Observations on a grey afternoon

Sorry about the nail biting tension. This is how the stubbornness story ends.

As it happens, I waited for about an hour and then went hunting for the Brat. He was sitting quietly in his room with a book. I figured that he is still young enough for me to talk him through this. So we did the usual – Are you feeling sad? What did Dada say? Do you think he was right? Should you have done what you did? Are you sorry? Do you want to tell him so?

He went and apologised to his father and we helped him dig his stuff out of the trash. Thankfully it had just been emptied and had a fresh liner so it was fine.  Alls well that ends well.


I was out picking up groceries and as I walked back I noticed a couple of young mothers with their babies on the swings. Too young to be in school, the babies don’t get a chance once the school goers get back and being a grey morning it wasn’t unbearable out in the open. All the mothers, without fail, were on their phones. Either talking or messaging or checking email.

On a slide was a woman with a little boy in her lap, flying down, squealing with joy. It was a maid. I wondered if it was her own baby and then I realised the child was very well dressed and she was referring to him as ‘aap’ and telling him something about his mummy.

It’s funny. I may not have had too many good experiences with maids but here was a maid actually spending quality time with the child and engaging with him while other parents absentmindedly did their duty, not really focusing on the children. No judgment. I’m sure they spend enough and more time and deserve their time off. Just an observation.


I also passed an old grandfather walking his grandson back from school. The child spoke with an American accent and the gentleman spoke slowly, laboriously hunting for the right words. I walked alongside, swinging my bags, shamelessly eavesdropping. Life sometimes gives you the opportunity to see love and understanding only as a bystander and I don’t see the harm in grabbing those moments. I’ve noticed that a lot older people who have grandchildren visiting/ returning from abroad  insist on focussing on language and culture as though that is the only and most important thing that needs to be passed on. I don’t know the history, but it was so sweet to see that the old gentleman was only interested in communicating and building a relationship with the grandchild. Even if it meant him taking the first step forward and learning a new language in his old age. So beautiful. This is the kind of selfless love I’m hoping to be capable of someday.


50 thoughts on “Observations on a grey afternoon

  1. Finally the tension dissolves.I was quite keen to know what happened since your last post. And the part about the relationship between the grandfather and the child was so innocent and beautiful. How come I never happen to observe such things? 😦

    P.S. You were mentioned in Mumbai Mirror, today’s edition 🙂

    It is the section on the lower right side.

  2. I love your sentence “No judgment. I’m sure they spend enough and more time and deserve their time off. Just an observation.” :p

    Don’t worry about the brat. He’ll be fine. As he grows up he’ll learn which battles he wants to choose to fight.

  3. (On that last paragraph) – I can never tire of watching the interaction between a granparent – grandchild. It seems to have just that bit of magical innocence about it which is missing in most other relationships. Happy watching!

  4. Beautiful post MM. A child just needs someone to listen to him/her…that’s all that sets everything right sometimes.

    And in this case, grey is a nice background for a post like this 🙂

  5. It’s beautiful to see how grandparents become like kids again and try new things just for their grandshildren 🙂 (now this is making me miss mine!)

  6. I had a gut feeling that this is how you’d handle it….Loved the post. The maid observation and the granpa observation were spot on.

  7. Am happy about how the stubborness story ended. I have been thinking about Brat and feeling very sorry for the poor Beanie.

    Thanks for the update 🙂

  8. I’ll say it first. I do judge parents sometimes when they are all on the phone or checking email constantly. It’s not because I doubt the time they spend otherwise or I think they should never be doing something for themselves. Quite the contrary – I wash dishes and vacuum with my child around because, well, I don’t have a choice. I consciously though try to limit my hi-tech phone checking purely for myself. For myself to observe and enjoy her in the park. Because play time outside is just as much play time for me….takes me back to my childhood and it lets her see a side of me she doesn’t otherwise. I wish parents would allow themselves this luxury…

  9. okay i swear..i didnt read this post before i commented on the last one…see! the talk n love works! yayeee!

    my nani has picked up sooooooo much english ‘coz my sis and I always talk in english..n we used to be @ my nani’s during summer vacation.
    But that being said…i yet think language is one of the key things to pass onto the younger generation. As a child..i used to talk in english all the time , but my ma was very strict and would not respond to me until i spoke in tamil. for that I’m thankful.
    A lot of the younger generations think its “cool” to not know their mother-tongue, hindi etc and be well-versed in English only. Frankly , thats such a shame!

    • i have a strong love for hindi and no time for people who think its cool not to know a language. that said, i dont appreciate being forced into learning a language – i’d like a choice in the matter even if i were kid. also, i think its important for people to know that culture is secondary to a relationship. its important to build a relationship – and then anything else you want will follow out of sheer love. i know i learned to speak bengali because i loved someone who was bengali and it brought me closer. the person concerned never spoke a word of it around me….

      • Culture is secondary to a relationship.. there is no debating that. so, if a person chose their friends or partner based on only cultural background, I wouldn’t be very impressed. Or if a parent encouraged a child to make friends only with kids who spoke their language or were of their religion.. I would be disgusted. Or if a school was okay with kids conversing with each other in any language other than English I would be concerned.
        But similarly I would not, not have a negative reaction if I saw parents talk to their children in English all the time. Even for children with parents from different cultural backgrounds, I think it’s important that the parents teach bits of both culture. I’m not saying its easy, but I’m saying that’s how it should be.
        My naani adapted and picked up English words not ‘coz we spoke to HER in English, with her it was only Tamil. I do not know how to read or write Tamil n honestly I’m ashamed about that. It’s my mother tongue. I should know. Bangalore is such a metropolitan city that if not for my mother’s stubbornness I wouldn’t have learnt any language other than Hindi and English…the languages my school taught me.

        As for ‘force’ , I think it’s okay to force certain things on a child upto a certain age, when they really don’t know what’s best for them. They cannot think ahead and make important decisions for themselves. They are unwilling to talk in a language mostly ‘coz they are not comfortable in that language. So whats wrong if a parent makes the child u’stand that its okay to make mistakes and that the child will eventually learn to speak fluently, but for now, must attempt?

        • Nothing wrong at all to make a child understand that its okay to make mistakes. but i wouldnt force a child to learn a language if they didnt like it or didnt want it. simple. to my mind there are only few things that need to be forced. manners, decent behaviour, getting an education. language at the end of the day is just a means of communication and a frill. its not a necessity to know your mother tongue although its ridiculous not to. in this case, i have very little time for grandparents who are more focused on passing on culture than building bonds.

      • I know you said you have no time for people who think it cool not to know “A” language. But my imperfect hindi has been the subject of much derison and amusement to friends and strangers over the years. That made me a bit defensive and I always took the time to explain to people that I only used hindi when I was speaking with a cab driver as I speak (bad) marathi and am not ashamed to use it. I may have been a little to vigorous I thought/think its perfectly okay not to speak hindi or what passes for hindi in Bombay in any case. But living outside India has made me more conscious of this shortcoming than in the 18 years that I lived in Bombay. Of the six indians I go to school with, I’m the only one not comfortable with switching in and out of Hindi mid-conversation. It sucks a little.

        • again, i dont mean you. i mean people who truly think its uncool to speak in the vernacular. its not your mother tongue and half of bombay speaks marathi while the other half speaks something they call hindi that only assaults my senses :p
          and damnit – but why didnt we notice this and rag you, you little intern, you?

          • I’m smart like that. Even my hubby never noticed the awful hindi for the first year of our courtship. But then again he is not the most observant person in the world.

  10. Hi There,

    Need a favor – where can i buy those contemporary looking classy sarees in Mumbai? I know I can pay through my nose at Satya Paul,but where can a poor but wannabe stylista get something similar?

    Also, any tailor that you recommend in amchi mumbai?

  11. LOL, about the mothers and their digital distractions. If you saw M at the park with V you’d see a similar sight and if you judged him based on that small slice of time you’d be dead wrong. When he’s home he spends every waking minute caring for V and doing stuff with him that even I a loathe to do (Yup, he’s the mama bear in our home) but when V’s roaring down the slides or swinging like Tarzan he grabs those few minutes to catch up on calls and work emails:-) But I do know you didn’t judge those moms.

  12. perfect example of firm love. yay to the brat and his parents!

    just by being around, the bean becomes part of the drama – story of the lives of second/subsequent kids – they never lead dull lives!

    and so with you re the languages – why the fuss at the cost of something much bigger?

    • exactly. i speak 4-5 languages. but I do it by choice. And I’d never do it at the cost of a relationship. Culture is so much more than the way you speak – its the way you are as a family. I’d never let anyone define me by my language alone. How can you say Mallus are like this.. Gujjus do that… Punjus are that way. It’s just a language at the end of the day and a child who loses one usually learns another. My kids will speak a smattering of Punjabi without even trying to learn.

      • My son stopped speaking Konkani for about a year, between 3.5 and 4.5, and we decided to not push it obviously but did our own stuff to subtly get him back to Konkani, which is working slowly.

        But it breaks my heart to see family who insist on speaking to him only in Konkani, even when they know perfect English, or if they speak English, go around announcing that “he only speaks English” like it’s big fodder for disapproving gossip. So a good number of family don’t know my son and think he doesn’t talk, just because he hesitates to speak in Konkani. I went thru’ this too, as an immigrant, I was mocked and still am, for my not-so-great Konkani, and I soooooo agree with you about the relationship and communication being more important than the culture.

        • I agree on relationship and communication being more important than culture. But sometimes it becomes necessary to know the local language for survival. I am from Bangalore and being the city it is knowing or not knowing the loacal language is no big deal. But step into the local police station, Registrar’s office, BESCOM etc..and speaking the local language makes a world of difference. My kids barely manage to speak kannada..but without having to force we slowly do things to help them build their language skills. It’s working..extremely slow though!!!

          • this is a different point altogether. we insisted on speaking to the Brat in Hindi since we was born because we knew it was more important to know the local language than the OA or my language – all grandparents are educated and can speak English, thank you very much! the local language is something kids pick up easily just through exposure. very different from insisting on it from a cultural point of view…

          • I totally agree that local and national language are important, we encourage their learning those too, but it’s a different issue. Refusing to talk to or humiliating and ostracising our ‘own’ kith n kin because we’ve created a language barrier is a tragedy.

            Have been longing to post about this, hope I get around to it soon!

            • yes. huge difference between encouraging a child to pick up words. and hounding them by refusing to talk to them or pretending not to understand. i realise those are just tactics but it seems so pointless – particularly if you see the child once a year or something and should really be spending this time building a bond and creating a bank of happy memories.

        • And to say it in front of him is just plain thoughtless… do they think children dont understand?
          And this is not about you, but I am always surprised and amused by older people who want their sons to go to the US or daughters to marry a software engineer settled there – because you know, its THE US. And yet think ‘our culture’ is such a biggie. Arre, you want to preserve our culture, encourage them to stay here only. Do you really think the grand kids will not have accents or will not find it difficult to keep switching between identities? Kudos to those who dont find it tough – but there are plenty of kids who hate coming back here and speaking another language and I dont blame them at all. they’re just kids

          • Every time I go home, random uncle aunties who I am compelled to meet because of the parents insist on doing the “Oh you haven’t forgotten Kannada then!” routine. Every effing time. What’s WITH the attitude! It’s funny how people forget the point of any language is to enable communication.

  13. phew!! I am so happy & relieved for the Brat. I some how expected our lil Jhansi ki Rani to troop down and retrieve the toys. Nevertheless..it was a happy ending 🙂

  14. Oh great..so the toys are all fine.

    Phew…i started thinking about this halfway while designing and had to bribe few people to let me open an un-architectural site.. 🙂

  15. ummm.. yes i have noticed too.. that moms come to the park and use the time to use their phone while the kids play. Sometimes, they socialise with each other. Which is what our mothers used to do too..:-)

  16. All is well that ends well. With regards to this round of Brat’s brattiness.
    But just so you know: he will grow older and therefore less easy to talk into apologising… just thought i’d point it out.

  17. You know, all this talk about the mother/ native tongue makes me wonder – I am most comfortable (and I am sure this might be true of most of your readers and perhaps you as well) in English. I think in English and on a relative scale, most proficient in English. Does that not then make English, my native tongue?
    My sis learnt to read the Tamil script, on her own, without ever having lived in TN – this was out of her own interest. Both of us have a fairly good flair for languages, so I remember appa and amma encouraging us to talk to local folks in every non- TN city we lived in, just so we could pick up the language. We both manage 5+ languages, but it came out a love for learning them, not ‘cos anyone forced it on us.
    I remember my thatha and paati sending us inland letters, with most of the main content in Tamil and the last 1/3rd of the letter, devoted to my sis and me – a note written in my thatha and paati’s elegant cursive english writing, in a language so prim and proper and beautiful! 🙂
    I don’t have a mother tongue – I am born to tamil parents, but I am not sure I want that to be my identity. At one point of time, I was more fluent in Telugu than I was in Tamil. I hope by the time my kids go to school, they do away with that stupid ‘Mother tongue’ question on school application forms. They can grow up learning to speak Gujarati, for all I care!

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