snapped too.  No – the Brat must carry his share of stuff, failing which it would go in the dustbin. I don’t really blame the OA. I don’t know any other I-bankers in India who work the hours he works and then come back to housework and childcare and tension. This was a situation waiting to explode.

Two minutes of father and son staring each other down and then the OA took the stuff and dumped it in a dustbin. Higgledy piggledy, Bean’s Dora binoculars and a bunch of little elephant pictures too went in. The Bean crying that it was her stuff. The father firm that it didn’t matter. And the Brat watching with teary eyes but refusing to budge. I tried to reason with him, then drag him after his father to rescue the basket, but he stubbornly curled his fingers into little fists and refused to hold the basket. I gave up. He’s walked out of our room. The toys are in the bin and will stay there until the garbage guy comes tomorrow. I wonder whether he’ll bend and come and rescue them or not…

Amnesia

Last night we went for a wedding reception. It was late and today is a school day but the couple are close friends and I thought it would be fun for the kids because the guest list was small and intimate and the venue beautiful. Things began to go wrong within ten minutes of leaving home but clearly we can’t take a hint. We were stuck in the mother of all jams. The kids began to whine after a while, sitting in the dark and irritating each other. I kept threatening  scolding to throw them out of the door. I’m glad I didn’t have to act upon that threat because the traffic was too heavy for me to even crack open a door.

An hour and a half of being in traffic and the Bean began to say she was feeling pukey. I took her in my lap and rolled down the window for some fresh air. Unlikely that there’d be any fresh air, stuck in the midst of traffic and fumes as we were. And then as we sat there cursing, there was a sound behind us and the Brat threw up all over himself and the car. I took one look at my peacock blue kanjeevaram and mentally kissed it goodbye. The OA pulled over and we hopped out and I begged a bottle of  water off a kind driver somewhere (Salaam driversaab, I’m sorry we left you waterless). We tried to wash him out but he was beyond repair. His shoes, socks, pajama, everything was caked in puke (I don’t think we feed him as much as he expelled). We cleaned him as best as we could only to realise that now he was freezing to death.

So we pulled off his by now sopping wet but still miraculously puke-encrusted pajama and the OA put his waistcoat on him. It went down to his knees and stiffly stuck out a good foot on either side of his shoulders.  The poor child was wet and shivering in the nippy early winter night and the OA and I were this close to smacking him for not warning us. He can talk ad nauseum about blue whales and stingrays, but can’t tell us he’s feeling like vomiting?! At this point he decided to break the ice by pointing out that the moon was blue and moving. Argh.

At this point I had what I like to think of, as my brain wave. The  Bean was in a brand new anarkali crushed kurta and churidar – I took off her churidar and I made him wear it. It just about went up his legs and left him unable to walk. The Bean didn’t object but looked rather sad. And then the OA and I surveyed the situation and laughed. Our son was in a maroon kurta with his sister’s purple and gold churidar, minus his socks, and floating in the OA’s large oversize waistcoat. The Bean was in a pretty purple and red crushed cotton anarkali kurta with a chiffon dupatta, ending in a pair of black skull and cross bone socks and Mary Janes – what? I hadn’t anticipated her having to take her churidar off!

We walked into the wedding looking bedraggled and smelling of puke (what? we couldn’t have bunked it – the couple were too dear to us and we were starving and in no position to drive another 2 hours back home) . The bride and groom were gracious and laughed with us. We figured the kindest thing we could do to them was to stay away from them and not pose for the mandatory picture. Fortunately some kind souls lent us some clothes and we put the Brat into a pair of tracks under his kurta, took off his thermal and wrapped him in my shawl, and returned the Bean’s churidar and her dignity to her.

By the time we were ready to eat, the OA and my sanity was hanging by a thread. The kids had forgotten the ordeal and were running around happily after eating a good meal. The entire evening had got derailed and it was way past their bed time. We finally left, dragging them behind us, back into our car that was stinking of puke. We got some paper from the caterers and cleaned up the floor as best as we could. Then we laid out fresh paper and made them sit down quietly, telling them they were not to move an inch or they’d know the reason why.

We’d barely driven for two minutes when I realised they’d both fallen asleep in the back seat. We haven’t carried a baby bag in 2 years or more and these are the times that I suppose we should have one. On the other hand, it’s good for the kids to rough it out and not take themselves too seriously. I wish I’d had a camera to record the moment we walked into the wedding venue, looking like a bunch of castaways.

The roads were empty, the night RJ was playing some good music and the OA and I were soon smiling and laughing over the kids’ antics. Mimicking them, discussing their temperaments and so on. He often asks me how women go through a second pregnancy and delivery after the discomfort and pain of the first one. So I gently asked him if he was still exhausted and annoyed.  He looked surprised – Of course not. He’d forgotten all about it. And there you have it, I said. That is how it works. Where your children are concerned, it’s so easy to forget the trouble and only focus on the joy they bring. Do you agree?

As to the songs that put us in a good mood (yes, it’s always about the music…)