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.



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.


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.

In defence of laziness

We bought a reading lamp yesterday and the Bean grabbed the oddly shaped carton before we threw it away. She fashioned it into some sort of stringed instrument that she calls the – Loopzalalika. She’s even scrawled Limited Edition on it and has been ‘playing’ it for the last 24 hours.

When we moved here we realised that all the cartoon channels were in the local language. In true MM-OA spirit, neither the father nor I bothered to do anything about it. As it is we limit their screen time. Plus we’re lazy.
The kids made the best of a bad situation (and heartless parenting) by trying to guess what was going on. At one point the Bean began to create a dictionary, trying to work out what each word meant, depending on how/where it was used.

Today, almost 10 months after we’ve moved, we’re still stuck with cartoons in the local language. Slightly ashamed of ourselves we’re trying to connect a laptop to the TV, to play them some cartoons in a language they *do* understand. Once again, we display our inefficiency as we can’t find any of the wires and have a million cartons to trawl through.

As we do this, the kids sit watching a cartoon playing on the laptop with no audio, and are making up dialogues again. With an added twist. They’re using the cursor to do unmentionable things to the characters, and rolling with laughter – “Here, dig your nose. Now wipe it on XYZ’s head.”

This isn’t a humble brag about the kids. It’s reinforcement that neglect and boredom will do them good. I’m getting back to my book now. A little more boredom won’t kill them. Clearly we aren’t ashamed enough! :D

The fledgling

Academic question. Not at all personal. *koff koff*
In fact, I’m asking for a friend.
At which point does one cut the cord and stop missing one’s parents?

Years ago I would sob every time I left for college and my parents spoke to one of my professors about it. He was very nice about it and told them an anecdote about how the eagle keeps removing the feathers it lines its nest with, until the nest becomes too uncomfortable for the fledgling to stay.
My parents are failures clearly, because it’s been twenty years and they’ve only made the bloody nest more comfortable. Of course it is all their fault – raising their child to be dependent and dysfunctional when she is not within an 800 km range of them.

I have a couple of plans in mind now

  1. Act increasingly nasty when I next see my parents, forcing them to fight with me, vitiate the environment progressively so that by the end we’re all happy to see the back of each other.
  2. Be nasty to my kids starting today so that they hate me. This nips the issue in the bud and they don’t end up being miserable babies at the grand old age of 37. This whole business of being a good parent is overrated and misunderstood. You must raise them to hate you so that they don’t miss you too much.

If you have other ways to handle this mess, please give your solutions in the comments box. The winning comment will get – oh, I don’t know. Tear-free evenings?

Sing it, sistah

I’ve blogged about bad boys before. A friend’s comment on Facebook reminded me of them again. Girls only fall for the bad boys, she said rather regretfully.

They do. The first bad boy I fell for was my dad. Curly haired, leather jacket wearing, chain smoking, guitar playing, voice of an angel, vicious temper, impulsive, passionate, quick smile, wicked sense of humour, he was the original biker doing 20-day bike trips. What’s not to love?

I fell for bad boys after my dad too, although as I’ve mentioned before, I married the OA, the quintessential dependable guy who waits in the wings until you break your heart over one of them and then sweeps in, picks up the pieces and walks into the sunset with you in his arms. I married him because he probably reminded me of the gentle, steady man who raised me, my maternal grandpa. My rock.

Anyway, the reason girls fall for bad boys, is because they’re the king of the grand gesture. Banging at your hostel gate at midnight on your birthday, with a cake (yes, that’s my dad again), writing you songs (an ex), choosing to spend their last rupee calling you instead of buying toothpaste (an ex again) and so on.

I saw this advertisement today and it reminded me of my parents. You know those cute little naked babies that feature in the Love is… cartoon strip?

My dad used to make them up for my mum, sketch them and create one specially for her, every couple of weeks, depending on what the current ‘affair’ was. She showed them to me years ago and I don’t know if she still has them. She’d collected them all carefully of course. The art work was good and the idea and his sense of humour shone through. They were a grand gesture in those days. And it worked. He swept her off her feet. He still does the most utterly cute things for her and it doesn’t matter that my brother and I will never be in the inner circle. There’s enough warmth from that fire for the two of us to stand by the side and warm our hands.

Here is the advertisement – watch it to know what caught my attention. It is particularly dear because of the soundtrack. “I can’t help falling in love.” I have a nice clear voice (even if it doesn’t bring in awards at the moment!) and Dad has an awesome Neil Diamond voice. We sing this song very well together and the Bean has begun to sing with him. It’s the cutest sight – She sings Summer Wine with him.

By the by, the other day we were listening to Adele singing Lovesong. I was on the first floor singing softly along with it. The OA was on the ground floor getting the kids to do their homework or something. He shut off the music and I just adjusted my volume to make up for it, singing loud and clear. And the Bean came running to the foot of the stairs – “Is that mama or Adele?”, she said.

The acoustics were flattering I guess, because for once I let my voice soar, and sang with all my heart. And felt a pang for the talent I’ve let lie by the wayside. The blog I’ve abandoned. The career I don’t have. The home I’ve left and come away. I put all the pain and hunger into my voice and it showed. I sang while the OA and the kids stood at the foot of the stairs and listened to my voice in the stairwell.

When it was over, the OA looked up and said mildly – Why are we wasting your voice? Why haven’t you gone back to training it?

I don’t know. I think I’m incapable of devoting my energy to more than one thing at a time and for the last ten years it has been my kids. I hummed lullabies softly, intent on lulling them to sleep, not impressing them.

Years ago while singing the Brat (who only spoke hindi in those days) said – Mama, tum kitna ganda gaati ho. Mat gao.

We laughed it off, but I think I slowly stopped thinking of my voice as special. I was a mama who happened to have a voice and it didn’t matter.

Over the last month or two, as I sit here in a strange country, missing everything that was dear, the house to myself, I sing loud and clear and I enjoy my voice. For the first time in my life, I sing for myself, not for my parents, my music teacher, my friends, an audience. No, just for myself, and I love it. I take pleasure in it and I feel my lungs expand and my range grow.

Someday I will go back to training. For now, I’m back, baby.

Err.. just my voice. Not necessarily back to blogging. Just know that I think of you guys and want to blog, but it’s too raw and too harsh and I don’t want them trolls coming back!