Category Archives: family

Telling It

Here is the question.

How do you achieve balance in a relationship without one person turning to say, “It’s fine. Go ahead. My dreams and goals can be on the backburner for now. I CAN WAIT.”

There are times when I wish it could be so simple. That in a wonderful old-fashioned way it was possible to say, ” The ultimate dream is our happy family.  As long as we have enough to get by on, do we really care how we work out the logistics?”

And even if both involved parties agree upon the final destination of A Happy And Fulfilled Family Life , how do you get to the finish line together without one feeling shortchanged? Is it a measure of love you really need or is it huge dollops of sacrifice and forbearance?

How much love would it take to make you give up your dreams? Given that there were concrete dreams beyond marriage to begin with?

I am an awful fit for traditional notions of marriage. I don’t really possess the sort of soft, supportive values it seems to require. (Note how I make marriage sound like a Victoria’s Secret bra)

Too opinionated, too unwilling to bow or bend, too unwilling to give unless I can take as freely, too exacting and too demanding. I am passionate about the things that matter to me, the very things that contribute to my emotional and intellectual welfare. I am singleminded and ruthless when passion has a plan.

I look at successful couples with children and think, “Whats your secret? Yeah, the one you aren’t bottling and selling?”

Or are they also squabbling over who was supposed to take the trash out last night? And I bathed the kids yesterday, so its your turn SO THERE. Maybe they are.

My life would be immeasurably simpler if I could lean back (I can never lean back. I always lean in) and say, “Honey, go make your millions. Follow your dreams and I’ll be around.”

Maybe I have seen too many awful relationships where the common quotient seems to be an unspoken, seething resentment. An unsavoury Hillary Swank – Chad Lowe prototype where the quietly resentful “I sacrificed and contributed to your success” is cut with a crass “Yeah, like you were going to run for President anyway.”

Maybe I have seen far too many men and women of my age, of my generation, give up. Whether they chose to work or stay at home, WORKING – duh – they have somehow lost the sparkle in their eyes. Maybe it was their inability to negotiate any real power in their relationships. Maybe they believe that this is as good as it gets?

(Why is it always women rather than men that will settle for a confinement, a regulation of themselves?)

Call me Alpha Female. Call me a bitch. But I won’t do Plus One. Or Mrs.

I can’t be the add on wife at an expat club, drinking martinis and sporadically screwing the tennis instructor. Oh…WAIT A MINUTE NOW:-)

Its not about Stay At Home or Out At Work. Its not about women’s rights. All of this applies equally to men.

For a minute, lets talk about how an appetite for life can be too large to be contained. How the need for contact, stimulation and social engagement can drain and rejuvenate you simultaneously. How you can wake on somedays popping with energy and great ideas and the possibility of actualisation. How swiftly you will be crushed by depression when you feel you are treading water and going nowhere. How the sense of hopelessness can feed the dark spaces of your mind and just when you think you are NEVER getting out of bed..

You do. And if you’re lucky, you might just find a spark that never died out; that won’t allow you to give up.

My only real promise to myself was to always feed that spark  – and to remember that what a lot of people call selfishness is also self-love.

I have made my peace with the fact that compromise will always be an uncomfortable word for me. An uneasy fit if you will.

I want to continue taking chunky bites of life around me and wiping the zest of my chin.

I want to stay the young girl who was always afraid of dying young, who felt like she had to take it all in, make sense of it all in some way before she was hit by a bus. It petrifies me to let go of the urgency, to let myself be waylaid into a “ach..later” mode of thinking, where tommorow never comes.

I really want to say that mothering is the most fulfilling thing in my life, and at times, sure. It fulfils me to the point of bovine floatation.

Then there are times when it does nothing of the sort and I pick up socks and wonder what the hell happened to the Me I Knew.

Unalloyed blessing, it ain’t.

And maybe its an odd thing to say, but I want to pass on a greed for life to my children. Not sacrifice, not compromise, not apathy in large doses. Not a notion of love or devotion which always sees their needs, their energy de-prioritized.

I want them to grab their happiness with both bare hands, ignoring that it will be difficult at times, ignoring that it might be to the detriment of all that is traditional and accepted, cherished and convenient. Ignoring that it might make the significant other in their life a bit cranky for a while.

I want them to realise sooner rather than later that they will only care about truly making someone else happy when they are reasonably fulfilled themselves.

As for the balance issue – could I be happy with a man who wasn’t comfortable with my taking the wheel? Letting me be on top? Come on, I’m letting you pick the smutty metaphor here.

Absolutely no damn way.

Who will big enough to make room when there are many ambitions and plans jostling for space with family life? I can’t say just yet.

Having woven dreams for a decade now, we know how to do it without dropping a stitch. The challenge is really to keep wanting the same design, to be happy with our creation. I’m leaving that to time, talking and a belief that there is way without losing ourselves somewhere.

In the meanwhile, if someone is selling that secret recipe, I’m buying.

There’s no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you may lose your mind.
Ain’t life unkind?

– Ruby Tuesday, Rolling Stones.

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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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Sunday Insight

You know you have a great mother when:

  • She notices dark circles under your eyes on a grainy webcam and wonders why.
  • You can almost see her smiling wistfully into the phone when you ask her if there is any chance whatsoever that she could be at your home in about half an hour or so to calm down the kids, bathe them, put them to bed and then pamper you a little.
  • She will answer whenever you call, whatever the time, because there is no knowing when she’s needed. (While you can still be the biyaatch who screens)
  • She will put up with shaky online performances from her grandchildren at unearthly hours

You know you have a great Mother-in-Law when:

  • She walks into your trashed home  for Sunday dinner and says in a bright voice, “How lovely to come to a home that looks lived in.”
  • She speaks disdainfully of all the wannabe-perfect mothers and ensures you that you’re onto something good by letting it slide and enjoying life.
  • She can spend an entire evening and not only not feel the need to suggest any home/personal improvement, but also openly side with you on crucial interior design matters.
  • She unwittingly shows you the right and diplomatic way to show your Other Half (better? I think not!) that he is being a bleedin’ ijjit.

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Reproduction for Dummies

Arvind has decided that he would like a new sibling.

“Preferably soon”, he informs his Dad.

“You can just pee on Mamma once more and then we’d have a new baby.” he explains in his usual matter-of-fact manner.

Oh the relief! All those hours we save explaining the birds and bees.

Golden Shower Love Spawn works just fine methinks.

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Filed under Arvind speaks, family

Mellon Collie

How many Screw Up and Go Free cards do you get in Parenting Monopoly?

I’m willing to NOT pass Go or collect $200.Will that count in muscling me some goodwill?

Answers anybody? Or is it three strikes and you’re out? Aaargh.

Edited to add: Yes, I know three strikes is baseball. And that the whole monopoly-baseball mixed metaphor is a screw-up. In my defence, the toddler has just launched his own nighttime civil disobedience movement. The one in which he principally objects to sleep and even faint suggestions of rest and well-being.

Ergo (God, I love the Oxbridge pretentiousness of ergo) the Mellon Collie, the unglued metaphors and infinite sadness.

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Filed under family, Parenting

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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Filed under family, friends