Conversations from the mad house

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

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

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

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

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

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

#FacePalm

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

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

Great. I didn’t need to step in.

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

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

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

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

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

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When your mother is a feminist, you say -

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

Excellent. My work here is done.

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

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

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

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

Yes. And that is entirely the same thing.

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

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

*gulp* I swear that’s not true, Ma!

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

#SwallowMeNowEarth moment right there.

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

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

Bean: 1, Me: 0

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

Indeed? Err. Okay.

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

Ugh. Nerd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh – well that is progress!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.”

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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?!!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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“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

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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.

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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.’

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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.

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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?”

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

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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!*

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Endless summer afternoons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bean’s ladybird on canvas

Planting veggies for the summer

Arrogance is the new intelligence

A few days ago we took the kids to a party and they pretty much shocked the pants off everyone with their Good evening Uncle, Good evening Aunty, Thank you for having us, except for the Bean saying her goodbyes and ending with, ‘Thank you for coming’! Yes, she’s four and easily confused but very particular about manners. :)

The hosts laughed their butts off and then proceeded to lecture us on ‘making’ the kids wish other adults the time of day and say please, thank you etc. This is something I’ve always found rather strange. Why is it that people don’t think manners are an unimportant lesson? Or that there is such a thing as teaching your kids manners too early? No, it doesn’t come naturally to kids to say Please, Thank you and May I, so if you don’t teach them, who will?

Oh he won’t say hello unless he likes you, says one smiling father. Another mother shrugs proudly – He’ll hit first and ask questions later. Eh? What am I missing? And parents are okay with this? Others believe it’s a part of modern parenting philosophy and throw words at you like  - space, privacy, choice, development. He has only one childhood and we don’t like to tell him to do this or do that… says another, fondly watching her son throw stones at a stray dog. And what do our kids have – nine lives? “The books I’ve read and the school philosophy is to let the children find their own feet and decide what they think is right or wrong… ‘ she says, as her son pushes my daughter off her cycle roughly. I break the conversation and go running to save her since she’s about half his size.  Clearly her son thinks there is nothing wrong with raising a hand on a little girl who is half his size. I hope all that psychology is useful as he grows up aggressive.

I understand some kids are shy and some are aggressive – but I am horrified when I don’t even see parents make a token effort. A simple reminder – say Good evening/Hello/Namaste to Aunty. Never mind if the kid doesn’t say it – you’ve begun something that he will slowly absorb and someday even surprise you by saying without prompting.

But (Yes, I am aware that you shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘but’) no one seems to care, by their own admission. All the kids go to new age schools where they are encouraged to explore their surroundings and find themselves. Where there is no discipline. No enforcement. I agree with that in theory. My kids go to a similar school. But are we throwing away decency and manners in this whole new way of parenting?

If your kid has looked deep within and only found arrogance or bad behaviour, how about you find some manners for him? Another kid stalks off from the skating class because he is punching a younger kid in the face and I stop him. I’m nobody of any relevance according to him. I’m not his mother and I’m not the skating coach, so what business is it of mine? I glare at him mencingly and firmly tell him that he MUST STOP HITTING. Or else, his eyes challenge me? Or else… I drift away. Or else nothing. I can do nothing. I am positive I won’t find any support in his parents. If they cared, he wouldn’t be as much of a bully as he is.

For instance, I recently saw this advertisement on TV and it horrified me. I’d skin my kids alive if they slid a coin across a counter so rudely to a shopkeeper, specially an elderly person. But advertisers clearly have been doing enough market surveys to know that arrogance is the new intelligence. When we were kids the advertisements enticed you with promises of growing to be like Kapil Dev or the smarter kid. But no, we no longer aspire to be hardworking or tall.  We aim to be cocky. We want to be arrogant.

Because in some twisted way parents believe that being arrogant shows that we’re smart. We’re witty, we’re intelligent, we’re irreverent. That it makes their kids brave and intrepid. They don’t demand instant obedience. I get that. I don’t want zombies for kids either. But surely having your own mind and being well mannered are not mutually exclusive. And humility isn’t really an old fashioned virtue. I’m out of options now – I think I’m taking the next ticket to Mars.

I leave you with a piece by Samina Mishra. A senior from college, a sometimes colleague and a woman I admire tremendously for what she does with her life and the way she thinks. Enjoy.

 

Sweet heart

It’s a nice crisp  morning-after-a-night-of-rain and we decide to drop the kids to school and then go to our favourite park for a jog instead of the OA hitting the gym and me the pool. Breakfast at a lovely little organic cafe, Roots and then home to dress and rush to work, is the plan. And so we head out to school.

The windows are rolled down and the kids are clowning around. The Bean’s hair is flying in the breeze and she’s pretending to be a pup and barking at other cars. The Brat is cheering her on and squealing with laughter. The breeze has blown our papers all over the place, the kids have had a pillow fight with the two cushions in the backseat, the OA and I are in tattered shorts and tees and sneakers and we’re dancing to whatever RJ Sarthak is subjecting us to. This car is a far cry from peaceful.

Just then the Brat sees his classmate in the car next to ours and waves excitedly. The other child is sitting quietly in a chauffeur driven car with his older, neatly groomed, dressed-for-office father reading the newspaper. Peace and calm reign in their car.

The Brat gestures to the other child who begs his father to let him roll the window down. The Brat then calls out, “Yours is a really cool racing car. You’re going to come first – yayy! I’ll see you in school.”

The OA smiles, “Only our son would tell another boy that he has the better car! He never feels the need to sound cooler or better, does he?”

I nod and smile back. That is our Brat. And we’re making our peace with our non-competitive child who will give visiting kids his cycle, share his Beyblades, offer you the better piece of cake and forgive you for punching him in about ten minutes.

A few days ago they went for a birthday party. The kids were mostly older and it was time for the pinata. The Bean usually gets stamped on and pushed out of the way, emerging from under the pile of kids with only a handful of sparkle. The Brat usually wanders around on the periphery, uninterested in the proceedings. I was surprised to see him dive in this time and emerge triumphant. In his hand, other than a few odds and ends was a pink sparkly pencil sharpener in the shape of a PC mouse.

Clutching it tight he came to his sister – I got this for you because I knew you wouldn’t be able to get anything out of there. Ma ka dil and all that jazz, I blinked back tears and looked away. Unwilling to bear witness to this sort of honest love. The Bean held up a bag – she’d already got herself a bag of loot!

The OA and I took one look at each other and burst out laughing. Clearly our little Monster no longer needs to be looked out for. Although I still felt bad that the Brat dived in there only to get something out for her and nothing much for himself.

Oh well… everyday in little ways we learn something about them. And almost everyday, what I learn about the Brat, breaks my heart just a little bit.

Trying to be a better person

The operative word here being, ‘trying’.

We all talk about being better people, but I’m not sure how that works. In fact I find it hard to make that general ‘better person’ cut and what works for me is picking up a facet of my life and working on it. Wife, mother, sister, friend, employee…

I am not much of an employee because work features at the bottom of my list. I deliver on time and as promised and maybe a little more than promised, but that’s about it. On the other hand, I try everyday to be a better wife to the OA. Not by cooking or cleaning or whatever else one might expect from 90% of wives across the world. But by trying to be a more understanding wife. Giving him more space, more time, more energy and more encouragement to be the person he wants to be. I try to be a better mother to the kids by doing as much as I can for them without smothering, guiding without leading and so on. Let me hasten to assure you that I don’t think I’m excelling at either, but that I am always trying, always eager to work on them and often aware of where I am failing.

But the one relationship I realise I haven’t worked on as much as I should, is the relationship with my parents.

Born to them, you grow up taking them for granted. If you’ve always been snappy and short tempered with them, if you’ve always been the indulged, whiny one, if you’ve always got what you asked for, if they’ve always stepped in when you need something, you continue in the same vein. How many of us make an effort to improve our relationship with our parents?

How many of us have begun to indulge them? I think back on my last post on parents and the pressure on them where so many people responded that it is unfair to expect people to give up their lives abroad and move back to a country where their ageing parents are comfortable. Very true. All expectations are unfair. And yet we so often do sacrifice for our kids. I look upon our move to Gurgaon as the worst thing to have happened to me, simply because I have no choice in this matter. I WILL give my children the education I think they deserve, even if it kills me. So why then are we never so generous with those who spent a lifetime doing stuff for us? I don’t say you should give in to unreasonable demands (heck, I say you should never give in to demands, reasonable or unreasonable – now requests, they’re a different matter). But I do believe that as children ourselves, we rarely stop to consider our parents and their desires and wishes and hopes and dreams.

We all carry baggage and so do they. My relationship with the Bean is a very easy one. We are so alike that I just need to look at her to figure out which bit of mischief she is getting up to. With the Brat though, I am usually reaching for a cyanide pill. He is nothing like either of us and parenting him is a challenge. Every choice we make, is an effort. Every time he does something the OA and I have to count to ten so as to not lose our cool. Without doubt, he is the child that challenges us and I can only see this getting worse as he grows. Inspite of being the cutest, friendliest, more adorable toddler, he is an introvert who has his own ideas, is uncommunicative and moody and unbelievably stubborn. Naturally this means we cannot parent him in the same way we do the Bean. That we don’t have the same easy relationship but a more careful, calculated method of parenting. We’re constantly thinking – ‘Will this upset the Brat? Do you think he’ll agree to do this?  Have you noticed him do X – do you think he now needs Y?’ It puts a huge strain on us as parents and often we’re drained with the effort because the easiest thing to do would be to just shake him up and the collapse.

And that makes me realise how tough it must have been for my mother to parent me. I am the exact opposite of her. So much my father’s daughter. So hard for her to have two of us hot headed types to handle. So unlike her in temperament and so much of an effort to understand. Even today we’re careful about what we say to each other and not to hurt each others’ feelings. My dad on the other hand, tells it like it is and I feel free to repay him in the same currency. Secure in the knowledge that he will forget by night, as will I. My mother, I know will nurse the hurt and recall it years later.

In the last few years I’ve begun to try but even I have to admit that I am not good at it. Some time during my pregnancy with the Bean my relationship with my parents reached its lowest ebb and I was shouting, banging doors and fighting with them. I was going through certain problems and felt that they weren’t being supportive enough. Four years down I’m trying harder. Even a few days ago my father and I had a showdown but this time I merely called him *koff koff* ‘mean and unsupportive.’ Yes, I can be  childish when I want. But we both stalked off,  cooled off and came back bathed and calmer. I laid out some snacks and the evening tea and then we looked at each other, grinned and put our arms out for a hug. I sat in his lap (did I mention childish?) and we made up. It might take time but I realise that like all relationships, we need to work on the one with our parents too.

With Ma, I now try to say my words in my head before they spill out of my mouth to leave a scar that won’t go away. Mostly though, I am trying to stop thinking of it as my sovereign right to take them for granted. To stop saying, ‘But I am their daughter and have always been this way; they should have learnt to deal with it by now. But I am their daughter and they owe me this.’ I have to admit it doesn’t come easy.

At this point I must also admit that working on a relationship with your parents after you become a parent yourself is even harder. Everything begins to sound judgmental. If Ma says, ‘You should have done XYZ with the kids,’ I am most likely to turn around and snap, ‘Why? you didn’t do it for us.’ Not only do I end up feeling judged, I take a potshot at their parenting too. It’s not deliberate, but it is the instinctive reaction to being criticised. To hit out at the other and point out where they failed you. And everyone knows, the only people who can tell you where you went wrong in your parenting, are your children. I am so often carried away by my vile tongue that I am ashamed of myself. Yes, maybe they made some mistakes, but they were young and did the best they could. And while it’s okay to blame your parents for certain things in life, it is also time, that at 30, I take responsibility for the person I am and the things I say.

A small example is the way I trash my mother’s taste in clothes mercilessly – What is that crap, Ma? Are you planning on going out in public dressed like that? Because junta will just run for cover when they see that tee shirt.

She holds her tongue and either quietly submits to my better judgment or ignores me. The one thing she doesn’t deny is that I am always right. The one thing I can never forget is that I get my taste from her. Every choice in cotton sarees or crisp chikan kurtas with huge red bindis is one I learned from her and then fine tuned. But what I am yet to learn is to be nice while I go about it. Because the honest truth is that she looks awesome – I just want her to look better.  And so I have now begun to shop for her when I see something that would look good on her, regardless of whether I can afford it or not. I’m busy getting her packed for a family wedding in Australia later in the year. I was supposed to have attended but no passport yet and so I am deriving my joy from planning her sarees for the various dinners and parties. Knowing that she likes the clothes I choose for her, I’m doing this the other way around. Holding my tongue and simply buying what I think will suit her.

With dad, I’m just learning to hold my tongue. Period. At other times if we’re arguing over how much television the kids should be allowed, I simply find an article that illustrates my point and leave it on his bed. One evening he came up to me twice and said, ‘You’re right and I was wrong. I apologise.’ I almost collapsed in shock. But if he can do it, so can I.

We’re learning. It’s not easy as adults to re-work our relationship. To put aside our emotional baggage and treat each other with the respect due to another adult. And yet, even here, as I struggle to improve my relationship with them, I realise that I am only able to do it with their help and cooperation.

What are you working on today?