Turf wars

She’d be a comical sight if she weren’t breathing fire. Puffed up with rage, marching onto the playground, dressed in a too-small tee over a bulky salwar.

She had three little boys trailing behind her and she marched up to to a boy in his early teens who squared his shoulders, took a deep breath and steeled himself for her assault. As she began to scream my mind wandered back to when I’d first met this little boy, S.

The brat had begun to come home from the park much dirtier, sweatier, happier. ‘I and S wrestled today,’ he’d grin.

‘S and I,’ I’d absently correct him.

S and I played chor police today.

S and I took our cycles over the hill and came racing down.

Why don’t you bring S home, I offered.

The Brat shrugged, wiping his filthy, sweaty little face on his sleeve,’I asked him to, but he prefers playing in the park.’

Mentally thanking my lucky stars that the Brat had made friends with a little boy who preferred the outdoors to TVs and iPads, I got back to work.

A couple of days later I got done with work early and walked out to the park to get some fresh air and hang out with the kids. The Brat was playing with a boy I didn’t recognise. Must be the famous S, I said to myself. Deciding to introduce myself I walked up to him, said Hi, asked him where he went to school, for lack of any other conversation.

He politely responded, giving me the name of the local underprivileged school.

Ah. So that was it. This is why he refused to come home. His parents were househelp in our complex and he had probably been told not to stick to the park and not venture into homes. He was dressed very simply, neatly and cleanly. Far cleaner than my son who was sweating buckets and looked like he’d been mud wrestling with pigs.

I told him to drop in sometime and he politely said that he liked to spend his evenings playing in the park. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable by going overboard with my invites. Now this is where desi class politics enter the picture. Although the area is full of househelp, some fulltime, some part time, none of them are allowed to bring their kids to work, neither are their kids supposed to be playing in the park.

“We paid X crores to buy a house in this area and I will not have my children get less time on the swing because of the househelp,” the mails rush in to the e-group whenever a rare maid’s kid is seen on the swings. I’ve tried to intervene but taking on the wrath of the self righteous, upwardly mobile middle class alone isn’t easy. They have washing machines – but they teach the maid to use it. They have strollers, and they get the help to push it. I give up.

Where do they want the help to leave their kids when they’re working? How is one to make these kids invisible? Most often the help leave their kids with family or neighbours, but some of them have no option but to bring them along and then leave them outside the house they’re working in.

Sometime last year I heard a baby crying piteously while I worked in my living room. No one else (my parents were visiting) in the house could hear it and the OA joined them in laughing at me and calling me baby crazy. I rushed out like a mad woman, looking for the child. I found him finally, under a champa tree. He was barely 7 months old and crying hysterically, snotty, filthy, naked but for a torn vest. I began to check his limbs for an injury or a bite. I found nothing. Helpless tears began to well up in my eyes – why was he crying in such distress? This was not hunger. And then I opened his mouth and found it – he had swallowed a champa flower and it was stuck half way down his throat. I have no idea how I forced my adult fingers down his throat and pulled it out, but I did. He stopped crying and proved my theory that a child never cries for no reason.

I picked him up and looked around, there was no adult in sight. And then a maid came rushing out of one of the homes, looking at me suspiciously. It was her baby. I explained to her how I’d found a flower stuck in his throat and was about to tell her to keep a closer watch on him when I realised there was nothing I could say to her. She wasn’t irresponsible, she was as helpless as the baby. The employers probably didn’t allow her to bring him in. I don’t know what prompted me to, since I’m just done with my own baby-rearing business, but I asked her if she wanted to leave him with me everyday while she worked. She looked shocked and refused point blank. She’d rather leave him out under that tree than trust me with him. I left him to her care and went back to work. I still wake up at night hearing that child shriek, feeling very helpless and disturbed.

Anyhow, this is the state of domestic help in India. And so, for S to be playing with my son, was nothing short of a miracle. He was allowed to do so as long as he followed the unwritten, unspoken rules. He must not use the swings meant for the residents’ children and he must always play second fiddle. The Brat, being the vague, dreamy kid that he is, hadn’t realised that S was the son of a domestic worker and so was playing with him as an equal. That is why they were such great friends. I left them playing and stole away.

Snapping back to the present I realised this lady was by now frothing at the mouth. Her child and two others were playing with S and one of them had got hurt and bled a little from the mouth. She was accusing S of hitting him. I didn’t know if this was true.

At this point my father who happened to be visiting and had been playing football with the boys, walked up and asked her what the problem was. One minute she was yelling at the maid’s son, next minute a clearly well heeled older gentleman, a resident, was intervening. She was a little taken aback. He hurt my son, she muttered.

My father then told her that he’d been present when the incident took place and the three residents’ kids had been wrestling with S. Naturally with three against one, he’d had to fight back harder to defend himself, resulting in an accident.

Yes, but my son is bleeding, she repeated.

My dad then mentioned that he’d taken the Brat’s bottle of water and washed the little boy’s mouth out and checked to see if he was badly hurt. Then pointed out that they’re little boys – if they want to play rough and wrestle, they must learn to get hurt. That it was unfair of three of them to get on top of S and beat him up. In a minute, it went from innocent game to upper class bullying lower class. He also pointed out that they’d been playing some ball game and each time the ball went too far, they ordered S to get it, basically treating him like a servant, their own personal servant. He wasn’t being paid to entertain them in the park like a lot of other underage minders, my dad pointed out. He was just a little boy playing in the park too, and if they chose to play with him, it must be as equals.

She blanched, realised my dad had a point and decided to ignore him and resumed yelling at S. I’d been on the sidelines until then and now that I’d heard the story I called out to S. Come here, beta, I said. Play with the Brat who wants to play with you. Don’t play with kids who don’t play fair.

He stood there uncertainly. Should he take a side? Would I be there to protect him everyday? What if she came back?

My dad walked up, put his arms around him and gave him a big hug and said, “Arre yaar, you’re a great guy. Come play with us.”

The lady looked deflated. The Brat who had as usual been lost to the world looked up and said ‘Dost, aa jao!’ and kicked the football to S.

S wiped his eyes, grinned at my father and shot off.

S is good for my gentle little son. He is toughening him up and playing all the physical games most of us played out on the streets when we were kids. All of this with no malice and plenty of sportsman spirit.

I’ve had my son play with a lot of aggressive, vicious upper class kids. I’ve seen them sit on him and even the Bean, hold their hands down and punch them in the face. And when you bring it up with the parents, the response is a standard – oh well, it’s just a little rough play. Boys will be boys. The world out there is rough. You’ll turn your boy into a sissy.

Yes, the world out there is rough but an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. I won’t even get into the argument that we seem to think a sissy is an insult – because you know, being a woman/girl is for losers. I’ll simply move my son away from anyone who seeks to teach him that being male means being aggressive because I doubt they’re capable of wrapping their head around a new concept.

On the other hand, I have all the time on earth for a bunch of little kids rough housing when there’s no malice involved. When the intention is to have a good time, not to bully or hurt the other. When they play as equals, not master and servant. Not aggressor and victim.

My dad and I stood there watching them play. In a while they were too engrossed in their game to remember that we were still there. Yes, boys will be boys. But ‘boy’ doesn’t have to mean aggressive.

‘Tis the season for open letters

Dear Shahana,

I’m part ‘Madrasan’ just like you (Tamil for those who want to know)! And I began to read your post with something akin to amusement because I live in Delhi and am very aware of the foibles of the Dilliwalas. I love it nonetheless for embracing me and giving me a home. About 5 lines down your post, I felt a little ashamed of having ever thought that I was ‘just like you’. It seems nigh impossible to fall that low. For every Daalli boy living in Defence Callony there is a Medraus boy getting up ‘yearly in the maarning’. Why do we as a people deride our own regional accents while swooning over a French accent? Are you ashamed of your skin, accent or your food habits? Then why jeer at theirs? You’re weighed down by your colonial hangover, lady.

Autistic three year old on coke? Witty. And also so compassionate of you to think that a child with a disability is an insult. If you’re playing for the South Indian team, I think you just scored a self goal. For every showy Punjabi I’ve encountered a stingy, parochial Madrasi who won’t invite me into the house for a glass of water. For every caste based temple not allowing people in, there is a gurudwara that will feed you at the langar without bothering to ask after your background or ban your gender. But hey, I really hope the ‘punjabis’ don’t define the whole lot of us by the odd cranky old miser that crosses their path. (And what the hell is wrong with a Happy Gurupurab text message? Admittedly I hate mass SMS saying Happy anything, but why pick on their festival messages when these do the rounds for every occasion including Happy your-mother’s-best-friend’s-toe-surgery-day?!)

You say you come from the land of the ugly? Speak for yourself, sister – I’m cute! And I’ve never understood why people take issue with muscular Punjabi men either –  it’s not as though we lovely doe-eyed ladies prefer pot bellies and skinny legs peeping out from under mundus? I for one would never diss my man if he worked out, simply because it’s a ‘punjabi’ thing to do. It is merely the healthy thing to do, so you’re welcome to the shapeless slugs. Or did you mean that South Indian men are by definition, unfit and shapeless? I take offence on behalf of the rather fit men in my family. Honestly, I prefer my men well groomed, not smelling of coconut oil, and definitely no dusty feet in leather slippers. In fact, speaking of working out, did you mention you’re not scrawny? My sympathies – I could offer you the number of a dietician, because genetically we’re blessed to be built much smaller and more petite than the Punjabans and Haryanvis (God bless their souls and the ghee loaded parathas) who have to make an effort to stay fit. So if you have a weight problem maybe you need to get off your soapbox and on to a treadmill.  The first thing we women need to do is stop hating other women because we think they’re hotter/ making an effort we’re not willing to. I know I’d rather chomp on my murukku and slurp my coffee than get up and hit the gym – you make your own choices.

As for our guys not being good looking, I object to the apologetic sound of that sentence. I think my dad is dashing (okay, maybe I am a prejudiced daughter!) and my husband is bloody good looking (this one I have on good authority from many women) and both are true blue ‘South Indians’. If we think our men are not goodlooking and that Punjabi men are the gold standard for looks, we have a problem. Actually only you have a problem. I’m okay with leering after men from all around the country, starting with Baichung Bhutia and heading down to John Abraham (he IS part Mallu, you know) and taking a full circle back to Ashutosh Gowariker. Yeah, I’m open minded and fair like that.

What was that again about SUVs and big cars? If I had a buck for every South Indian man who can’t stop talking about his cars and gizmos, I’d be on a cruise instead of wasting my time writing this post right now. Our good old Coimbatore at one point had the highest number of imported cars. You might want to read this.

The open cascading tresses – clearly you haven’t seen a Punjabi woman or even a Sikh man let down his hair, literally, that is. The Bongs can give us a run for our money too, in the eyes and hair department. And sistah, I quite like my shaggy flip out and refuse to buy into the stereotypical long hair and olive skin bullshit. Who are you to define my South Indianness for me? I’m dark and I love it – I don’t need you to sugarcoat it for me.  But with people like you sounding apologetic about our looks, it is no wonder we need to import fair skinned actresses for our films. It frustrates me. If our men appreciated us for what we are, we’d not need the ‘northies’ on our screens.

And really girl, did you have to bring up Hema Malini and Sridevi of all women? Them of the adultery, the second marriages, the conversions, the plastic surgery and botox fame? Aishwarya with her annoying accent (it’s probably caused by the smile she got redone) and fake marriage is our claim to fame? I thank you – NOT! Funny how all three of them picked Punjabi and UP men when the time came, huh? Good for them. It just leaves the ‘Madrasi’ men free for us. I got my sweet boy from Karnataka instead of Ash!

One tiny matriarchal community does not a trend make. Have you missed the acid attacks? The dowry we offer for our daughters is mind-numbing. If I’m paying 3 crores for an engineer I’d like him to lose the pot belly and the hair oil please! Colleges with separate benches for boys and girls in salwar kameezes (yes, I can say it like them punjabans!). I’d hardly call that the height of freedom. Fight oppression and violence against women instead of just using statistics to score points against another city. Irrespective of geographical location, it is still our gender being oppressed.

Amma-appa sound cooler than mom-dad to you? How could you be so petty as to pick up on something so ridiculous? Were you running out of real jokes? Bharatnatyam is a higher art form than the gidda or Kathak because you say so? I’m tired of this whole ‘attitude’ we have because to me it reeks of inferiority. And I am damned if I am going to be made to feel inferior about my food, my body, my skin colour or my roots by you. Let’s lighten up, let down the butt length tresses and accept that we play Punjabi music at our discos for fun.

You lost me at the girls doing fake marches (check out what these LSR girls are doing, by the way)? What exactly is it that other college kids are doing that is so much more significant? They’re just college kids, leave them alone to have fun while they can!

What really got to me was the fleeing Pakistan reference. Would any of us consider saying something so heartless about Tibet/Kashmir/Cambodia? Are we so cold as to make a sneering reference to something that was so painful? Partition brought loss, bodies piled up in trains, blood, entire families wiped out … don’t we share history with them? Are you kidding when you say that you come from a defence background? I’m horrified that a girl from a defence background has been brought up to be so divisive. Is this the way the other kids in the armed forces think? I won’t go into statistics of the Sikh regiment and the history of every family giving a son to the army to protect our borders, all while we were sitting around dipping our paruppu vadais in coconut chutney perfecting an attack on the chess board. So yes, we do play a killer game of chess, but oh, we owe them for giving us the safety and luxury to practice it.

As for them not liking our food – are you kidding me? The Brunch carried an article on how the dosa has become the national dish – tit for tat, take that Hindi as official language! You’ll find dosas at every corner stall in Delhi and everywhere else in the country although I must raise an objection to the paneer and Chinese dosas! What if they get started on the image of licking rasam off elbows? Because if we pick on the lowest common denominator to judge them by, they have every right to define us by the elbow lickers.

By the end of your post I was embarrassed for you. For the anger, the bitterness, the hatred and the vulnerability you let slip through. I have no idea what brought it on, but a good bottle of wine and some girl friends and a box of tissues might have been more effective. What you’ve done is unforgivable – you’ve drawn lines and swords and hurt a lot of my ‘Punjabi’ friends. And oh yes, as someone else said – if you don’t want to be called Madrasi (what do you mean you’re part South Indian – you know there are four states, right?), learn to differentiate between Punjabi and Delhiite. Everyone who lives in Delhi is not a Punjabi and not every Punjabi lives in Delhi. That said, everyone is welcome in Delhi, and Munirka and RK Puram are mini-Tamil Nadus themselves.  I buy my dosa maav and podi from there.

And finally, I’m appalled by some of your lines – Texas chainsaw massacre your face? Your dead Dadi? Your mother’s shaven bosom? Kalari your tongue up your ass? Shove so many coconuts down you? Classy. Way to lose control of your point and make a fool of yourself. Crass, rabid and divisive is what these statements are. Driving a wedge of hatred where previously there was only a cultural disparity. It’s a pity you fell so low while trying to make a point on superiority or heck, even equality. To quote them Punjabis, you’ve MC-BCed our case altogether in this badly cobbled together, poor attempt at wit, crossing over into coarse, foul and ignoble territory. And you’re dragging the rest of us into the mire as you cross that fine line between wittily irreverent and decidedly crass. Maybe you just need a good nap or a cold glass of coconut water so that you can cool off and consider what you allowed your ire to lead you into.

I apologise to all those offended by Ms Shahana’s little hissy fit here. We have our good and we have our bad and to attack prejudice with prejudice is not the way the rest of us South Indians work. I need to get back to cracking my IIT now. Apparently Shahana thinks I have no other choice or mind of my own. Now where did I put my pen – in my Fendi bag or my Gucci clutch? Oh wait, I couldn’t possibly know the difference, stereotypical Madrasi chick that I am.

And oh, Shahana, I have a request. In future, do not presume to write on behalf of all Madrasis. Not all of us are quite as bigoted or rabid.


MM (I proudly spell it Yem-Yay-Dee, Yem-O-Yem-Yem-Yay), yet another mocha coloured Madrasan married to a sweet fayer Sawth Indian boy.

PS: Okay lets kiss and make up, North and South Indians. In fact let’s drag the Pakistanis into this big group hug with this lovely song – Hona Tha Pyar.



Dum lagaa ke

Although I’ll never forget the Nirma advertisement with the little girl in the white dress, I quite liked this new one. I love the way they’ve got little details of  people standing by and recording on their phones instead of helping. So true! The advertisement is particularly nice considering the only role a woman plays in most advertisements even now is of a concerned wife worried about cooking oil and oats.

Nirma advertisement 2011

This ad reminds me of an incident some 2-3 weeks ago. We were all dressed up and headed out for a party one very hot evening when we came across a stalled car at a busy intersection. The poor driver was all alone, struggling to push it out of the way and holding up traffic. The OA drove past so as to not hold up traffic and parked the car with me and the kids in the shade of a tree. Then he jumped out and rushed off to help the driver, glaring at me with a –  ‘Not with the way your knees are.’

Whenever we’ve had the misfortune of our car stalling, there have always been people willing to help push it and I was quite surprised that the poor man had received no offers of help (was it because he was a drivr and not a sahib?). The driver on the other hand was shocked when the immaculately dressed, freshly shaved OA appeared out of nowhere and began to push the car with him. I got out of the car and began to direct traffic away from the car being pushed to avoid a jam. Right next to our car, under the same tree stood a lady fanning herself indifferently and watching us.

They finally pushed through the traffic and came and stopped it behind us. I took out a bottle of water for the OA and he stood there for a moment drinking water and checking with the driver if he’d managed to call the service helpline to be towed. The man assured him that he would do it, that he needed no more help. And all this while the lady stood next to us, saying nothing. As we got in to the car to leave, the driver turned to the woman and said, ‘Ma’am, aap taxi leke aage nikal jaeeye, main yahan intezaar karta hoon.’

I was so… taken aback. Maybe she didn’t want to push the car in the heat and had left the poor guy struggling for whatever reason (maybe her knees were bad too!). But she stood there and saw us help her driver and didn’t have the decency to even say Thank You!

Also, speaking of advertisements, I took the Bean for a trim yesterday and while we waited our turn I caught some really shady serial – Some young girl whose husband wants her to study and her mother in law wants her to make tea. She stands there, head bowed, blinking like a gold fish, turning helplessly from one to another with no say over her own time or life. The www has seen enough rants about soaps projecting women in such a regressive manners so I will not wax eloquent upon it, but I am shocked anew each time I catch one myself. No wonder we still hear about dowry deaths and female foeticide. My driver is on two days leave for his court hearing – his brother in law strangled his sister to death because they couldn’t give more dowry than a car. Welcome to Haryana.  Thankfully before the show made me burst a blood vessel, an ad break came up and this Stayfree ad came on – rather ironic. Women being active during their period is all very well, really, we get the picture, but must they zoom up her butt?!

Stayfree advertisement 2011

Have a good weekend and Jai Hind

After the post on beggars, reproductive rights, what safety and a good childhood constitutes, comes this link via Mona. Called Where Children Sleep, it’s a project by a documentary maker who wanted to avoid the usual cliches. He breaks your heart nonetheless as he takes you from the home of a rich child in Kentucky to a little housemaid in Nepal.

Next up comes a piece on what is wrong with kids today with via MGM. Again, closely linked to the last post I wrote on things like manners, discipline, the sense of entitlement, where we’re going wrong as an entire generation of parents by not teaching our kids what is clearly wrong and what the meaning of authority is. Read on.

And finally, we’re off for the long weekend and I hope you are too. If you aren’t and would like to, but are out of ideas, do stop by Gypsyfeet. To quote them, they are travel enthusiasts who believe that travel should lead to deep impressions and experiences – they do this through home-stays, through local cuisine, and through participation in festivals, as well as interaction with the communities where we travel. The North-East region of India ( Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Sikkim), and the adjoining country of Bhutan is where they currently operate. It is blessed with abundant natural beauty and an interesting culture that is vastly different from the rest of India. For a photo-journey through this land, click on their PhotoGallery. National parks, wild life sanctuaries, festivals, hiking – they’ll give you the experience you crave. Look through their  trip plan, and see what activity is to your liking.

Gypsyfeet believes in responsible tourism, read about their best practices here.

Arrogance is the new intelligence

A few days ago we took the kids to a party and they pretty much shocked the pants off everyone with their Good evening Uncle, Good evening Aunty, Thank you for having us, except for the Bean saying her goodbyes and ending with, ‘Thank you for coming’! Yes, she’s four and easily confused but very particular about manners. :)

The hosts laughed their butts off and then proceeded to lecture us on ‘making’ the kids wish other adults the time of day and say please, thank you etc. This is something I’ve always found rather strange. Why is it that people don’t think manners are an unimportant lesson? Or that there is such a thing as teaching your kids manners too early? No, it doesn’t come naturally to kids to say Please, Thank you and May I, so if you don’t teach them, who will?

Oh he won’t say hello unless he likes you, says one smiling father. Another mother shrugs proudly – He’ll hit first and ask questions later. Eh? What am I missing? And parents are okay with this? Others believe it’s a part of modern parenting philosophy and throw words at you like  – space, privacy, choice, development. He has only one childhood and we don’t like to tell him to do this or do that… says another, fondly watching her son throw stones at a stray dog. And what do our kids have – nine lives? “The books I’ve read and the school philosophy is to let the children find their own feet and decide what they think is right or wrong… ‘ she says, as her son pushes my daughter off her cycle roughly. I break the conversation and go running to save her since she’s about half his size.  Clearly her son thinks there is nothing wrong with raising a hand on a little girl who is half his size. I hope all that psychology is useful as he grows up aggressive.

I understand some kids are shy and some are aggressive – but I am horrified when I don’t even see parents make a token effort. A simple reminder – say Good evening/Hello/Namaste to Aunty. Never mind if the kid doesn’t say it – you’ve begun something that he will slowly absorb and someday even surprise you by saying without prompting.

But (Yes, I am aware that you shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘but’) no one seems to care, by their own admission. All the kids go to new age schools where they are encouraged to explore their surroundings and find themselves. Where there is no discipline. No enforcement. I agree with that in theory. My kids go to a similar school. But are we throwing away decency and manners in this whole new way of parenting?

If your kid has looked deep within and only found arrogance or bad behaviour, how about you find some manners for him? Another kid stalks off from the skating class because he is punching a younger kid in the face and I stop him. I’m nobody of any relevance according to him. I’m not his mother and I’m not the skating coach, so what business is it of mine? I glare at him mencingly and firmly tell him that he MUST STOP HITTING. Or else, his eyes challenge me? Or else… I drift away. Or else nothing. I can do nothing. I am positive I won’t find any support in his parents. If they cared, he wouldn’t be as much of a bully as he is.

For instance, I recently saw this advertisement on TV and it horrified me. I’d skin my kids alive if they slid a coin across a counter so rudely to a shopkeeper, specially an elderly person. But advertisers clearly have been doing enough market surveys to know that arrogance is the new intelligence. When we were kids the advertisements enticed you with promises of growing to be like Kapil Dev or the smarter kid. But no, we no longer aspire to be hardworking or tall.  We aim to be cocky. We want to be arrogant.

Because in some twisted way parents believe that being arrogant shows that we’re smart. We’re witty, we’re intelligent, we’re irreverent. That it makes their kids brave and intrepid. They don’t demand instant obedience. I get that. I don’t want zombies for kids either. But surely having your own mind and being well mannered are not mutually exclusive. And humility isn’t really an old fashioned virtue. I’m out of options now – I think I’m taking the next ticket to Mars.

I leave you with a piece by Samina Mishra. A senior from college, a sometimes colleague and a woman I admire tremendously for what she does with her life and the way she thinks. Enjoy.


Scheduled breakdown

Every year I have one meltdown. The timing is uncertain, but it is mandatory. I go into depression and sob and listen to awfully cheesy music and blame the OA for my life going to the dogs. This generally coincides with the kids going to visit their grandparents and I am sure there is a strong link. It also always happens that a maid quits around the same time. One would imagine they’d be happy to have less work to do but apparently not.

And so I sobbed into my bowl of dal, wiped my runny nose on the neatly ironed table napkins, gulped down glass after glass of water and babbled for a long time. This time there was an additional woe. Living in Gurgaon. I’ve tried and tried and I still hate it. Shall write another post on that (clearly there is a lot of angst that needs to be dealt with).

The OA suggested stepping down his work and being with the kids. No, that won’t work because he is the primary earner and I (minimum wage earning journalist) won’t be able to suddenly be able to earn what an investment banker does, considering I have anyway been on a 6-year-go-slow. I’d need to work myself back into the work force, rise slowly and only then can the OA ease out if we’re to fulfill our financial commitments.
The OA suggested that I go back to fulltime work and send the kids to daycare if I feel trapped and professionally unfulfilled. No question of it- yet.
The OA suggested we pay the kind of sums we hear floating around of Rs 20k for a nanny for the kids. Nope. Not happening. Charging a lot of money doesn’t make anyone automatically trustworthy.
And so on.. you get the picture. OA proposed, I disposed.

And then I hiccuped myself to sleep and accepted that what I want will never happen. I know I often vote on forums for better childcare, better support yaada yaada. I know I am itching to get back to cameras and studio lights and late night edits and layouts intead of the piecemeal way I am currently working. I know I want it all. And I know I can’t have it.

I will not let anyone else bring up my kids no matter how good they are at their job. Because for them it is just their job. For me it’s a burning desire. I wonder what it would be like to have been reared by someone who did it as their job instead of my loving family and I refuse to test it out on the kids. No daycare or nanny is good enough for me and I know it’s not because I am a stickler. Heck, on the best days I am careless and easy going. It is only because I don’t want to miss a thing. Because they’re mine, mine, mine and I am like a greedy five year old hoarding her sweeties.

As I’ve said before, I know I can do MORE with my life. So much more professionally. But I also know that I give my kids MORE than what a daycare can. No, not so many friends maybe, but more than the maids who wash their hands and feet and feed them lunch. I can tell them that the carrots are good for their eyes, when I send them out to play I tell them it’s for the Vitamin D. When we talk about their one bit of junk for the day we ‘negotiate’ and the Bean responds, ‘Okay, let’s make a deal… “. A few days ago the Bean told her grandparents that she can’t have an afternoon nap because “the blood and the bones in my body go crazy and then I have to jump around with them.” We laughed till we cried and I realised no daycare would relate each incident to me. I’d never have heard these lines if they were said to someone else.

Yes, in the attempt to give them the best childhood I might be losing the best career and yet I don’t know what the option is. In some ways I already know, there is no option. Once a year the restlessness breaks through and I re-think what is most important to me.

I know I cannot be happy with only freelancing and dipping my toe into the work world when I am dying to go skinny dipping. I’m an all or nothing girl and this flexitime isn’t working out very well for me either.

I should never have had the kids because having had them I am unable to tear myself away from them and let someone else have even a hand in raising them. I should never have tried hotel management, modelling, airhostessing (no, it’s not a word, I made it up), emceeing, event management and rediscovered each time that I love the print media. Because now my two loves jostle for time and I cannot give up either of them. There is no reconciling them either. This is probably one of those few adult choices I am called upon to make and it’s the hardest bloody choice I’ve ever made in my life. It would be simpler to ask me to give a kidney off to someone and a lung to another. I wish I had the absolute calm of those who make a choice. But I don’t. I continue to straddle two worlds, working late nights, getting up early to pack tiffins, rushing for a shoot and getting back in time for lunch. It’s probably why I have the annual breakdown. Eleven years of writing and nothing to show for it.

At times I remember the Biblical parable of the talents. Of God giving you something and telling you to use it or lose it. But I also realise that He gave me these two happy, healthy good children and the right way to thank Him for my blessings is to give back to them what they give me. Joy, time, love, energy, patience and compassion. It’s a tough call and on days I border on agnostic and wonder where I’m going with this.

Even as I write this post I know I’ve cried about this before. And I know what answers you will give me. I may as well shut the comments. But I can’t. I am lucky to have this space (can you imagine how stark raving mad I’d have gone ten years ago without a blog?) where I vent. This is where I talk to you on a daily basis and this is why I must tell you that I have had my annual meltdown. I have now wiped my tears, quietened the hiccups and accepted the fact that my godawful, monstrous brats are the centre of my life and I will have to wait until they let me go since the other way around is not happening.

And then, maybe then, I’ll throw myself back into work and shine like a brilliant star. Or not. Until next year’s scheduled meltdown then. Save your comments. You can copy and paste them there.

And yes, the kids will be back in a couple of days, I’ll bury my nose in the Brat’s neck, squeeze the Bean in an attempt to fit her back into my belly and everything will feel better as it always does. Here’s the post I wrote the last time they were away.

And oh I’m currently playing this song on repeat so that I can sing them to sleep with a new lullabye. Isn’t that voice just dreamy? I hope to be all prepared by the time they come back from G’pa-Nana’s house.


The night in the emergency ward

Sitting in the emergency room at 2 am is every parent’s nightmare and we spent one night last week doing just that. The OA and I were out for dinner and got back to see the Bean wide awake and refusing to settle in to bed. The maid had tried everything in her power and was at her wit’s end.

We took over and the OA took her back to bed. He came back looking rather pleased with himself but that smirk got wiped off his face the moment the door creaked open and a little head peeped in. I groaned, got out of bed and walked her back to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And with each trip she got progressively worked up and soon was in tears. Eventually we got to the heart of the matter – The aliens were coming to get her. Telling ourselves that we wouldn’t be reading anymore bedtime stories about aliens and monsters we tucked her in between us and gave up the quarter-hourly trot to the nursery.

But it didn’t end and she kept tossing, turning, fidgeting.  We began to panic and she finally said she had a throat ache. Sips of saline water, honey and what not later, we were back to square one. Tossing, turning, fidgeting.

Finally she admitted to an ear ache. The OA and I frantically ran around medicating and ear-dropping. No joy there either. By this time she was in fine fettle, throwing herself from one side of the bed to the other, climbing on one prone parent and then the other. I rocked her in the rocking chair, walked her around the room and loudly begged the Good Lord to have mercy on her and as a result, us.

Finally it seemed like the medication wasn’t taking effect and we bundled her into the car and headed to the hospital. It was a stormy night and the roads were deserted. We reached the hospital and were surprised to find no staff at the door to guide patients, a lazy security guy who vaguely pointed the direction we should be heading in and empty corridors with none of the bustle you see in other hospitals at all hours. We were also rather unimpressed with the reaction time in the emergency ward. Yes, a child’s ear ache is small change compared to those dying of a heart attack and brought in off an accident scene, but they had none of those that night. Nurses stood around chatting in Malayalam while the OA and I desperately asked someone to give us a hearing. A doctor who seemed in charge smiled apologetically and said – I’m a cardiologist, I can’t help you.

Yes, well then who can?

The OA was drooping with sleep, the Bean was wriggling around mercilessly and I was close to sticking a scalpel into a nurse just to get some attention. Watching your child suffer is not easy. Watching your child suffer while others chit chat about the weather is simply frustrating.

Finally I pushed the OA awake and sent him to get someone. No joy there. Then I played the exhausted mother card and walked out of the Emergency Unit, found another doctor and got someone to page the ENT Specialist on call. She came after 45 minutes by which time the medication we gave the Bean had naturally taken effect and she was fast asleep. We were even considering going home with her when we decided that it would be better to wait and get it examined in case she woke up screaming again. Of course the doctor examining her woke her up again but she was now out of pain and manageable. The doctor was rather sweet and kind and nothing like our last experience here with the Brat.

We’d brought the Brat in on an emergency  too – his throat began to swell to alarming proportions one winter morning and suddenly he could neither swallow nor talk. Again, we had taken him to the emergency where after a long wait we got an appointment with the Head of one of the Pediatric departments.  Dressed in a short tight skirt and jacket the lady looked really out of place in a hospital and more off the off the sets of Santa Barbara. Fifty plus, heavily made up face and stiffly blow dried hair, long painted talons and massive diamonds twinkling on all her fingers. The wall behind her was decorated with testimonies of how great she was – awards, certificates, photographs with dignitaries.  She was talking to a number of people while looking questioningly at us. A certain impatience making us wonder if we as patients, were intruders in the doctor’s chambers.  Slightly mindful of manners and loathe to interrupt the OA and I finally explained what was wrong with the Brat.

Perhaps we should have walked out the moment she looked blankly at the Brat and said ‘What swelling?’ The huge lump under his chin wouldn’t be missed by a blind man and here the expert needed us to guide her. We kept pointing, she kept asking, and digging her talons into the child and dragging him closer while he baulked at this treatment and pulled away. Finally she told the OA to hold him and when the OA failed to do it to her satisfaction she yelled at him and made him make bands of his arms and literally strap the Brat down. It was unnecessary when all it would have taken is some warmth – he’s not unnecessarily intractable. I wondered how she fared in the pediatric department with no bedside manner, no way with children.

Finally one of the acolytes pointed out where the Brat’s neck was swollen. The fine lady just nodded and said okay, but I don’t know what it is. Could be tuberculosis. The acolyte politely mentioned that this infection of the gland was doing the rounds in schools. I deliberately pulled the Brat away from the high priestess and focussed on the acolyte. No mother wants her children being manhandled by someone who doesn’t know their job.

This hospital is one founded by a famous cardiologist and the entire point, I was told, was to get good affordable healthcare to the general public. But two emergency situations with poor turnaround times and terrible service and I’m not convinced that his vision is working out the way he planned.

And so that night too, we left with the Bean, feeling rather dispirited. At one level glad that we’d had the knowledge to deal with her pain and given her something that worked even before the doctor got to her. At another, feeling disappointed that as parents we couldn’t provide her with better medical care. The skies were pouring forth by now and as we got into the car, tired, sleepy, exhausted, pissed off and grumpy, the wide awake by now Bean pointed up to the sky – Look ma, lightning scribbles.

It reminded me of this book that is doing the rounds – Go the Fuck to Sleep.  You can read about it here and here and here. I have the pdf copy so mail me at themadmomma@gmail.com if you’d like to read it too.