Thai High

So the Thailand trip to celebrate 10 years of marriage happened and I’ve come back with rather mixed feelings about the place. The plan was to spend some days in Pattaya and then hang out with the rather mad Aneela and her delightful son in Bangkok.

It was a long and complicated holiday plan. The OA, kids and I drove half way around the country spending time with friends and family before we took off to Pattaya. I was the recipient of plenty of shocked comments – Taking kids to Pattaya?!

Yes, yes we were taking them. And we had a lovely time. Our hotel was right on Jomtien Beach and inspite of the Brat running temperature 5 days straight, we went out everyday and he lived to tell the tale. I’m glad we took the kids though, because it took us to parts of the city most others wouldn’t bother with.  From the Underwater World to running in the rain around the Million Year Stone park, we saw animals we’ve never seen and generally had a great time.

Bangkok was next and I have to say I was a tiny bit disappointed by my experience. For one, it felt a lot like many Indian cities, just, on speed! Rush, rush, rush. Which is like NY no doubt, but my God the heat and humidity were not for me. I can’t stand coastal cities, so to have to rush around in one, was my worst nightmare come true. Fortunately though, we had The Aneela to hang out with and it was amazing to have an almost local show us around and take us to cat cafes and cute little local parks.

I loved the motorbike taxis and recently someone on facebook suggested that India needed them. I’m not sure if India is there yet. For one, the guys driving them smell good and look a lot cleaner than our local auto drivers  - call me a snob, but if I have to hang on to a man for dear life, I’d like it to be a tolerable if not a pleasant experience. For another, I don’t know if Indian women would be happy to jump on and ride pillion with a strange man. I was most impressed to see women come out of office in their formals and hop on to a bike and zoom off home or to the tube. And finally, the traffic here is far more disorganised, making a bike ride as safe as tight rope walking over a river full of crocodiles. I certainly wouldn’t want to trust a stranger’s skill on it!

The malls were dazzling, prices were decent, but after a point I went nuts. When I got home and made a mental list of what I’d bought, I realised I didn’t need any of it. The consumer culture there is a lot more than one realises and there are huge collapsible suitcases on wheels for sale – shop, fill up a suitcase and roll it home.

I of course indulged myself with the famous massages and the OA and babies would quietly lie down on the comfy chairs with a book and wait for me to be done. I kept begging the OA to try one but he hates people touching him and has never been a massage fan. I finally succeeded towards the end of the holiday and he converted and how! Like all new converts he couldn’t stay away and was most disgusted at himself for not having given it a shot earlier.

The massage parlours also showed me how easy it is for moral and ethical lines to be crossed. The very same parlours that give you a full body massage are willing to, for a small price, give the men a ‘happy ending’. Apart from my rage at the unfairness of men being offered happy endings and women, not, I am also shocked at how easy it is to cross that little line. Unlike the effort it takes to cross a mental barrier and go over to a seedy brothel in a separate district, these parlours are safe, clean, shiny happy places, right in the middle of the regular shopping and residential districts. I could be sitting in a lazy-boy with my child reading a book by my side, while upstairs some guy is getting his rocks off. It shook me up.

I also finally saw what people meant about the flesh trade – its so in your face that you get immune to it after a point. Loads of older white men with young Asian girls, barely old enough to be out of school. The girls are picked up to keep house while ‘servicing’ the men. What an amazing deal. It’s like going back by about a 100 years or so. Young, beautiful, available, doing the laundry, keeping house, submissive, all for a price. We were chatting with the owner of our hotel who said they are called summer wives. That the men all say that this is a great break from their Western life where the women are equal, strong and expect them to help around the house. Food for thought. Where people can buy submission, they will. The desire to be equal, fair, is not a common one. And as women get stronger and less willing to take bullshit, there will be men who will hunt for other options, even if it means paying for them. And there will be women who will be happy to sell them that illusion. Le sigh.

I teased the OA that people probably thought we were one of those couples – he is almost fully white haired now and often gets mistaken for Italian/Lebanese – and I am almost always asked if I am from Nagaland. It was probably thanks to the kids that no one thought I was his lady for the night! Well that and the fact that I was in kurtis and tracks for the entire holiday, not dressed to the nines like those ladies.

What impresses one is the Thai willingness to work hard. Unlike the Western world where shops shut at 6pm and leave you high and dry, shops here are open till late night. And oh the hawkers! At any time of night or day, there are pavements overflowing with clothes, toys, quick eats.  I also learnt something rather interesting – apparently traditional Thai homes did not have kitchens. Even in villages, one home was selected to be the one that cooked and fed the rest, while others were given other responsibilities. Even now, many Thai people eat out and it’s easy to see why. Hot, juicy sausages on sticks, fresh cut fruit, sticky rice and glistening chicken in little takeaway boxes – I could eat all day!

We spent a lot of time on Jomtien Beach in Pattaya and that place was the best example of indulgence and hedonism. Lie back on chairs put out by someone, eat fresh sea food grilled right under your nose and then have a little old lady sit down in the sand by the foot of your chair and give you a pedicure. This is where I drew the line. I just couldn’t stand the idea of looking out at the gorgeous blue sea while my children built sand castles and my husband took a water scooter for a spin, while I lay back, stuffed my face with delicious prawns and a lady old enough to be my grandmother, sat under the hot sun in hijab, and pressed my feet. Call me a fool, but that’s probably what I am, then.

And perhaps that is what I learnt on my holiday. That money really can buy you anything. Except the ability to stomach some of it.

The very cool and rather anal, Cat Cafe. I like cats as much as the next person but they fussed so much and made us wash and sanitise our hands a dozen times - and even then we had to wait for a cat to decide if it wanted to come or not. Err.. whatever.

The very cool and rather anal, Cat Cafe. I like cats as much as the next person but they fussed so much and made us wash and sanitise our hands a dozen times – and even then we had to wait for a cat to decide if it wanted to come or not. Err.. whatever.

The Bean shows off her new slippers

The Bean shows off her new slippers

Stopping by a dhaba for chai as we drove through the country.

Stopping by a dhaba for chai as we drove through the country.

The beautiful Jharkhand roads.

The beautiful Jharkhand roads.

The cable cars at Science City, Calcutta

The cable cars at Science City, Calcutta

A traditional Thai dance performance as we ate dinner.

A traditional Thai dance performance as we ate dinner.

Jelly fish glow in the dark at the Underwater World

Jelly fish glow in the dark at the Underwater World

The beautiful tent over Underwater World

The beautiful tent over Underwater World

Don't pee or fart in a Baht bus!

Don’t pee or fart in a Baht bus!

Don't molest women either. Although the Bean read this as - 'Mama? Women shouldn't sing loudly on the baht bus?'  The Brat then enlightened her. :-/

Don’t molest women either. Although the Bean read this as – ‘Mama? Women shouldn’t sing loudly on the baht bus?’
The Brat then enlightened her. :-/

When you come from India, it's rare that you get to call a plant exotic.

When you come from India, it’s rare that you get to call a plant exotic.

Adjutant clerk bird - well named!

Adjutant clerk bird – well named!

Grilling fresh seafood on the beach

Grilling fresh seafood on the beach

You may say, I'm a dreamer... but I'm not the only one.

You may say, I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one.

A very funky mobile bar. And peace prevails around it. I can imagine what the Right would do if we set these up in India!

A very funky mobile bar. And peace prevails around it. I can imagine what the Right would do if we set these up in India!

A light installation made of sunglasses.

A light installation made of sunglasses.

A food court in a mall - never seen one so quiet or classy.

A food court in a mall – never seen one so quiet or classy.

A beautiful restaurant on a quiet lane. Moon River or something.

A beautiful restaurant on a quiet lane. Moon River or something.

Old electronics reassembled to make robots and figures. Chatuchak market

Old electronics reassembled to make robots and figures. Chatuchak market

Did not know they'd moved into the food business ;)

Did not know they’d moved into the food business ;)

Some of us indulged, yes.

Some of us indulged, yes.

The entrance to a mall done up with transparent umbrellas

The entrance to a mall done up with transparent umbrellas

Brat warming a shivering Bean at the airport

Brat warming a shivering Bean at the airport

Cal junta, have I done justice to your famous bridge?

Cal junta, have I done justice to your famous bridge?

Celebrations!

I realise I’ve really neglected this blog over the last year or two, so time to try and play catch up! First off, the Bean’s 6th birthday. She had just attended a dozen mermaid parties with fake curls, tiaras and mer-tails so she had that playing on her mind when she asked me for a party with mermaids. We chatted about it for a while and I broadened the scope to make it an underwater theme. Not being too committed to mermaids that suited her fine and we soon had a whole underwater theme going.

As luck would have it, I’d just ordered a box from Kukucrate (they make up theme based kits and you can subscribe to them for a funfilled month) for a trial and the theme for the month was Underwater! Such a stroke of luck. The night before the party was spent with the Bean, Brat, and a friend and her son helping me make decorations, wrap return gifts and generally organise things. One of the items in the Kukucrate box was thermocol half-globes that we painted and inserted pipe cleaners into, to make jellyfish. This we hung from a lampshade in the living room and it looked lovely.

Surprisingly I had a lot of blue cushions, blue curtains, blue table cloths and fish shaped tableware so the house was dressed up to suit the theme. We hung green and blue crepe paper cut into strips to look like seaweed and hung up strings of blue and green balloons which burst the moment we hung them in the garden. The children have outgrown their swimming tubes- a turtle and a something-or-the-other that I hung up in the garden. A basket of soft balls was given and the kids had to aim through the centre of the tube. Many of them got it and Cousin K and the OA who suddenly realised they were running out of gifts, began to up the ante. Began to shake the tube so that it was harder to aim at, the kids still got it. Then put the trampoline at the start line and began to make the kids jump on the trampoline while aiming, while Cousin K kept shaking the tube around.

It was hilarious fun and by the end the OA, Cousin K and one other mother who had stayed with her daughter and I, had collapsed in a heap, laughing. The kids of course loved the way the game got tougher and tougher and surprised us with their ability to keep up with it. I picked up some face painting crayons and made tattoos for the kids  - sea themed. I have to say the kids were rather gentle in the way they looked at my handiwork pityingly and said, ‘It’s not too bad, Aunty. You could be a great tattoo artist someday if you keep practising.’ Err, thank you. The OA manned a third corner where the kids were fishing for paper fish on paper clips, with magnets. This too was from the Kuku crate box and very popular with the kids. The fourth corner was a rug with crayons and sheets of sea themed animals for the kids to colour.

The cake was a two tier fresh strawberry cake with crabs and other sea creatures crawling all over it. Fantastic. A lot of the food fit the theme too. I opened up strawberry cream oreos and placed small white marshmallows in them to look like oysters, bought a small fish bowl and filled it with goldfish biscuits, cut a yellow capsicum and studded it with olives to look like an octopus and stuck it in a bowl of hung curd dip. Also had bowls of grapes and pomegranates. And one huge dish of sausages and another of popcorn that was a huge hit. The Bean had begged me with the world in her eyes for Maggi and so for the first time the banned item made it to my dining table in a huge fishy dish. I can’t tell you how funny it was to see the adults dig into it when they came to pick up their kids. I’d honestly imagined I’d be struck off their X’mas card lists.

For the first time this year I politely requested all parents to drop kids and pick them up. We usually like our parties full of kids, parents, a few cold beers and lots of fun. But increasingly I realise kids misbehave when their own parents are around. Left to our tender mercies they play according to rules, don’t push or fight and generally end up being far better behaved. The party ended with a few friends staying back for a drink, the kids sliding into a pile on the carpet and watching some TV and all of us polishing off the simply fantastic cake. Burp. 

Pictures now.

The octopus taking a dip

The octopus taking a dip

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A huge dish of Maggi with veggies, the oyster oreos, sausages, popcorn and goldfish in a bowl

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The jellyfish from the Kukucrate kit hanging from a lampshade

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Green and blue balloons and a turtle shaped swimming tube to aim balls through.

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The kids spent a pleasant few hours cutting out these sea creatures and colouring them. Then we stuck them on a ribbon. It is currently being used as a banner in the nursery.

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Some portions of the house that were in keeping with the blue/sea theme.

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The Kukucreate items that worked with our theme – jellyfish made of thermocol and pipecleaners, and the paper cutouts with clips to fish for with magnets.

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Was most thrilled to find a fishy cushion I’d picked up at Fabindia on a whim.

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For those who wanted to sit by the pool and chill.

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I have more fishy bowls than I realise!

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The tenth anniversary was supposed to be in Bora Bora. But then we had kids and I stayed home and we were wondering if we’d even be in a position to make it to Baroda. ;) Anyhow, the plan is a convoluted one. A quick short trip with my parents to Orchha, on the weekend pre-anniversary, the day off for the OA and I to spend together in our pajamas and then go for a fancy dinner, on the anniversary. And a slightly delayed big holiday with the kids to Bangkok, again, to celebrate 10 years of being US. People did suggest we leave the kids and go, but as I’ve said often, my kids might be good for nothing else, but they’re fantastic travelers. And what are we celebrating at the end of these ten years if not our love and the product of that love.

It was not the best time on earth to go to Orchha but we’ve been wanting to do it for ages and as luck would have it, the weather was great – grey and a slight drizzle. The OA got me books, flowers, jewelry. I thought and thought and thought and finally thunked. I knew what to get a man who didn’t want anything else for his anniversary – a wife who would drive. Yep, I’ve begun to drive and it was quite useful because I’d barely done ten days when I found myself being shoved behind the Scorpio’s wheel while the OA went off to clear up a traffic jam on the highway. I was terrified as I took the wheel, but I guess there is something to being forged by fire. The kids were majorly tickled by seeing me drive and I guess the only thing left now is to not give up as I have before. It’s killing my knees, but I’m going to hang in there.

My parents joined us for the weekend and it was particularly significant for me because if they hadn’t supported us, it would have been just another quick court registry before we got on with life. They’re still quick to support us in our times of need, tell us off if we’re behaving idiotically and basically be the best support system anyone could have.

So, back to Orchha, we stayed in some lovely tents, visited the Orchha fort, went for the light and sound show, drove to Shivpuri and spent a day at the Madhav National Park  - sighted crocs, blue bull, deer, a variety of birds (all mostly spotted by the Brat even before the guide could open his mouth) and much more. Is it just me or are guides mostly picked for their ability to annoy and patronise? Even a lovely boat ride where we spotted more crocs and birds. Back at the hotel the kids spent a lot of time in the pool while I read a book in peace after a long time.

On the last day we drove into Jhansi and visited the Fort and also Rani Lakshmi Bai’s palace. An old lady sat at the door charging us Rs 2 for entry and taking the tickets back as we left, no doubt to charge someone else. A guide wandered around trying to educate us, mixing up fact with fiction and telling us that Aurangzeb died because Ma Kali appeared before him and scared him to death.

These were the greats of our country. For Rani Lakshmi Bai to do what she did, when she did, was commendable. And now her personal palace lies in ruins, the gardens overrun, a smelly toilet left open, paan stains in the corners and the rooms empty, covered in cobwebs, the building falling apart. So little is left of a life as magnificent as hers, what do you think will be left once we pass on? We don’t even have a legacy such as hers. No poems, no stories, nothing.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s rousing poem (she happens to be from my part of the world!) on the warrior queen came rushing back to mind and even as I wandered around the decrepit building I felt the tears rush to my eyes. Khoob ladi mardaani woh toh Jhansi waali rani thi. I began to recite from memory to the kids, the OA joined in and my voice broke – we both looked away, embarrassed at how overwhelming it was.

It was a rushed trip, all this covered in a mere three days, including the drive. So much of this beautiful country left to see, so little time. And now, photos of the trip.

Different views of the Orchha Fort. Simply stunning.

Different views of the Orchha Fort. Simply stunning.

Because I couldn't take anymore stairs.

Because I couldn’t take anymore stairs.

The light and sound show at Orchha.

The light and sound show at Orchha.

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Can you spot me and the babies?

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The Bean admires the view from a jharokha.

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You can almost hear the sound of payals down this corridor.

Our hotel was built around ruins. The gardens were stunning.

Our hotel was built around ruins. The gardens were stunning.

A ruin right in the middle of the Madhav National Park.

A ruin right in the middle of the Madhav National Park.

The Bean falls asleep with my hat on her face, as we settle the hotel bill.

The Bean falls asleep with my hat on her face, as we settle the hotel bill.

The OA tries to make up for me not being able to take the stairs by describing everything to me. This is why I married him.

The OA tries to make up for me not being able to take the stairs by describing everything to me. This is why I married him.

Loved this train track running through Gwalior, people hopping on and off as though it were a bus.

Loved this train track running through Gwalior, people hopping on and off as though it were a bus.

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The aangan in Rani Lakshmi Bai's palace. I'd love to sit here with a book. I wonder if she ever got to enjoy it in peace.

The aangan in Rani Lakshmi Bai’s palace. I’d love to sit here with a book. I wonder if she ever got to enjoy it in peace.

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The Brat’s 8th birthday was one of the most rushed plans ever. I was supposed to be travelling on a shoot and back in time for his big day, but I was only coming back late night on the 4th and didn’t think I could get everything ready for the next day. So we planned for the next weekend. And then the shoot got cancelled and we decided to let him have the pleasure of his party on his birthday and everything had to be rushed forward by a week – crazy! We hadn’t thought of anything other than the cake and the rest were quickly thrown into place.

Now that the kids are old enough for organised games, we picked a version of Pin the tail, in this case, on a dino. The OA decided to draw a T-rex for his son and I was as usual, shocked by how good an artist he is. He is my favourite example of eldest son primed to become CEO and nothing less. Free of social pressures and patriarchy, this man who never picks up a pencil other than to teach his kids, would have been a good artist. If nothing else, the peace on his face when he sketches, says something. If I could give my husband one thing, it would be a fresh start. One where studies took a back seat to the many talents he has, be it art or cooking or sports. Anyhow, lest you think I’m a fond wife gushing, check this picture out. He drew it without erasing anything and then let the kids colour it.

The T-rex being sketched by the OA. The Brat coloured it after his father was done.

The T-rex being sketched by the OA. The Brat coloured it after his father was done.

I have become the official tattoo artist after the Bean’s party and have been painting themed tattoos for the kids. Most of them take one look at the tattoo I’ve made, shake their heads sadly at me as though – You poor deluded woman, you call yourself an artist? And then walk away without a word so as to not hurt my feelings. They all came back for seconds, thirds and face painting after a while.

The food was deviled eggs, pancakes, fruit, popcorn, sausages and Maggi – again, since the Bean had asked for it, the Brat had to, too. We made little signs and stuck them on ice cream sticks that were dug into lumps of Plasticine – saying Carnivorous and Herbivorous to mark out veg and non-veg food. We also made up funny names for the rest like Primordial Slime, for the Maggi and Oviraptor Eggs for the devilled eggs. The kids had a lovely time and the OA and I actually finished cleaning, sweeping and swabbing the floor by 9 pm and got into bed in time to watch a few episodes of our latest obsession – Homeland. The Brat got an insane number of books, most of them on animals; clearly his friends know him well. :)

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The OA working on his masterpiece.

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We moved pots around to create a jungle entrance to our place.

We moved pots around to create a jungle entrance to our place.

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The OA’s T-rex fruit salad is almost ready. We added some pineapple and mango to the watermelon.

'Oviraptor' eggs!

‘Oviraptor’ eggs!

Pancakes

Pancakes shaped like dinos, with marshmallow eyes. These were a hit. 

The cake was fresh mango and sprinkled with cocoa powder. The fossil was fondant.

The cake was fresh mango and sprinkled with cocoa powder. The fossil was fondant.

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Some need a little help with conquering the ferocious T-rex.

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G’pa gets in on the action while a bunch of pint sized contestants distract him!

The much awaited house tour

I’ve been promising you this since I moved here a year and a half ago. Apologies for delivering so late, but I guess I was just never happy with the way the place turned out. The house was too big with empty corners, a too small living room, large rooms with awkward walls and too many windows. The paintings were never up where I wanted them, the balconies were nothing on my Delhi terrace garden and the stairs were killing my knees.

So we’re moving house. Yet again. Apparently we’re just nomadic by kismat.  The furniture has been turned round and around and shifted and given away and borrowed and lent and we’ve not had a moment of peace. When we moved out of our last house the old landlord left us with, “Sometimes houses don’t suit people – if that happens, I’d love to have you back here.” Err… thanks old man for blighting the place before we even set foot in it. The last year has been miserable for us in more ways than one. No decent househelp, crazy distances that forced me to quit my job, loneliness everytime I looked out of the high rise even though we were surrounded by friends, and a general sense of not being home yet.

Inspite of that we soldiered on and then one day I snapped and told the OA we had to move out of here. This was still not feeling like home. And I am a huge believer in places feeling like home. In creating a home. So we’re moving. I figured if I don’t give you the royal tour now, I’d never get around to it. So here goes. Enjoy.

There is a strong cross breeze at the front door and I've lost a lot of my decorative stuff. So I decided to use unbreakable things such as books. This is a pile of only red covered books set on a green runner with accents of yellow and green. Take that, strong wind.

The first living room arrangement a la Indian railways. I changed it pretty soon.

This was the second option. Lovely for lounging on the couch in the winter afternoon sun. But it blocked the window AC.

Christmas brought inspiration and we finally found the best arrangement while making space for the tree.

And with the arrangement came new cream sofa covers. Clearly people with two kids never learn.

So whaddya think? I also added a new rug that according to the OA only looks older than everything else. The man has no taste. No, I'm the one exception in his life, thank you very much!

Dining room in summer. The chik is made of pretty white chikan counterpanes that I gave up all hope of using after two kids. Sadly you can't tell in this picture.

The staircase leading up to the bedrooms and away from the public areas. The spot you're looking down at is the reading nook.

Corridor between dining and drawing. We were lucky to find a little daru nook again! I don't know why builders keep putting these in.

In the winter this corner of the dining room gets the most delicious sun and I drag the rocking chair here to work while I oversee the kids' homework/craft or meals.

The reading and music nook. This is before we put up the pictures so it looks half-dressed.

Better and aerial view of the nook. Taken while hanging off the stairs and risking my neck for you.

The colour coordinated book shelf that you may also smirk at :). Can't help being anal!

One of the table settings during Christmas season. The Bean laid this.

Just for kicks, sharing the Diwali table setting. The tablemats have a fine gold design that you can't see in this light. I laid the table and did the rangolis etc. The OA cooked dinner. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful family tradition :p

A little row of lamps and cacti on the way up the stairs. They got the most sun and they loved it.

Some showed their appreciation by flowering promptly.

An old masala jar stuffed with greens and guarded by an old warrior on an elephant.

This is the same bookshelf as above, and holds some of the most precious books I own.

Guest room. The collage of pictures includes sketches by my cousin and some ancient postcards that my grandaunt used to send my grandmother from around the world, including my favourites - embroidered flamenco dancers.

The only untouched book shelf in this house - this one carries my cook books :p

A corner of the bathroom. I love the white pot.

And since we're talking bathrooms, I give you the frog guarding the powder room.

The balcony on the lower floor - the guest room looks out on to it.

And this is what it looks like if you're lying in bed and looking out of the guestroom windows.

This room went from being the kids' play room to the OA's temporary office for the six months he worked from home. It is now our laundry room cum second guest room so will not be shared in its present avatar!

Another view of the lower balcony, leading out of the dining room.

Because an AC backside always looks ugly!

After I got the lovely escritoire from the parents I gave the kids my plain old table. Yes, I'm mean that way.

But I was kind enough to set it up for them, right down to lining it with pretty paper. The OA spent half the night pointing and laughing at me. Feel free to do the same.

Because nothing fills up the senses more than a fragrant night and a cool night breeze wafting into your bedroom as you sleep with the doors left wide open. I guess there are some things I'll miss about living high up among the clouds.

The Brat reading on the bed, a box of dinosaurs kept for comfort at his legs. The Bean is as always busy with art and craft at her desk. They wanted these posters and I couldn't think of a way to do it without ruining the walls. So ribbons and clothespins it was.

A corner of our bedroom. Again, I've never really been happy with the way it turned out.

And I'm sure you remember this nook under the stairs for the kids. It's now their cycle stand!

In the worst of summer I removed the rug, left the floor cool, put up an inexpensive bit of chik and hung a couple of toys from the staircase to entertain them. Oh, and added some dancing bamboos.

The other end of their room. This was the day we spent making pirate masks and putting up a show for erm.. no one.

This is part of the balcony leading out of my bedroom.

This is the balcony leading out of my bedroom. Perfect for a morning cup of tea on a still day. On a breezy day its deadly.

Oh! And this was my last bit of genius ;) Black and whites taken ONLY by friends. This way I have a wall full of art that has great value for me even if it's not a Hussain.

And this is my favourite - a Mughal miniature by none other than the talented Lavanya Karthik (http://lavanyakarthik.wordpress.com/), featuring the OA and I in a romantic setting, with the Gurgaon skyline behind us. And oh, the two babies hanging like monkeys from a tree. Now this one I'd not exchange for a Hussain.

Because nothing fills up the senses more than a fragrant night and a cool night breeze wafting into your bedroom. I guess there are some things I'll miss about living high up among the clouds.

I believe you met Ms Escritoire in an old post. She belonged to my grandmother who was a writer, poet and artist. Each time I sit down to write I worry that I'm not living up to her expectations, even as I appreciate the privilege of owning her desk now.

Because I owe you a Diwali post. This year we lit up that window and kept fire crackers etc to a minimum.

A kitchen shelf. I love the old hen and the fat ladybird with some green on her back.

And the birdbath in my living room balcony for those who missed it when I last posted about it.

For anything I might have left out, go to the decor tag. 

Ek glassy, do glassy…

I’ve spent a good number of hours thinking about the lead in to this post, stuck in traffic for a good 4-5 hours as I was. I came up with 53 brilliant ideas and forgot all by the time I got home at 4 am. Let me share my FB status with you for an idea of what it was like – “One smashed passenger window, a glass shattering in the Bean’s mouth, one landslide, two 4 hour traffic jams, 2 puke sessions in the car, all-nighter-drives, a cloudburst and yet we had a glorious holiday. Let’s do this again, OA!!” Sorry about the spoilers, but lets go ahead and do this in bullet points like we do holiday posts. There is way too much action to do it any other way.

  • Travelling out of Delhi on the Independence Day weekend is a bad idea. Always. We do short weekend getaways all the time and it works because most people are home celebrating festivals. Since the OA and I are not bothered, we’re out, be it Holi, Easter or Eid. But this is one weekend that the whole city heads out and we spent almost 6 hours getting on to the Chandigarh highway. We kept getting FM signal far down the road and even at 11pm we heard the RJ interviewing people stuck on the Azadpur flyover for over 2 hours.
  • You know you’re in trouble when your child pukes all over the backseat before you’re even out of Delhi. Yes, the Brat was in fine form. But the OA and I are experts at this now. Newspaper on the ready, extra set of clothes, sanitiser, wet wipes – all we need is an empty bottle and we get water from somewhere close by, wash him down, strip, powder and change him on the road. All set to get back on the road. The Bean neatly threw up only in the hills once, straight out of the window. Phew. No need for lather, rinse, repeat. A bachelor colleague of the OA’s wanted a ride to Shimla and I was afraid we’d scared the poor man off marriage and procreation. But we had a lovely time chatting with him, he gave the OA a break with the driving and I sat in the backseat for the first time in 8 years. In ten minutes the kids were all over him and the Bean taught him to play Pat-a-Cake.
  • The radio signal ran out and we forgot the darn iPod so no music except for scratchy old CDs. The trip got an extra 4 hours added on to it thanks to the traffic jams crowds heading in the same direction – would you believe we even bumper-to-bumpered it up the hills? By 2am we were all drooping. By 4am by brain was foggier than the mist outside. So what music do you guys listen to on long drives to stay awake? Reccos requested.
  • The Bean spent the first half hour talking on her plastic toy phone and had me in splits – To her best friend – ‘Oh you know my kids, OA and MM, they’re giving me a headache.’ To her fake boss – ‘blah blah blah … and DON’T you call me again on my holiday.’ And finally, a fake flight announcement – ‘Close your tray tables, put off your phones, keep your hands inside the windows for safety and shut your mouth. Have a good flight.’
  • This holiday was taken over by the kids. We had so many plans that were summarily dismissed with a – “You go do that, we’re playing here with our friends.” And so they made loads of friends as usual (initiated by Brat, taken over by Bean). So the OA and I made the most of it by sitting in the lounge with our books and cups of steaming tea and coffee while the kids ran from room to room, to the play area to the *phew* I don’t know and enjoyed themselves. There was a general sense of retirement that I refused to acknowledge at that time!
  • I often whine about the sad state of kids these days, unruly and ill mannered. And so its only fair that I point out when I meet exemplary kids. We met a 9-10 year old and one who was a year older I think. I have no idea why but they took the kids under their wing and I didn’t need to worry thereafter. Disclaimer – neither wished us good morning :p but they were genuinely good kids. Calm, polite, helpful, gentle. I see a lot of kids from Delhi’s famed ‘good schools’ who wouldn’t bother with a younger kid but it started with one of them helping the Brat or Bean and continuing to do so. They played hide and seek, read them books, helped them with their jackets, reminded them to wash their hands and even lifted the Bean up to reach the sink. I think what I loved about them was the humility, the compassion and the absolute lack of any airs. No playing games on phones and tablets, no pocket video game nonsense. And very responsible. Constantly informing us – Aunty, we’re going to room #107 now, we’re on the swings now, we’re going for lunch, should we feed them too? And each time I worried about the kids imposing and brought them away, they’d come back in a while, ready to entertain them again. I met their parents later and complimented them on their fantastic kids and really hope that my kids grow up to be as good. Heck, I’ll even settle for half as good and responsible.
  • Our kids are seasoned travellers now. They’ve learnt to hover over toilet seats in dirty bathrooms, squat in the middle of the jungle, sit quietly and suffer if we’re stuck in a traffic jam, share the music system with us although the Brat does whine if the music gets too slow. “Doesn’t anyone listen to any rock music here?” he growls. They eat at any odd hour, anything you feed them, be it a packet of  chips or parathas and dahi. The OA glared at them for a squeak from the back seat and I asked him to pick one other kid he’d rather travel with. He shut up. And stingy with praise though he is, gruffly admitted, ‘They’re good kids.’ Ah, thank you God, I am so eternally grateful that the OA thinks his kids are okay. We carried the iPad (ah ha!) and lots of books and crayons, but they touched neither, and just looked out and chatted.
  • They’ve finally begun to have turf issues. Don’t sit at my window, this is my half of the seat, hey, that’s my straw and Mama, she’s taken my ratty bit of string/paper/grass/breathed in my air. While its annoying, its good to see them becoming normal siblings as opposed to saints who show Tambi and me up as awful brats. On the other hand, Raksha Bandhan was dispensed with quickly with tying each other rakhis and eating gummy bears. After which they did something that truly exemplified the meaning of the day – The Bean was as usual done with lunch about 50% before I thought she should be. I had just begun to tell her what I thought of that when the Brat jumped in and made little houses and fed her each morsel painstakingly. Yes, this Raksha Bandhan he protected his sister from his parents’ wrath by feeding her lunch. The Bean’s rakhi learning from school: She came  back with a thaali full of handmade rakhis and this understanding of the festival – “Dada can tie for you, you can tie for me and I will tie for the goldfish.” Err.. okay.
  • They also got up one morning and very helpfully brushed, pottied and then settled down in front of a picture window with a packet of biscuits, talking in whispers so as to not disturb the OA and me. I got up and captured what I think is my favourite picture of them. It was an unbelievably sweet gesture to think of letting us sleep in. I did have to get up when I heard the Bean finish her big job and say – Brat, I can’t wash my bum, will you wash it for me? The Brat who has barely made it past the squeamishness of his own bum was silent for a second. I heard that, crawled out of bed, did the job and groggily crawled back in.
  • We barely stepped out of the hotel this time and this trip was full of a lot of quiet moments. Looking out at the rain while eating breakfast, the Bean carefully moisturising and then pressing my feet, the Brat trying to make tea for the OA and I.
  • You know how I always say the OA is a great dancer, fantastic driver, very sporty, boxer, was a good student, great husband, best father, charming, good looking, good natured etc? Well I have just realised two areas in which he is an absolute and utter failure – He can’t tell a joke to save his life and he takes shitty pictures. I made the mistake of giving him the camera to handle, so barring a few pics on my phone, we don’t have much else to show. Those he took are dark/blurry or then I look humongous or else short. (Although his argument is that I am short and stout and it’s not fair to blame the camera – see what I said about the shitty sense of humour?) Next time, I will keep the camera.
  • We had lunch one day at the Oberoi Cecil and I was suddenly glad that we weren’t staying there, beautiful though it is. The kids were playing hide and seek in the lounge. No, they weren’t noisy, but you could hear their feet thumping on the wooden floors and the staff came and asked them to stop. It’s at times like these that I am glad we have the option of a more family friendly hotel. The Oberoi’s Wildflower Hall, Mashobra for instance, has a rule – no kids below 12. They claim its for safety reasons, but its rather obvious they don’t want the noise. I wish they’d have the balls to admit it publicly and deal with the criticism. While I don’t like folks who whine about kids making a noise in airplanes, I understand a hotel wanting to keep a certain mood. I’d personally not give them my business because I have no time for places that discriminate against any age/type/community but I can see that they’d have a lot of takers for that sort of thing.
  • The Bean created a new record in table accidents – she is known to knock over a glass/spill her food/ drop pickle in the orange juice jug/blah blah. This time she bit through her glass in excitement (while looking at monkeys outside the restaurant window) and it shattered in her mouth. There was a split second of – Oh Christ, now she’s done it. Only to realise she was fine. She kept apologising profusely  to me, the F&B manager who came running, the waiters, everyone. It was only after I could breathe normally that I told her it was okay and we knew it was an accident. I think she was in shock too.
  • The morning we were checking out, we used the hotel’s car wash facility. Someone from housekeeping came back twenty minutes later – Ma’am, do you have the spare keys? F**K!!! We rush out and try every trick in the book, including removing beading and slipping in coat hangers etc. Just then the heavens poured forth and we rushed back in, me to deal with the settling of the bill, the OA to check on the kids. We come back out to find the window smashed open. Apparently some driver hanging around in the parking lot suggested they just smash the window. And there we are, the clouds flooding the area, the mist swirling around us and cloaking everything, the rain soaking us to the bone and no window to our car. It was also Independence Day and there was no one available to repair the windowpane. Oh, the helpful driver took to his heels once he realised that some stranger’s window had been smashed on his suggestion. We finally taped the windown up with plastic and cardboard and began the drive home, at 3.30pm. Already too late to get home at any decent hour. The hotel management already heard from me on the phone and will be getting a strongly worded letter soon. Yes, this is where the title of the post comes from – the second broken glass on the holiday.
  • I did suggest to the OA that we stay on one night and leave in the daytime but these are the times when my stubborn (see where the Brat gets it from?) and very conscientious husband makes me want to smack him. This was one of them. A little way up, we were lost thanks to an Independence Day diversion. Further up after an hour of bumper to bumper we were told there was a landslide and a 5km traffic jam – we could see it winding along the hill ahead of us. A cab driver who was ahead, turned around saying he knew another route. We followed him. An hour later he said he was going back to the hillstation as his passengers didn’t want to go that route in the dark. We and a bunch of others who had followed him plowed on bravely. By now it was pitch dark, raining miserably, and we were on dirt tracks. At one point we realised we were well and truly lost when the guy leading us stopped, hopped out and asked us if any of us knew where the hell to go from here. In front of him was a sign saying – Vehicles not allowed beyond this point. We were lost in some military area. We reversed through the slush in single file, so narrow was the road, me walking through the filth and guiding the OA while the rest followed. The kids sat quietly through this all. We forgot they were there, shielded from the elements by a fluttering bit of tarpaulin and huddled under a blanket. At each stop I begged the OA to change his mind and stop at a hotel and get some rest. He refused. And we just got further into trouble. A 2-hour truck caused traffic jam, another wrong turn in the dark. After a point it became a bit of a challenge to him – he was going to get his family home if it killed him. Men. Gah.
  • I fell in love with my son anew. He’s just plain lovable. He wanted to do his math homework on vacation – and he did it. (Dear God, I offer him all the joy in the world and he wants to do math and end up like either his banker father or engineer uncle?!!). Quiet through most of the trip he’d just speak up once in a while with a lovely thought – looking down from the hills at Parwanoo in the dark, the lights twinkling, he said, “Look mama, they look like fallen stars.”  I also shook my head in sorrow and figured that the man who falls for my daughter will have to be twice the man the OA is, to deal with her. The OA agrees.
  • In case you’re thinking we’re off holidays, we’re going for another one – soon.

A watercooler on the table at a dhaba. Desi ingenuity at its best. Now stop calling the waiters for a refill, every 20 minutes!

Watching the sun come up over the mountains while their parents sleep. And stuffing their faces with biscuits. "Look at the cotton puff clouds, mama" said the Bean

The breakfast table view. Sigh.

Frantic efforts to seal the window before we began the long rainy drive back home.