Tag Archives: children

No Starbucks for my children till they are forty!

5 Mar
Loving and longing over coffee

Love and longing over coffee

I am at the Starbucks near my house. Although I don’t care much for the coffee here, this place has an agreeable vibe and I have found that with practice, it is not impossible to acquire taste for their awful brew.

I come to this cafe on days when I feel the need to lose context and be a stranger among strangers. There is something therapeutic about being around people who do not know you. This isn’t to say that I am a homicidal fugitive lurking around crowded places looking for safety in anonymity. Nor am I an abused wife (if anything) whose idea of breaking free is sit incognito behind dark Jacky O glasses and silently sip coffee in the neighbourhood cafe.

I feel drawn to such places because I love coffee and I love people watching and cafes beat any other public space when it comes to combining these two interests. Agreed this isn’t a talent that would look good on a resume’ but it cannot be denied that such a pastime does require a certain set of undefined skills.

The husband says that this just goes to show how acutely jobless I am, but great art has always had to put up with great criticism in its own time and so I take such remarks in my stride.

Be that as it may, you might agree with me that human beings are an incontrovertibly fascinating creation of nature and each person has is by himself/herself a story. I like to look at these people around me and imagine their stories.

For instance, there is a man of generous proportions sitting across from me right now and has ‘Ladies find me irresistible’ written boldly across his discoloured t-shirt. His hair is unkempt and his face unshaven. The physiognomy of this man reminds me of Ignatius, the slothful hero of A Confederacy of Dunces. If I was a mean person I would judge him for the generous, full fat, double whipped cream topping on his hot chocolate. But you all know by now that I do not have a mean cartilage in my body.

For now, I am shifting focus to what Irresistible boy’s life might be like. I can imagine him being a mamma’s boy, like Ignatius and I can imagine his Sindhi mother living by the slogan on her ‘baby’s’ t-shirt. She has probably never approved of any girl this man has fancied because he is clearly too perfect for anyone. Irresistible boy probably runs a business from home and it suits him just fine because this saves him the trouble of having to shave his face or look clean and presentable like other working class people who need to show up in an office.

I leave him to his hot chocolate and turn my attention towards this other couple that does not seem to belong to this neighbourhood. It is evident that they have chosen this particular hood for precisely that reason. The woman is wearing a red coloured blouse over skinny jeans but the word ‘skinny’ is in no way a reflection of her overall size. Her beau has removed one sandal from his food and is grinning at her while playing footsie from under the table. His hair is oily and overgrown and he is sporting a prominent moustache that conceals his upper lip but when he laughs, his pan-stained teeth take away the attention from it. He is looking at her lasciviously while his shoeless foot continues to busy itself under the table that is not large or low enough to conceal its private engagement with hers. She is smiling at him longingly and reciprocating his gesture with equal relish.  Call me judgmental if you will, but am compelled to deduce that their overall behaviour somehow bears witness to the illegitimacy of their relationship.

I am cringing and also feeling like an intruder and cannot bear to look in their direction anymore. If they were better dressed, would I still be cringing, I wonder. Are seemingly illegitimate couples in the throes of PDA more acceptable if they are cleaner looking, with better teeth and dressed in Prada or Savile Row tailoring?

I have repositioned my vision and am now looking at a large blonde woman who is finding herself a couch to sit on. She has enormous biceps and triceps that could easily make Salman Khan and Sunny Deol appear frail in comparison. Her arms are tattooed all over with what looks like angels and daggers that are adding to her formidable appearance. A puny man who is ordering their coffee in an American accent accompanies her. Perhaps bodybuilder lady is a personal trainer to a movie star. Or maybe she and puny guy are backpackers who are touring across the country. She looks like she must carry his backpack along with hers and is at no risk of being raped given her dimensions.

A senior actor in his late seventies has just walked in. He is taking slow measured steps to keep his balance as he walks towards the barista to order his coffee. Some people acknowledge his presence with a smile and he seems pleased that this much younger generation recognizes him.

A young couple sits at the far end of the long table where all nerds are seated with their laptops. I happen to be sitting on this table with my laptop as well. This boy and girl cannot be older than eighteen years and are visibly in the first flush of their love for each other. She has large kohl rimmed eyes and she is finding everything he says worthy of laughter. This couple can barely keep their hands off each other and there is nothing sneaky about their moves. On the contrary, in spite of their PDA, there is nothing cringe worthy about them. I am glancing in their direction now and then and I can see that they are playing the ‘who-will-blink-first’ game. A few seconds later, he has beaten her to it and she is somewhat pleased about it. He brings her iced-tea and now they are sharing the icy drink with two straws from the one glass.

A gaggle of ladies in afternoon jewels and sunglasses has just walked in, presumably after a kitty party in flowy georgette tops in bright colours with matching pop coloured lipsticks applied so liberally that they are compelled to keep their shades one throughout their post kitty coffee session.

This is a cue for me to leave the café.  Besides, the cacophony of the group is deafening the sound of my own thoughts, which is a sign that I must give my imagination a break and head home to my children.

As I head out I walk past a couple, the girl is in a school skirt and is fondly stroking the cheek of her boyfriend, also in a school uniform. I ought to be delighted to see love thrive all around me but I am walking away feeling a bit unsettled by the ages of the participants of this PDA (public display of affection, in case my mom is reading this) show.

I am also contemplating keeping cafes out of bounds for my children along with nightclubs and watering holes till they reach forty.



Two bored kids and one beautiful train journey through Switzerland

18 Feb

Two bored kids and one beautiful train journey through Switzerland


St Niklaus

The children and I are on our way to the airport to catch a flight to Zurich. We have decided to be there at least three hours before departure to be able to take a tour of the newly inaugurated GVK (Mumbai International Airport).

We walk to the Swissair counter, which is fairly deserted at the moment, and we are possibly the first ones to check-in. “You need to hurry up and get to your departure gate as the flight is closing,” the gentleman at the counter warns me. “Whaaaa…t?” I say incredulously. “We are early, what do you mean the flight is closing?”

“Ma’am you are really late. The flight departs in 45 minutes, I only let you check-in because you are traveling with young kids,” he informs me generously.

This should give you an idea that I am a foggy brained person, who gets by in life purely by chance and because of consideration or pity shown towards me because of my “young children”. God bless them.

On the plane, I can hear the conversations between parents and children in on the seats across from me and I am pleased to bits with the realization that there are other politically incorrect parents like me on this planet. I used to think my own style of parenting had glaring flaws in it but the other parents on the plane are threatening to lock up their children or leave them behind on the plane. I am realizing that I am not the psychopathic tyrant my kids make me out to be but an all loving, all forgiving Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music type of mum. I am hoping the mother on the seat behind us continues to admonish her daughter audibly enough for my kids to hear it but she disappoints me by passing out on her seat even before the seatbelt sign is off. It is late in the night and before I know it I am the only dingbat fighting sleep just so I can lose myself vicariously to Downton Abbey on the monitor in front of me.

I stay up all night watching Season 4 of the British drama and by the time our flight lands at Zurich airport the next morning, I find that I have developed a British accent, clipped tones and all. I am also peppering my sentences with old Scottish expressions almost involuntarily along with “Oh golly” and “Dear me!”

Incidentally, the husband is supposed to fly in from Singapore and receive me at Zurich airport, mostly because he thinks I will lose his kids somewhere between Zurich airport and Zurich railway station, both of which are across the road from each other.

The reason we planned this holiday was to be able to spend quality time with each other, far from the sweating crowd of Bombay and the reason we chose Switzerland, in spite of the cold, is because of my love for the mountains. It is the month of March when my children get ten days off from school and after being seduced by the compelling charms of the Alpine slopes the previous year, we have decided to head to the Swiss mountains yet again.

We are to change two trains to get to Zermatt over a five-hour journey. Mr Perfectly Organized aka the husband has already bought online tickets for our onward journey. Not that buying tickets in advance was even required given that the population of this country is only 7.9 million. But we like to err on the side of caution and so we have purchased full fare, non-refundable tickets for the whole family in a single swipe.

The only fly in the ointment is that he has made all these arrangements for two days later than my actual flight arrival schedule, due to some mix-up for which I am partly responsible. Now I have to cover this daunting distance between Zurich and Zermatt with two large bags and kids in tow all by myself. I know, I make it sound like I am a participating cyclist in the Tour de France but I call this situation daunting, not on account of the distance between the two cities but because of my physical proximity to my two unbridled children during this journey. Add to that my inability to multitask and the occasional attention deficit disorder symptoms and you can comprehend the reason the husband is nervous about me chaperoning our children all by myself.

Be that as it may, here I am, buying all of us tickets for a small fortune that can see a family of six through school in a third world country, the exact kind from where Brad and Angelina adopt their children.

Minutes later we are dashing off to look for our platform, which is at the far end and I am concerned that we might miss the train. One crazy lady with two large suitcases and frenzied kids  is seen running up and down Zurich Hauptbhanhofs, Europe’s busiest railway station and then, after identifying the train, finally flinging her kids and luggage into it with Olympic zeal.

The train leaves Zurich almost reluctantly while I sit there catching my breath, congratulating myself on crossing the first hurdle without any visible casualties. The kids are digging into a bag of crisps and I turn my attention to the landscape outside. Everything that I can see feels uninspiring at first. Factory units and industrial looking landscape, pass us by for a few miles and then the train chugs slowly into beautiful Bern.  I greedily take in whatever I can see of Bern from my window…the stunning lakes, cathedrals with gothic spires and unusually narrow and quaint cobbled lanes. It is a picture postcard city all right. I feel a pastoral delight as I look out of the window, nose to glass, and observe the tiny villages with their miniature chalets and churches that appear every now and then on the landscape. I wonder about the simple lives of the inhabitants of these villages comprising of no more than six to eight families. I think about just how awfully healthy yet dull I might have been had fate allotted me such a life.

I take a break from gasping in awe at the sights that are quickly passing us by to look at the faces of my two uninspired children. Rarely will you have seen such bored expressions on a human face. “Don’t look so bored girls, look outside,” I suggest. My suggestion is met with a request for the ipad from the younger one. Thankfully I am not of a highly introspective disposition or the fact that I have spawned kids who are so epically disinterested in nature might’ve bothered me a great deal.

I take a short walk towards the cafe on the train and cannot help but notice that most passengers on this journey are senior citizens. My being there with my children has probably brought the average age down to 75, but other than us, there are no young people in sight. We could have been shooting a Swiss version of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on that train, for all one knew. Except that elderly British women tend to be haughty and rude apart from being plump and/or buxom while the Swiss ones look lean, fit, benevolent and a trifle bored.


Leaving Bern and Brig behind, we change our train at Visp where quite a few ski enthusiasts and snow boarders board the next train with us. Z and R are exhausted from boredom and bickering now. The train chugs along, towards steeper inclines.

The journey upwards is awe-inspiring even though it is incomplete without chloroform, which I wish I had with me to temporarily sedate the girls, to afford my elderly co-passengers and myself some peace. But in spite of the high decibel conversations followed by disagreements between them, I am getting by on account of the white wonderland scenery around me.


Ticket inspectors appear quite frequently on Swiss trains and spotting one approach in our direction, I dive into my oversized hobo to dig my carnet to show to the portly man. The gentleman punches our tickets tells me in an concerned manner that I might have been better off had I made the annual Swiss Rail family card instead. “You would have saved a lot of money and also got discount for your family on the ski lifts,” he informs me in a thick German accent. This is because we are in the German speaking part of this country. I tell the kind man in tragic tones, that the gentleman at the ticket window in Zurich did not inform me about any such pass thereby depriving some little boy in Cambodia of education. He empathizes with me and then as a token of his kindness and commiseration he scribbles all over my tickets in German. “I haf ritten here to refunt your money and make you das family pass zat is only half price. Show zis at  Zermatt station, I cannot promise zey vill agree but you must try,” he suggests sincerely. I am so moved by the gesture and his overall avuncular impression that I want to give him a tight hug. I cannot imagine this happening to me anywhere else in the world other than Switzerland and yes, Japan.

Imagine doing that when breathtaking views are passing you by

Like a lazy caterpillar our red train is negotiating around white snow capped slopes dotted with lonesome snow covered chalets and winter-withered trees. An inexplicable feeling of bien-etre’ surges through me. I begin to feel healthier and more cheerful merely by looking at the mountains and can hardly wait for the train to arrive at our destination just so I can step outside and inhale the crisp mountain air.

Look who is having the last laugh!

1 Apr

Dear diary,

Don’t we have to lie in the bed we make for ourselves? Mother is just about learning to do that. Last night I found her washing the paws of the four legged brainless fur ball that believes our house is nothing but a large lavatory where she is free to ease herself as and when she pleases.

Mother kept asking the children to bring her some shampoo quickly and when no one obliged, I caught her using L’Occitane shampoo that I believe belongs to father, to get some poop off Tiffany’s paws. One can see that no indulgence is being spared on this creature that does not have the common sense to know that one does not walk around in one’s own ordure while I, the discerning one, am bathed with some regular dog shampoo.

So talking about mother, she brings this dog into my life and takes off with her children for some kind of a holiday that involves packing in more clothes than Cleopatra and her entourage of eunuchs and maids might have carried when she went off to meet Mark Anthony. Not that it is any of my business, but somewhere in that luggage, the puppy got lost. She probably got mistaken for a fur hat and packed away. I was relieved and offered no olfactory help when the family panicked after noticing her absence. In my opinion it was extremely irresponsible of mother to want to leave behind a puppy of excessive innocence and limited intelligence, if at all, in the care of my apathetic self, in the first place. As my bad luck would have it, she got found just as the older child was going over the contents of her own suitcase looking to make sure she had packed her pair of gloves. She had fallen asleep somewhere in the heap of clothes.

On my part, in spite of the mounting pressure from the family, I wasn’t about to feign any kind of interest in her to please them. About a week after Tiffany arrived into (was thrust upon) my life, I was being forced to muster up an emotion for her that I wasn’t capable of feeling. Her so-called ‘cuteness’ had made no impression on me and mother kept putting her in my face as I mentioned in my last post. So one day I just woke up and accidentally on purpose sprayed her kennel with the generous contents of my bladder. This would have been enough to let someone know how I felt about her. You would think that anyone with half a brain would get the message from what you might call an obviously vulgar gesture on my part, but no, not her. The infernally persistent creature continued to follow me around, now and then sniffing around my male belly looking for teats. As though there was any possibility of them sprouting on my hairy chest if she kept at it!

The family returned and mother, in her obvious bid to overcompensate me, was overdoing her love for me to the point where it seemed unnatural. Talk about being guilty and all that! She asked the staff at home if “we” had become friends in her absence and they informed her that the prospects of that happening were bleak as I had growled at the over friendly Tiffany several times while the family was away. A disapproving eyebrow or two was raised in my direction before she proclaimed that we all ought to be patient and by the summer Tiffany and I would be inseparable. Her optimism in life and faith in me moves me to tears. But I would be lying if I told you that it was enough to make me change my mind about the pup.

In the family’s absence I did catch her chewing up mother’s pile of books kept on the lower shelf of the rack and a few other sundry items within the reach of someone a little taller than a caterpillar. But I have shown stoic refrain from standing in her way because, and pardon me for relying on so many cliches, but it is oh-such-fun to watch someone dig their own grave.

This morning was particularly interesting as mother woke up  and screamed in horror when she saw an unusually sober Tiffany  sitting in a corner with a moss green face. I wonder how completely oblivious she was of the fact that she looked any different since the previous night. It seems tat the scavenging imbecile had found a tube of oil paint in the children’s room and because she seems to live by the principal of ‘when in doubt eat it’, she sank her teeth into it only to have it rupture all over her furry face and the living room floor.

I would have preferred had mother not L’Occitaned her yet again and left her looking like some kind of a decaying pantomime artist. But she lathered her face, washed her up and then plugged in a hair dryer to blast dry her face. You should have seen just how perfectly that scared our intrepid friend.

She smelt like a lemon orchard for the rest of the day and I could not bear to sit next to her. Us dogs don’t like perfumed things as you might know and do not treat dogs that do not smell like dogs with respect.

Be that as it may, I am looking at mother in a new light. You see, there are enough stray puppies on the street and if you were a person of even the slightest degree of compassion in you, you would bring home one such puppy. Instead you find a pup that looks like the Harrods teddy and have long, over familiar conversations with some breeder in another city and organize for her transportation. Then you take her pictures all day long marveling sighing and gasping at her pristine beauty. How truly shallow!

I must concede however that even though I have not taken any fancy to this dog, her arrival has added a new sense of adventure to my life because living under the same roof with Tiffany is like being a prop on the set of a giant slapstick comedy set. Cupid may be nowhere near the corner but Gelos is smiling wholeheartedly at us indeed. Besides, aren’t I having the last laugh?

Yours truly,

The only wise dog in the house,


Tiffany is green

Green Tiffany


On living with the crazies -a true tale from a dog with a blog

9 Mar

Olly- Dog with a blog

My name is Olly and I am just a dog. My adoptive mother of thirteen years has this notion that I am growing old and lonely. While the former is true to a certain extent, I am after all a heart patient since six years and my paws are wearing out, but to an evolved person, and my mother certainly isn’t one, I would appear alone, not lonely. According to Osho, alone is good, while lonely reeks of misery and I choose not to be thought of as a miserable little fellow.

I am content watching my family members go about their lives busily and even though I am just a dog, my days are far from empty. I follow my adoptive mother (henceforth referred to as ‘mother’) around the house all day like a shadow and at times, I even follow her five floors down to the car park. If a pedometer such as the popular Fitbit, which my mother has purchased twice, but does not use, could be attached to my body, I would be easily outdoing most of you adults trotting along Carter road with missionary zeal every morning.

I was brought into this house shortly after my adoptive parents got married. I have overheard mother tell people that I was the ugliest Shih Tzu that there ever was. She was expecting a fluffy white pup to arrive in a basket from Tashkent and here I was, looking like something that had accidentally dunked its head into a can of black tar. No one could have predicted at that time that like George Clooney, I would get better looking with age and in my autumnal years I would be the kind of fellow that managed to turn heads.

I might have been a strange looking creature back then, but something about my gremlin like physiognomy and overall needy attitude, evoked considerable sympathy from within the family and I found myself at the receiving end of a fair bit of attention.

In due course, something about my behaviour elicited calls to a dog trainer for whom I reserved a special kind of contempt. He would diligently show up at our doorstep every day at 7.30 am, like dead fish that got washed up at the beach every morning, and take me to the compound to teach me some silly tricks, for which I had no appetite or flair. Since mother was not about to yield to the simpering noises my epiglottis produced each time I saw this despicable human, I had to rely on my own wisdom and come up with a strategy. Each morning I would come back from my morning walk and disappear under one piece of furniture or another and by the time I was traced by the vile domestic helper and dragged out, after much snarling, only twenty minutes of my training time was left.

Mother was as enthusiastic a dog owner as any and fixed play dates for me with dogs I had no intention of mixing around with because generally speaking, I don’t like dogs, I never have. I was, for all practical purposes, a human being given that I slept on the same bed as my adoptive parents, ate cooked food and drank filtered water like them. I was even treated to Warholian fame when I got featured on television along with my adoptive father.

In spite of the glaring difference of class between other dogs and me, mother, an abiding optimist, took me all the way to Lonavala to enter me in a dog show. Eager to make an impression on the judges, she sent me for grooming a day before the show and spent hours in the salon getting her own hair coiffured as well. I don’t wish to plume myself over my achievements, but since we are talking, I feel compelled to tell you that I won the ‘Best of Breed’ trophy that day. I was the only contestant in that category and maybe that had something to do with it, but I do believe it was my swagger that charmed the judges.

My certificate was proudly displayed in the house and a matrimonial advert soliciting proposals from deserving female Shih Tzu’s was advertised in the Mid-Day in the news section, no less. Mother did not want my handsome picture to get lost in the clutter of classified adverts, you see. All interested parties were asked to contact father’s secretary whose number was printed in bold on the matrimonial alliance advert along with her email address. I believe this stirred up a hornet’s nest at father’s office because the secretary was inundated with calls from cheap men asking her if she was interested in “mating with them”. The ignominy of this situation had caused the poor girl to resign and it was after much apologizing from my sheepish father that she agreed to take her resignation letter back.

I must have been three years old around the time I noticed mother’s girth expand and it continued to do so inordinately for the next few months. As if to accommodate her belly, overnight I was downgraded to my own little bed in the corner of the room. In due course, two annoying children arrived, one after the other, to rain on my parade. Mother’s affection for me did not wane but the time she spent with me did. It was also around this time that, just as my hormones were raging, a surgery was performed on me to unduly tame them down. With my factory closed even before I had gotten into full-scale production, I began to realize just how profoundly unfair the universe was turning out to be.

I hectored myself to not give into despair and sought sublimation in my constant companion, Stripes, the toy tiger, whose company I have had the privilege of enjoying since I was a puppy.

I had made my peace with the stuffed toy and no one thought of getting me a female companion thereafter. But now when I am too old to care, mother has to spoil things for me by getting a shrill and overenthusiastic puppy. Mother does not care too much for her but the children of the house are going nuts over her. I fail to understand what they see in this creature that barely even looks like it was sired by a dog. In my opinion, she looks more like a kitten and if you want a cat so bad, you should get a cat and not a dog that looks like one.

As though this is not bad enough to give her an identity crisis, the family keeps changing her name every day. In the one week that she has spent in my house, I have heard them call her Fifi, Chelsea, Akiko and since yesterday she is Tiffany. I always suspected that I lived around a mentally unhinged family, but now my doubts have been confirmed. Mother keeps taking me to this abbreviated piece of nothing and asking me to “Good boy Olly, play with the puppy”. I am 91-years-old in human age, for god’s sake, do you think I would be interested in playing with a loopy, 2 month old infant who probably thinks I am her mother?

Mother has been telling all her friends that she has got this pup to bring some excitement into my life. Whatever gave her the impression that I find a pestilent pup with an incontinent bladder exciting? I’ll tell you what’s exciting to me? I find stupidity exciting. This insatiable fruitcake fell over into my bowl of food the other day and had chicken soup all over her hairy mug. That sort of made my day. No wonder she is kept in a training kennel while I get to sleep in my own bedroom with the family.

Anyway, I suppose now when my hysterical family goes away on vacation they will not be skyping with me like before because I have this “exciting” thing to keep me company. Mother’s only foible, as far as I know, is her impulsive nature and I am willing to overlook it. Just that this is one impulsive decision that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

Pray for me.



Tiffany the new pup
Tiffany – the pup who is really a kitten


The looney kid

Love in the time of Kindergarten

7 Feb
Never too young to love

Never too young to love

It is our five-year-old daughter’s sports day. Even though it is a 9 am kick off, and even though I am not a morning person, I have made an effort to dress presentably so as to make a right impression on the teachers. Since our younger one is new to this school I am also interacting with most other mums from my little one’s class for the first time.

In my older one’s school, I am the mother who is always showing up in an attire that can, at best be described as ‘grungy meets sporty meets out-of-bed’. Something tells me I need to present myself differently now to look like a ‘professional’ mother, which explains why I am dressed like one of the women from Mad Men.

I have an overall ‘good mother from the 60s’ vibe going on about me and I am feeling that I have become a ‘new and improved’ mother just by dressing the part. It is true one does need to dress the part to be taken seriously.

It is also true that the real reason people plan a second child is to be able to set right all that they have learnt at the expense of the first child.

We have arrived in an entourage to watch the child participate in her races and to cheer for her. The grandmothers are dressed identically in manner of chiffon and pearl clad ladies going to polo matches.

The husband is busying himself with his camera, walking from one end of the ground to the other in manner of paparazzi sneakily chasing after a celebrity.

One of the class mothers is regaling me with anecdotes from the classroom. Her son has told her that he fancies my five-year-old and would ideally like her to be his girlfriend. At this stage I am tickled by this information. Surely kindergarten is no age to take these things seriously. The mother is telling me that her son says that he is going to take a month to make up his mind about this matter. Turns out, there is a proverbial fly in the ointment in the shape of his best friend from the same class who likes my little one too. A man’s got to choose honour over love and this boy has made his choice. He needs a month to realign his feelings and then he will let his friend know that he has decided to forsake his love for their friendship.

This is getting complicated. “Two boys are interested in my baby? They’re so young, she is so young” I exclaim before drawing the lady’s attention to other crucial matters such as, “She has lost four front teeth. There are gaps in her smile. She is taller than them.” I feel shallow and fatuous even as I say this.

“How does that matter?” she laughs amiably. “She is taller than them, but they do not care about all this, they find her very cute.”

“She is the new girl in class, I suppose that makes her the belle de jour,” I offer modestly.

I am laughing now. This conversation is surreal. It feels like I have suddenly fast-forwarded my life and am living out a sequence that belongs in the distant future.

I waste no time in relaying this conversation to the family on our drive back home. I am amused, our older one is amused, and the grannies are amused…but the father of the child? He isn’t amused at all. He is frowning and telling me that I cannot have such a casual approach towards such matters. We are all suppressing our giggles and trying to dignify his possessive reaction with silence.

As far as I am concerned, the star of the story is this honourable boy and I would not mind such a gentleman in our child’s “distant” future. I am also wondering how this baby of the house, who sucks on her finger at night, who likes to be carried in my arms till the washroom in the morning, is somebody’s object de amour.

Be as it may, I have a fairly good report on her from her teachers. They think her to be a bright, sober and quietly responsible child. They ought to be shown a home video of hers one day soon, and their facial expressions must be captured on camera after they are done watching. They ought to be told that she recently yelled at me and through her slight lisp asked me something that left me bereft of speech. “Mamma, this morning you called me a badly behaved child who never listens, in the afternoon you kissed me and told me I am the cutest. Can you please decide what I am because how I can be both?”

A month has passed since her sports day and I am busying myself with preparations for her Winter Wonderland birthday party. Closer to the date when I ring the class mothers to invite them with their children to her party, another mum tells me that she overheard her son tell his older cousins during the holidays that he was in love with this tall new girl in class. She believes she heard him take my younger one’s name. When the child discovered that his mother had been privy to his declaration of love, he begged her not to repeat this to his father. The mother is amused. I am trying to feel amused. I am failing just a bit this time.

Are five/six-year olds capable to feeling anything of this nature? When we were kids such feelings did not even begin to stir inside us until we were at least halfway through middle school. But times, they are a changing.

Back at school, a fortunate stroke of serendipity has landed the boy on the same table as my little one.

When she comes home from school, she tells me about all the mischief the boy is up to, at school – “He hid my things.”

“Look he made a paper bracelet for me.”

“He switched out plates during lunch when I was not looking.”

“He pinched me very badly today, look at the back of my hand, you can see the marks.”

I go to school to fetch her, his mother is telling me he has told her how he feels about her just the day before. “Whaaaaaat?,” I gasp. I think I am about to get a wheeze. I think I need smelling salts. Mother! I need my mother!

I try not to look perturbed and smiling half-heartedly ask the boy’s mother about what my baby’s reaction was to this confession of love. She tells me that her son was too embarrassed to wait for her response and he told her that he just ran away after telling her about his feelings.

He is a terribly cute child with crazy hair and large mischievous eyes that slant just a bit at the corners.

But I am worried all the same for my baby is still a baby.

He sees me chatting with his mum and runs up to me and asks me coyly if he can come home with my little one. “She told me she has marble flooring at home, can I come to see it please?” he adds innocently as he scratches his head with one hand and adjusts his track pants with the other. In spite of my concerns, I am unable to say no to such cuteness.

On the drive back home, they both discuss the make of our car and he asks her if she has any toy cars at home. She tells him she has one that she will be happy to share with him. If I did not know better, this would be another normal conversation between two friends.

When I enter the house, there is a pleasant surprise for us in store. The husband is home early to spend time with his children before he takes off on a work related trip the same evening. He does a double take when he sees us. My older one, who is fully looped into the story, is cracking up. “Papa, I brought my second best friend home from school,” chirps my small wonder. In a sudden burst of affection, papa is kissing her and carrying her in his arms indulgently. She reciprocates his cuddles while the boy is waiting patiently for this circus to be over.

Before she is taken in for her bath she thoughtfully pulls out some gender neutral clothes from her wardrobe for her “2nd best friend”. He rejects her choices because “there is pink colour in the checks and the elephant on the t-shirt with a pink ribbon on its tail is a girl elephant.”

Before he leaves for the day, the two of them discuss their mutual love for the all boy band One Direction. They do not know the name of even one track that they like from One Direction albums, but they have older siblings and they are in a hurry to sound grown up.

A few days have passed and there has been no mention of the boy. Then one day my small wonder tells me that he pulled her chair when she was about to sit on it but she figured he was up to some mischief. “Mamma, I did not fall down, I get upped when I saw he was behind my chair,” she tells me before adding, “But when he went to the toilet and came back, I pulled his chair and he fell down. I did it one more time actually and both times he felled.” The child is very pleased with herself.

Today as I tuck her into bed she tells me that another boy from the class has been twisting her arm. “But I twist his arm right back and his arm is paining when I do that but he is preetending it is not hurting,” I am told. She is a fighter, this child of mine and I ought to be proud of it. “But what will you do if he hurts you badly?” I ask.

“I will tell the teacher,” she says simply.

“What if the teacher has stepped out of the classroom baby? Then will you tell the boy?” I persist.

She laughs, her sweet baby laugh and says, “Yes I will. You know when we have our break and I go to the swings to play and other children are sitting on them, he whispers into their ears and tells them that he will give them a lollipop if they vacate the swing for me. Then he tells me to swing on it for as long as I like. He does this everyday, you know mamma.”

“Actually he never gives them lollipops but they are little children from nursery so they believe him every time.” I can tell she is impressed by this gesture of his.

We are lying in bed, the lights are out, but I can hear her smile as she talks about him.

As she falls asleep in my arms, I smile too. For now, I am glad that someone in the school is constantly looking out for my baby.






To d3 or not to d3 – on sleep, hypochondria, sunlight and mothers

24 Jan

The biggest casualty of motherhood as we all know is sleep. I last slept a good night’s sleep nearly a decade ago. My nights, since the arrival of my children have been filled with episodes of conscious sleepwalking and like any somnambulist, I am fatigued and sleepy in the morning.

Part of the reason I wake up often is because my younger one is a *somniloquist and my older one is a raging **hypochondriac who gets her aches and pains mostly at night. She has the rare gift of identifying a dengue mosquito from an ordinary one because “it is fatter”. According to her, the mosquitoes that follow her around are mostly the ones carrying the dengue pathogen. She also checks her own temperature with the ear thermometer routinely just to be sure her temperature is well within the normal range.

Last night was another one of those nights when I could not get enough rest as my little hypochondriac, woke up several times with leg cramps induced by a tetanus injection that was administered to her yesterday. I had barely managed to catch up on some sleep in the wee hours when it was time to be up again to get the girls ready for school. I was sleeping in an upright position at 10.30 am when I was woken up by the whimpering dog who was eager to have his day started with the usual Marie biscuit dunked in (my) tea.  So much for being a concerned member of the family! You would think after all the years of me taking care of him and running up salon bills for his upkeep he would be more sensitive to my needs. But all this dog cared about was his Marie biscuit and chasing after petrified kittens in our building compound.

My mother had already called me a few times by the time I woke up and after none of her calls got answered she wrote an SMS to me asking me to be honest and tell her what was it that ailed me and kept me in bed this long. “You will not hide anything from me, promise me,” it read further.

I had recently mentioned to her that I had a vitamin d3 deficiency. My mistake. Turns out that with each missed call from my end, her fears for my health had escalated. I had to call her back as soon as I was done feeding the ungrateful canine to assure her I was fit as a Punjabi and there was no health related information that I was keeping from her. Relieved with my answer, she then asked me if I was pregnant. Before I could react she tried to salvage the situation by telling me good-humouredly that she was only asking since pregnant women overslept and are easily tired.  Her generalization was touching. As far as I was concerned this conversation was over and it was time to start my day.

I received a few more text messages and urgent phone calls from mum soon after, to draw my attention to the percentage of vitamin b12 in mushrooms and vitamin d3 in celery. Imagine my state, struggling to open one of my eyelids that was still shut, and I had to concentrate on a lecture on nutrition, no less.

And finally, she brought in my dad into our one-sided conversation. “You must go and get some direct sunlight on your terrace, don’t ignore this. I asked your dad and he also said there is nothing like the direct sun.”

In the universe of my mother, a point she is making to her children can only be validated further and made official if my dad seconds it. “The earth is round, dad also says so.”
“We are in 2013, I checked with your dad and he agreed with me.”

“I feel you don’t know how to discipline your children. I was speaking to your dad about it and he also said, “Shunali does not know how to discipline her children.””

“Manmohan Singh does not speak much. Dad was also saying our PM is a man of few words.”

You get the drift.

My mother then went on to dictate the recipe of sautéed mushrooms to me which I jotted down half heartedly, mostly because EVERYONE knows how to sauté mushrooms. If I wasn’t so groggy, I might have even been offended with my mother for assuming I did not know how to toss around a handful of mushrooms in a pan. I wanted to tell her that I might not have been a domestic goddess but I wasn’t a domestic retard either and that even Kim Kardashain must know how to do mushrooms.

Soon after she had ended the conversation with me, I crossed my fingers and Googled all the diseases that D3 deficiency could lead to. On realizing that I had most of those life threatening symptoms already, I sprinted to the terrace of our building to try and prolong my lifespan. Sitting there under the half-past-noon-sun, with beads of perspiration erupting all over my face, I pictured myself looking like Alok Nath breathing his last.

I sat under the blazing sun till I was dizzy and my sebaceous glands had outperformed themselves. Only when I was convinced that I had improved my chances of survival did I finally return home dehydrated. Tomorrow morning, I intend to reach my terrace by 8 am. If I manage that, I will be spared two things:

1. Harsh rays of the afternoon sun and the subsequent dehydration .

2. Sermon on nutrition/parenting/gardening or general living from my mother.

Oh wait, but I live for those sermons.

(Mamma, if you are reading this, I love you and your sermons. Do keep them going, it gives me material to write.)


* Someone who talks in his or her sleep.

** I am told the hypochondria gene was passed on to the child by me.





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