I realise that the reason I have trouble saying No, is because I didn’t hear it much when I was growing up (take a moment to crack your jokes about entitlement). My parents rarely said no to the Mad Sibling or me, and neither was it said to our friends, or theirs. Which meant we constantly had people in our home doing things that were highly inconvenient to us. Early risers would walk in before we’d got out of bed, latecomers would watch us float around with our toothbrushes in our mouths. And this was a joint family. Grandparents, old uncles and aunts come home to die, cousins we were local guardians to, and a surprising number of refugees – Sri Lankan, Palestinian, all sorts. You never knew who you’d bump into in the next room.
We learnt to step around camp beds, speak in whispers if some bed-ridden oldie had just fallen asleep, share one kg of chicken across 30 people and be grateful for the gravy, and to get dressed in the bathroom!
And we learnt to study in the midst of chaos. It’s a wonder we passed our exams at all. If I had a friend over and was blasting Chura ke Dil mera, the sibling would bow his head over his book and block me out. If he had a break and was strumming away, trying to get some Satriani bit just right, with friends, I added my tuppence and kept studying.
The year of my 12th boards, we were sometimes 12-14 of us studying in my room. I recall a friend lying under my bed and studying for his accounts paper, while trying to teach me.
This was my normal, and I was shocked to learn that most people didn’t live like this.
I swore that my kids would have a regular normal home unlike the madhouse I grew up in. And there would be times for friends to come and go. Except that the first time I was tested and the doorbell rang, I opened it, saw a hopeful child waiting there, and opened my mouth to say, ‘Brat is studying, beta’, but strangely the words that came out were, “Come in, darling!” I knew right then, I was incapable of anything else.
Now both my kids do their homework each evening on Skype with their father who lives in another country. I don’t know when they have exams, I don’t know what their homework is. They scan the chapter and send it to him. He reads it, writes questions and mails them back. Then they study over Skype while chatting with him about their day.
This evening the Brat has a friend over, and they’re supposedly studying for a physics paper. Except that this child is a year younger, so the Brat is ‘teaching’ him his physics lesson when he should be studying. The father called on Skype and I steeled myself for chaos. But now all three of them are chatting online and discussing the chapter. We have a new normal in this household. One where we have a houseful, and the OA often on Skype joining the conversation!
I wonder what my kids will seek to change.
And because you’re missing the Brat and the Bean, I offer you some of the FB statuses I put up in the last year.
I was travelling and the OA was getting the kids dressed for school. A disapproving Brat looked at the OA’s ratty night shorts and said ‘Dada, you can’t go out dressed like that to drop us to the bus stop.’
The Bean piped up – ‘Yeah, they will say, Pitaji ki patloon, ek bilang chhoti ho gayi.’
Me, teaching the Brat multiplication and trying to put it in a context he’ll enjoy: Okay baby, at what speed does a cheetah run?
Brat: 105 kms an hour.
Me: Cool. So how many kms will it run in 3 hours?
Brat: It can run at that speed only for 30 minutes!
Bean: Dada, I love you soooo much.
Me: Oi! Only I am allowed to love both of you. No one else is allowed to love another.
Bean: Mama, we all have our own place in this world.
Reason # 1, not to assume your husband is not on speaker phone: You start singing Pritam mat pardes padharo the moment he answers your call, and entertain a car full of his colleagues.
An oversmart Bean leaves her lunch, comes stumbling towards me holding her belly and says, “I think I’m having a heart attack. I can’t eat any more.”
A scornful Brat responds, “You’re not having a heart attack. Only people who watch too much TV get heart attacks. We barely get to watch TV at all. We’ll never get heart attacks!”
Great. I didn’t need to step in.
Bean, while watching the Lenskart advt on TV – If that girl doesn’t want to go and have coffee with him, why doesn’t he leave her alone? If someone says no, you should let them be.
Me: Right. And if they don’t listen, what do you do?
Bean: I tell my mother and she will give them a jhaanp.
Err.. Well, she’s getting there. At least she has the basics clear!
Bean, listening to her father have an endlessly long and loud phonecall, working from home: Mama, I think Dada should go to office so that we can have some peace and quiet around here.
When your mother is a feminist, you say –
“Why do people say ‘Early man did blah blah’. They should say early man AND woman, or early people.” – Brat.
Excellent. My work here is done.
The OA is on the phone talking to endless credit card companies and what-nots. I’m listening to him and thinking – Ours might be the last generation where the secret question by default is,’What was your mother’s maiden name?’
Bean to another little girl in the park: If I do that, my mother will scream, and jhaanp me up and put me in the corner and give me no food for a full day.
Me (shocked): When have I ever done that, baby?
Bean (annoyed at being overheard): Well, you said no screen time yesterday, didn’t you?
Yes. And that is entirely the same thing.
(Later it was explained to me, that unless she claims dire consequences, she cannot wriggle out of peer pressure issues. I see. )
Sorting out my cupboard and making piles of clothes to give to orphanage, some to repurpose and some for my cousin and mother. Bean looks at the growing pile and says – Oh, so the ones you feel hot in and are all rubbish you’re giving to Nana?
*gulp* I swear that’s not true, Ma!
Brat busy entertaining a bunch of young adults in the park, by reciting animal facts like a machine. I go up to rescue the adults and relieve them of my son, but they say they’re enjoying his company. So I introduce myself. And one of them says his name is Brahm.
To which Bean says, Rum? Oh, of course, we know Rum. We have lots of that at home!
Youngsters fall over laughing and look at me as though I’m one of those lushed up aunties. Sigh.
#SwallowMeNowEarth moment right there.
We’re so quick to criticise and so slow to praise. The Haryanvi man is possibly the most abused in the country. And we all know *everything* about those rude drivers and guards who have sold crores of farmland in Gurgaon and now only work to pass time. Here’s my contribution to the good.Guard in the new complex who has seen me obsess over my garden, folded his hands today and asked me if he could please bring me some pudina to plant in my garden, and wheat and bajra for our personal consumption. Only because ‘Didi, aapse pyaar ho gaya, aap log sab izzat se baat karte hain.’ After getting over the shock of being told he is in love with us, I also folded my hands and thanked him and said I’d take some pudina, how much would he charge? He looked injured and said he’d never have offered it for money, only out of love. And then we both folded hands and nodded at each other for five minutes, grinning like idiots.
Bean- Yes, I’ll have a fried egg for lunch.
Me: Eh? Who asked you if you wanted one?
Bean: You just asked me ten minutes ago.
Me (to self): I must be losing my mind.
Bean: Yes, yes, you are! So stay with your mind lost and let me have an egg.
Bean: 1, Me: 0
But then I have the proper little gentleman to make it up to me.
Me: Brat, did you get any homework today?
Brat: I did, indeed.
Indeed? Err. Okay.
Brat: Mama, today is Thank you- vaar.
Brat: Friday, Ma, Shukra-vaar. Thank you- vaar.
A little boy knocks on the kitchen screen door – Aunty, do you have a son? My big brother and some other boys said a very nice boy lives here, so I’ve come to play with him.
Six years of being a victim of bullying and the tide has turned over the last two years. We’ve moved thrice in three years and within a week of each move he has friends trooping in and out of the house. Who’d have thought this quiet, dreamy, vague little boy would be popular in spite of, or maybe even because of those characteristics?
You know you live in a condo in India when you get this sort of an email.
“You are right,the langoor was on the regular pay roll of RWA earlier,but his services were discontinued because employing a langoor to scare away monkeys became forbidden under the Animal protection Act,the same act for stray dogs.”
Things that must go on social media even if we can never show our faces in public again #751 –
The Brat walks in on the OA crouched above a prone me, massaging my back and shoulders to ‘break the fever’ as suggested by many people. Frowns, looks interested and poses an academic question – ‘Are you mating with mama like a male leopard mates with a female leopard?’
He has no idea why the two of us fell over in a pile and laughed till the tears flowed.
Calling the kids back from play as we go to run errands, the OA explains to them “… blah blah and the didi will be alone and a thief might comr blah blah…”
Brat – …and if a thief DOES get in, you expect US to take care of it?
It’s amazing to hear kids express their love. The Brat got back from a visit with his grandparents while we moved house, crawled into my lap as I dripped sweat and unpacked cartons – I missed you so much, mama. Your sweat also feels good.
And Bean said- I missed you like, like, like I’ve never had a mama EVER!!
Me: What flavour ice cream do you want? Chocolate? blackberry?
Bean: Blackberry? That’s not an ice cream, that’s a phone!
Sigh. She was right of course. ——————-
On context and keeping it simple.
Bean: Mama, I have to lose loads and loads and loads of weight.
Me, dumbstruck, mentally preparing a speech on body image issues and individuality.
Bean: So that I’m as light as this butterfly I found, and I can fly with it.
Brat: Don’t be silly. You’d need hollow bones for that.Me: Oh good, I’m not needed here. I can get back to wasting time online.
Bean, playing with my phone and examining sections, reaches Favorites: Oh, so Dada is your favorite husband?
Umm yes. Only until Farhan accepts what destiny has in store for us.
Burned some rubber on the highway with the Scorpio aka Uddham Singh, while the OA took a nap. Took the kids through mental maths games while at it without screaming SHUT UP OR WE’LL ALL DIE!! Kids encouragingly said, ‘Good job Mama – you’re not jerking us or saying any bad words.’
Oh – well that is progress!
Reason # 36 to have a son.
Me, dressed for party: Brat, am I looking nice?
Brat, earnestly: you always look nice. In fact you only ever look nice. And sometimes you look better than nice.
Bean: Your nail polish doesn’t match.
The Bean has just asked for some ‘watermelanin’ to eat. Let me treasure the last bit of baby talk.
Took the monsters to see Iron Man 3. One went in a mask. Lost interest after 15 minutes. That’s not the bad part. The truly horrible part is that the father put the mask on and walked about the mall as I tried to pick up some essentials, freaking out adults and kids alike. Never mind that he was accompanied by two brats and one salwar kameez clad amma. No, shopkeepers stopped serving me and stared at him, kids hid behind their parents, adults watched open mouthed and teenagers were thrilled. Me? I’m not going out with him anywhere, ever again.
The MM and OA have both, woken up with eye infections. The husband lovingly, tenderly, solicitously and liberally dosed my eyes with ear drops. If he is trying to get rid of me there have got to be more efficient and humane ways. 😦
See you on the other side of this darkness, folks.
What Dr Spock didn’t tell you about getting your kids to eat – Put on some good old bhangra and dance with the other parent, do the balle balle and have them giggling through dinner (Choking alert here) – if the two of you can contrive to fall backwards over the sofa arm as the grand finale, you have a winner. Works like a charm. Everytime.
You know your kids are dying of boredom and pushing every rule about not disturbing you while you work when they come up on either side and say, ‘Let’s whisper through her ears and see if we can hear on the other side.’
Then one blows a word into your ear and the other presses up their ear against yours, waiting for the word to come through.
Technically, THEY ARE NOT TALKING TO YOU OR FIGHTING WITH EACH OTHER, so you can’t say anything to them.
The Brat looks up from the stack of animal books he got on his birthday to ask me: What is the most dangerous predator in the sea?
I sit up, I’m on high alert. I know this. He’s already told me what each shark weighs, the length of each whale and how starfish and jellyfish and what not protect themselves. I MUST remember what the most dangerous predator is…
He doesn’t wait for a response. Disappointment drips from his voice, ‘It’s the human.’
I’m sorry, son. I’m sorry I was responsible for bringing you in to a world that constantly disappoints you.
Me: Bean, eat your lunch.
Bean: I don’t feel like it. I might eat one bite.
Me: I might give you one slap.
Bean: hmm.. okay, I might choose the slap. It depends on whether it’s a tight slap or a loose slap.
For the record, she saw murder in my eyes and ate many bites, without the slap.
Never a dull moment around here. A bee flew into the Brat’s ear and he came in shrieking and screaming. I got scared and screamed even louder – WHAT IS WRONG?!!
Finally figured that something had flown into his ear, began making him stamp and shake his ear, him howling, me terrified, the Bean getting underfoot, patting him and saying, think nice thoughts.
The cook suggested he hold his nose and blow. Lo and behold, it worked, the bee flew out. SO, parents, please keep this trick in mind, should this, God forbid, happen to your child.
“You are not my choice of mama. Cheerio” says she.
I was too impressed by her choice of words to be worried about her choice of mama.
Dear OA, Your son is turning into YOU.
He walked out of home without his school bag. I turned into a banshee and started screeching at him to come back and take it.
He turned around, walked back slowly, his little face the picture of calm, walked up to me, pulled me down, kissed me on the forehead gently and walked away. Again, without his bag. MEN!
Bean: Mama, is my punishment over?
Me: I didn’t punish you.
Bean: Okay then, is the consequence of my action over?
I give up.
You know they’ve grown up when the 7.5 year old takes the 6 year old to the bathroom when she starts coughing, holds her over the pot, rubs her back and encouragingly checks the puke out and says, ‘That’s a good one, keep going.’
And when you enter the bathroom in concern and say, We’re fine, we’ll manage, you go back to work.
The joys of being on an RWA mailing list.
You think I can make this stuff up?
Yes what I say that “I am at your disposal” I mean it and elloberate that i am at the disposal for help to the residents to the best of my capabilities and worst within limitations imposed by circumstances and heirarcial proceedures.The meaning which you have derived from my statement is purely your wishful imagination.I do not want to further elloberate on this.
Dear early morning ill-mannered lout,
The correct response when a child wishes you ‘Good morning Uncle,’ is a smile and a Good morning. Not a roll of eyes and ‘Yeh kya sab karvate ho bachchon se?’ He’s learning manners, not a performing monkey. And in return I’ll refrain from pointing out that you’d do well to teach your child the rudimentary and perfunctory Hi, if nothing more.
a very ruffled mother hen
I bumped into a familiar looking lady in Fabindia last year, beginning of the school year. I thought she might be mother to one of the new kids. She also looked at me and we both went – “Seen you someplace.”Finally she blinks and says, ‘I know! You’ve seen me in school. I’m the Bean’s mum.’And I’m like, ‘Err, noooo, I am the Bean’s mum.’So she blinks again and says, ‘Oh. Then I’m her teacher.’
As you can imagine, it’s been an entertaining year with her.
In other news, the Universe continues to torture me by making sure I receive one of these emails everyday. This one to our community egroup.
” a cricket coach who is tipped to be our cricket coach for coaching of cricketing children ”
You don’t say.
Met a woman today who introduced herself saying, ‘I’m married and I live in Gurgaon and I run an xyz store with my husband P.’
She didn’t even think of telling me her name.
Has spent the evening cooking (the most awesome juicy burgers with bacon, cheese and onion jam blah blah) and then giving her husband a massage (don’t let your imagination run away with you – he’s had a terrible stitch in the side for the last 24 hours and its not going away)…. and then feeding kids and putting them to bed.
Can someone please call up MM of end Feb 1996 and tell her not to freak out over the upcoming board exams? She’s not going to need any of that stuff or the degrees, specially since any old crap will get published these days.
Mother and son walking in the sun. Son holding mother’s hand.
Mother looks at son fondly and says, ‘Even though you’re such a big boy you like holding mama’s hand?’
Then his innate honesty that cannot be repressed, bursts forth – ‘And also if I let go, you’ll start poking in my ear.’
Err.. okay. Sorry I asked.
Reason # 827 to have a baby:
So that your son can go and heat his face on the heater at the far end of the room and then come back and hold his soft, heat-reddened cheek against yours so that ‘your root canal doesn’t hurt while you’re working’.
Apparently at the grand old age of 7 you need excuses to lay your cheek against your mother’s. Not that we’re complaining.
Bean deliberately lying with her foot in a sick Brat’s face. He pulls off her socks in annoyance. She whines. I tell her to move. She responds, Salman Khan style (ugh!) – Once I lie down and make myself comfortable, I don’t like to move.
I respond telling her that my foot will make itself comfortable on her backside if I get anymore cheek from her. She shifts grudgingly and tells him in a stage whisper: I don’t know why you’re getting special treatment. You’re only sick, not dead.
Brat responds sensibly: If I were dead, I wouldn’t be pulling your socks and you wouldn’t be so whiny. You’d be missing me.
Dear God, how much longer before they leave for college?
A frustrated, irate Brat trying to make himself feel better, and convince others that this too shall pass, “She’s just an optical illusion. The Bean isn’t real.”
If you have imagination it won’t matter that you’re growing up in the middle of a concrete jungle. The Brat looks dreamy-eyed at steel and chrome towers in Gurgaon and says, The Convergys building is The Black Pearl and the DLF one is The Flying Dutchman.
The day kicks off with drama. The Brat has a pink eye and the OA is chasing him with eyedrops. He is captured and screams, “you’re putting poison in my eyes!” And the Bean decides to give the background score singing “You’re poison…poison running through my veins”, loud enough to drown out the screams.
Apparently you’re never too young to be an Alice Cooper fan.
Bean: Brat, your tongue is green! Either you ate something weird, or (looks closer and frowns) you’re turning into a mutant.
Proud of my man who was recently interviewed and said – I am a Gurgaon based husband to a freelance journalist (who is also a pretty famous mommy blogger), father of two delightful children and a worker ant in the financial services sector.
Don’t think I know many others who introduce themselves as Husband to….
The changes are a coming. Slow and steady.
Beanism of the day – I drank so much water in school, so much, so much… that I was drunk.
Sigh. Soon there will come a day when she *will* be drunk and I will not be putting it up on FB so happily.
‘Be the bigger person.’ ‘Take the high road’, I’m begging. Such a waste of honourable words when the disagreement has degenerated to the level of ‘Smell my stinky socks’, ‘I’m going to fart in your face’.
Parenting is not for those with refined sensibilities.
Cousin K after an exhausting couple of hours with the kids, “Yaar, your kids are like kattas (country pistols). Never know whether they’ll hit the target or explode in your hand.”
Sigh. It’s so good to be sick in bed and have someone else man the show.
Lady at decoration store: Woh jo Krishnaji ka rath hota hai na? Arjun ke liye chalate hain? Woh ha? Arre haan, yeh wala.
Picks a snow covered sled out of the midst of X’mas decorations at the store, pays and walks off.
Oh well, what matters is that the customer was satisfied!
The Bean patting the blanket covered lump next to me in bed gingerly: Daddy, is that you?
Me? I’m hoping if it’s not Daddy it turns out to be Farhan Akhtar.
Me: Bean, why don’t you just finish your lunch and make my life a little easier?
Bean shakes her head and says ruefully: But life is never easy, Mama.
Me: Brat, WHY must you start a new book at bed time.
He gives it some thought and seriously replies: I think I just like to be contrary.
An irate Brat looking at his lunch plate piled with winter veggies: When I grow up I’m going to create a veg-free zone. Only meat will be allowed, and we’ll have a vegetable embargo.
Sigh. It’s a good thing we’re in positions of power for a few years more.
OA watching TV and cracking up. Bean asks him why he’s laughing. He can’t explain and says – Long story. After two minutes he cracks up again and she asks him what is so funny. He responds again, ‘Long story’.
Bean: You say that only to shut me up.
How do you know you’ve lived in Delhi a long, long time? When your daughter gets thoroughly confused and says, Do I have to wear my Pajeros to bed?
Cousin K is playing fetch with my daughter. He throws a pen, she barks, holds up her paws, pants, wags her ‘tail’, and goes on all fours to pick it up in her mouth. I just want to record this so that someday I can treat his kids like puppies. Vengeance will be mine.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan might have been a better experience if the OA hadn’t spent the entire four hours sighing and groaning theatrically and punctuating all that with sudden shouts of ‘ab marega saala’.
Because JTHJ wasn’t bad enough, I’m torturing myself further with Rowdy Rathore. To top off the experience I’m going to walk on broken glass and chew on bolts and poke my eyes out.
So it finally happened.
She shows up with a Barbie wearing an outfit that leaves nothing to the imagination and says – Mama, can you make me a dress like this?
Before I can respond the brother scornfully says, “You want to get dengue? You need to be covered a little more than that if you want to be safe from mosquitoes. That’s a very silly dress.”
The Bean lying in bed and waving legs in air and screaming out a song tunelessly about hard days and snot and puppies. Finishes the raucous performance and asks, “Was that annoying?”
No, she says? Then I’ll try again.
You know the tables have turned when you stare at two mugs hard, and then pick one for your daughter and pour her water and she responds with – ‘Good job. You really read my mind there.’
Reason # 169 why kids should not watch superhero stuff indiscriminately.
Brat.. and blah blah, Green Lantern blah blah, goes to sleep with his girlfriend.
Bean: How can you sleep next to a girlfriend? She doesn’t live in your house.
Brat: Uffo! they must be having a playdate and a sleepover, na! That must be why.
Reason # 361 why I’m glad to have a daughter – I come out after a bath and she grabs my towel, sits on the floor and gently dries my feet. I could get used to this
“Suraj ki galti nahi, chanda ki galti nahi, acche time ki galti nahi, burey time ki galti nahi…” the Bean is singing.
Did you make that poem up, I ask her?
“No, I’m singing a Michael Jackson song in Hindi..” she says.
Which of you have figured out what she is singing?
Proof that my son is well-trained- he tells his father,”husbands must do what their wives tell them to.”
I think I can ask for dowry for this one. 😀
Bellies are not shoes. A belly is the lower portion of your trunk, your abdomen. Now if you mean ballet pumps or court shoes, we can talk. Please, I beg of you, remove that advertisement banner from HHC.
A well wisher
So your husband has made it a habit of inviting people over for dinner and informing you at 7.45pm. You scramble around organising a dinner, and then as you’re laying out the hors d’oeuvres your pestilential daughter shows up and grabs a seaweed cracker ruining the pattern you’ve laid them out in. You turn around, ready to bite and she grins cheekily at you and squeaks, “Polly wants a cracker.”
Yes, of course I let her off easy.
The Brat is writing a poem in Hindi as part of his school homework.
One line goes, Ma ek, kitabein anek.
If all he associates with books is his mother, I can die happy.
The OA doesn’t know any Megadeth songs and Cousin K has only heard INXS with the Fortune guy. And I have to live with people of this sort.
You know you should change the way you speak to your kids when you hear an almighty crash in the nursery and your daughter yells out, ‘It’s okay, nobody died.’
Brat explains to Bean: Boys must only kiss girls if they want to be kissed. You can’t force someone to kiss you back.
Chalo OA, at least we’ve taught them something.
Insanely cute new physiotherapist tells me he’ll have me running the marathon next year if I keep working on my knee regularly. Adding, ‘Wahi toh jeena hota hai. Nahi to sirf EMI bhar rahe ho.” Word.
A much-Onam-influenced Brat stuffs his face with a layered paratha and asks, “Can I have another Mahaballi paratha?”
Bean: Amen means Goodbye. You know, you finish a prayer and then say Bye to God.
Bean: And blah blah
Me: No, it’s not like that, it’s actually yaada yaada.
Bean: Oh, oops, that was silly of me.
Me: That’s okay… it’s not silly at all.
Bean: Yeah, but I came pretty close to being silly!
Bean to me after I’d stuck back the nth broken something: Mama, you’re the bestest fixer in the world.
Best compliment a mother can receive if she’s not a sportsperson.
The OA looks happiest when he is holding hands with both the kids, walking towards a restaurant.
The Brat catching sight of a music channel while I surf, “what is the name of that person?”
Me: Which one?
Brat: That one under the actresses’ bum?”
Should I be seeking help for my daughter if I find her sitting in a corner, yelling into a conch shell “Helloooo? Is there anybody home?”
Me to cousin K – Oye, go get some biscuits to have with our tea.
Brat: Don’t order him around. You’re treating him like the Britishers treated the Indians.
Father and son disagree. It’s amusing to see two identical faces, separated by 30 years, bound by blood and the same stubborn nature, lock horns. Someone get me some popcorn.
Brat: Mama, why don’t you iron your hair and take the fur off your arms and legs before a party like the ladies on TV?
Ah the joys of being a male brought up by a wash and wear mother.
Me: Because I’m doing some girl a favor by not nurturing those unrealistic standards and pointless expectations, darling.
Me: Stop muttering you two, I can’t understand a word. Can you speak any louder?
Bean: No. Gentlemen and ladies don’t talk loudly. It’s bad manners.
Me: *gulp* Whatever, go play outside. Such lovely weather.
Bean: If it is so pleasant, why aren’t you coming out with us?
Damn. Hoist by my own petard. See you later, FB. I’m out to get some sun.
Kids’ bathroom reeking of Savlon. They decided to pour it in their bathwater. When I walk in and say “But why?” they give me back my own words mock penitently –
Bean: This is ENTIRELY our own fault. We take the blame.
Brat: Everyone make mistakes, we’re only human.
Dear God, so glad I’m leaving them with the grandparents tonight. Yayyy!!!
Me to a filthy Bean: You’re going to drive me to an early grave.
Bean, helpfully: Okay, but you’re going to have to wait. Dada said I can only drive after I turn 18.
TMM is having a midnight feast of ghee-rice, chicken momos and hot chocolate with two mischievous little gigglers, while He Who Must Not Be Disturbed snores on. This is the life.
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.
I’m standing at an open window, the wind in my hair, the rain on my face, looking down at the open expanse on one side and construction going on in the distance. The homes being built will be sold for multiples of crores and the shanties near by belong to the construction workers building them. That single moment is such a leveller. Regardless of our dwellings, humble or exalted, we all turn our faces up to the heavens in gratitude, as our prayer for rain is answered
In no particular order…
- To me, the suburbs have come to be defined by lack of option (and I’ve been here all of three days so I really shouldn’t be commenting just yet!). Lack of option about moving there, lack of housing options – yes I know you can get from 1 bhk penthouses to sprawling mansions – but there are 14 others just like yours. Nothing unique about it (Another brick in the wall now plays in the back of my head like the soundtrack to my life) except maybe the different colour curtains peeking through your windows. It means taking Amul Milk instead of Mother Dairy because that is what your local guy supplies. It means buying Vim instead of Odopic because that would mean trekking to the next market.
- It means bowing to monopoly. The cook servicing my building isn’t the best and is quite a nasty creature, but I can’t get another from the neighbouring building, whose cooking I might prefer, who knows how to make idlis, because they wont cut in on each other’s turf. The third time it happened I was tempted to push her over my 13th floor balcony and watch her go floating down screaming. To say nothing of pricing. The last one told me she won’t wash up the cooker and wok she’d used because it wasn’t the building policy. I told her that building policy could kiss my ass. This is my house, I am paying, so things are done my way – so she could like it or lump it. She agreed. I think a little firmness is required. They are used to yuppies who don’t have time or the courage to argue with them.
- There is a uniform. Within 12 hours of hiring the cook she mistook me for a maid. I was down at the swimming pool with the kids and she entered the lift with me. I smiled at her, and continued to instruct my maid in Bengali on lift usage for days when I am not around. The cook began to get rather chatty with me and I replied politely. It was only after I walked into the house and began to talk to my mother in English that she asked me – are you the person I met yesterday, the one that hired me? Hmm… my simple work wear cotton salwar kameez obviously didn’t pass muster. Or else I shouldn’t have been at the pool, minding my own kids. When I met her the day before I had been in my home uniform of little faded cotton Sarojini Nagar sundress – which was probably more madam-like than my expensive pure cotton patiala set! From now on, it has to be shorts or capris if I plan to be recognised as mother and not maid!
- Men in elbow length ladies gloves. Yes, I get that the harsh sun burns your skin but it still looks bloody weird! I can still handle it on the bikers. But on the man sitting inside an AC car, I can only imagine that its vanity!
- The foliage. Somehow, nobody seems to be planting anything other than frangipani and palms. I know they are fast growing and hardy, but almost all buildings have only those and nothing else. No mango, leechi, guava, jackfruit, neem, nothing! It is truly fast food culture. Plant something that will grow fast and cover up the dry red countryside.
- Distance. I am going nuts having to plan my day. I am not a planner by nature and its not like me to work my day out well in advance. I know I will have to do it now, but it goes against my haphazard, easy going temperament. I am actually down to making lists these days and then staring at them in horror and wanting to burn them.
- The last one is something I can’t define. There is something very self indulgent about the way I live now. Within a gated community, with 100% power backup and water too (trust me, I don’t miss the lack of them!). But it seems as though my life has shrunk to fit into 10 acres or so and will stay that way. Walk within the compound, befriend those in the building, swim right there, play a game of basketball within the boundary walls, call the local store to deliver your goods, take a lift to go down (well, with my knees I shouldn’t be complaining!) and more. It’s almost as though I’ve got the world to stop and just focus on making things convenient for me. It’s taken the struggle out of my daily life and being the contrary person I am, I am complaining! It just somehow reminds me of those fake snow and ocean amusement parks where for a while you leave the real world out. No doubt my two hour commute each way, is enough to make up for any other lack of struggle but I feel stupid looking around the complex and getting excited over the presence of a doctor. It reminds me of living in a real organic city and having doctors, grocery stores and dry cleaners all living cheek by jowl with you. Not this orderly way of rows and rows of residences and a neat little pocket of 5 shops.
- I now get nostalgic each time I hear someone mention the word Delhi. Because really, I don’t live there anymore. Yesterday I went to drop the keys off with the old landlord and I noticed the repairs have already begun. And the first thing to go were my Warli figures; wiped out, along with all other traces of us having spent five years there. A man was filling sacks with the mud and plants from my tub and dumping them on the road. Blank walls stared back at me. This wasn’t really home. Home was the place where my babies were squealing in a swimming pool, threatening to jump off the 13th floor and running up and down the stairs of the duplex. I shut the door on the corridor and slowly came down the stairs one last time. Funnily, my knees don’t ache anymore.
- Oh – and I had to add a new tag to my list. Gurgaon.
I am always rather torn on the issue of whether you should click pictures of people without their permission or not. As a journalist, it is something I do professionally – take snapshots and observations out of everyday life. As a person, I feel rather offended when I am treated like an object and clicked without my permission. But I’ve sort of realised that my job requires me to observe and record so I overcome my qualms and get on with it. As far as possible though, I always ask permission.
A few days ago I was walking through a subway on a terrible Delhi summer noon and I saw this sight. A mother and daughter sleeping on the cool floor, sheltered from the heat. Unconsciously matching, in their yellow and black outfits. Sleeping with such abandon. In our sleep we’re all the same – this is exactly how I sleep on my side, with the Bean on her belly next to me.
There were monkeys dashing in and out while these slept on peacefully…