The surprise wrapped in a surprise

So I did tell you that I was madly busy after quitting my last job. I am now holding down another (along with some freelance work) but what really kept me madly busy through the last few days of September was something completely different.

You see, my pregnant sister in law was coming down to India and spending a few days with me, a week with my parents and about 20 days with her parents. Naturally we were all in a state of excitement. She was landing in India three days before my birthday and going on to spend my mother’s birthday with her. My parents were planning to have a little party that was more in honour of her than my mother’s birthday. We were busy planning where to take her shopping  and how to spoil her rotten. My parents were busy planning the party menu. My cousins wanted to take her out to a pub  *rolls eyes*. The Brat and Bean wanted to kiss her belly button so that the kisses got to Baby Button.

Anyway, we put that aside and I came up with a plan. I suggested to my parents that we surprise my sister in law with a baby shower. While we do have baby showers in the Indian Christian community, as a family we have never had them. I have no idea why – it just hasn’t been around since my grandmother’s time and I think its because the daughters of the family were never home for their pregnancies. But I thought it would be a nice way to show her that she was important to us. So important that even though we don’t have a tradition of doing baby showers in the family, we wanted to do one for her and show her that she and the Baby Button are special and are bringing us much joy. The parents loved the idea and jumped in with both feet.

So the SIL wasn’t really expecting to be baby-showered and was busy (yes, it gets more complicated!) trying to book a birthday cake for my mother! My parents went into overdrive, planning the shower, checking with the brother if it might offend her sensibilities in anyway and generally trying to keep it all under wraps and not mention it to her in conversation. I suggested that we add a few Hindu rituals so that she doesn’t get bothered by the unfamiliarity of it all and my parents readily agreed to the idea. In all this I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I felt a twinge of sadness that my brother wasn’t coming down too.

So when he called me a couple of weeks before her arrival and maroed the ‘Allo ‘allo line – “Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once,” I knew immediately what was going on. I literally screamed into the phone – I know what you’re going to say – You’re coming to India too, aren’t you?

He laughed and told the SIL – I told you my sister would guess. Me? I’d like to think I wished him into coming. And here’s the thing – he wanted to surprise the parents so it was to be kept a secret from them too. My ears were burning, my tongue kept running away with me. Between keeping the shower a secret from my SIL and my brother’s visit a secret from the family, my tongue was tying itself into knots and I was getting indigestion due to the sheer torture of having to think before I speak. Finally, to ensure that certain things were carried out with ease, I broke down and told my parents that I’d like to join them in Allahabad for the surprise baby shower and be there to see the look of surprise on the SIL’s face.

And to complicate matters, the mad sibling asked if the OA, the babies and Cousins J&K who are studying in Delhi could also take the weekend off so that we could all go in a big gang and surprise the parents. He was to arrive in Delhi 3 days after the SIL left for my parents’ place and we were to leave within hours of his flight landing. Of course then there was the tension of trying to get to the railway station from the airport without getting stuck in traffic. Regular readers already know what drama accompanies train travel in the mad house. The SIL is known for her inability to keep secrets and those three days of being around my parents were to her, like being tied up and tickled. She would step out of the house and call me each time the torture got too much and I’d beg her and bribe her to keep shut for a few days more even while I was struggling to keep my own mouth shut about the baby shower.

Now my mother and I talk ten times a day. She calls to tell me if she made a big deal. I call her when the Brat is pissing me off and asking for a tight smack. She calls if my father is annoying her. I call if I need to bake and want the proportions to some recipe. With Cousin K & J thrown into the melee, the factors going out of our control were just increasing. My parents wanted me to get some decorations made for the party as well as little notes for the wish tree. Cousin J is pretty artistic and I was told to get her to make it. A few more things were required and each time she spoke to her mother she almost let it slip that she’d do it once she got there. In short, this plan was more full of slips than knots. As the mad sibling said – What? You’ve even told your own brats? Good luck with keeping this plan a secret. Err.. yeah *looks embarrassed* I wanted to prepare the kids so I told them that we were going to Allahabad. They promptly told my parents on the phone – Nani- G’pa? We’re coming to see you next week. To which my poor unsuspecting parents said – Yes,  yes, darling. You are, but not next week,  you’re coming during the Commonwealth Games.

The SIL landed in India and when she walked out of the terminal, I fell on her belly and kissed it – poor woman! I did apologise and to make up for it, the moment we got home, Cousin J and I pressed her feet for 45 minutes. We also took her shopping for the next two days and she shopped till she literally dropped and we finally put her on the train and sent her on to my parents. Next bit of excitement – Tambi’s arrival.

The mad sibling landed at 8 pm on my birthday and I told him it was the best birthday present I’d ever received. I wish I could describe the excitement in the coach that evening. As a family we’re easily pleased and easily excitable. Don’t take us on a surprise trip to Paris. A simple visit is enough to have us jumping for joy. So something of this magnitude had us wired beyond measure.

One of the biggest challenges was to ensure that Ma didn’t call while I was on the train and hear the kids in the background. As luck would have it she kept calling to check that I hadn’t missed the train and I went nuts running away from the kids to a quieter spot. The train came in, we got on and all was well. People counted – 5 adults, 2 babies, mountains of luggage. Wow – if we’d made it to the train on time, surely something else should have gone wrong! The SIL of course was calling me every twenty minutes because she was beside herself with excitement. I had to calm not just my nerves but hers too. The OA grinned peacefully – he knows my brother is the family favourite and us getting  worked into a lather over him is a common sight. He took out a book and ignored us. He’d applied for a day of leave and had booked tickets, organised the logistics and got us on the train safely. His job was done.

There was only one niggling issue left.  That of the grand finale. As far as my parents and Chhota Nana and Chhoti Nani knew, I was the only one coming. So we figured one of them would just come to the station in the morning and get us. But I wanted to somehow ensure that everyone showed up and witnessed the mad sibling get out of the train. The OA groaned at the way the plan was getting more ambitious by the minute and of course that just made me more determined. My brother wanted to know why I couldn’t leave well alone, and why I was doing stuff that would arouse suspicion, but I usually get my way. And so it was that I called up my parents and then Chhota Nana and Chhoti Nani and whined about how everyone comes to pick up their all important daughter in law and receive her at the station, but no one bothers to come and pick up the poor daughter of the family who has no loving inlaws and no one to fuss over her. Who has just quit her job and is low and depressed. Yes, I can dial up the drama when required.

They were all sitting together and chatting when I called so they figured that if my attention seeking behaviour needed to be indulged just after I had quit my job on a sour note, it was the family’s job to do it. And oh – the train just stopped for TWO minutes in Allahabad after which the next stop is Bihar, so we had to get the 7 of us and all our luggage off in record time. The SIL called again and said that she had a plan. We were all to come out of one door of the coach. And while my parents and the Chhota Nani and Chhoti Nani were distracted by the additional 5 surprise guests, my brother was to jump out of the back door and walk up behind them. The mad sibling was getting more embarrassed by the production we were making of it, while the OA as usual was frantically working out the timing and wondering if we’d end up getting a nasty shock instead of a surprise and have to chase the train to Mughalsarai to get the Mad Sibling off.

I’d told my parents the coach number and really, honestly, did expect the bunch of idiots to be at the door. As the train pulled into the platform, I stood at the door, my hands cold and my heart beat racing. Behind me our luggage was piled up, the OA holding on to the babies who threatened to fall out of the train hurtling in to the station and next to him, Cousins J& K. Tambi had been sent to the other door to surprise my parents but he came rushing back at the last minute, dragging his massive US type suitcase because as luck would have it, that door was locked!

The train pulled in and I saw my family scattered across the platform, one at every 40 feet. I cursed them. How were we to have our grand finale, huh? Why can’t people simply obey orders like sheep and cooperate? And then the train stopped and in front of our coach there was – NO ONE! They were all still running down the platform like headless chickens.

I hopped out and because there was no other way to do it, so did the OA, the kids and the cousins. My Uncle saw us first and was shouting with excitement as he saw his two kids there too along with his beloved grandchildren. At 45, he’s a very boisterous, noisy grandfather. Tambi by now, afraid that the train would push off to Bihar, hopped out with his luggage. The OA who is nothing if not a stickler for a plan, took one look at him and said – ‘Oye, don’t ruin your sister’s plan’ and the proceeded to unceremoniously shove him and his luggage back into the train. The Mad sibling looking most put out protested weakly – “hey, hey, the train’s about to leave. It’s not going to be much fun if I don’t get off.”

By then my parents and everyone had arrive and I realised, just to tease me they’d brought atleast 3 of the domestic help from home to create a big homecoming party for me. My SIL with her big baby bump was searching the crowd and raising her eyes questioningly at me – Where was her husband? I had no idea he’d been shoved back on to the train. The grandparents were all screaming and trying to grab a grandchild, literally tearing the poor kids limb from limb. The kids were bewildered but quite happy to be fussed over. General junta on the platform stared at us in undisguised curiosity. And then my mother tried to put her arms around all six of us and said  – “I don’t believe it. Six more of my babies are here. Now I won’t miss anyone. ”

At which point, Tambi, who all of us had forgotten, figured it was about time he made his presence felt. Also that it was prudent to step out of the train that was making starting noises. “Really ma,” he said..”You’re not missing anyone? Your entire family is here?”

The entire family stiffened at the sound of his voice and then they screamed in one voice and fell on the poor skinny runt. I think they’d have swallowed him whole if they could. My mother burst into tears – and I did mention to Tambi that the sight of his ugly face is enough to reduce anyone to tears.

We then had to call home for more cars and all headed back home, still bursting with excitement over the other surprise yet to be unveiled – the baby shower that evening. It was a huge success. Tambi took the SIL for an afternoon nap and we spent the afternoon decorating the living room. She came down all glowy and gorgeous in a black chiffon saree over a spaghetti strap blouse. I’d persuaded her to borrow it from me because she’d not carried anything fancy for the party. I didn’t want her to suddenly realise she was the guest of honour and not dressed up enough. The shower was lovely and instead of a priest we had two of our oldest family members say a prayer and bless the SIL. My parents believe that the prayers of well wishers are far more effective than any Holy man. I am inclined to agree with them. We added in our merry mix of Hindu rituals and the SIL was touched. All in all – a good holiday. I travelled back and forth during the next month, leaving the kids there for the Commonwealth Games break while the OA and I spent a peaceful week at home. I also helped my parents prepare the house for their college reunion. Little knowing that I’d not be able to resist and would soon be back to attend it with them! But then you already know that story. Now you know that between all this excitement and the wedding and work and no househelp, I’m surprised I’ve posted at all!

And that my dear readers is how I began my unemployment. Did I say unemployment? Not really. I worked on freelance stories right through the night and within a few days found myself employed once again. But it was a fantastic break and I look forward to planning more surprises. Any ideas?


104 thoughts on “The surprise wrapped in a surprise

  1. OMG, My head got bungled just reading the description! It was one helluva surprise party with everyone getting somewhat surprised with something at some point. I need to now go poke hubby about my surpriseless life (though I am probably going to be reminded that I am too busy for them, or something like that).

  2. OMG!!! I am at work, and have loads of work to do and I thought, “oh! I will just read the first para of this post and save the rest for tonight” BUT!! I couldn’t. I was super excited. You have written it so well and I just couldn’t walk away until I read it all! So exciting for your brother and wife. How far along was she when she traveled? When is the little one arriving?

  3. Yay !!! I looooooove surprises …. a pity I hardly get any !
    You sound like my hubby’s best pal in keeping secrets …. he just can’t keep anything to himself. My sister had planned a “surprise” baby shower for me, and the husband asked innocently if the camera was charged when we got off the car to her place.
    We once surprised my parents by arriving at their door step when they least expected us. I still cannot forget that day … the tears of excitement .. shock !! Pleasant memories I tell you …

    And I read in your previous posts, where you had passingly mentioned about starting work … I hope you have it your way and are enjoying your new work.

    Good luck to Tambi and SIL !! Just few more weeks to go and you will be Mad Aunt !

  4. Lovely post.. just curious.. which train station was it? I thought Prayagraj is the best train to travel from Delhi to Allahabad, specially if you have to pick Tambi and then head to the Delhi station..

    As far as “I look forward to planning more surprises. Any ideas? ”
    is concerned.. how’bout getting a third one?

    Added advantage that your kids will learn about parenting

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    • it is – we ALWAYS take the prayag raj. but we had to take another train because the prayag raj leaves at 9.30 and we had to take something keeping a good gap between his flight landing and the train departure, na?

      third one? OA will catch a train to some place and never come back!

  5. Well, you could surprise Baby Button by landing here in Jan! Am sure Tambi and SIL would love that surprise. Big kala teeka to you and the mad family, MM…
    ** esp loved the ‘tied up and tickled’ expression **

  6. I am supposed to rush to catch the darned bus to work – I knew logging on to your page early in the morning would be a BAD idea :D.
    Love that bit where youn said you call your mum a million times in a day – I call my folks a gazillion times too. Mostly for things that wouldn’t even qualify as a reason. No wonder my phone bills continue to be astronomical, irrespective of the presence/ absence of boyfriends!!
    Lovely post.

  7. This is was so fantastic to read, MM! I was biting my nails in anxiety until I got to the end of it. I can imagine the tongue getting all knotted up. I would cry from the weight of it all.

  8. OHH MYY GOD!!This is hillarious,warm,adorable…soooo cute!I was laughing through it and laughed out so loud,when I read about OA shoving Tambi back in.And Tambi saying,”really ma?” aww!!
    I could’ve screamed with them!!
    Thanks for sharing this lovely lovely memory!
    And BTW,I didnt know about the job too:P

  9. Lovely Lovely Lovely…surprises are so much fun…..but double surprises are difficult to keep…you are great not to tell SIL about the baby shower and not to tell parents about Tambi..baap rey I dont think I would have managed it..invariably something would have slipped out somewhere 🙂 BTW Congrats on the new job..hope the commute is not killing and knees are holding up

  10. Write a book MM. I will write the foreword, proof read it, send you cups of e-coffee (I’m sure there is something like e-coffee), baby-sit, anything….

    Why do I suddenly have a craving for hot cakes??

    {Plz consider this seriously}

    • kaun padhega yaar. I’m happy with you guys reading my rambling notes. Most often I think I should chop a post in half. Then I think that someday I will want to read those posts and taza karo purani yaadein. And at times like those, each detail will count.

      • I want you to write a book for the same reason. Whenever I read your posts, I smile to myself and say “Aisa mere saath bhi hua hai” and feel good inside.

        THAT SELLS…

        You have a gift MM. Spread the joy!

  11. add me to the list of people you did’nt tell about your new FULL time job – after promising to do my house. how are you going to do that now?

    and as far as ideas for another surprise go, you can come to bangalore and surprise all of us here 🙂

  12. :)….I am at work….and have this huge goofy grin on my face.Loved the surprises….and the way you wrote about all this.
    You know you have a talent for writing.Like already mentioned in the comments here, You should think about writing a book MM.Seriously…
    Congrats on your new job …

    • dudette, read the last couple of months worth of posts and look at the action in my life. i think i’ve addled my brains with too much action. i really thought i’d told everyone. been working for a month plus now.

  13. Just started reading your post..amidst a dozen emails…what!!! you started working full time. When, where how ?? and what about the commute ??

  14. That was super duper satisfying….I first checked the length of the post, smiled at the gud time to come and langurously read through, was snapped out of the reverie by the long list of to-do’s for today…have made a mental note to share your post with boss in case I miss out ticking off anything from the list….typical corporate ishtyle main blame kisi aur par dalenge…
    Seriously, am so glad you’re back and kicking in the good stuff again…keep me posted on the job front,mailing you soon.

  15. The entire state of UP can just ask you if their supply of adrenaline falls short and I think you’ll always have some to spare! you, mad, mad woman!

    such a sweet post! tambi’s entrance was the bestest.

  16. That was one hair raising post. I am glad both the surprises were kept a secret :-).

    BTW, beautiful banner picture.. so lovely with the Christmas tree in the background. beautiful saree too 🙂

  17. Wow – what an eventful set of events! Loved reading all about it. But tell me – did you end up telling your SIL about the babyshower that evening? If not, how did you get her to dress up? Or did she think it was her MIL’s bday party?

    • haan. she thought it was MIL’s birthday party. Must have thought I was going a little overboard with getting her to dress up so much. But was most grateful when the crowds arrived and she realised it was a big party that she was the guest of honour at!

      • Although, the trademark of a surprise party is that the guest of honour is not as well dressed as the guests..because she was being surprised, no?

        Also, how come yr bro didn’t eat up your mom’s head for saying that “now i wont miss anyone”. If i were yr bro, my mom wd’ve never heard the end of it. 🙂

        Totally enjoyed this post- i was laughing out loud at the end of it.

  18. MM, for this post, I absolutely have to delurk. I loved it totally. And more so ’cause i am the one who plans surprises in the family! The astounded look on everyone’s faces is the biggest joy I get after all the ulcers from keeping secrets 🙂 Especially in my family where NOONE can be trusted with secrets and giving ‘clues’ is everyone’s fav hobby! Loved it loved it loved it!

  19. Huh! What to say! Just soaking in the warmth of the feelings that your posts bring along. Wish I could write as well as you do.
    You know, I have been learning so much from you, without knowing you. About life, its bitter-sweet experiences, and all those things that I find worthy in life. Your posts are like learning experiences, something that a mother subtly teaches her daughter. The richness of experience….

    and u know, I am going to make my parents read your blog. It will help them know there are people like you, who deal with similar situations in life, and how beautifully!
    Never stop writing, for there will always be people like me, who will look up to you, wen stuck up in life, even if we don’t know you. Your presence helps, strange but true.

  20. What a roller-coaster ride!!
    I have no idea how you manage to do so many things MM!
    But the way you put it is even more wonderful.
    Keep writing 🙂

  21. I want want want an SIL like you or in fact you as an SIL….. My SIL sucks big time….The most arrogant woman I’d ever met….
    I want a better SIL…want want want 🙂

  22. Feels like I was part of the exciting roller-coaster ride myself! Congrats on pulling it off well! Wishes to your SIL and the baby button! A post filled with love, this one!

  23. Baap re baap such a enthu soul u r! Luckiest is ur sis-in-law, I say!

    I knew my hubby will not read the whole story but I MADE him sit in front of me and narrated the entire thing!!! Not sure if he was more amused by the story or my excitement. :))


  24. First off – big kaalaa teeka on your blog. replace header pic – much as i like it 🙂

    LOvely lovely lovely…thambi’s entrance was totally philmy ishtyle. Loved it…Even better if the train started and a tangle of thambi hands and legs landed in the crowd (safely of course), cos the OA just wasn’t letting him get off 😀

    I love surprises and was so impressed with the meticulous planning that went into this one. Your family is LIFE itself. You all live it so much to the full. Good going…and don’t forget the kaalaa teeka.

    Much love to all of you 😀

    PS: The OA rarely gets much credit here…this time full credit to him for managing the best scene of the show 😀

  25. Loved loved loved the post 🙂 Just the kind of post for a surprise whore like me! I love everything that goes into a surprise – the rather ambitious planning, then facing reality and planning something more fool-proof, being smart and trying to think of those things that could go wrong and coming up with alternatives, the look on our faces when something totally unexpected happens, the rush to straighten out ANYTHING that comes our way, the actual day of the surprise, last minute glitches, the look on the surprised person’s face, the post-surprise swell in everyone’s heart, the withdrawal effects-Sigh! See, there’s a reason why i call myself a surprises whore!

    Much love to the mad family 🙂

  26. OK, from the whole saga *this* cracked me up:
    “Yes, I can dial up the drama when required.” – WHEN REQUIRED??? 🙂 🙂

    And no, you haven’t mentioned the full-time job yet! Commuting again?


  27. Came back to say, LOVE the header 🙂 Wasn’t that pic also taken just before rushing off to catch a train?

  28. Hi MM, I could feel the excitement building up as I read through the post. I just had to read it all while at work. Could not put it aside!

  29. Whatay whatay post!! Had me almost jumping up and down! Thank you for sharing this!! How did the babies react to all this? Didn’t the Bean have something smart to say?

  30. See. This is what I meant MM! You tell the story SO well. I too read this at work and completely ignored everything until I finished reading the entire post. I got so excited reading it. You are blessed with such loving family.

  31. hey mm,
    i just noticed the snowflakes on the header move when i roll the cursor over it…is that right or with my hair/skin and few other body parts, my eyes are also giving up!

  32. Oh wow MM, I read this just after writing a VERY similar post about surprising my parents the same way and finding it hard to not spill the beans for now!

    Reading this got me doubly excited. The Mad family sure knows how to have fun! 😀

  33. my head is in a whirl. all i can figure is both surprises did happen spot on and there was a reunion and happy ending hindi phillium ishtyle.
    the one time we did plan a surprise was for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. and of course one sibling refused to come as she didn’t want to alter her holiday plans !
    as of today the family fabric is damaged beyond repair and something like this will never happen.

    but am so glad it does in yours. bless you all and keep you safe…

    • a sibling refused? 😦 thats sad. and i’m also sorry to hear that the fabric is ruined beyond measure. it takes a lot of effort on every side for a family to work. my parents made some hard choices a few years ago about what was important to them and we’ve been brought up to treat those choices like religion.

      • i sometimes wonder who is responsible for this state of affairs – but the answer is simple. we all are.
        our collective egos and individual desires will not let it happen.
        i tried to reach out to them one on one in a neutral setting – only to have even more damage done – in this case specifically to me.
        i tell my folks that they have not played their part – and i guess by now they are too old and it’s too late.
        i sometimes feel that the person who knows more who told me that this is not my real family was perhaps correct and i have been born here to pay off karmic debts…
        c’est la vie.
        i can perhaps try and ensure it stops with me and does not continue any further…

        • you hit the nail on the head. you know what i said about my parents making tough decisions? well this is one of them. we’ve got to stop the cycle of hurt and coldness in families. Let it end with us. Invest more in our relationships and children. The way you are with Jia, I know you’re doing the same.

  34. Such a lovely post… savoured the long post… keep them coming!

    Its a wonder u didnt burst keeping all those secrets inside. Loved the ‘dialling up drama’ bit…

  35. Read your blog regularly but mostly at work from where I cannot comment hence remain a lurker. The last few posts have been lovely and this one had a thrill factor to it too, could not stop until I read the entire post. You have inspired me to do up my house and garden, which have both given and are giving me immense satisfaction. I never thought that I had it me, all thanks to you.

    Also, I never used to wear a sari, no great collection and a lousy sari draper, hardly had the confidence to carry one. Your sari posts were again inspiring, now have a small but good collection of simple saris, and have started wearing them often, even now cannot drape one perfectly but have started carrying it with a confidence and I love it!!!

  36. Please read ‘I never thought that I had it me, all thanks to you.’ as ‘I never thought that I had it me but all thanks to you I managed to do both’.

  37. Oooooh!! What a fn fun post MM! Was smiling all along and just wanted to read at super fast speed to see what happens next! Am thrilled at the super re-union all of u had! God always bless u and ur family and give u many many more such moments to share and remember with much joy!

And in your opinion....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s