Category Archives: Arvind

Talk To Me

For the past 4 months, Arvind and I have been going out for lunch once a week. I pick him up after school at 1:45 and we drive to his favourite dodgy Chinese restaurant and we ask for the “usual” – Macau fried rice for him and Kung Pao beef for me. The proprietor grins and brings us Coke and water without even asking.

We talk. There is no plan, no agenda and inspite of uncomfortable, highbacked chairs, we relax. We talk about everything that comes to mind – what happened in school, what is in the news, salient features of the Triassic age and the Jurassic age, why I should learn Minesweeper. Our words foxtrot effortlessly without stumbling over each other, without awkwardness.

There is the day Anders Behring Breivik is declared insane.

“Does this mean they won’t kill him, Mamma? Or put him in jail? Because I’m sure he is really really sorry that he did something so stupid. Everyone is sorry afterwards, right?”

“I wish it was that simple, love,” I say “but I think he meant to do it. As awful as it is, I think he meant to hurt people and he believed he was doing the right thing. In many places in the world, he would have faced capital punishment. The death penalty.”

“Death penalty?” he says the words carefully before spooning more rice into his mouth.

“Where you are sentenced to die for the crime you’ve committed.”

“Even if you’re very very sorry?”

“Even then.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” he frowns. “Why would they do that?”

“It has never made sense to me either.” I tell him.

I tell him about the various forms of capital punishment, about execution squads, about my impressions after visiting the Spandau prison in Berlin and as he turns his barrage of questions towards me, the couple next to us look like they really wished they had ordered take away Moo shoo Pork.

From death by capital punishment, we move onto apple pie, religion and afterlife and I might have snuck in that at least once in his life, he should read Catcher in The Rye because Holden Caulfield? He will stay with you forever.

“You’re sad, Mamma,” he says one afternoon. “You’re smiling, but you’re sad.”

“I am.” I say quietly but directly. I am unwilling to explain this darkness, this desperate suffocation I am feeling. The feeling that the already tenuous centre of my life is unravelling at a pace faster than I could keep up with. I don’t know how to tell my son that I don’t know how I got out of bed that morning.

I try to remember being myself at his age, so much like him. The child who sensed discord and discontent, who picked up even minor distress and made it hers. I know that I want to accord him more credit and respect than I was given in those circumstances.

“You know how sometimes, in school, everyone seems to be having a great time except you and even though everyone wants to play with you, something is just not right? You either feel too much or too little? Or somedays you are sad or angry about something that happened some other day?”

He nods, sombre in the moment.

“It’s like that for me sometimes,” I say. “Sometimes being sad and being angry comes from a place you can’t see anymore, that you don’t really understand. But I am trying to understand. I need to understand so that I can be a better mother for you and Armaan.”

“But Mamma..” he begins and stops short as if a little overcome by the moment and I am ready to hurry in with my effortless guilt.

He pulls out a pencil and paper from his bag and writes

DU ER FIN SOM DU ER.

You are fine just as you are. Just as you are.

There is the 1000 volt realization that no-one has ever said that to me. Not in that way or in any other way. And I have known so much love.

In those moments, a gift so huge, so vastly generous that not a single thing in my life could possibly feel unaligned.

Because I am enough. Just as I am.

“Also, you cry easily,” he says, slightly alarmed by this unexpected reaction.

“But of course I do,” I laugh. “Your mother is an emotional woman. I have tears for the happy and tears for the sad. This is really going to annoy you at your graduation.”

He grins. “IF I want to,” he says, “Maybe I’ll just make lots of money playing and making video games.” And we’re off again.

We still clash, we still fight, but something has changed so fundamentally. We are quicker to diffuse, quicker to get it, quicker to laugh.

Today, on the 17th of January, he turned 9. He awoke to music he’d selected the night before, (“Kiss” by Prince. Spell VICTORY for me.), Super Mario Toad cupcakes, candles and presents.

“Soon, I’ll have to fold you in four if you’re going to fit in my lap,” I joke. He grabs a cupcake and brings his shaggy haired self to the sofa, where he contorts his ever-lankening limbs in to my lap, his head contentedly tucked under my neck.

“I want some Us time today” he says quietly, while his brother clamours that he wants a birthday too. NOW.

So I pick him up right after school, we come home, eat more cupcakes and at the stroke of 2:30, the exact time of his birth, I gather him in my lap again to tell him how lucky we are to have him in our lives. To tell him that he should always be himself, true to himself, no matter what, because nothing in life will ever feel quite as amazing.

You are fine just as you are, I say.

Remember the book All I Really Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten?

Well, Robert Fulghum, you were wrong. Or maybe my Kindergarten was just lousy.

All I Really Need To Know I Keep Learning From My Sons.

When Macau met Kung Pao

Nine. Going on sixteen. Occasionally 46.

Because he wouldn't approve of a post without Luigi

Advertisements

25 Comments

Filed under Arvind, Life Lessons, Parenting, Self, Togetherness

Words Alive

“Mamma, can you keep the night light on so that I can read myself to sleep?”

And I realize that I have waited for this moment, through all these years of reading to him.

The day when he would take over and struggle to keep his eyes open to cover yet another page.

The day I would take the prone book off his chest and place it on his night table before tucking him in.

When I would whisper, “The thinks you will think and the places you’ll go.”

18 Comments

Filed under Arvind, Parenting

Guilttripping

Last year my brother got married. First in Kerala and then in Patiala, where his lovely wife is from. Not ones to miss out on this chance, the Mallu bunch, ably accompanied by a Norwegian, German or two, decided to make a Punjab trip of it – Amritsar, Waga border and then Patiala.

On a balmy April night, we were waiting at Nizamuddin railway station for our train to Amritsar. We grabbed some snacks, chatted, people-watched and waited patiently. There are few places on this planet that lend themselves to awesome people-watching like Indian railway stations. Soon enough, a beggar came along. A beggar with severely deformed legs, ankles and arms who partly crawled and rolled his way across the platform. He rolled around our bags and beseeched us. We politely declined.

Arvind went completely still. The shock of seeing someone in such a misfortunate state so up close and personal had gotten to him. I had never seen him look so appalled, so horrified.

“Pappa,” he anxiously pulled at the Viking’s T-shirt. “Do something. Give him something. Do something.

Giving him money will not help darling, we explain patiently. We try and explain in a way that is not too Slumdog Millionaire, not too awful.

The man rolls away.

Our son turns to us, tearful and furious and begins to hammer us with his little fists.

You did NOTHING! YOU LET HIM GO. YOU DID NOT HELP HIM.

It is possible that I don’t have the talent to adequately express the terrible heartache of that moment. His judgement back to back with my cold judgement of self.

The train came along and we climbed in; he curled himself up on his berth and sobbed even as I rubbed his back and whispered comfort.

The important background to this story is Arvind’s own deformity, his left arm, and how it was around that this time that he truly became aware of his difference. Of things that he either could not do or struggled to do. Of the way his arm would drag ever so slightly when he ran. Of his heartbreak over not being able to do his self-defence classes properly. Of struggling to tie his shoelaces. We had seen a lot of frustration and anger, yet somehow,  the grief had yet to find its vent.

On the train that night, my son’s long pent up grief  juxtaposed seamlessly with his grief for the plight of a complete stranger.

I hesitated with my words knowing well the deviousness of guilt. How easily it sneaks in and stays there. Yet at the same time, how do children or young adults develop empathy and compassion if they are never acknowledge how fortunate they are? And is acknowledging our good fortune possible without some guilt?

I struggled. To find the words that would make him aware of his good fortune. We are blessed in so many ways that we cannot take for granted.

Arvind, in particular,  is a remarkably blessed child. From the minute everything went to hell, we have never once seen a hospital bill. The severity of his injury was such that there were simply no neurosurgeons in Norway who could surgically deal with this. My father scoured google and mailed doctors the world over and finally found an Indian surgeon in Texas and a Swedish surgeon in London, who were familiar with the procedure. Our entire family was flown to London, all expenses paid by the Norwegian government, so that Arvind could be operated upon by one of the best surgeons in the world at the Princess Grace Hospital – the kind of hospital which offers patients five course gourmet menus for the likes of British royalty and Victoria Beckham. If we had lived in the U.S. the collective cost of his two cutting edge surgeries would have amounted to about $250,000. (The kind of people who knock public healthcare could do with keeping these kind of figures in mind.)

There is no way to receive a blessing like that and not feel an obligation to pay it back or pay it forward.

Since that day in Delhi, we have talked a lot about poverty and injustice. How unfairly the cards of life are dealt and how there is no real explanation for that. To everyone who sympathetically clucked, “Why this lovely boy?” we have consistently answered, “Why not? Why were we, in particular, to be spared in this entirely random game?” We have talked a lot about the things we can do to help. About spending some vacations travelling with mission groups to build homes and schools in communities. About volunteering more locally, getting involved in our own community. About speaking out when see injustice – even if it is schoolyard bullying.

Most of all, I have told him as much as I could about Raksha –  a wonderful school for children with special needs that was started in Kochi by my late Grand uncle and his wife. It is difficult to come across finer people and for me they are the ultimate example of how to walk the talk. And keep walking for 26 years. It is an institution that I am happy to brag about for all the fantastic work it has done and continues to do. This couple were not only a constant source of inspiration, but stand-in parents and guides with an open home and heart for so many confused souls, like me. I can safely say that my life, in its present form, would be impossible without their nurturing guidance back then. (Yes, we need another post about that village needed to raise a child).

We sponsor a child there, but Arvind has decided that he would like to sponsor a child himself. Someone whom he can visit and follow up on his trips to India. He wants to share his physiotherapy equipment and show his exercises. He wants to help, because his 8 year old mind has reluctantly comprehended that there was little we could have done to help the poor man at the railway station. Because he comprehends somewhat that knowledge, experience and stamina are important resources to share as well.

It’s time to pay it forward.

29 Comments

Filed under Arvind, Life Lessons

Mi Casa

Arvind: Mamma, why are you staring at me? Stop staring at me.

MGM: *wistfully* I’m trying to remember you forever this way. Your last day as a first grader. I’m taking pictures in my mind.

Arvind: Mamma, you know you’re a bit wierd?

MGM: No baby. I’m WAY wierd. I’m plenty wierd.

**************************************************************************************************************

The Viking is co-building/assisting in re-building our garden patio. It promises to be a Beauty of the Burbs. I’m thrilled to death about this, but most of all I am thrilled because suddenly my dirty and totally infantile mind seized upon all the fun I can have with my “decent” lad and bejeezuz – the number of permutations and variations of lame-ass one liners with the words “nail”, “screw” “hammering” and “bending over”?

5899 at last count.

The man is hapless in the face of his insane wife calling him YET again with her latest pervy giggly.

He is SO hot for me, peeps.

The Polish workers are probably rolling their eyeballs like GET LAID ALREADY.

**************************************************************************************************************

The World Cup has been the perfect time to a) nurture an interest in football and b) pull out our Flags of the World book.  Now that school is out and we can geek without school interference, homework and such excrement, its all about flags, countries, capitals, nationalities and currencies.

I am mostly alarmed by how much I have forgotten over the years. Time for Mamma to brush up on her ejukayshun, dudes.

Now that we have ONE pedagogical activity in place, I can serve him beer for the rest of the vacation and we can laugh ourselves silly everytime we say Pyongyang.

Like PYOOONNNGYANNG.

Yeah, you had to be there.

*************************************************************************************************************

We are trying to teach Armaan numbers. Since he went all DIY with his potty training, our hopes were high and the magnetic board was dug out.

“Here’s the number 2, Armaan”

“No. It’s blue (B-noo).

“Yes, its a blue number 2”

“Not two. B-noo”

“Yes yes. Blue. But a number 2. Like One. Two.” I can hear my voice rising a pitch in the midly hysterical way a parent’s voice is raised when they suspect their child might be shtoopid. Less gifted. Whatever.

Luckily for Armaan, he could not give a sod. He cheerfully swipes the board clean and delights over the magnetic pieces lying strewn around.

So delighted that he breaks into an impromptu Michael Jackson dance.

“It’s all good,” I sigh, “We just have to give him more beer is all.”

15 Comments

Filed under Armaan, Arvind, holidays, Self

Growing

Today I went to pick Arvind up from school and we went through the usual drill. The one where he ignores my greeting and looks pretty disinterested in gathering up his stuff to leave. We were almost back at the car when he suddenly spun around and hugged me. Arms tightly wound around my waist and tippy-toed as if he wanted to picked up and cuddled.

I was thrown for a huge loop, but I scooped him up and snuck in a snuggle and a kiss, realising sadly that both he and I might forget these moments in the future. I feel him melt into me and I wonder how much longer he will allow himself this comfort, this pleasure.

For a while now, he has been a big boy,  “he is big enough”, “he is too big to..” and he is a big boy “so get over it already”.

I need to remind myself and him more often that its okay to feel small, that he doesn’t have to be big all the time and that being big doesn’t mean you need this facade of cool. I want to tell him that he can grow to be as strapping as his father and still need his hair tousled, still need his chin grabbed lovingly before I crush his bones.

I fear the day when you will shield me so totally from your heart and its inner workings and I fear not knowing if you are hurt, if someone has broken your heart or damaged your faith in some way. I might never know your deepest fears. I fear only knowing second-hand about your life. (If my mother-in-law has any peep, its because I talk to her. Even though the Viking thinks she is a great mother. Don’t ask.)

I fear your hugs being hesitant. I fear your grown-up disdain and disapproval. I fear you growing away and growing into another family.

Its just that I thought I could hold you so much longer, but I never bargained for time flying so fast –  nary a breath from a little head in the crook of my elbow and here you are hesitantly needing me.

We’ve officially reached the part of the programme now where you say, ” Mum, are you crying again? Are these your happy tears?”

These are my bittersweet pearls, baby.

18 Comments

Filed under Arvind

Achtung: Do Not Talk To Children

I know. You’re awaiting quirky India trip anecdotes and I’m just being the bitch that holds out.

This is why no-one dated me for too long at Uni. Damn tease.

In the interim, this glorious conversation happened. The kind that makes you want to go drown yourself in a vat of rum and sleep for a week.

If I had to qualify myself as parent at all, I’d simply use the word Ill-prepared. (And occasionally/frequently neglectful, but ill-prepared just makes me sound absent-mindedly charming donchyathink, rather than incompetent.)

Ill-prepared is always how I end up feeling with Arvind’s questions – not because he is extra precocious or anything, but because I am an extra slow tortoise and just when I think I have another two years and time for a  cup of tea, he will unfailingly sock me with it and leave me staggering. Everything in italics represents unarticulated thoughts happening in parallel. Yes, there is always a party in my head.

A: Mamma, did you know that girls have a baby hole?

MGM: EGADS! This? Now? Right after breakfast? Hmmm. I did know that in fact.

A: See, babies do not come out through where you pee. They come through the baby hole. There is ANOTHER ONE.

MGM: Son, I know. Tell me about ALL THAT WHACKED plumbing! (Switching to the “YAWWN. This is so boring” tactic) And? So?

A: So you have to show me yours.

MGM: WHA?? OMG! I certainly will not be doing that. So no. Like NEVER.

A: Why? I need to see it.

Of course, this kind of information warrants empirical evidence, I can see that.

MGM: Little boys cannot see their mother’s baby places.

A: Why? Has Pappa seen it?

MGM: Yes. But only a couple of times. Like on Christmas Day a couple of years ago. The baby place being a very secret place and all.

Dude, if that was a country, he would apply for citizenship. How is that for too much information since we are getting cuddly here?

A: So when can I see it?

Well, if you went to the kind of school I went to in my primary years, you could always find the girls who pulled down their panties for the lads to have a peek as long as you gave them a bob. But I’m guessing you don’t get that lucky here.

MGM: When you are all grown up and no longer live at home is an excellent time. And besides, in school, in some years they will teach you all about them baby places and their workings.

A: Will they show us pictures?

MGM: It’s school. Not the Playboy Mansion. So – no. Maybe a sketch or two.

A: Maybe you can draw it for me.

Dear God, please lead him to quality internet porn tasteful erotica at a mature and appropriate age so we never have to field these questions again. Thanks – and I will be owing you one.

MGM: No, but I can draw you a mean ass dinosaur. How about it?

And on that shaky note, that particular conversation was over.

To date, I have NO CLUE WHATSOEVER what he got out of it. A re-cap and summary of this conversation is most definitely not on the agenda, so I will live in bliss till the next awkward conversation comes up.

Or at least until some girl’s parents knock on my door and complain that my son has been checking out their daughter’s Vashiner.

Yes, folks. Vashiner.

I think my work here is done.

39 Comments

Filed under Arvind

Home

I wanted to do an entire post about why I love to travel and get away from home.

Till I stumbled upon a post about why I love to come home again.

Armaan, He of the Widest Grin, has a f.l.a.w. Yes, its a funny way to write that word, I know, but this is my unbelievably perfect baby we are talking about and well.. I can’t put it out there so.. so there.

Anyway, the f.l.a.w. is the inability to apologize. To say sorry and give a hug. Now, this is only difficult when he is the thwacker/ the puncher/the pincher. He’s only two and half, but he has recognized the most fundamental of truths.

Apologizing is the biggest bitch when you are the wrong-doer. The one who hurt someone.

In other situations with other evil-doers, he’s empathetic and all over the hugging, the comforting and the pat-pat like he invented it.

In Casa de Where-The-Hell-Was-Prevention-When-I-Needed-It tonight, there was eye poking. The kind where the Leetl one socks it with his pointy finger to the eye of the Beeg one. Because he needed to learn a lesson or something.

Wailing ensues and we admonish Armaan sharply.

” Say sorry.”

“Si unnskyld.”

The bilingual berating fell flat and Armaan wriggled adorably, giggled inappropriately and stuck out his arms to us.

“Take me. Take Armaan. Wanna cuddle.”

“No,” we insist, because we are goddamn heroes made of iron and steel, “Not until you apologize to your brother. Say sorry.”

Standoff time.

After 5 minutes and using up the Gawd-I’m-so-damn-adorable-how-DO-you-stay-mad-at-me card, he turns to the Quivering Lips. The Moistened Lashes. Lower Lip threatening to quiver all the way into his perfect chin.

He takes us for total amateurs, really.

This goes on till Arvind, past tears now, sits up and speaks gravely.

“Armaan, I know you don’t like to say sorry, so just give me a hug, ok? And we’ll pretend this never happened. Come to me.”

Armaan, past the initial “Dude, think another think, yo” indifference crawls over pillows into his brother’s arms for a hug.

And then, “Sowwy, Adoo. Sowwy.” we hear him whisper ever so softly.

” ‘S okay.” says Beeg.

If I’m ever lucky enough to croak in peace, then I want this moment to remember. The way it tugged, melted and re-set itself into my lining.

I want to remember how much I loved their love for each other.

12 Comments

Filed under Armaan, Arvind