I’m back… for now

Yes, I’ve been AWOL too long. For one, I gave the kids my study table and have begun to use the escritoire I got in the truckload of stuff from my parents last year. I can’t use a desktop on it and so have begun to use a laptop. I find that damn uncomfortable and it gives me a back ache so I finish office work and log off. I also re-uphosltered the office chair with a bit of Fabindia fabric I had lying at home. It isn’t very cheerful, but its calming and I am happy with the way it turned out.

There is a certain joy in knowing that three generations before you sat at this very desk - minus the laptop of course.

I’ve been away for a wedding where the Bean was a flower girl and the Brat a page boy. A cousin got married and I love her and was thrilled to be there. It went off beautifully and the groom is a great guy. The kids looked lovely and I sadly took no pictures because I was too busy with various duties around the wedding and didn’t really carry a camera. I also managed to drop my dad’s camera a number of times and not even notice that I’d lost it.

This is one of the first few family weddings where I mostly wore cottons and wooden jewellery. It turned out pretty well and the colours I chose – hot pink and tangerine were a nice spot of brightness and different from the usual silks. We needed a spot of brightness because the Bean got a bad attack of asthma a couple of days before we left. So we cancelled the train tickets, much to the kids’ disappointment and booked flight tickets. I was still a little unhappy because she was on the nebuliser 5 times a day and I couldn’t see how we’d manage that in the chaos of a wedding. But we did. The Brat has an eye allergy and needs drops a couple of times in the day. But come hell or high waters, I was attending the wedding even if I had to hire an ambulance. Most of the times I had a wheezing Bean in my arms because the humidity hit her and the weather there always gives the kids a bad cough. So she’d run around like mad and then come back for a dose of TLC.

I really had hoped the kids would sit still because they’ve not been inside a church in at least 2-3 years and have no idea how you’re meant to maintain silence there. But they behaved perfectly well (except for the once that the Brat pretended he was poking his eyes out and the couple of times he stood up and called out to me that he needed a Styracosaurus and a Diplodocus for his collection) and did me a lot of credit. At one point the Brat lay down in the lap of the father of the bride and went to sleep. The Bean came to me quietly when her sash opened up. I thought she wanted to stay with me but she got it re-tied and dutifully went back to sit with the rest of the wedding party. The day we left so many folks came up to me and said a special bye bye to her. She’d walked around and befriended them and told them stories *shudder* and built her own relationships with absolute strangers.  The quiet little Brat too had made some friends. And the funny part is that I didn’t know most of them.

It was great fun catching up with the cousins and I am rather sorry that the paternal grandparents kept me and my parents at bay for all the years before this. I could have spent so much more time with the family that side. I cannot get over the sense of loss of time and I sorrowfully watch my kids take the same cycle. Someday they will be free of us and their grandparents and will be able to meet their cousins outside of the family and have an independent relationship with them, free of prejudice and politics. I just hope it is a little sooner than 30 years from now.

We landed in Madras and the Brat looked out of the car window and began counting coconut trees. “I want to live in a place with coconut trees, mama,” said he and I grinned. A kid born and brought up in the northern plains feels the tug of coconut trees. Must be his roots calling!

It was a busy visit from the word go. Moving from venue to venue, organising, decorating the church, checking out the grounds, organising the games, everyone had something to do and in between all this I had to find a quiet spot, plug the Bean up and give her a shot of life.

The OA who arrived a day later came covered in huge red blotches and suffered in silence until we got him an injection the next morning. By evening he was covered in the rash again. It’s funny and sad because he’s one of those who takes pride in the fact that he is rudely healthy and as a result has no compassion, time or patience for those who do. I remember him looking at the Bean in utter shock when she was diagnosed with eczema – What? his daughter suffering from a namby pamby allergy type of thing? What was an allergy either way and why did people make such a fuss about it? So I was torn between worry and going nyah nyah nyah. We found a really cool doctor though, who gave him the shot, allergy medication and then said – Here for a wedding? Medicine and alcohol don’t mix well, so I’d say skip the medicine and go for the alcohol!

We also met an unbelievable number of cranky people this time. Old men at medical stores who took 35 minutes to bill us and yelled at the OA for not having exact change of Rs 371 ready. All while the OA stumbled through in broken Tamil and tried to smile.

I saw a lot of good too. We stayed at the YWCA and one morning while feeding the ducks a blind lady asked me to help her cross the road. I walked her across the beautiful complex and at the gate was caught by the famed, rude Madras autowalas. Except that this time they were not ripping me off. They wanted to help her as they regularly did. But I said I’d take her across since I’d got her this far and to my amusement, they didn’t trust me with her and followed me until I took her across the busy road, deposited her at a bus stop and settled her against the railing there. When I returned, a grizzly old auto driver stuck out his hand – “Good job madam. Which country?”  I took off my sunglasses and hat and glared at him and replied in Tamil -“Very much this country only.” I think they heard my accent and concluded that I was bullshitting them.  But this wasn’t the first. I got asked atleast 10 times in 4 days, where I was from. I’ve often got that in Delhi too, but never at this rate and intensity – usually just once every quarter.

The Brat and Bean on the other hand have watched endless cartoons dubbed in Tamil and the Bean has told G’pa that she wants to learn to speak Tamil from him. He nodded absently and speaking it pretty poorly himself, proceeded to forgot all about it. He was too busy feeling thrilled about the fact that he is looking rather young and fit these days. If he’d not balded so early he’d have been one of the best looking G’pas around. With ma gone to the brother’s place, I was running around taking care of him. Twice he got asked if I was his wife. Each time I was horrified. Do I look that old in a saree?! To which each person hastened to reply that its very common in those parts for older men to have younger wives and what with the custom of uncles marrying nieces, the resemblance is also there. I refused to accept that quick excuse and was damn put out. One lady tried to make up for it by quickly saying that I don’t look old enough to be a mother. Eh? Excuse me? I look old enough to be my father’s wife but not old enough to be mother to a  6 and 4 year old? Let it go, Lady, you’re only shoving your foot further into your mouth. Another said they knew my mother and I am the spitting image of her. Yes, I am, but I’m about 20 years younger, you know! yeah yeah, laugh it up you lot.

This trip I saw the change the years have wrought in my father. He calls it a night early and takes the kids home, letting the OA and I hit the pubs at night with the other cousins instead of being the life of the party, singing, playing the guitar and burning up the dance floor. It hit me when I walked into his room and saw three beds, his grandchildren, his blind mother on one and even the fulltime nurse who stays with her. I really missed my mother in that moment. He shouldn’t have had to do that alone and I said I would take the kids back to my room. But the kids clung to him and he shooed us out and that is how he spent  his 4 days. Putting the Bean on her nebuliser when I was helping with the arrangements, taking his blind mother by the hand to her meals and feeding her, taking the kids to watch the ducks and for walks in the compound, and trying to give me and the OA a break. He is going to be 60 this year and he is the sandwich generation, taking care of his 84 year old mother and 4 year old grand daughter in the same breath, without batting an eyelid. It’s a life lesson right there and there will be more related to this coming up in some days. It opened my eyes, made me rethink some things and really appreciate him for the person he is. And maybe aspire to be more like him and give more to family.

Wine. I wanted to organise some wine for a party and I was told you can only get it from a bootlegger or a five star. Excuse me? What is the deal?! The bleddy thekas have men falling out of them at any time of the day and there is no wine to be had for love or money? Can anyone tell me what the logic behind this is?

And the trip had Beanisms galore. I was screaming at her each time she went to the fish pond – Don’t do that, don’t bend so low, you’ll fall in and drown.

To which she finally replied – And I’ll die and then you’ll have to pray to God for a new baby and say “God, give me another chance. I promise to take better care of this one.”

Yes, total wtf moment.



Bye bye Bata

The other day I went to Bata shoes to pick up summer sandals for the Bean. You know, good old Bata. We all grew up wearing their Bubblegummers and blue and white rubber chappals. All I got was a bunch of pink (why? why? why?) sandals that were delicate and girly with crocheted strawberries hanging off them. Very nice for a girly tea party but they did nothing for my little hurricane of a daughter who romps around in the dust with the best of them.

And oh that isn’t the end, the other lot of available sandals had heels. This is no biggie. I’ve seen sandals for 3-4 year olds with heels before. But not in Bata. I was horrified. Where is the average parent supposed to go for affordable open sandals in summer? Are we stuck with crocs for life? Smelly, plastic crocs that need to be washed every second day? Gah.

Thankfully I am not alone in this thinking. Here’s another piece by this gentleman on the CNN site. I’m so done with only finding trashy wear for little girls. Why exactly are we tarting them up in high heels and sparkly outfits?

My solution is to dress the Bean in tee shirts and shorts. And the poor girl does often want to wear dresses but I rarely find anything that I find suitable for her. And no, don’t direct me to Mothercare. It’s not economical and I don’t want my daughter dressed in shades of pink, looking just like the girl next door who also shops there. So we’re down to getting little smocked summer dresses and rummaging around Sarojini Nagar for the nicer clothes.