Going, going, gone

At 5.50 am the platform was crowded with parents looking sleep-deprived and hurriedly dressed. The two coaches were buzzing with activity as teachers took attendance.
The other passengers looked like it might be better to disembark and try another day.
The kids had been seated for a while but all of us parents in one accord, chose to stand there until the train left. The huge train windows framed each tableau. We parents were left standing outside, viewing our children’s lives as outsiders. Not participants in this scene. Just audience.
A couple of kids were struggling to help their pal heft his suitcase to another place. Others were trying out their new cameras. They hung over the backs of the seats, not getting enough of each other, talking to their partners, talking across rows.The tuck boxes were already opened and being passed around. A few suddenly realised what they’d signed up for and the tears began to roll.
I nervously checked to see if the Brat was one of them but he was waving his arms around excitedly relating something to his friends, in his element – travel is something he craves.
We shifted from foot to foot, tired, the excitement finally getting to our older bones. And then the train jerked to life and we all snapped to attention, eyes seeking out our children.
And in that very same second all the kids dropped everything they were doing and turned to the windows I have no idea what anyone else did at that time, but I had my eyes trained on the Brat’s face and was waiting for him to spot me. I saw the panic in his eyes as his eyes scanned the crowds for me- his hand froze in a half wave and he looked – bereft. It had finally hit home – he was going away without mama.
Right now it seems like if i live to be a hundred, I’ll never forget that moment, that expression. And I’m sorry it’s the one I came home with.

I can’t wait to see the look when he spots mama on the station waiting to pick him up. It happens to be our 13th wedding anniversary, but somehow that fades in comparison to the anticipation of picking up my big boy!

PS: Two posts in a day -whoulda thunk it!

One small step for the Brat

…. a giant leap for me.

Oh, you sniff. She lives. She remembers us. She throws us a crumb of a post.

Well, I couldn’t not post about this one. The Brat leaves for his first school camping trip in a few hours and instead of catching sleep or chasing that deadline, I’m here, posting about it.

He’s a little almost 11-year old man and kids younger than him have done school trips I’m sure. I’ve always wondered how hard that first trip is, and now I know. I’m rolling undies into little bundles and tucking them around the suitcase corners thinking – Why are they taking him so young? What if he needs me?
I know he’d roll his eyes if he knew, because he’s the best equipped child for this. Once a year his parents go on a baby-free holiday and he travels with other family members, engaging with each one, building relationships, never asking even to call us.

He has also been first child to terribly scatty parents who habitually miss trains and run for planes. He has slept on platforms, bathed under a hand pump and been dressed in his mother’s clothes when he’s puked often enough to run out of clothes. He’s gone hungry on extended road trips when caught in a landslide and stayed cramped in a tightly packed car on a 13 hour journey.

I mechanically shift clothes from backpack to suitcase and back. And maybe, just maybe, he isn’t too old for his duck neck pillow. 13029540_10154110104857065_8999811557290383901_oAs I wrap things up I hear squeals of happiness. Two of his classmates, also going on the trip are playing a rambunctious game of ball in his bedroom. They’re not just going to be okay, they’re going to have a blast, I know. And all of a sudden, I know that it’s not just him, I’m ready too.

Yes, I know I owe you a long update. And I will get around to it. I promise. All six of you will be glad you hung around to read it.

Memories

This post from last year popped up on my timeline and I wanted to share it with you. Missing the Delhi winter and the rounds of parties that would have begun. Sigh.
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Growing up in Munnar, one of our biggest pleasures and privileges was watching our parents get ready to head out to a dinner party. Ma would be struggling to run a comb through her mass of waist length hair. My handsome dad would be tuning his guitar, without which he wasn’t allowed to walk into a party. I’d be strutting around in Ma’s vertiginous stilettos. The mad sibling would be watching my dad strum and sing Wonderful Tonight, smiling at ma.
My brother and I truly believed he’d written the song for her and would fight you to death if you disagreed.
She’d catch his eye in the mirror and blush. And then I’d regretfully give her back her heels and watch her slip her beautiful feet into them, her slender neck barely able to hold up that massive bun. A spritz of Paloma Picasso and they’d kiss us and leave in a cloud of perfume and romance.
Fast forward 30 years and I find that I’m unable to dress for a party unless there is music playing. I have an iPod set up for it since I don’t have my own troubadour. The Bean is prancing around in my heels and threatening to break her neck. The Brat is lying in my bed and looking at me like I’m the most beautiful woman on earth. Just as I looked at Ma in her black slim jeans and white swing top.

And this is what we have kids for – for those few moments when we’re perfect in someone’s eyes. And this is what childhood memories are made up of – perfume, music, magic and a nip of winter chill.

On bleeding

Living this ‘American Dream’ where we’re doing our own cooking, cleaning, laundry, has meant that the rest of the family is pitching in with a lot more help. The OA does the relaxed brunches and extravagant dinners when he gets home from work. I mostly do harried and hurried breakfasts, tiffins and lunches.

The Bean and Brat have been making coffees, chopping fruit, decorating cheese platters and shining wine glasses, and laying the table. And yes, doing the laundry.

I mention this because I am scarred by a friend once telling me that she always dried her underwear under a towel. She’d been taught by her mother that no one should know what a lady’s underwear looks like. I have always assumed that meant no one should see it while it’s on you. But isn’t it interesting to see how being a lady means a lot more work? She went on to say that she had been forbidden from staining her bed while having her periods. Forbidden. That only an animal would sleep so unselfconsciously. I want to parse that sentence for each unacceptable word but I think my brain would explode in outrage.

Telling a twelve year old to lie still and not have her nightie hike up, not to twist in her sleep so that her pad twists and she stains… would that not count as cruelty?

To say nothing of how all this affects the men in the family. Men who grow up imagining that a woman’s body and it’s workings must be shrouded in mystery. And that it is dirty.

The Brat has been given the responsibility of hanging out the wash and bringing it back in, and everyday he is hanging out socks, shirts, bras, panties, jeans, everything. And he sees the difference between the unisex vests he and his sister wear, and the bras his mother wears. And there are no questions.

Actually there is only one question – Does this run colour?

What inspired this post? The Sabrimala drama over menstruating women. That they will only allow women in after a machine to scan and identify menstruating women has been invented. I am always amazed by how people conveniently cherry pick and choose from modernity. I will use modern technology to uphold a backward notion. I will take flights to places while shrouding my wife in fabric.

And have you all been introduced to the wonderful Rupi Kaur? If not, please go follow her. This one of hers, on menstruation.

 

Bean tales

I always have terrible earaches on flights and so does the Brat. The OA and Bean are used to us dissolving into a puddle of agony by the end of the flight. Years ago, after a particularly turbulent flight, I lost my hearing (and balance) for over six hours and needed a lot of treatment and rehabilitation.
The kids have heard this story many times and last evening as we landed, the Bean was watching me carefully for signs of distress. I did the chewing, the Valsalva’s manoeuvre, the yawning, and kept my fingers crossed. The Bean in the meantime, kept telling me stories in an attempt to distract me from my pain (how the child becomes the mother!).
And then my heart sank – I could feel my hearing go. Her voice became fainter and I focused harder, desperate to hold on to my hearing.
That’s when it struck me that I couldn’t hear *her* too well, but I *could* hear everyone around me perfectly.
The little devil was messing with my head and gradually lowering her voice, just to drive me bloody insane with terror.
The moment she saw the look on my face and realised she’d been caught, she fell over laughing. So much for child becoming mother.

—————–

I was walking the Bean to the park, a mere five minutes after I’d changed her clothes etc and she already had chocolate all over the front, the sleeves and unbelievably, the back of her tee too!
Me (in despair): Beanie! What are people going to say when they see how dirty your clothes are, baby? They’ll think your parents neglect you.
Bean (in a misguided attempt to make me feel better and to flatter): Yeah, but they’ll see your clean feet and pretty nails and say, it’s okay, her mother must be busy taking care of herself.

Err. Gee. Thanks?

———-

Bean sneezes and follows it up promptly with, ‘Bless me’.
I absently look up from work and murmur, ‘Sorry, darling. Bless you.’
Bean: ‘That’s okay. I’d rather bless myself than wait for someone else to bless me.’

————–

Brat working on a project on Martin Luther King. We’re discussing racism and colour.
Bean pipes up: Oh! This is news to me. I thought white people admire darker people and want to be like them. Why else do they lie in the sun and try to get a tan?

———-

Bean lays the table, nods approvingly at the setting and says aloud, talking to herself, ‘I have good taste,’… and then rubs her belly and says, ‘… and soon I’ll have a good taste in my mouth too.’

————–

So the kids are singing in the choir and practicing at home with me. I told them to enunciate properly. The Bean looks at me severely and says – You mean pronunciate.
So I corrected her and couldn’t help grinning.
And she looks at me and goes – I’m just a baby. You have to respect that!

Yes, maata.

———

New Delhi station and the coolies descend on our coach. They see a lone woman with kids and their rates sky rocket. I tell them to get lost but they sit down and grin. Waiting for me to fold. Until they see a sleepy faced little pint bend down and start yanking out 30 kg suitcases with all her strength. Determination writ large on her little face.
Clearly these ladies can’t be intimidated. Fortunately Cousin K arrives and we tell the coolies to go jump.
As we walk out the Brat asks me in honest bewilderment why they would overcharge us. I tell him it’s because they imagine that a woman is weak. And that her children are a liability, not her strength. But that mama doesn’t give in to blackmail or to people who mess with her.
The Bean thinks about this and then asks – When I grow up, can I mess back with the coolies just a little bit?!

Hah! I’d like to be a spectator to that.
——————-

OA to me – Btw, which scotch did you take for your dad this time?
Me… err…I took the.. the…
Bean: Don’t ask her. She took Haig but doesn’t remember.

For all the years that I let my family down on the alcohol front, the Bean will make up.

—————-

Me: Goodmorning Bean, did you sleep well?
Bean (the frowning, grumpy, sleep-deprived artist): Hmm, not really. I’ve been working on my dream and part 2 is coming up.

Wha??

——————-

Me: Bean, I LOVE you to bits… and pieces.
Bean: I love you to.. to crumbs.
Okay then.

——————-

Bean: Mama, what is a press conference?
Me: When people open a store, build a hotel, launch something, write a book, achieve something, they call the press, the media, journalists and tell them about it so that they can write about it or show it on TV.
Bean: That sounds as bad as boasting. Here look, I have so much money and I’ve built something so great. Huh!

Well when you put it that way….

————-

They’re born to the same parents, they have the same upbringing.
But you realise how little nurture matters in the face of nature when you tell them to sit down to homework and within minutes –
He says – I’ll start with maths. It’s fun and easy.
She says – When’s the next party? It’s been two days.

I think he was switched at the hospital.

—————

After being tricked by the Brat for the nth time the Bean snaps: “What do you mean this is the oldest trick in the book, oldest trick in the book? You’ve said that for three different tricks. What about second oldest trick and third oldest trick?”

————-

A fly on the wall while the OA teaches his daughter and loses his mind. She’s trying to explain her homework to him.

Frustrated OA to daughter – Don’t worry, I can figure it out, I have two post graduate degrees.

Err, of course she understands that.

Bean to father – You said blah is written this way and now you’re saying blah blah. You have to learn to make up your mind.

OA holding head in agony.

Me? I believe in unschooling.

—————-

Senti bhi hoon, aur mental bhi

Something utterly adorable about your parents sending you rather drunken watsapp messages from their college reunion.

And something akin to maternal pride when one of them receives an award for being a distinguished alumni.

I believe this is what they call the circle of life.

#ForeverYoung

Not so attached anymore

I was a co-sleeping parent for practical reasons, not emotional. It was easy to pop open my nightie and nurse the kids in my sleep. I would then drift off to sleep, never worrying about having to get up and shift the baby back to the crib.

But once the nursing was done, I was very determined to get the spawn out of my bed and own my space. In fact, they moved to the nursery fairly early by desi kid standards. The Brat is a good sleeper, but the Bean has still not learned to sleep through the night, making sleepovers impossible. She wakes up and pads into our room at least once a week.

I’m told that the first two or three times she did this in the early years, I transformed into my Chandi ka roop, released my inner Kracken, breathed fire. I can’t tell you really, because I have no memory of this. The OA on the other hand remembers it vividly because it was left to him to console a horrified little Bean, so he brings out this anecdote for regular airing. The proof of this pudding is that the Bean refuses to come to my side of the bed at night, heading for her father like a homing pigeon, even in a hotel room. Suits me fine. I sleep best when the OA travels and I have the bed to my self. I call it my bachelor sleep. And somehow on those days the Bean stays in bed and doesn’t sleepwalk into ours.

The Brat is no problem. In more ways than one.

Anyhow, I travel for work once in a while and the Brat and Bean take that opportunity to sleep with their goodnatured father who makes a big picnic of it. He, on the other hand travels very often and the kids sometimes hint at coming to sleep with me but I need just raise my Chandi ka roop eyes for them to go scuttling.

These last few trips that the OA has traveled, though, we’ve all been a little low. New country, the house quiet and dull. No doubt I am the more active, noisy parent but somehow even one family member missing and there is a funereal air to the proceedings. The day is easy to get through, it’s the evenings that fall as flat as beer left open for an hour. And so it was that the kids caught me at a vulnerable moment yesterday and asked if they could sleep with me.

I can compromise on a lot else, but I need my sleep. A hint of moonlight, a couple of TV/mobile phone blinking lights, the fan raising the curtains or causing something to clink, and I’m up all night. When I travel I prefer to stay in a hotel because others’ homes are great for everything but I end up sleep deprived thanks to the street light, or the sound of the fan. Three days in a row and I’m in zombie mode. And trust me, it’s not a pretty sight.

So sleeping with the kids is my idea of a nightmare. They toss, they turn, they punch me in the face and they push until I’m clinging to the edge of the bed by my fingernails. The OA can sleep through an earthquake so this doesn’t bother him.

But last evening the Brat came to me with that little heartbreaker face of his (damn him!) and said – Can we have a special treat? Can we sleep with you because Dada is not here? Or should we wait and save this for a more special occasion? Like a holiday or a birthday?

Now the only thing I’m crazy about is a peaceful 4-5 hours of sleep. In all other matters, I’m a pushover of a parent. But he so rarely asks for something. And he did the Brat special – climb into my lap and give me access to his chubby soft cheek. So I caved like a fool. I mean what sort of hard hearted mother refuses to let her kids sleep with her? What sort of Cruella needs her kids to beg like it’s a treat? It wasn’t a play station they wanted – they just wanted to cuddle their mother.

So I said yes. By 2 am I was regretting it more than the time I got my hair streaked red. By 3 am I was begging for deliverance. The Bean does this thing where she shoves a hand under your pillow – yes, your pillow, not her own – and you find your head raised up by an inch or two with something like a rock under it – which is only her fist. She then shoves her fine silky hair up your nose and if that doesn’t work, she systematically kicks you in the stomach until you are ready to throw up your dinner.

By 4 am I conceded defeat and crawled to their room and fell asleep in their bed.

By 7 am I woke up and realised that we’d missed school because I’d left my phone by my bed and they had slept through the alarm. I of course had not even heard it in their room, so dead to the world had I been.

And so we’re drawing back the old lines. Sit on my head, kick me in the face, throw your food around the living room, pour milk down the television, it’s all good while I am awake. But when it’s time to go to bed, you go your way, I go mine, and we meet at that beautiful place called morning.