The Leader of the Band

I often forget what my parents give me, just by their very presence, just by living their lives the way they do. And while I often thank ma for her never say die spirit and her unconscious living of her life as a feminist, I don’t say thank you to my dad often enough.
I grew up slamming doors at and with dad. I inherited his volatile temper, his love for music, plants, decor, politics, ability to forgive fast, love of socialising, thinning hair, and hearty laugh.
Today I carried his luggage out to the cab and he patted me on the head with a – I have a few more years to go before you have to do that, sweetheart – bringing tears to my eyes.
And this is what he left me with this afternoon – a song from his youth, introduced to my brother and me, over WhatsApp (something we introduced him to!), a day ago.
The give and take is endless, but parents always give more than they receive. I didn’t pay enough attention to the song when he played it for me, and now as I sit in my empty living room and play it over and over again, I am reminded anew that you’re never too old to be introduced to something by your parents. And it’s never too late to be grateful for them.
Enjoy the song – and you can thank him, not me. Funnily, he was reminded of his dad, the thatha I never knew, when he sat there listening to it.

// The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band. //

Coz you are so very

I just watched Pink and like most others, enjoyed it. But this is not a review. This is just a collection of thoughts. Every few months I end up recalling something from my eventful past – and this is one such.
( SPOILER ALERT)

There’s a scene where one of the girls’ faces is morphed onto that of a sex worker’s (discussion about why that is so chee chee, for another post) and the image passed around her office. That hit pretty close home.

It was the year 2000, when I was home for a break, and my parents casually tossed me an envelope that had been couriered to them. It had black and white printouts of my face, morphed onto a naked body. The body was too, err, well endowed to be mistaken for my 43 kilo self. Nonetheless, it was a horrific sight for any parent to be faced with and once again I am floored by how amazing my parents are, to have dealt with it the way they did. There was no melodrama. They just told me that I had clearly pissed someone off, so to watch out for more serious, physical harm. I assured them that I was unharmed and would stay alert, and the matter ended there.

A few days later, the images got more obscene, more graphic, sometimes my skinny brown face on massive white women’s bodies, emailed to me. I figured it was the same guy/s. I asked a few tech savvy friends to help me (I don’t think there was much in the way of a cyber crime cell in those days) and they traced the emails back to a most insignificant classmate. In fact, when they named him, I had to rack my brains to recall his face.
The story is such a stereotype, it almost writes itself – it is always the quiet insignificant type that burn with this sort of rage, because indifference is so hurtful. And because I chose to be friends with other boys, but not him. He was interested, I wasn’t. In fact I hadn’t even recognised his overtures for what they were and I suppose that is what was most galling. He’d waited four years to serve me his revenge, cold. I had the usual gang of friends offer to beat him up for me, but I’d been away from U.P. long enough to not take up the offer. He got tired of mailing me naked women. I forgot about him.

Today the movie reminded me of those who worry about our images being misused. Mine were misused 16 years ago when it was unheard of and to say I was devastated, would be understating it. I’m pretty much forged by fire now. (How did he find my pictures? I am guessing he got them off Orkut, off a common friend’s album.) I refuse to let the paranoia of pictures being misused, ruin my time and space online. I trust that my kids’ pictures are safe among those I trust enough to add on FB. To me this victim blaming of why-did-you-put-it-up-on-the-internet is no better than those who ask you why you went out late at night, wore a short skirt, or had a few drinks.

This is the internet, it is here to stay as a part of our kids’ lives, and I’m not going to tell my daughter to hide her image on Facebook because someone will photoshop her face on to a duck or a naked body. I’m going to let her know that worse might happen, and the only thing she can do is hold her head high, steel her spine, and say FUCK IT (Ooh, this is a first for me!) . I feel much safer and better for doing so myself. Sticks, stones and morphed images won’t break my bones. And it’s strange to say there is no loss of honour for a woman, in getting raped, while behaving like it is the end of the world if someone photoshops her image. We’re giving our girls contradictory messages. If someone does that, he’s a dick, just like the guy down the road who flashes you. Can’t put life on hold for it, so live it the way you want, fearlessly.

And while the movie ran on, I experienced what is common for most of us women. Manspreading. The guy on my right took over the common arm, and then stuck a leg out in front of my seat so that I was forced to squeeze into the OA. I didn’t realise that I was doing so, because we’re so used to making ourselves shrink and disappear. Move off the sidewalk, wear a veil so that you become faceless.I don’t think the guy meant to harass me – it was just his male sense of entitlement. He didn’t even *think* before spreading out. It didn’t bother him that his elbow was touching mine, his ankle bumping my knee. It was for me to move away.

The OA noticed it, and was about to tell the man to shove off and give me my space, when something snapped and I pushed back – it was my fight. It was a small thing, but a big one for me because I’m always so careful not to give offence – what if I’ve misunderstood? I defiantly crossed an ankle over my knee so that the sole of my shoe was almost at his knee, almost invading his space. He moved away. The OA saw that I was fine, grinned, and got back to the movie.

This is so much more about good manners than anything else. We were raised to be considerate, to not take up more space than we require, to never put our feet up on a table or stick our legs out so that our shoe soles faced anyone. Fighting back requires us to put our manners aside. And this is a hard line to walk. I find it really hard to teach my kids that they needn’t be polite to people who make them uncomfortable, because this is not a lesson that I have internalised yet.

PS: This song played in my head right through. Aerosmith’s Pink

Someday I’ll have a clean home

“Who left this bloody thing on the floor. It’s a booby trap. No, it’s a death trap. Someone’s going to trip over it and break their neck and DIE. And why are your dirty clothes on the ironing board? Can you tell the difference between an ironing board and a laundry basket. And this. This. Why are these books piled sky high? Are we building a Tower of Babel? What are those shelves for, if not to hold books? Why am I ALWAYS, ALWAYS cleaning up after the two of you? WHAT DO YOU THINK I AM? A..”

A sturdy pair of arms reaches around me, and a mouth that is almost at the same height as mine, kisses me firmly on the cheek and says…” A mom. You’re my mom.”

“Mum,” I correct him without any conviction… not mom.

Well played, son. Well played.

Yes, of course I know I’ve been played. And I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

For today I’ll just revel in a son who hasn’t stopped kissing me, or rubbing his sweaty face into my back every time he passes by.

Update blog: check

Each time I come back here to update, I feel like a fraud. When people ask me about my social media presence, I say I have none, other than FB. Because honestly, does this intermittent blogging count for anything?

What have I been up to that keeps me away from here? Well, I moved out of the country, hated it with every fibre of my being, sulked, sobbed, lost weight madly and finally moved back.

Yes, I’ve moved back to India with the kids. The OA shuttles between the there and the here. I had many reasons for doing so, but it’s been seven months since I moved back and none of them matter anymore except the biggest one – I wanted to move back.

This is home. This is where I can be who I want to be. This is where I want to raise my kids. Does it sound like its all about me? Well, it wasn’t. There were good reasons that the OA agreed upon too, and had I not waited to reach this place of calm and blogged while I was at my lowest, most devastated, you might have heard of each one of them in excruciating detail.

The Brat turned 11, the Bean turned 9, the OA and I have completed 13 years of wedded togetherness, some of it blissful, some not. Maybe I shouldn’t blog when I’m PMSing! But here we are. Right back where we started from. I look back on the last few years and wonder what I have to show for it. Nothing much, really. If anything, it is a reminder that I am not an ambitious sort of person. I was a go-getter and a topper and a winner until I realised I’d been conditioned to do so. It made me angry and aggressive and drained me. I still have days of wanting to go back to the rat race, but I am reminded of how it turns me into a person I don’t like, and I am happy to putter along at this pace, give the kids my time, my home some attention, and my dead-end career, what is left of my energy.

This is just a little note to tell you that I’m not dead yet, but at the rate I am going, the blog soon will be. Let it not be said that I didn’t give you any indication.🙂

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.
————-

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.