You’ve Got A Friend

At the home of superfriend R, in between taking freshly laundered capes out of the dryer and exercising superpowers.

MGM: We have to this discuss this thing.

R: Uh-oh. Better put the tea on then. Rough day? What’s up?

MGM: It really bothers me how even after you’re done having kids, it’s somehow the onus of the woman to get her tubes tied. I mean, shouldn’t men be volunteering vasectomies at this point?

R: Isn’t that their business? Wait. OF COURSE NOT. Because who would we judge then?

MGM: Seriously. Pop one through your hoohaa and its all vulvar distress and no AMOUNT of kegels will help you NOT wet yourself ever so little when you’re jumping up and down, dancing to Song 2. Seriously!!

R: VULVAR? That is not even a word. I just poured tea. Have some mercy.

MGM: Oh, suck it up already. It’s 2011 and we can’t talk about vulvæ over tea? The post-episiotomy monster one deserves a medal for chrissakes. And C-secs? You had one. I had one. Tummies that look like badly set liver pudding. Loose skin that makes your abdomen look like a shoddily stitched bag.  If Ryan Gosling were to walk up to me and say, “Shed your gear, honey”, I would be too ashamed. THE SHAME!!!!

R: James McAvoy? Something tells me James would have a workman’s hands and appreciate a real woman’s body. He wouldn’t go, “Monster vulva. That is just gross.”

MGM: Wait, we can’t derail over gorgeousness. Come on. Don’t tell me you don’t agree? A good man will let his eyes sweep over his gorgeous progeny, take a minute to reflect over the corporal sacrifices made by his lovely, often annoyed wife and instinctively think, “My work here is done. I must stem this bounty at the fount. I must spare her the slightest brush with gynæcology and fix this myself, so as to continue with unfettered monkey business.”

R: You can’t spare yourself a brush with gynæcology anyway. Not unless you want to die of cervical cancer avoiding any brushing. Come on. Maybe it’s not painful. Maybe it’s like a smear. Ok, who am I kidding?  They should so get snipped. At the bloody fount. AND be in pain. Only ripe agony will do.

MGM: I KNEW you would see it. It’s principle. It’s basic courtesy. You tear, I snip. Your pain to get them out. Mine to make sure they stay put as a perfect, phantom third child. Really. Every mother needs to raise her sons to be so considerate.

R: And you know the kind of guy who wouldn’t even entertain the thought when presented to him, right? Yup. Mr. Don’t-Make-Me-Pretend-To-Care-If-It-Was-Good-For-You-Too. Mr. Roll-and-Snore while you turn to James McAvoy in desperation.

MGM: You’re not really sharing, right?

R: Oh god, no. After shoddily stitched bag abdomen, continued and excellent sexual service should be written in stone in the family constitution. As a fundamental human right. Wait. As MY right. So much better.

MGM: Come on. Can’t be anything as painful as labour anyway.

R: Face it. If you were a guy, you wouldn’t go there unless you were taken kicking and screaming, you darned diva.

MGM: *shudder* Not a chance. Not while there was grass on God’s green earth.

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Laziness Leads to Poetry

I love this poem to pieces and I would feel greedy if I didn’t share it with you all. And you would not be wrong in assuming that I have an Adrienne Rich habit.

No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone.
The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,
they happen in our lives like car crashes,
books that change us, neighborhoods
we move into and come to love.
Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,
women at least should know the difference
between love and death. No poison cup,
no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder
should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder
not merely played but should have listened to us,
and could instruct those after us:
this we were, this is how we tried to love,
and these are the forces they had ranged against us,
and theses are the forces we had ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.

– Adrienne Rich

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The Thursday War

“Mamma, is it Friday today?”

“No, sweetheart, it’s Thursday.”

The tiny little body stiffens as the fury whirls up within him.

“But Friday is Take A Toy day. And I HATE Thursdays. Thursdays smell like farts. I hate Thursday so much that I will paint it pink, stamp on it, break it into many, many pieces and flush it down the toilet. And then Thursdays will drown in the sea forever.”

Anger Management à la an-otherwise-peaceful and happy Armaan.

Clearly all that Roald Dahl is having an impact.

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Superpowers

“We’re family, Arvind. And being family means that we we know each other better than anyone else knows us – warts and all.”

“Yeah?”

“Well, that is like having a superpower. It is a HUGE power to have. And like any superpower, we can use it for good. Or we can use it in a bad way. Like it or not, we have the power to make or break each other’s day. Days even.”

The boy pauses whilst drawing, pencil raised dramatically in mid-air. As if pondering my words. Or catching flies.

“Yeah. Like Pokemon. They have all these superpowers and sometimes, if they are not clever, they end up hurting themselves with their powers.”

“Well, err.. yes. That sounds about right. So we’re using our powers and words wisely?”

Lesson learnt: I will not be a cultural luddite and knock popular youth culture ALL the time. Clearly, even Pokemon can offer some moral sustenance. I will have to settle for a more reserved kind of Pokemon loathing now.

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Days Of Our Lives

Someday, in the not-so-distant future, Armaan will no longer say, “VUNDERSTORRM” with unconcealed delight when there is a (you guessed it) thunderstorm.

Someday in the future, I may no longer have the incredible pleasure of his cheery company while I’m making a perfect bolognese sauce from scratch – and he chatters continously, stirs the crockpot, chews a bay leaf for size and tries to guzzle the red wine.

I love these moments with my baby.

So I’m going to give myself a minute to hate a future that may not include them.

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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.

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What It Takes

..to bring me back is being roundly called A USELESS, YOOOUUUSSELESS WOMAN by this Bloggaqueen.

And I love her. So if you were looking for a catfight – shoo.

On the other hand, if you like girl on girl action, stick around. (Oh. God. I may have just asked for choicest UP waali gaalis)

As soon as I’m done stalking yet another person I don’t know on Facebook, I’ll be back.

In a more dignified manner than Arnold. Hopefully.

Edited to Add: 100,000 hits. High five. After almost three years, I’m upto MM’s daily traffic;-)

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