Flowers at her feet

“Mama, mama, mama! Where are you?”
Apparently, there is nothing that can get done in any home without mama. And of course, the most urgent issues arise only when mama goes for a bath.
But the 12-year-old rarely calls unless there is a crisis so I grab a towel and run out on dangerously wet feet, yelling – Who died?
Only to come to a squealing halt. He’s lined the corridor with frangipani flowers for me to walk out on.
I look at him in shock? surprise?
And like most men, he misunderstands the look on my face and says – “I didn’t pluck them, mama! Look, the edges are brown. I collected them off the ground on the way home for you.”
It’s been a while since I rushed out of a bath with soap in my eyes, and for the first time, it was totally worth it.
I must also admit, this one doesn’t take after the father!


You know you’ve trained your son well when he crawls under the table to retrieve a paper plane, encounters your feet there, and begins to press them!


Me: Damn, why did I do that? I feel really silly.
Brat: Everyone makes mistakes. The only thing you should feel silly about, is feeling silly about making a mistake.


The Bean gets eye infections, nose infections, all sorts of infections on her face, all the time, and we have to be careful not to touch her face with unwashed hands.
The Brat’s brotherly love prompted this suggestion, “We should put a sign on her face. Caution: Infection prone zone.”
In case you’re looking for him, he made a getaway when the cushions started flying and might be home around dinner time.


The doorbell is ringing, the landline too, and I’m rushing through giving the Brat his medicine while he chatters on about something and then my phone starts ringing, he sneezes, something-something, I honestly forget the order of events, and my hand shakes, spilling syrup on him.

Even-tempered and patient mother that I am, I snap, “If you’d taken your meds yourself this wouldn’t have happened… Now look what you made me do!”

He nods calmly and says, “Technically, I didn’t make you do anything. And I’m dripping with syrup. You’re victim blaming, mama.”




Chaddi solidarity

Thought long and hard before writing this one and finally said, what the heck, let’s overshare as usual.
I noticed over the last few days that the ten year old daughter had begun to wear shorts under a short-ish dress. She’s outgrown it, but it’s a thin, cool, comfortable cotton slip – perfect for these awful summers.
I wondered if it was an attack of modesty and asked her about it. It seems her 12 year old brother had been teasing her about the dress flying up and her undies being on show. I let it pass without interfering in the sibling relationship, until I realised she was wearing it everyday, and that it could no longer be dismissed as a joke or a sibling thing.
My son is being raised by a mother who thinks hijabs and veils, and the policing of women’s bodies and chastity culture are the devil’s own idea (smash the patriarchy, yo!), so this is just unacceptable.
A casual chat with him and I realised he didn’t actually have a real issue, and wasn’t playing protective, patriarchal elder brother. He’s actually more of a feminist than his sister. He was simply playing annoying sibling. Very pleased to have found something to annoy his sister about.
It wasn’t his attitude I was worried about, it was hers. I didn’t want her to lose the safe space of home, covering up even when there was just family around. Choosing modesty over comfort.
So I did the only thing I could. I took off my jeans, and sat down by her side. Just. Chaddi solidarity, sistah. The son gaped. The daughter began to giggle.
I swim with them, so they’re used to seeing me in swimwear, which is much less clothing than the tee shirt and undies I was in. It wasn’t the sight of undies that was supposed to horrify him. It was the reminder that mama is also a girl, and she feels hot too, and has every right to be comfortable in her own home without anyone commenting on it, even as a joke.
The maid who realised what was happening, was in splits. The daughter smiled widely, and took off her shorts. And the son conceded that it was unfair to tease someone and make them self conscious, specially in a world where women are constantly being told to cover up to make others feel comfortable. That it might be a joke in this case, but in the real world, society and men, force women to cover up.
In case you feel strongly about how traumatised he might be, I’ll send you my bank account number. You can donate some money towards his therapy at a later stage.

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.

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.


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.

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.