So you guys already know that I was in Madras (you’ll have to batter me to death with a shovel before I call it Chennai ) for X’mas. The kids had a blast. It started like this. I sat up in bed one morning and told the OA – I want to go to the beach. He looked at the time on his phone on the bedside table, blinked and said “It’s 7 am. I have to be at work in two hours. Not possible.” Funny guy.
Anyway, I had only one agenda. I wanted my kids to spend two days in the sun without getting up to eat, bathe, drink, sleep, anything. I wanted, in my own words that the OA kept reminding me of – “to let the kids go out on the beach when they wake up, without even brushing their teeth.”
And so we decided to spend X’mas with my dad’s side of the family and two days in a resort in Pondicheri. It was a blast. Being the only grandkids on that side of the family they had 3 extra sets of Thatha-Paatis to spoil them. And one great grandmother who got them stockings full of stuff. I was rather touched by one Thatha-Paati who hunted down a set of dinosaurs for the Brat and the Maama who got the Bean her nth elephant.
Anyway lets start at the beginning. We took a train. Yes, all the way to Madras. I have lost count of the number of people who gasped in horror at the thought of being on the train for two nights with two kids aged 3 and 5!! It was a third AC coach and we didn’t get tickets together (yes, we’re disorganised last minute bookers) and spent the first half of the journey begging people to exchange with us since we have two kids with us. A stuck up newly wed couple refused to even shift up and let us sit on our own damn seats. I was quite annoyed. Finally a rather overweight middle aged lady offered us her lower berth and took our top berth. I was wearing my old college sweatshirt and jeans, and she thought I was in college with her daughter. I pointed out that I was actually mother of two and was only looking for a lower berth since the kids need to be taken to the loo at night etc. I didn’t want to take it from her since I realised it was going to be troublesome for her. But she saw the kids and insisted that she help. I was touched.
This is the India and the travelling by train that I know. The very desi tolerance. People are willing to ‘adjust’, share their meals, share their life story. It’s on flights that you meet cranky young people who want to send kids off to another planet. Since when did train travellers get so uptight, cranky and unwilling to cooperate? When you’re travelling together for two nights and literally sitting and sleeping on top of each other, its best to start off on a good note. And the more I look around and find young people inconsiderate to old people and children, the more I feel the anger rise within. Who are these creatures? Do they imagine that they were never young and will never grow old?
Anyway, I gave it some time and whispered to the parents to shut up and not speak a word of Tamil or Bengali. We stuck to English and Hindi and man, we had a great time and I got my revenge. The couple didn’t really bitch about us too much, but they did end up saying some x-rated stuff that had my parents and me turning purple. A 92 year old man was travelling with us and it broke my heart. His hands shook so much that he spilled food on his clothes. The young couple and he were on the same side and I am shocked by how self absorbed and selfish people can be. This young guy and his wife just slept and held hands and didn’t bother to often pass the food that the waiters brought for him. At night the old man struggled with his bed and couldn’t hold his sheets steady enough to lay out, while the couple watched – My ma (herself in her 50s) and my dad, got up and began to help while the young couple still only looked on, bored. I lost my patience.
The OA and I were settling the kids into their berths and I snapped at her – “Why should older people do it when there are younger people in the train?” We dumped the kids and made the bed in two minutes flat. We tucked the old man in, the blanket around his feet, arranged his bottle of water and were done in two minutes. He kept wanting to pull out his suitcase and take out stuff and then put it back. Again, the young couple who were sitting by his side, sat there and blankly watched his shaking hands struggle with the suitcase. The OA and I were across the corridor, watching with growing annoyance. Then my dad who is almost 60, went down on his knees to help, and still the plump, balding young man sat holding hands with wife and whispering under his moustache, ignoring all the older people struggling. These people seem to have no manners. As my grandmother used to say – “They weren’t brought up – they were dragged up.” At least 10 times I loudly said during the journey, “Leave it to ma/dad. Why do you need to do it when there are so many young people in the compartment?” Clearly they were too thick for hints and insults.
To begin with, I can’t get over the fact that the old man’s family sent him off all by himself. F**king imbeciles. His mobile ran out of charge, he couldn’t call his family. The Rajdhani engine packed up, our train was left on the tracks for hours till another engine came, the meals couldn’t be put on the train because it was stranded in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately we had fruit and biscuits for the kids which I offered the old man and refused to even offer the selfish young couple even while my parents glared at me and my rage. What would he have done if there were only similar other self absorbed, selfish people who didn’t think once of offering to get the old man a cup of tea or help with charging his mobile?
At some point on the second day my dad called his mum and while speaking to her, to tell her that the train was late, slipped into Tamil. Man, I wish I had a camera to record the faces around us. The OA choked on his laughter and finally had to head to the loo to stop laughing. Yes, I’m evil that way.
The kids, were as good as gold. In all the engine breakdown, no food, anal and selfish co-passengers, I am glad they were, because we were quite worried. We only reached Madras at 2 am and by the time we reached my grandma’s place it was 4 am. Right through it I heard no complaints, no whining, no misbehaviour. They were a little bored but I think it’s because we as parents have become so strict. We didn’t let them go chat with other passengers and the windows are sealed unlike in our time when you sat and enjoyed the breeze in your hair. I carried books, crayons and some games and we played all the way. Eventually other kids from the compartment joined us and we had quite a party.
I think the best compliment I received and one I will carry to my grave, was from my mother. I sent the OA off to read on the top berth and kept entertaining the kids and she suddenly said -‘ You’re a very good mother, you know. I’d never have done this. I would have left you two to entertain yourselves.’
I was shocked. You know how mothers are – nothing you do is ever good enough for their precious grandchildren. I’ve even written long posts on the old blog about how she was driving me nuts. I am going to cherish that compliment because it came to me, not as a mother to her daughter, but from one mother to another, a simple observation. I still play it back in my mind and it makes me feel warm on a cold night.
Madras was a blast. The kids wandered around all day like little ragamuffins on the farm. Sitting for hours and watching a turkey, playing with dogs, terrifying me by running around near the 5-6 wells, strolling down the road with sticks, drawing patterns in the mud. They thumped on the piano all day while my parents moaned and told them to shut up, only to have the greatgrandma and other thatha-paatis tell them to shut up because they were lucky enough to have grandchildren. They were slipped chocolates slyly and they’d come running to me and say – Mama, X or Y thatha gave me this, can I have it?
The family was shocked and finally began to teach them to greet me with Heil Hitler and tell people that they lived on a POW camp. What can I say, the family loves me. Anyhow, I have to write this down in case I forget it when they’re teens and drive me crazy, but the kids were brilliant. We slept at odd hours, woke at odd hours, partied through the night, dragged them from homes, to shops, to parties, to ..well everywhere and they took it all without a word. Slept anywhere, ate everything, didn’t forget to say Please and Thank you and in general did me proud.
I miss our Madras friends though. They’re a great bunch of fun people. Artists, actors, musicians, chefs.. you name it. And we took the Brat and Bean to one of their homes for a party and all these people were just so good with them. It’s amazing how even those who didn’t have kids had put thought into what to get them – one of them brought a lovely bunch of colour pencils made from wood from sustainably managed forests and another got them some memory games. So thoughtful, so much fun. And lots of chocolate (promptly appropriated by the OA). The thing with people who don’t have kids but like kids, is that they treat you very differently from the way other parents do, I notice. They actually held intelligent conversations and had new perspectives while I looked on in awe.
Some were smoking and my instinct was to say – “Baby, don’t go near Uncle/Aunty when they are smoking.” But I stopped myself. No one will die of ten minutes of smoke exposure and I’m a little unsure of this passive smoking hysteria. We live in the NCR. In a day they inhale more than they will in a year around smoking friends. And I’d just end up denying them perhaps one of the most interesting conversations they’ve had in months. If the kids have to accuse me of anything when they grow up, I’d rather it be passive smoking than unimaginative babytalk and the same damn boring ideas everyday. And most of all, I hate the hysteria around smokers (There, that should bring in the trolls, been too peaceful around here). Also, do read this piece by Double Dolphin – he’s made the statutory warnings so I don’t need to.
Anyway, getting back to the point, we had a blast. New Year’s Eve was spent on the ECR, dancing the night away at a farm/beach house party. In case you’re interested, I wore a wine coloured corset-ish top and black jeans – and flats! I was most envious of the young girls in high heels until I saw them all slip out of them within the first hour. Long live flats! We danced but the music was too house for us. I think the OA and I should stick to retro nights. And this one is a biggie, the OA was brilliant as ever, but damnit, I think his steps need to be updated. For the first time I saw younger boys exhibiting brilliant new moves that the OA didn’t have. I told him and he glared at me 😀 Time to upgrade to version 2.0.
Anyhow, the kids did the beach, the croc bank, the prawns, the fish and everything else I could think of. For two days we stayed in town in my Uncle and Aunt’s place. They were travelling and the OA and I and the kids stayed at their place for convenience. For the first time I loved apartment living. Their place is done up like an Apartment Therapy joint. Very slick, very sleek and very cosy. It felt like home, the OA getting up and making tea each morning, the kids in the next room, lying in bed and having late breakfasts, watching the kids play in the play area that was right out of the window while I sat there with a cup of coffee. Simply one of the best times of my life. Easy to tidy up, lock up and get going. I’ve told the OA I want to move out of this great big house into a tiny place, sack all the help and do everything myself!
Anyway, the trip back we got 2nd AC tickets and so the trip was more comfortable. My parents headed back to Allahabad separately and the kids and OA and I had a fairly nice time. The kids were busy with all their X’mas gifts. We got into cold foggy NCR and my knees finally gave up after all the running, playing with the kids and carrying luggage. The kids are still asking for the Thathas and Paatis and I am slowly getting convinced that maybe moving there might be the thing to do!
The Brat and Bean got to do up two trees this year. The Bean is hanging the angel on top. The guy holding her is my youngest cousin. He was amazing with the kids. He’d have them entertained for hours, would wash their mucky hands, tell them stuff, save them if I put them in a corner and generally just became their favourite person. This might be par for the course for any regular 23 year old Maama who sees the kids all the time, but it’s so unexpected from someone who sees them once in almost two years. I was touched beyond belief.
So this is my cousin’s husband teaching the Bean how to use a remote controlled digger. The cousin has been hinting that they should have kids and he is quite nervous about it. And then the Bean took over the cars and diggers and he was very tickled by the thought of having a cool daughter. I think there should be a cheque in the mail for me, soon.
The Brat and Bean collaborate on their X’mas gifts. Within minutes her ‘mammoth’ was attacked and eaten by dinosaurs.
In spite of a very poor role model, the Bean takes her beach set and decides to ‘cook’ a pudding in her bucket. Ugh.
OA and brats check out the crocs. We did offer to feed the Bean to the crocs but the child is made of strong stuff. She just grinned in my face and said – ‘No, you wouldn’t. You love me and you would miss me. ‘ Yeah, well there is that too. Nani makes the most of Madras and has mallipoo in her hair inspite of a couple of people pointing out that they didn’t really go with her tights and tunic.
The OA educates them on the map. On an aside, the OA and I have hunted in a lot of stores and can’t find a bloody globe anywhere. The only thing I found was a jigsaw puzzle. Gah. What is the world coming to and how does one introduce their children to such things anymore?
The two best friends – G’pa and the Brat, discuss the finer points of reptiles. *shudder* On the other hand, I’m going to send him back here in his teens to spend the summer and do a summer job. Good idea, na?
G’pa wanted the privilege of stepping into the sea with his grandchildren, alone. And he got it. The OA entered 15 minutes later.
Me? This is as far as I ventured. It was a chilly day and even the kids were turning blue. I kept pulling them out and drying them up, saying enough. But they’d run back in and I’d have to find another set of clothes. Painful!
At one point the Brat got carried away by a big wave and the OA reached out and caught him – so he was basically afloat on a huge wave, the OA holding one hand. When he came down, he hugged his father and said – “Thank you, dada, you saved my life.” The OA laughed and cried at once. Honestly, this little Brat of ours is the gentlest soul I’ve ever encountered.