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.

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!😀

Walking a fine line

Was reading this article about a Harvard psychologist talking about raising nice kids and it triggered a memory of  an incident, years ago when my parents were visiting and we took them out to dinner.

The Brat (he must have been about 2.5 years old) wanted to go to the toilet and the OA and G’Pa took him to the toilet where he kept up a constant chatter. Basically he was reiterating all that I told him when I was toilet training him.

Wait your turn. Don’t open up your pants until you reach the toilet. Make sure you aim into the toilet – don’t want to leave it dirty for the next person using. Be careful when you zip your jeans so that you don’t get any important bits caught in it. Wash your hands nicely. With soap. Again. Dry them.

This had his father and grandfather in splits and they didn’t notice that they had an audience. Then he thanked his father and grandfather for helping him to use the toilet. When they were done, the gentleman (a foreigner) walked up to my son and gravely shook hands and introduced himself, as though he was talking to a grown up. And then he gave him some money (I forget – probably Rs 50 or something) and said he had never seen such a well mannered child, so to please buy him some candy with it.

The OA and G’Pa of course protested and said money was not required, the praise was enough. The gentleman must have been worried that he was giving offence in a foreign land and the OA and my dad didn’t want him to think he’d breached some form of etiquette when the poor man was trying to do something nice. They kept refusing it and then he made a winning argument. He said there are very few well behaved kids these days. And good behaviour, even among adults, rarely gets rewarded. In fact, most often, your good manners, your civility, they are your undoing. They are the reason someone pushes ahead of you in a queue, someone cuts you off on the road and so on. So he’d like my son to know, that once in a while, people do notice and good behaviour doesn’t go unnoticed.

They let the Brat accept the money.

One of the issues with letting kids accept money/ gifts from strangers is that it goes directly against our teachings of not accepting candy from smiling strangers. And I keep telling them kids day in and day out, not to take sweets from strangers. Not to follow someone who says Mama is calling them. And so on.

This also bothers me because it means we’re bringing up our kids to be inherently distrustful. That the default setting is that a stranger is untrustworthy, dangerous. This goes against my grain because I’m a rather trusting person myself. I’ve let all sorts of people into my home, readers who don’t blog and so on. I’ve had good experiences and bad, but I wouldn’t change that for the world.

I realise this is yet another reason I hang around working from home when my babies are soon to be 7 and 9. Because I want them to be independent and I want to watch them make decisions, while I watch from afar.

They know that they’re not to open the door if Mama is in the toilet. Not to answer the phone and say that Mama is not home. But if I am home, they answer the door while I stand a few feet away and watch them engage with strangers. I watch them cross the road. I let them buy groceries from the neighbourhood store and bring home correct change. And I know I can only do this because I am watching them with a hawk’s eye. Ready to swoop in, in case of danger.

Had I left them at a daycare, they’d not be allowed this engaging with strangers. Had I left them home with a maid I’d give very strict instructions that they’re not to answer the door, mess around in the kitchen, or do anything that required the maid’s judgment and quick thinking. I just would not be able to trust anyone else to make that judgment call.

As the years go by and examine by choices and parenting, the layers peel away and I realise things that I haven’t been able to articulate earlier. For now, this small simple act of letting them trust others while their mother watches on, is an important one for me.

A week or two ago the Bean accepted and signed for a courier for me. I watched her run her finger down the sheet, find my name and sign carefully.  The delivery guy looked at me in puzzlement, wondering why I hadn’t bothered to do anything, leaving the child to painstakingly drag a chair to the door, ask who he was, open the latch, climb down and sign and then climb up to lock up again.

I think teaching them nuance was important. You can talk to people, you can get to know them, as long as Mama or Dada is close by. We’re such a generation of harried, helicopter parents, hovering around and not giving our kids room to grow and build their  own equations with the world around them. It’s a delicate balance and I can’t claim to have found it, but for now, this works for me.

The Brat @

A few days after the Brat was born, I was saying his name to myself, thinking random thoughts… and suddenly I hit upon a great joke. An inside joke that involved his name and it struck me that were he older, he could have used it as his email id. And then I realised it was something that anyone else with the same name could have used already. A quick check on gmail told me that it was still unused and so without much thought I created an email id for him and blocked it. And after sharing the joke with the OA and my family, forgot about it. I also made an email did for the Bean when she was born, but that was nothing particularly fancy – I just wanted to ensure we didn’t lose the name.

The Brat’s love for animals is well known and often the family and friends send me an animal related forward telling me to make sure he sees it. For years he’s sat in my lap and looked at dolphins caught in mid leap, piglets wrapped in a tiger’s skin and so on. At times he’d have something to say about it and I’d reply to the sender with his comment.

When he turned 9 I realised his conversations with my dad, more than anyone else, were getting longer and longer. This was not just G’pa-G’son prattle, it was intelligent conversation. He’s way ahead of us in his knowledge of animals and my dad has begun to read up and research in order to keep up with him.

This is also the age by which we were all writing to our cousins and pen pals, polishing our letter writing skills. But this generation does neither.

Now everyone knows I have some firm views on the screen time that kids should be allowed and I was loathe to let him start mailing people, but of all the screen time that kids these days have the opportunity to use, this seemed the most innocuous. The other option is to make him hand write letters and then go hunting all over Gurgaon for a post box and hope that it makes it to the receiver.

Finally (actually it wasn’t as fraught a decision as it comes across as!) I decided to let him use his email id and mail his grandparents. He’s thrilled of course, but being the Brat, he expresses rapture with a gentle smile and nod.

Chhota Nana has really got into the mood of things and writes him long chatty letters in the style of our old times. Talking of the weather, what interesting things were cooked for dinner, update on his leg and how he is slowly walking more and will take the Brat out for a drive in an automatic car when he next visits, etc. He’s already got a pretty independent relationship with most of the family and being able to respond to them individually is bringing out a whole other side to him.

I opened his account on the iPad so that we can monitor it and he hasn’t even considered asking for privacy and it just lies open to view. I’ve only shared the email id with family so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed with the usual flood of information most of us deal with. I had anticipated a lot of to-do over it and I was right. The Bean threw a fit asking why she couldn’t have one and I pointed out that her brother was older and would get his privileges before she did. She needed to get to the same age to get access to hers. She griped for a day or so and then got involved in her Lego and the storm passed.

The Brat keeps his mails brief and surprisingly articulate. I had meant to teach him to thank people for writing to him, respond to a couple of statements they’d made in the mail etc, but he picked it up himself and has been corresponding beautifully. I had intended to tell him not to hand it out to friends yet but he didn’t even ask if he could and is happy to keep it restricted. Like a lot of other quiet people he pours his thoughts out in his emails and I hold back tears when I see a thought expressed in a particularly beautiful manner. It hasn’t occurred to him to demand privacy yet even though he and the Bean know that they aren’t supposed to read mail over my shoulder.

This email business also resurrected a few old issues with the in-laws who refuse to accept that I’ve retained my maiden name and that the children carry it in the hyphenated form. After much debate I had just begun to ignore the fact that the in-laws referred to me by their surname, addressed me as such in their cards and letters and so on. But when they began to do it with the children too, it bothered me hugely. The OA and I have chosen to give our kids both surnames and that needs to be respected by everyone, as our choice. Particularly since they are children and don’t need to be confused.

The OA firmly told his father that we monitor the email account and until he re-saved the email correctly, we’d not allow the Brat access to it. That was an unpleasant 24 hours but we got through and now the emails are flowing smoothly!

The Brat loves checking his mail sitting by my side and laughing over notes, sharing an image or two,  asking me if he’s worded something correctly. It’s yet another thing we’ve found to bond over and in the years to come I know he’ll want his password and is privacy. Until then… I’ll enjoy this.

Blah, blah, blah

Me: Brat, you’ve ripped your shirt!
Brat: Where? Where?
Me: arre here…b..b…baby.
Bean: You were going to say blind bat but you stopped yourself, didn’t you?



Bean after spilling a packet of sewing needles on the bed ( she’s embroidering a robot on casement) – It’s okay Mama, WE know I’ve spilled it, so we’ll be careful. Only Pop will get a poke in his bum.

Of course. That’s alright then.


Dinner table conversation :

Bean – “Dad, can I say the F-word?”

Dad wonders where this is leading…

Brat pipes up – “as long as it is not the four letter word.”

Dad is taken aback and thinks to himself, “damn, these kids are getting started earlier with each passing generation!”, but decides to explore further with “which word is that? ”

Both respond in unison – “Fool!”

Dad heaves a sigh of relief!


Reason # 817 to not have kids.
Brat: Mama it’s early morning and lights are on instead of opening the curtains. Global warming is happening because of you.
Me.. arre I’m in my night clothes and this is the ground floor. People can look in.
Brat: Then go change.

Bean: Why is the AC on? You’re global warming the world. (sic)
Me: It’s bloody hot and the middle of the afternoon.
Bean: So sweat a little.



Not even 48 hours at this particular resort and the Bean who is our official telephone operator is greeted with a Hello Bean, by the receptionist, the cleaning staff and everyone else.
She’s also greeted by name by every guard in our complex.
After a lifetime of people forgetting my face even after three meetings, fumbling over my name, not being able to place me, being with her is a strange and new experience.
You could be good, kind, intelligent, interesting. … But personality walks into a room and it’s game over.

Which is not to say she’s not kind or intelligent or all things good. Just that those features of hers too are lost in the force of her personality.


Brat and Bean collecting shells on the beach. Checking each one for uniqueness. This one looks like lace. This has a fan design. This one is maroon!
The Brat brings a perfectly pure white, unexceptional one to me, and justifies it ‘this is plain Ma, but its not a bad thing to be plain. See, it’s not got a single spot but no one else will pick it up because it’s not fancy and can’t show off and catch your eye. So I’m going to take it home and make it mine. ‘


No wasting a single grain of food or over-serving, just because it’s a buffet, the OA and I repeat at every meal.

Faced with a variety, all of which must be finished, the Bean makes a canapé out of rounds of bread topped with bits of papad and curd rice.

And to think I outraged loud and long at the idiocy and stereotypes when they showed SRK eating noodles with curd in Ra One. I take it back. It’s all good and all possible.


The Bean singing Lungi dance: Lungi ko uthana padega, shampoo karke dikhana padega. .. anda ke jaise chashma lagake.

Kya dikhana padege? I shudder to think.


Language comes rushing back in moments of crisis. Had a huge fight with the cab driver who dropped us to the railway station. He wanted extra money because we kept a small bag of breakable goods on the seat instead of in the boot. Says it’s a rule. I call the company (Fastrack Cabs) and find out there is no such rule, but ‘just give it to shut him up, madam!’ He can’t speak to us in English and its a boon that I can speak Tamil.
It comes rushing back. Hesitant and broken at first. A flood later.
I call the railway cops to intervene. They look vague and shrug. Why don’t you adjust madam?
A new cop who thinks we’re all northies, tells him in Tamil. ..’They don’t look like they’ll cave – let it go. You can pick up someone else from here and fool them. ‘
By now I’m in full steam and ask the cop what the hell. ..
The OA tells me to ask the cabbie to give us a bill for the extra amount if its company policy. He puts his tail between his legs and disappears. The cops are relieved at not having to fight a battle and send us off.
The Brat is in tears of rage by now. The Bean is silent.
All this because my husband looks like a North Indian and is speaking to him in English. We’re outsiders who are fair game.
Makes me wonder how foreigners manage. He tried his luck with us and it was his bad luck that I spoke the language. What if you know neither the language nor the people? It’s not easy in our country where we’re so corrupt and so quick to fool a stranger.
Anyway. Alls well that ends well. And apparently languages are like bicycles. You can get back on like you never got off.


The Bean walks into my room with her dress accidentally hiked up and undies on show.
Me: Oi! Why is your bum on display?
Bean: *without missing a beat* – That’s my style.

Reminds me of Rachel in FRIENDS at Barry and Mindy’s wedding. All she needed to do was break out into Copacabana!


The Brat has been studying muhavarein ( idioms) for some weeks now.  The OA and I have been struggling to help him because neither of us can claim to be good at Hindi. This weekend he has to write a poem made up of only muhavarein. I banged my head on the bed in despair and moaned, “If I hear the word muhavarein once more, I’ll kill myself.”

A moment of silence while the family looks on in concern and then the Bean pipes up mischievously and experimentally, “Muhavarein? ”


Only the Bean will look at her dinner and burst into song – Oh matarpaneer, matarpaneer. .. sung to the tune of Masakkali.


Helping the Brat with his Hindi homework and used to working on my laptop I keep changing the lines as I think, forgetting that he has to keep erasing.

Finally he stops, holds my head at the temples and patiently says – Mama, first think your entire thought through and then let it come out of your mouth.

I think I just heard the OA’s voice.


The Bean walks in from school, neatly puts tiffin etc for wash, hangs her bag in place and then rubs her hands gleefully and says, “It’s the weekend Mama – please brainstorm so that we can do up the house.”

I now understand how Frankenstein must have felt.