Saturday, May 28, 2011

Letters to a little girl - twelve

Dear Ragini,
The last letter of the advice series. One never believed one would get here so it may be time to heave a huge sigh of relief.
One. Twelve months. But a lifetime of change has already been set into place. I believed I could do it better the second time around but I hadn't really accounted for the differences. You walked a bit later. You started eating on your own much, much sooner. You screech, which he never did. Already the differences in personalities are too numerous for me to keep up with the comparisons. It is time to let the two tickers and the two critters write their own destinies without my running a constant comparative analysis.
Perhaps part of it has to do with your almost sharing birthdays. That reminds me, I got away with a joint birthday party this time. The theme was supposed to cars and butterflies but the cars ate up the butterflies. The next time, you will be two, kiddo and I have a feeling you will have a lot to say.
I do hope you will like cars though.
This time you were asleep through the proceedings.
Six teeth on the last count. And many, many bite marks on the family.
First book. Good Night Moon. Not terribly imaginative, I know, but come on, it claims it has lulled generations of children to sleep. Not my children, no. MY children have made their parents cry uncle, aunt and assorted relatives before they have deigned to close their eyes. 
Weaned at one. Taken to the bottle. Much heartbreak on the part of the mater despite wanting it very much. Confused emotions are part of the game.
You are a climber. No height is too much. Have limbs, will clamber. The sofa bears the evidence of the little feet and the grubby hands.
Unfortunately, there is no interest in TV yet. Bye, bye, Katrina Aunty.
There is a very strong streak of independence and self-reliance.  I am quite happy about it, except when I have to scrub mashed bananas and cheese out of the carpet.
Well, the last of the advice then and I am done for good.
  • Wrong advice does more harm than no advice.
  • False modesty is worse than genuine arrogance. I have found arrogance when justified to be quite attractive. Maybe you will too.
  • If you are ever caught in the drudgery of housework, rule number one is to wipe as soon as you spill.
  • As a houseguest, don't help yourself to the newspapers before the hosts have taken a go at them.
  • You can never have too many towels. There is a Hitchhikers reference in there but that's not the point.
  • Fidelity is so rare that it is precious and underrated at the same time.
  • Drink milk.
  • Being a parent, a good parent requires you to put someone else ahead of you all the time, for the rest of your life. Only if you are ready to make this life-changing adjustment should you consider having babies.
  • You can give and take all the advice in the world but there is no substitute for living life and learning from experience.
  • If you want a simple life, you will need to cut out the clutter. Don't waste time on envying others their lives, don't fret about what others think of you, don't try to be popular or to please people. All of this is unnecessary noise. Focus on the real stuff that makes you happy and spend all effort on those - work, travel, kids, hobbies, whatever. If you find people to be a waste of time, it is perfectly ok to cut them down to the few who do make you happy. When it comes to friends, quality over quantity.
  • Base your opinions of people only on their direct interaction with you. Which is also why it's futile to try to know celebrities.

In the end, I sing to you….(only figuratively, thank god)
I hear babies crying,
I watch them grow
They'll learn much more
Than I will ever know.
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.
Happy birthday, my little girl.  You rock.

Dear Readers,
I have said all that I had to in the last twelve months. Any advice that you'd like to offer will find pride of place. Go ahead, offer some wisdom to a tiny young thing. What are the Big Truths that you have learnt in your life?
Well then, this was fun.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stanley Ka Dabba

When the invite for the preview for Stanley Ka Dabba landed in my inbox, I was pretty much given to sigh and give it a virtual toss. Who will look after Ragini? Who will cook? What about laundry? And other existential questions that crop up when one is maidless, cookless and clueless in Mumbai. I talked about it to Adi. Yes, yes, he nodded sagely, we must go for a movie and I hope it is not scary like Rio. Um, sure, kiddo, I said and proceeded to do the hundred things that were left on my to-do list. As it happened, things took a turn for the better. I found two cooks and a maid and enlightenment under a tree. Said enlightenment described as never finding fault with any maid for anything that they do for as long as I live. If I want to preserve my sanity and finish that novel that I have been warming for months now, I have to embrace stains and badly cooked food and dirty windows as friends.

Of course, Rohini may have given me a parting gift in her maid when she moved to Hyderabad. We wait with bated breath for her arrival from her village.

So yes, things got better. Mahesh has taken a couple of days off work so that was one kid taken care off.

I spent the whole day shopping for their upcoming joint birthday party on Sunday and was bone-tired by the evening. But sharp at six, the little punter was found hanging to my leg. The movie! Let's go! You SAID you'd take me! And so we landed up at Pixion Studios in Bandra where a small preview had been organized. We met Kiran and her brat and caught up with them before lights were dimmed.

The movie is brilliant.


Little Stanley has no dabba (tiffin) during recess but plenty of supportive friends and a superb imagination. The back story is not provided conveniently to the viewer but you are left with a lingering sense of disquiet at what is happening at Stanley's home. Where are the parents? Are they dead? Where is he living? There are heart-tugging scenes of Stanley trying to fill himself up with water, his clothes getting dirtier and his appearance scruffier by the day. Finally the friends decide to call Stanley's bluff. Stanley offers a cock and bull story about parents having taken off in a plane. No matter, say the friends (super casting by the way), we will share our food with you till the prodigal parents return. But they also need to account for Khadoos, their Hindi teacher with the insatiable appetite who'd rather eat the kids' food than let them share it with Stanley. The kids outsmart Khadoos over and over till he finally loses his temper and orders Stanley to stay away till he can produce a dabba. Stanley stays away from school. His friends have no way to get in touch with him. The school is auditioning for a concert that Stanley would have been perfect for. The story builds towards the climax. But come on, I cannot really tell you how it ends.

The characters are all people we have bumped into. The pretty, considerate, amiable teacher that we all love and have a bit of a crush on. The nasty one that we want dead. The strict South Indian lady who teaches Science and never sees the lighter side of things. The principal with the immaculate accent. Yes, we have met them all.

One thing is clear - the people who have made the film seem to have insight into children and their world.

Adi of course found the whole movie very disturbing. Children are both blessed and cursed with such a huge suspension of disbelief. Nothing is implausible in the narrative. They can identify with the movie to the extent that they are in the movie. Hell, they are the film! Adi was Stanley, hungry (would you believe he ate six Parle-G biscuits while he watched the film, he has probably never eaten the same ever in his life...the only reason they were in my bag is because Raagu eats them....and then followed it up with wafers and then ate dinner after getting home?) It was a bit of a As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again moment for him.

He gamely kept up with the movie but then towards the end there came a scene where Stanley's uncle slaps him. The boy broke down completely. He bawled and sobbed and wept. I tried to explain things to him but he would have none of it so we stepped out of the theater to let the others watch in peace. Fortunately Amol's wife was most sporting about the whole thing and made Adi talk to 'Stanley' on the phone. Finally, he calmed down enough to be taken home. We missed the end but any film that can impact anyone so deeply is obviously made very, very well. The acting was pitch-perfect.

Watch it! You won't regret it. And if you have a fussy eater on your hands, take them along. They might just end up appreciating you and your cooking a lot more.

Linky post

If you like fashion and green fashion at that, check this out. These people are doing some interesting work. I like the concept of their Trunk Show Hosts. I'd totally do it, if I didn't have to....well, let's not into all that I have to do these days. More on that later.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In lieu of a Mother's Day post.... could perhaps read this.

The family has gifted me a spa voucher for Mother's Day. I told them about it as soon as I had signed for it. You?

Friday, May 6, 2011

For my madcap son, on his fourth birthday

Dated for the 4th of May, 2011

My boy, my boy
Come talk to me
Tell me where the years took flight

Man, four years! I can only shake my head in disbelief at that. I guess the sleep deprivation has dulled my senses, specially the ones that mark the passage of time. All I can say is, I am glad he is not turning two. That, my dear friends, was one hell of a party, except that it was more hell and less party. It didn't look like it at the time but we did make it past that, and then another year and look at him now, he is playing with the globe and wants to know where Angola is.

This last year was extra-important in the overall scheme of things because as soon as he had finished cutting the cake and blowing out the candles, he was presented with a baby sister. Hey look, a birthday present for you, a baby! Enjoy the responsibility, happy birthday. He does take his role as Ragini's older brother very seriously. What sort of a baby have I got, he queries, I am asking her not to eat tissue paper and she is biting me. Tough times.

The shyness keeps coming and going but there is more evidence of a social being, someone who perhaps can tolerate the human race. Somewhat.

It's really difficult to encapsulate a whole year into one milestone letter. All I can say that some things remained the same. I am as far from being a perfect mother as conceptually possible. The house is messy. The maids are forever quitting and staging walk-outs. I regularly have nuclear meltdowns of my own, some of them quite capable of stunning even the kids into silence. I yell and scream and say No! No! No! much more than I should, despite all those e-mail forwards that instruct me not to, if I want to truly enjoy these years. In fact, I think there is way too much emphasis on enjoyment. There is no time for all that touchy-feely nonsense, I say. Not for me.

But there were things that changed too. The house became...well...fuller somehow.I fretted endlessly about sibling rivalry, about the boy feeling neglected when the princess arrived and all sorts of things that only I can think up. Well, I should have spent all that time worrying about something else because he clearly adores her. More than anything, she amuses him, like a pet almost and I think we can live with that.

He still looks like me and like M and on good days, like distant granduncles and aunts. On my side, ha.

There is still no interest in food. He eats to keep us happy. The foodie gene has mutated.

He speaks English like a native of Bandra, which he is I guess and these days has taken to the upsetting habit of adding a questioning No? after every phrase. Mama, that boy no, he is my friend no and he wants me to come to his party no so you will take me no? I respond calmly, meaning I clench my teeth and shout - Adi, you don't have to say no after everything, no?

His Hindi on the other hand seems to a nod to our colonial past. I do think I saw him shed a silent tear when Bob Christo died. Daddy, what is that long thing with which we clean the floor, he asks the other day. Abey, angrez ki aulaad, jhadoo bolte hain usse, said the frustrated father. I think M and I should spend more time conversing with each other in Hindi. It's just that we cannot spell bad words in Hindi when we need to (and we do need least I do).

He is a bit of a geek, there's no getting around that. He is fascinated by all things gadgety and electronic. We visited someone recently who had remote controlled curtains. You know the rest of the story. Let's just say peace was bought with a Spongebob DVD. He loves to read and write and know things. Most tiresome, when I am trying to focus and write the magnificent total of a hundred words everyday. But it's a fair trade-off. It's amazing to have a super-bright kid around. These days for example we are very heavily into saving the environment. We like to spot The Green Triangle on things and then we want to put them in 'a magic machine' that will throw out new things. Now to figure access to this magic machine.

So yes, fun year. Very tough, no doubt but rewarding in the non-monetary sense (always a toughie, that one). One whole year of being a mum to two. Surprises will never cease.

Happy birthday, Aditya. Live very long and very happy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When October comes

I may have mentioned in passing my slight liking for this little-known group called Metallica. That episode where I dragged my mother, M and a one year old Adi to Bologna, Italy for attending a concert was just a momentary lapse of reason (to mix my metaphors and music). And now, they are going to be here. I am looking most nonchalant about the whole thing, not at all childish and excited and what-not. I am not playing Metallica on loop from morning to night. I am not playing their videos to the kids as part of their essential education. I am not tucking them in at night singing 'Exit...Light! Enter....Night! Hold my hand, we are off to never-never land'. No, my son cannot head-bang with the best of rockers. No, my daughter does not own a onesie that says 'I am with the band'. No, I have not been ogling at Metallica tees on Linking Road, wondering just which one to sport for the big concert. No, I do not give the Peace, Bro look to anyone who wears one of those tees. No, I do not get goosebumps when I think of the time I heard the first strains of Ecstasy of Gold. No, I am not praying to every God there is to keep the kids healthy at the time of concert. No, I did not snarl at Mahesh when he mentioned that he might want to attend the Delhi GP instead of looking after the kids while I troop off to Bangalore.

Um. Why are you giving me that look of disbelief? Why?

Now, tell me, who's going to be there?

Random pictures from Bologna, 2008. Because. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wrapping Vrapping

We have a fairly well-stocked little wine chiller. In the days of yore, read when I was not nursing, I rather liked my wine. 

Understated fact. 

These days though the wine chiller lies rather forlorn in one corner of my used-to-be-study-is-now-laundry-corner. A good thing that has come from this tipple-less state of things is that we now often dip into our stock for gifting purposes. 

This evening too when we were about to leave to visit someone, we got out a bottle of Australian Chardonnay 2004 vintage. Normally I am a huge fan of wrapping things in newspaper and then tying it up with twine or a red ribbon. Something like this: 

Image courtesy here

It's all eco-friendly plus I have matching newspaper bags left over from Adi's birthday party last year. This also meets the approval of the pintsized environmentalist who likes to wag his finger at me if I let the tap run for one second longer than I should and counts Reduce, Reuse, Recyle off his fingers at least ten thousand times everyday (teachings from summer camp, where would we be without you?) and insists that I get a shopping bag with the green triangle on it. 

For wrapping a wine bottle though, I'd rather go all Martha and use some colourful paper or a piece of fabric. Something like this: 
Image from Google Image Search
By the way, for a first-class tutorial on an easy-peasy, lemon squeezy (hehe, yeh toh wine cooler ban gaya) way to wrap a bottle Japanese-style, check out this video.

Anyway, today there was no ribbon to be found in the house and the kids were getting antsy and we needed to have left ten minutes back. So I ended up wrapping the bottle in a bag from Cottons. I don't have a picture but know this, if you are in a time crunch and have kids crawling all over you and you need to wrap stuff, there's nothing to beat a Cottons bag. I shop there only for the bags. Kidding. Also, Cottons Jaipur doesn't have a website? Strange. I'd imagine that's the kind of place that should be shipping abroad all the time. Anyway, at least they have me, not least for the bags. 

Do you have any fail proof wrapping secrets? Share, no?