Monthly Archives: June 2009

#1 – Annoying Allegation

When travelling to India, you always have to mentally prepare for the deluge of ridiculous questions/allegations, statements and assumptions you will be met with as an adult who has lived abroad for over 11 years. I’m going to attempt a list and the responses I wish I could give – and would give if I didn’t really love my parents.

Annoying Allegation #1

Oh, but you are so westernised and you’ve become a Norwegian lady now.

Desired Response Lost in Chickenshit-ness

Really? What gave me away? My underwear with the Norwegian flag on it? Lady, I could spiritually be a Martian and it would still be none of your business.

And what has made me Norwegian? Do I speak my mother tongue with a trace of Norwegian accent? Or any accent at all? Do I vaunt unnecessarily over Norwegian life? Do I shrug my shoulders at the dismaying ways of fellow Indians and relentlessly diss the country of my birth? Do I complain about the roads, the water or the service in hotels and shops?

No. I take it for what it is. I can be uncritical about the things that don’t really matter and critical about those things that do. How Indian I feel has nothing to do with the colour of my passport or where it was assigned. Or whether I wear capri pants and a short top and disagree with your parochial views, while leaving my hair unoiled.  But for you, its all about appearances and streaked hair and everything that is insubstantial.

Escaping your cretinous ways is one of the greatest joys of living abroad.

See, my biggest problem is you. And the fact that you are in my face with your shallow crap. So take it to someone who’s buying.

And FYI, using deodorant doesn’t make you less Indian, but it will make you a sweeter smelling one. Give it a shot.

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.. And We’re Back

..and exhausted!

Too much sun, fun, food, wine and laughs.

The kids had an amazing time. We had an amazing time because other than for food, they did not need us at all.  The idea was to rest, but there isn’t much sleep for the wicked when you’re living it up till the cows come home. I mean that literally. At about 4.a.m on Saturday night/morning, we were still out on the patio and we think a cow wandered by.

Or maybe a goat. Either way, I only blame the chardonnay.

I laughed so much and swam so much that everything hurts.

Quick Mini Break Notes

1. If you have unresolved issues to thrash out prior to a break, naptime in the car is pretty ideal. Be utterly uncivilised for an hour or so, get it out of your system and smoke a peace pipe over some coffee at your last pit stop.

2. Do not try to convince your dearest to shave on a mini break to the cabin. Its just plain unmanly and metrosexual to be shaving when you’re being one with nature and all. Just resign yourself to being with the homeless-looking guy and try instead to focus on his generosity in allowing you a long sleep-in.

3. Do not unleash an untrained toddler nekkid (or nood) on the quay. Chances are, he/she will pee on someone. Maybe even twice. What? We’re slow like that.

4. When at an amusement park, respect the differences in ages and interests and separate gracefully into do-able units. Imperative if you wish to preserve sanity and live in a whine-free zone.

5. If you make the mistake of donning a bikini and regret it immeasurably, then jump into the water, stay where your lovely lady lumps aren’t on full display and feel fabulous. And just enjoy ocean swimming – the tingling tautness of salt on skin, the way salt water mats curls and the tangling of feet in seaweed. Its just another dimension of delish.

6. On a warm day, there is no such thing as “just one ice-cream”. You deluded wench, you.

Now – the rest in pictures, because I’m spending the day hydrating. That means less space for words in my head.

I know. Exemplary table manners. The tree house and playhouse in the background were made by the Vikings brother with all the kids helping. Awesomeness.

I know. Exemplary table manners. The tree house and playhouse in the background were made by the Viking's brother with the kids help. Awesomeness.

Those orange hammocks in the backgroud. Closest to chirpy birds, blossoms and heaven

Those orange hammocks in the background. Closest to chirpy birds, blossoms and heaven

Cheers, Ma

Cheers, Ma!

Dinner on the go. Or Meals on Armaan Wheels

Dinner on the go. Or Meals on Armaan Wheels

Goofin' around at Kristiansand Zoo with cousins

Goofin' around at Kristiansand Zoo with cousins

Den Lille Familien

Den Lille Familien

Break time

Break time

Tractor ride was entirely worthy of the hyserically happy tractooo babble

Tractor ride was entirely worthy of the hyserically happy tractooo babble

Totally swingin' time, Ma!

Totally swingin' time, Ma!

Ready for the bobsleigh. True to self, Mamma chickened the hell out.

Ready for the bobsleigh. True to self, Mamma chickened the hell out.

This sea house and quay are part of the cabin. It heavenly on a sunny day and you can jump right into the sea and swim. Look how nice I am, hiding everyone's pork:-)

This sea house and quay are a part of the cabin. Its heavenly on a sunny day and you can jump right into the sea and swim. Look how nice I am, hiding everyone's pork:-)

Since I was a sea-nymph in previous life, I swam and swam. It was 18 degrees celsius in the water. Told you I'm tough!

Since I was a sea-nymph in a previous life, I swam and swam. It was 18 degrees celsius in the water. Told you I'm tough!

Prepped for pier play. And ice lollies!

Prepped for pier play. And ice lollies!

Starfish, seaweed, sea water and mussels in a tub make for hours of fun. And mild animal abuse.

Starfish, seaweed, sea water and mussels in a tub make for hours of fun. And mild animal abuse.

Smushing faces

Smushing faces. Anti-jinxing every which way.

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I Iz Haz A Green Thumb

Well. Green may be overdoing it.

But won’t you grant me a shade of mint? Would you begrudge me my Pale Vanilla Apple coloured thumbs?

The shock of the season?

I enjoyed gardening. I enjoyed getting my nails filthy and I loved the physicality of shovelling dirt. I relished the aching muscles and the bags of mulch and I even struck up an awkward friendship.

Yet most impressive of all? I didn’t miss this.

jessie

I didn’t pine once. Not at all. Ok? Stop scrutinizing me now.

So here is evidence of When Summer Came To My Garden. Also known as Oh My God! They Didn’t Die On Me This Time.

They simply withered away in a poetic fashion when their appointed time was up.

Yes, fair blooms. Spring is a bitch like that.

DSC_5573

DSC_5575

DSC_5577

DSC_5581

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..And Off We Go

.. to our beautiful family cabin at Okse for the weekend. Its breathtakingly beautiful and whenever I land up there during the summer, I feel like Heidi returning to her beloved mountain cabin. Oh, and the mother-in-law, when she joins us? She makes fresh rolls every morning. Freakishly Heidi, right?

We’ll be 13 adults and 10 children ranging from 10 years to 3 months. The Viking’s twin brother and kids, and then his cousins, an amazing bunch of them, with their offspring. (Yes, its a roomy cabin with a renovated barn and a sea house).

I have a serious crush on the Viking’s family. Not to say that I lurrve all of them or anything unnatural like that (seriously, can that ever happen? There has to be someone getting the stink-eye in any family), but largely, this family is an extension of my Indian one. They are loud, lively, flawed and tightly bound to each other.

The children of three sisters, who have grown up together, spent ordinary days and holidays togethers, gone through the loss of parents together at a young age (my mother in law and her older sister were widowed early) and simply been there for each other. Inspite of everything they have been through, or maybe because of it, they find joy in the silliest things. I have rarely seen such a playful bunch of siblings and cousins and the laughs are never too far away. We in-laws (or outlaws depending on how you look at it) have had the good fortune of full endorsement and absorption into this clannish Viking mafia.

I make no secret of this to the Viking. Even if I ever gave up on him one day, there is no way I can give up this family. They are so much mine. They are the reason I can live in a small town that doesn’t stand out on the map. My brother and I grew up with a great sense of extended family, and I knew that I could never take it for granted that I could give my children the same. Now my family has spread out in all the directions the wind can blow, yet in this Norwegian town that I had never even heard of before moving here, my children now have this network of grandparent, granduncles, grandaunts, aunts, uncles and cousins – second, third and then some.

Like an amazing trapeze net to catch us gently should we fall.

They keep us non-nuclear and ticking.

The children are so used to the noise, bustle and gaeity of the extended family unions, that nothing in the Indian social set-up freaks them out. Its just like home to them. Deranged Indian family, deranged Norwegian family – potayto, potaato. And whenever I hear denouncements of “western family values”, I think, “You don’t know them all. You have no idea of the loving families that are out there, weaving nets to keep each other safe.”

It so shatters the Asian ego to think that we don’t have the monopoly on loving, supportive and connected families. But thats a topic for a different post:-)

Toodle doo, dears. Its time for me to go get tanned a brighter shade of black and briefly enjoy the Norwegians ooh-ing over my darrrk skin. In about ten days, when I land in India, my Indian mother and aunts will decimate my well-sunned self-esteem with choice words like, “Karikutty” (coal child) and “Kolam Kettu” (the sad state of her) and drag me to the nearest parlour to dip me in a body-sized tub of bleach. Straddling this bi-cultural life, I tell you!

The cabin. The space. Oh, the space.

The cabin. The space. Oh, the space.

View from the top of the island

View from the top of the island

Run Forrest, Run!

Run Forrest, Run!

Paradise for the cousins

Paradise for the cousins

No. Paradise is a lown mower you can drive.

No. Paradise is a lown mower you can drive.

Good times and popsicles

Good times and popsicles

The hammocks between the apple trees

The hammocks between the apple trees

Ooh and anti-jinx times two:-)

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The Way You Made Me Feel

Michael, you’re gone too soon.

Here’s hoping this kind of amazing music and these moves are what the future generations will remember.

I give you what is undoubtedly my favourite MJ hit.

RIP, Michael, RIP.

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Filed under 80's moozik

Thoughtful Giving

On Monday evening, Arvind and I had an arts and crafts date. We were going to paint porcelain and make special presents for two people who have meant a lot to him over the past three years. Anita, his school therapist, and V, the physical therapist who came once a week to supervise his overall progress and take him for pool training.

Arvind was born with a brachial plexus injury (the most severe grade of avulsion) which, in his case, meant that he had an entirely paralysed left arm at birth. (Awful story that I don’t have the stomach to narrate.) It has taken two major, dollar-chomping operations (free medical care. socialism. remember?) and a tremendous amount of loving, patient and innovative training by Anita and V to give him a functional arm. By innovative, I mean just downright clever. It takes cunning to make a 3 or 4 year old like working out everyday. These two spectacular women have also taken the weight almost entirely off our guilt-free shoulders, allowing us to be just his goofball parents instead of parents and part-time therapists.

So back to Monday night. We are at our dining table, making initial sketches before we transfer our ideas onto the porcelain. Arvind comes up with some good ideas and we get started. Ten minutes into it, he is borrrreeed and begins to muck around.

“This pen is too slippery on the cup. Oops. Slipped. Harhar. That flower looks like a NOSE. Or a big bum.”

More hilarity follows and all the while, I sit there with my jaws clenched in irritation, bone-tired after a long day with office work and housework.

Predictably, I snap. And I come down on him like a ton of bricks. “Fine. We’re done here now! If this is how you want to do it, we might as well not do it. I can’t be arsed to waste my time. Go to bed!”

I begin gathering up the pens and after glaring at me balefully for two minutes, Arvind’s eyes fill with tears and he runs down to his room.

“C’mon, ” says the Viking, taking time out from surfing iphone waves, “Do you have to be so hard on him? He’s just six. So he fooled around a bit,so what? Its his present. Let him do what he wants with it. Its not like it has to be artistically perfect. Its a kiddie gift for crying out loud.”

By this point, I’m not far from tears myself.

“Its not because its not perfect,” I say, “Its because it’s a gift to people who have given him a lot of love and I want this gift from him to mean something to him and them. I don’t want it to be something that has been done in a goofy, half-hearted way. Thats just no way to repay them for all that they have done for him. I just want him to put his concentration and effort into making this as nice as he can. I want his appreciation of them to come through in it. Nothing to do with my standards of good art.”

I don’t like thoughtless gifts. Or thoughtless work for that matter.

If it doesn’t matter that much, then for heavens sake, cease and desist.

Its not really perfectionism, because as much as I would like that, its not there and I can’t beat myself with the stick of constant improvement. But it is all about knowing that you poured yourself into acknowledging someone. That you thought about them enough to come up with something that would move them. That you made it personal.

I go down to Arvind and he is huddled on the bed improving his sketches. He looks up briefly just to let me know that he is still upset and goes on drawing.

I apologise for snapping at him and ask him if he’d allow me to explain. One of the lovely things about him so far – he will give you a fair, but tough hearing.

So I explain. And I remind him about how much they have cared for him over the years. I remind him how weak his arm was before Anita made it strong, push-up able and Superman-like. I remind him of how often she has held him when he was very sad some days. How she always a chocolate biscuit in her bag that appears magically when he most needs it. How much fun they have had and how much they laugh when they work out/play/shoot hoops together.

He is eerily still in my arms till he turns his face towards me, utterly crestfallen.

“I wish Anita could come with me to the big school.” he says.

“So do I,” I say. “But she can’t. Thats why this is important. So how about you make the most kickass present ever to show her what you think of her?”

He stayed up till half past 9 that night, talking idly to me, squinting and sticking his tongue out in concentration as he thoughtfully created a gift. I loved the result, imperfect as the lines were, only because he had grasped the spirit of the process.

Was I too harsh on him? Most probably, I was. Maybe I could have gotten to point B without a minor explosion at point A. Still, life isn’t perfect and aren’t there things we should fight to instil in our children? Like putting effort and soul into one’s work – hobby or otherwise?

I know that I am willing to struggle to teach them that cost does not necessarily equate with value. If there is no thought, no effort behind it, its just bling – but it won’t make me sing:-)

When are we demanding and when are we doing the right thing by kids? I won’t even demand a college education from mine. They can be carpenters or mechanics or whatever makes their day. But I know that I will be disappointed if I see them living without spirit, without a sincere effort. Whatever you do, make it count, will be all I really expect.

Naive? Whats your take on this? And while you think, check out some tableware:-)

Cup and saucer

Cup and saucer

Another angle to satisfy my obsessive nature at 2.a.m

Another angle to satisfy my obsessive nature at 2.a.m

Kawfee Kupp - my favourite

Kawfee Kupp - my favourite

p.s. Porcelain is from Ikea. Painting is done with special pens. Check out your nearest hobby shop. Let the paint dry for 24 hours and then bake in the oven for 35 minutes at 150 degrees celsius – and voila! You’re dishwasher-friendly:-)

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Filed under Life Lessons

Oh No He Didn’t!

.. but of course he did.

Arvind to his physical therapist and buddy, A:

When I grow big and learn to drive, I will drive Mamma to parties with her friends so that she can drink lots of wine with them. Then I’ll go pick her up and drive her home.”

Raise your hands if you wouldn’t think I had a drinking problem after that one? See ? No-one.

Damn! Where are those smelling salts when you need them? My son, the enabler, probably hid them. Grr.

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