Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Compliment

.. that never was.

Its bedtime for Arvind. We are done reading and we’re snuggled up in his bed. All of a sudden he sits up and says, “Mamma, can I lie on your tummy?”

“Err… why?” I enquire, going against my better judgement. I know from experience that these conversations never end well.

“Because I love the sound of your tummy juices,” he says, and oblivious to my visible cringe he continues, “And because I love your tummy. Its lovely and wobbly like caramel pudding.”

Thud. That, in case you’re wondering, is the sound of a swift, final and devastating blow.

Stay tuned for the upcoming episode of  “Mamma Gets Shafted And Adopts a Low-Carb Diet”.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my ego and I need seriously rich pastry to revive ourselves.

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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

…even when they are sleep-deprived Mums and working women to boot. I am stone cold sober tonight, but high as a kite. Yup, very oxymoronic of me, but there you have it.

Our Yummy Mummy  – And Just Plain Yummy” group had its monthly get-together tonight. I lurrrve this bunch of women and hanging out with them never disappoints. Some of us are mothers, some of us aren’t. We are lawyers, journalists, bureaucrats and engineers. Our lives on any given day are incredibly different. We have strong views on everything from the coming elections to the nutritional benefits of cod liver oil. And Dear Lord, can we ever crack open the wine, mix margaritas and paarrttaay!

The Mad Momma recently did an interesting post recently based on an interview she read featuring Julianna Moore, where the lovely Ms. Moore states that motherhood doesn’t wipe out the person you are.

It doesn’t have to Julianna, but it can. It can wipe you as you know yourself out for a while. Try not sleeping well for two years and anyone can be a lesser shadow of themselves. For me, the first year of being home with a baby, getting to know the baby and caring adequately for it while staying whole was an exhausting process. There were details, routines and schedules and I stopped caring about things that weren’t relevant to the task at hand. Eating, showering, sleeping, socialising, smelling nice, dressing in something other than saggy-arse jeans – everything got moved to the back-burner as I went about like a horse in blinkers. Loving my child so much it almost hurt, loving being a mother, but often at odds with myself and inexplicably miserable in my own new skin at times.

And then the girls came along. They firmly took off  ’em blinkers, stuck a glass of wine in my hand, fed me scrumptious food and laughed themselves silly over their lives, their loves and their ways. They were irreverent, snarky and rolling-in-the-aisles-funny. They were secure enough to call a spade a bloody shovel and wham!

I was back.

When we meet, its so not about motherhood. Some of us are mothers and sure, it has changed us, but it is far from the only thing that defines us. Even if it is the one factor that most influences our choices in life, its bloody fantastic to have that night with the girls when you can forget that. When you are one-on-one with the world and your primary tag isn’t Mum. These evenings are about what I think, not what I think as a mother. I don’t know about you, but for me there is a difference.

Moore says in her interview that she finds it incredibly reductive when people ask her how something affects her as a mother. I can understand that. I am a mother of two, but I am capable of seeing the world through non-mother lenses. While being a mother has made me see very many issues and situations differently and often, more emotionally, would I necessarily feel differently about Robert Mugabe if I wasn’t a mother? No. How I feel about the Indian elections, French immigration policy or Jimmy Choo shoes for that matter is totally unaffected by motherhood. Its my informed opinion and squeezing two kids through my hoo-haa ain’t got squat to do with it.

Did I really spend all these years developing confidence and and a sense of self to allow myself to be projected as a cardboard cutout Mum figure?  Sure, I care about the world I will be bequeathing my children, but I would care about future generations even without a child to call my own. If I was single and childless, I would incredibly pissed off right about now at being considered less moral and more selfish – like I have no reason to get all fired up about investing in a better future for mankind.

So, here’s my gyaan for the day. Find and keep great friends.

Friends “who love the YOU, you love” (quote from SATC). Friends who open their homes, minds and hearts and give you a wide and non-judgemental berth. Who make wicked soup and know their way around their mojitos and caiparinhas. Who are game for an impromptu car ride at 2 a.m. along a coastal route, blasting music that makes you feel 23 again, 19 again:-). Just a different dimension to feeling vibrantly alive.

I leave you with the two songs that topped our charts tonight. Cheesy, but  at 120 km/hr on a motorway, they rock your world!

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The Genetics of Hospitality

Can one inherit a sense of hospitality? Is it stealthily intertwined in our DNA helix?

Our home is always open to Arvind’s friends. Kids from his kindergarten come visiting and lately, older kids from the neighbourhood – real school kids – as Arvind would inform you – have started to drop by.

They drop by and they stay. Then they stay some more and pretty soon they have eaten all the mac and cheese our kitchen cupboards were selfishly hoarding. Because our kitchen cupboards are real bitches about sharing their mac and cheese and they must learn their lesson.

They have the usual gigs – videogames, Wii, music and lego. Playing pirates was in for a while till they got kicked out for having used my panty hose to pirate with. Harmless cross-dressing – I would understand. Pirates? Gah! A couple of days ago, we found them in Arvind’s bedroom poring over a tampon. My tampon. Yes, you heard me. We then proceeded to have an entirely generic tampon-discovery conversation.

Kids: Where does it go?

Me: In umm.. lady places.

Kids: Where’s that?

Me: Somwhere off the coast of Argentina. Where’s that map? Aaah.. there! Look, there’s Africa! Lots of lions there.

(Blessed reprieve in the form of short-term-whippersnapper-memory.)

Now brace yourselves for the really strange part. Yes, the strange part without the tampon. The Viking and I love it. Having our home upended by totally random, energetic children. Making dinner for four and suddenly having six or seven of us at the table. Charming dinner-time limericks that are almost always about farts and excrement in their many-splendoured variations. Occasionally, in a startling departure from protocol, we are treated to limericks about spew. Its a blessing, truly a blessing. The spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down and all that.

In the midst of all this gross! and eewww!  our home feels just that little bit more like a home with kids.

Both of us have grown up in families with an open home policy. Not to mention a ” have-food-will-feed” policy. Neither of us can remember a time in our youth when we didn’t have friends – or friends of friends – hanging around our homes. Hanging around watching TV or waiting for the next meal. During our college years, it wasn’t even unusual that they dropped by to do laundry. Some of them hung around so much that our families just sort of adopted them after a while. It was simpler that way.

Our mothers, we reminisce, were particularly popular. Probably because both mothers like having people around and have this wonderful, inherent sense of generosity. It also helped that they weren’t afflicted by the most common Mommy sickness – uptight-itis. I can never recall anyone being sent away without being fed, even though I have seen my mother turn a whiter shade of pale seeing how much biriyani my brother’s friends could knock back. However cramped our living quarters were, (incredibly cramped for some years) family members and friends were always welcome to come and stay, whether it was for a few days or weeks. Mattresses, pillows and crisp, clean sheets appeared as if by magic to accomodate them.

It’s crystal clear to us that this is how it has to be. Gregariousness is in this family’s blood. As early as a wednesday, we start planning who will come for dinner/playdates/coffee and chat during the weekend. Friends drop by unannounced, step over our mess politely and feel comfortable that we don’t fly into a panic picking up after us or apologizing for unwashed windows. (People actually do that. You’d think they had puked in your shoes or were guilty of a similiar injustice.)

Parenting brings us full circle. Now we are the ones looking on indulgently and loving the noise, the brouhaha, the masti. Handing out plates of pasta, refusing more Coke, raising our voices simply to be heard above the din of the TV and wishing for our sons the same kind of wonderful memories of a friend-infested home.

I love it when nature meets nurture.

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We Are Still Married

.. just about.

I take no credit. I don’t even comprehend the kind of staying power required to weather exchanges like the following. Guantanamo waterboarding has nothing on me.

Me: Do we want more children? I mean do you?

Viking: No.

Me: Really? You’re a hundred percent sure? There is no teeny part of you that wants another baby?

Viking: (mild eye-rolling before settling for a steady gaze) Not at all.

Me: Why? How come you’re so sure?

Viking: Because its demanding. Because I like time for myself. Time for us. Leisure. Sleep. And because we have two lovely children.

Me: But are you sure its not me? Thats its the thought of having more kids with me that has put you off wanting more kids? Maybe if you were married to a less umm..complicated person, you would want more kids?

The Viking shoots me the kind of look that is somewhere between indulgence and irritation – and that you would normally reserve for a person with an IQ of 35.

Viking: No, I do not want more children. Not with anyone else. Not with you. Not even if you were to be normal suddenly.

Me: You said, “If”. There’s hope!

Viking: You being normal? We’re in no danger zone. (ducks to protect self from flying ceramic)

Me: (wistful) I’m not quite sure. I know I should be but I’m not.

Viking: You’re not? Gee, now there’s a shocker.

Me: C’mon, can’t you just be a little unsure with me? Gimme some company in my confusion?

The Viking mentally adds Emergency Lobotomy to his Christmas wishlist. And a neat scotch to put him out of his misery.

Secrets of happy couplehood? Sorry, try the next shop. We’re all out.

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Conversations

I am late – again. I stand in the hallway and call out to Arvind.

“Get a move on, will you? I really can’t be late today. You wouldn’t want me to lose my job, would you?”

Arvind pokes his head around the door.

” You could lose your job?”

Sigh. “Technically, yes. If I’m always late.”

He starts to put on his boots and appears thoughtful.

“Is that the worst thing that could happen – in the whole world?” he asks in all seriousness.

I help him don his jacket and give him a big hug.

“No. The worst thing that could happen is something happening to you or Armaan or Pappa. And our family not being complete.”

“Like dying?”

I nod mutely because I don’t even trust myself to say the words.

“How would it be the worst thing?” Looks like we’re going to be late.

” Well, I would be very sad for the longest time and feel very hollow missing you and all the ways you make me happy.”

“Hollow?”

“Yes, like a hole in me. In the shape of you.”

He is thoughtful again.

“Wow. If you had holes in you in the size of me and Armaan, then there wouldn’t be much of you left. Only ankles. And elbows and fingers. All your vital organs (good grief! Where does he hear this stuff? ER?) would be gone. And then you would be dead too.

My rational, literal and unsentimental son. You’re so good for your maudlin mother.

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Conversation in the backseat of our car on the way home from Kindergarten

J (A’s girl friend): Can I come and visit you tommorow, Arvind?

Arvind: Mum, can she?

Mum: Sorry J, but its cleaning day tommorow, so its a bad day. Maybe Friday?

A: (just in case J was suffering was abrupt deafness) Yes, its cleaning day tommorow, so its a bad day. Two girls come and clean our house.

J: Wow. Are they your slaves?

A: No, they’re not slaves. They’re just girls. And they’re white.

??????Is this conversation actually happening????? Have we not fed these kids enough Obama? Socialism? Equality of opportunity?

Did I, his somnabulant mother, miss his summer internship with a right wing extremist group?

Its hard to respond to these statements without knowing the correct context and source of the information. American history in the classroom? Damn Shal, you’re going to have to start to reading the weekly newsletters from the class teacher. Nickelodeon? Nah. Not with Dora skipping about in bilingual bliss.

The most obvious explanation is that the only place he does see servants and househelp is in India. And they are not white. And no matter how well you treat them, they are not equals. You don’t have to be ten to figure that out. It is no more than a statement of fact in his straightforward mind. (Sigh) Its funny how our future – these kids – make sense of the world around them. Funny how guilty I feel about that particular legacy.

I envy them at the same time. I envy them the diversity they are growing up with. Most of Arvind’s friends are bi-racial like him. They see race, skin colour and racial difference through different eyes. Their differences are such a given for them, neither a source of pride nor shame. Its just how they are. Growing up in a very racially charged Britain in the ’80’s as one of the three Asian girls in our school, I could have probably done with some of that balance and levity.

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Arvind in conversation with a neighbour and friend, L.

A: One of these weekends we are going to visit my Dad’s aunt.

L: Dude, why would you want to visit you Dad’s aunt?

A: She had a little cancer. But now its more and growing and all the bad stuff is as big as a football in her. She’s going to die.”

L: Dude.. (speechless)

A: Yeah. When people die you bury them under the earth, like they did with Oldemor. But you can burn (cremate!!) them too.

L: Thats gross. Like chicken?

A: Yeah, a little, but it’s not like you can feel once you’re dead. So it’s cool.

My dear sweet son. I wish you would be content with the fairytale version. The one with souls, angels, clouds and singing. It would make my life so much simpler. I wish you were less curious, less exacting in your curiousity, more willing to accept fiction rather than cold, hard facts. But fact is what you demand. What the wheels in your mind demand as they continue to piece the jigsaw. I can’t find it in me to deny you your right to know because once upon a time I was you.

The unsqueamish child who was never afraid to face the morbid stuff ; who never accepted whitewashing what she knew to be dark.

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On Serenity

I am not a religious person, but I love the Prayer of Serenity.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Serenity is such an incredibly underrated value or virtue if you stop to think about it. We are so busy valourising the very opposite of serenity. We love to look up to the “Oh-My-God-I-have-So-Much-To-Do-And-So-Little-Time” people. Those who probably knit sweaters while taking a dump. And cook and do yoga simultaenously. Multitasking is so overrated and I don’t know anyone who does it who is not trying to cover up a greater chaos or disorganisation within. I speak as an ex-multitasker who took great pride her skills. So multitaskers, speak now or forever hold your peace:-)

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It was a perfect weekend. For once, my ever-growing to-do list did not dictate our day. We just let things be. We stepped over clothes on the floor. We pushed away dirty dishes to make room for more. We read Armaans favourite books till he got fidgety. We sat with Arvind while he was making lego and offering a running narrative of his efforts.

And then my son promptly broke my heart. ” Don’t you have something to do?” he asks wide-eyed.

I realise that this is who I am becoming. Someone who is always on the way to something. Someone who always has “things to do”. Moving on quickly after a hug or a kiss and not lingering. So much so that my son finds it unusual that I would take a half an hour out of my day to “just be” with him, enjoying him and enjoying his play.

This is when I am grateful that life with kids is so open-ended; they possess such an amazing capacity to forgive you your trespasses as long as they can see you are willing to get your ass in gear. But do I have the courage to change the things I can?

Here is my new resolve. I will stop saying, “in a minute” (and taking ten), if I can offer them my time and presence then and there. Unless the house is on fire. Or someone might lose their life. If I can offer colleagues at work my polite and undivided attention, I see no reason to offer my family any less.

I am prioritising hanging out. Just being with them without questioning, criticising or guiding. Listening and giving the impression of availability. That might sound wrong, but it really isn’t. My own mother was wonderful at it. She sort of hung about doing her thing while we did ours. We knew she would be available if we wanted her to be and that she would be actively available. But it was enough that she was there and not rushing about. Do you remember that lovely feeling, as a child, of  your presence being registered, without a parent necessarily falling all over you and directing you?

That is what I want for my little dudes. That and a giant cup of serenity to go.

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Note to Self

When the washing machine dies peacefully in service after 10 years, try to not be an utter nitwit and send your husband ALONE to the store to get a new one.

He is a gadget freak. Worse, a gadget snob. He will jeopardize your financial future if left unsupervised in an electronics store. Now repeat this 50 times so that your frontal lobe can finally nail it.

He thinks a 50 dollar shirt is wild and irresponsible extravangance, but he will gladly use half your mortgage on a gadget. And yes, todays washing machines are gadgets. Every modern electronic appliance in your home is a gadget and a cool one at that.

He will come home with his best friend lugging an enormous house-like contraption. Stay with the programme now – yes – the washing machine. Eyes shining and breathless from the effort.

“You won’t believe this BEAUT!” he will exhale, “16 programmes for stain removal. Eco-friendly wash, power wash, fuzzy logic, weighs load blah blah blah.” Hell, it looks like it would wash and spin the kids gently, before vacuuming our home and taking me out for dinner, treating me like a queen is what it looks like.

“Oh, I’ll believe it!” I will reply through clenched teeth, seeing my weekend shopping going down the drain. Visualising canned tomato soup and macaroni for a month. “Besides, we can’t even name 16 kinds of stains, can we now, DEAR? And are we suddenly a family with octuplets that we need such a generously sized machine?”

Sarcasm will be lost on the electrohunter who has acquired his prize. He will continue to sing paens to the machine while caressing it gently.

Do not bother to ask about the price. You will only be rewarded with the look. The wounded look which says, “You would put a price on 16 stain removal programmes? Is there a right price for technology so superlative?

Do not think the following thought. “Poor thing. Folds laundry with me every evening. Even on evenings when I might be passed out drunk. Such a sweetheart. Why not give him his kicks?”

Do not think that he actually LOOKS HAPPY doing laundry. Maybe he’ll do it everyday now.

Stay tough and don’t melt at his happiness over – lets face it – a pretty sad domestic appliance. Bose speakers? I would get it. But a washing machine, dear?

This is a slippery slope you’re on. DO.NOT.HUG.HIM.

Oh, whats the use? You and your frontal lobe are losers who deserve each other.

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