Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Papad being Papad... and a bit of news

Vijay is on a health trip. It's been about two months since he quit smoking ( the actual reason for why he quit after about 20 years is too important to share lightly), and he decided to supplement that with some exercise.

In a burst of enthusiasm, he completed a two kilometre run yesterday - in shorts that covered a mere percentage of his long, skinny legs, wearing a pair of bright red-and-grey shoes that he purchased without consulting me (online, that too). Naturally, this made him the target of the friendly neighbourhood strays that he curses on a daily basis. Nevertheless, he finished and came home.

This wasn't enough for him. He decided to forgo dinner and happily boiled two eggs for himself. I could hear him humming to himself as he sat down at the dining table to enjoy his protein-rich meal. I sat down across the table from him, and Papad wandered up out of nowhere and stared at his plate with great interest.

'What ij this?'

'Eggs, beta.'

Papad knew that, of course. He's often been exhorted to try a bit of egg, but he and his twin brother have always stoutly refused any egg-related meal, except in noodles when I have tricked them into thinking they're pieces of chicken.

Vijay neatly sliced the eggs into quarters and lifted one to his mouth. He didn't quite say aaah but he was looking really self-satisfied, I observed.

Papad was frowning hard as he thought about something. And then his face cleared and he gave me his trademark toothy grin and turned to me, exclaiming 'Mama! Aapko Pata hai? Bird egg is white colour. And bird potty is also white colour!'

The transformation of one frowning face to happy, and the almost simultaneous reverse of expressions on the face of the husband across the table were too much for me and I burst out laughing. I patted Papad on the head and said 'Yes, beta. That is true, isn't it?' while Vijay glowered at our youngest son, while now chewing a whole lot slower.


And now the news. If you haven't already seen my Facebook updates - it appears that 'Sorting Out Sid' is suddenly in the AC Neilsen's top 50 list! It's broken right through into position number 32, which rarely happens - even my first book 'Just Married, Please Excuse' didn't make it that high! So basically, whoopie. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the trend continues. And you can help by visiting this link and checking out trailer, synopsis, reviews and so on - and of course, getting your copy of the book! Or gifting to a friend. Or I don't know, just check it out, why don't you?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Just Breathe : A Free Demo Session on Using Your Breath To Transform your Life

If you happen to be in Gurgaon and are interested in a totally free, hour-long session on ''Using Your Breath To Beat the Stress and Transform your life'', check this event out on Facebook.

It's day after tomorrow, Friday, 11th April at 11 a.m. 

Hosted by the wonderful Cafe Serendipity, Garden Estate and is being held by the very engaging Apoorva, founder of Inbreath. She has recently moved from Hyderabad to Gurgaon and is my own Yoga Teacher.

You'll have to send an email with your confirmation at yashodhara.lal@gmail.com - we have space for just 30 people and it's first come-first serve, so do hurry :)

See you guys there!

HIghlights from Dr. Ravindran's Parenting Workshop

Last Saturday, we had a workshop on Parenting at the children's school. The first reaction when you hear that you've got to spend two hours on a Saturday learning how to 'better parent' your kids is usually something along the lines of 'Aarrghhh!' and indeed it was mine too. But then I realised that this would be an interaction with a gentlemen that we had met some months earlier in a session at the time of Nursery Admissions.

The good Dr. V.S Ravindran is described as a renowned Educational Psychologist, Counsellor Trainer and Teacher Educator, involved in the training of people in leadership positions in educational institutions, corporates and government organisations for more than two decades. What this impressive description fails to highlight is how brilliantly funny and incisive he is, with his anecdotes, examples and dramatic re-enactments of scenarios that he has witnessed between parent and child during his career. 

'Entertainment and education all in one go' I thought to myself and trotted off to the session happily on the designated day. I was not to be disappointed in the least.  I sat in the front row beaming up at him, assiduously taking notes and occasionally cringing at the disastrous parenting mistakes that he highlighted during the talk, especially because I could relate to so many of them. I thought it would be a good idea to share the few key points that he spoke about, and to that end, I wrote to him and received his happy consent for the same. Here they are, therefore -

1. On Anger and Scolding: 

- Dr. R started off by drawing a picture of the human brain ( he checked if there were medical doctors in the room and asked them to keep mum about the technical correctness of his diagram). The basic point that he made here was that there was a Learning System in the brain vs the portion where Emotions take place, and when you scold a child with anger, it causes the Emotional part of the brain to take over completely, and this means that No Learning Can Take Place in such a situation. Essentially; anger and punishment do not help correct a child's behaviour, and therefore are for all practical purposes useless. There just isn't any point at all. Therefore, his advice was that when you're angry, do not even attempt conversation with the kids. Just withdraw.

Note to self (and husband) : We never do this in our home. We react immediately and many times, angrily when there is a transgression, especially if one of the kids hits the other. And we have to do this repeatedly. It makes sense now that it hasn't actually stopped the aggressive behaviour. However, with so many good things in life, this one is easier said than done and will take loads and loads of practice. As the doctor said, though - patience and practice are pretty much the only things that work with kids, and it's no different for us. Our score on this: Zero. 

2. On Unconditional Love: 

- This was, according to Dr. R, one of the most important things that any parent can give to a child. And while he said we all claim to love our kids unconditionally, we fail to implement this one practically by not separating our children from their actions. For example, he said, even saying 'Good boy' or 'Good girl' after something nice is done by them can lead kids to think 'I'm only good when I do this or that.' The assumption, instead, has to be that the child is instrinsically good but sometimes can lapse into incorrect behaviours. Therefore, both in praise and in censure, the principle of commenting on the action should be followed.

The other thing that he mentioned was No Trading of Love to get work done - which can have serious consequences in terms of raising kids who think that this is the way to get things done in life - and therefore turn out manipulative.

Note to self: The number of times we say 'Good boy' in our household is ... uncountable. The issue is how to ingrain these same things with all the help that we have - those ladies haven't attended a Dr. Ravindran workshop and it beats me how to explain exactly why we should say 'Good job' or 'Good work' instead of 'Good boy/girl.' Similarly for the negative. Will have to figure this one out. 

3. On Discipline: 

- Babies, said the good doctor, are not born with impulse control - it is something that they have to learn. Till six years of age is the best time to teach kids the skill of impulse control ( although he assured some distraught-looking parents that it's not too late even after that age.) It's an important life skill, and the way that we build it is through consistent explanation and behaviour. For example - if there's a tantrum for a toy; either we don't give in at all; or we just go ahead and give in right in the beginning. The mid-way path which so many of us seem to follow ( No...no...I said No...I SAID NO...OH ALRIGHT TAKE IT AND SHUT UP) teaches the kids a very unhealthy pattern.

Delayed gratification is a critical life skill that needs to be taught to children; having them wait for something is a good idea - so that they learn that not everything in life comes instantly on-demand.

Teaching No for an answer is a good idea too - ideally with a reason though. And bluffing is a bad idea - example 'I have no money in my purse to buy you that lollipop' and later conveniently pulling out money to pay the sabzi-wala.

And in general for tantrums - ignoring is the best idea. While keeping an eye on the tantrumming kid and removing all sharp objects such as knives and chainsaws from the vicinity.

The most important thing he mentioned here was to do with Consistency; he said a lot of parents give in to things when they're in a good mood - the same things that they would not allow in case they were in a bad mood.

'Be Predictable' - he said; kids need us to be predictable, it gives them a sense of stability in their lives. Especially when they're small and we represent a huge portion of their world to them. This principle of Consistency also applies between parents - Mom and Dad contradicting each other a lot of the times results in very confused kids. Where grandparents are actively involved, this can be even more of an issue, but has to be managed for the sake of the kids.

Note - We do a lot of the 'giving in after resisting'; but we're pretty good at delaying gratification; on Predictability and consistency, however, we score low - especially me, I must admit. Vijay is usually an ocean of calm and I'm the windy storm. We've become better over the years at supporting each other and maintaining a united front ( Anyone who's read my first book 'Just Married, Please Excuse' would see a big change on this part if they could peek into our home now). However the fact remains - this area needs most work for me.

4. On Controlling Aggression: 

We're looping back and forth a little on this, but here's what he had to say on the topic of actually managing a kid who's hitting out -

1. Ensure you show no anger
2. Explain that you understand the feeling of anger that the kid is experiencing. This validates the feeling of a kid which he may not have the vocabulary to express.
3. Explain then, however, that hitting is wrong because it causes hurt. This is crucial because it says to the kid that while the feeling may be valid, his reaction is not the appropriate one. Separating the two is important, so that feelings aren't suppressed and self-awareness can be inculcated in the kid.
4. Round it off by suggesting an alternative - example, encouraging the kid to speak about the issue rather than using his hands.

What we're doing, Dr. Ravindran explained is trying to ensure that we do not cause our children to swing either to the aggressive or the submissive - but stay within that healthy zone of 'assertiveness' - which involves, for example in the case of dealing with issues such as bullying by speaking out and/or seeking social support.

Note - yeah, I've already said we're zero on this, so moving quickly along...

5. On Television

Ah, the most cringe-worthy session for me.

The careful selection of programs, the man said... the NOT using of the TV as an electronic babysitter...the need to sit with the children and supervise their viewing and commenting upon inappropriate scenes to reinforce values.

Note - I cannot, cannot, cannot sit through that Chhota Bheem fellow. The only solution in sight seems to be to drastically reduce TV time, which in our case can happily exceed an hour a day. I can see that this will be a real challenge going forward, especially since this also applies to the use of technology, the Ipad, the internet and so on. 

6. On Physical Exercise

Dr. Ravindran stressed this one a great deal. The importance of physical exercise to release energy, create a calming effect, increase focus and attention spans.

Note - considering my children go bouncing through walls and crashing through windows in their general zeal for life, I think we're okay on this one as of now. Also, I'm delighted that all three of my kids will probably start Tae-kwondo lessons next week!

7. On Rewards

Distinguishing between rewards and bribes is very important, stated Dr. R.

'Finish your homework and you'll get icecream'' as a solution to the initial resistance from the kids will simply result in reinforcing their negative behaviour. If they resist, Mommy'll offer a reward. Cool.

Instead, he said, catch them doing something good, and give them unexpected rewards - which means, they can't be given continuously - doing this once in a while will result in better behaviour on a general basis. However, more important is that transition we're trying to make for the kids - moving from tangible rewards to intangible ones (such as praise) as they grow; and eventually leading them to being intrinsically motivated - for example, by reinforcing 'Hey, you've tidied up your room on time. Doesn't that make you feel good?'

Note - for me personally, this one is really important. Loving the work you do and being intrinsically motivated by it, focussing on the journey and not the destination. Whoever thought it begins with how conscious you are about offering them an unexpected ice-cream? They should have parenting licenses just as they do driving licenses, I tell you...

8. On Values

This section was as simple ( and yet, not easy) as : Guys, just Walk the Damn Talk. Practice What you Preach. Do as you say. And so on. You get the drift, right?

9. On Child Sexual Abuse

Since CSA affects 53% of Indian kids - isn't that a truly shameful and shocking number? - it is critical that we as parents be aware. A few things to keep in mind:
- Do not call Private parts by their nicknames - a Penis is a Penis is a Penis, dammit. As Dr. R said - would you really want your child to be struggling to tell his teacher that someone 'touched his nonu?' which might be misunderstood as just being a toy? Good point.
- Promote the No-touch policy as much as possible - the number of people allowed to touch your kids should be kept to a healthy minimum. Even when you have to touch their private parts, it's a good idea to ask for permission.

Note - it so happens that it's Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. You may want to head on over to this online resource, run by my friend Kiran Manral (amongst others) and educate yourself on various matters. Also, I think it's never early to have the talk with your kids about CSA and here's a truly fabulous video that I've shared before. Now's a good time to let your kids watch it too. Seriously. This one may really, really help educate them ( and you). Great work, Childline. 

10. On Time

Dr. Ravindran rounded off his talk ( where he had us spellbound for two full hours, not an easy task when you're talking to a roomful of busy, tired parents) by saying he had talked about Unconditional Love and Discipline being two extremely critical offerings that we make as parents to our children - the third happens to be the gift of Time. Listening to them. And making sure that the time we give them is about THEM and not for us - agenda-less time, not time we're forcing them to bond with us or trying to improve upon them.

As he said - the moments that they will remember when they grow up are only those little ones when you held them by the hand and walked around a mela or a park. Parks and Walks, he said, if they're not a part of your relationship with your children - you're missing out on something.

Simple but profound.

Let me therefore end this really long, but hopefully worthy post and go and check on what the kids are doing. It's already 8.30 p.m. But it's never too late for a walk in the park, right?


Thursday, April 3, 2014

And they danced... at The Happy School's Fifteenth Annual Day Function

And so, this week, it finally happened. The challenge was accepted - and overcome!

The Happy School for underprivileged kids, where I volunteer on Saturdays to teach spoken english to class 2 students, had their Annual Day function in Gurgaon this Monday.

Despite an accident that Pickle had over the weekend wherein he got ten stitches on his scalp ( he is recovering well, thank you and I will perhaps post an update on that at some point), we managed to make it for the function on Monday. Even Vijay took an hour off out of the office to come and watch part of the program, and he's the one who took the video below.

As I wrote before, I was given the task of preparing the kids who had been left out of all other performances with a song. My initial attempt of getting them to do my original choreo on Gal Mitthi Mitthi Bol was a grand flop show.

Peanut, ever-present by my side when I'm at these little projects, said 'I think you should make them do Follow the Leader. Not Gal Mitthi Mitthi Bol.'

I growled at her, saying I would make them do Gal Mitthi only. It was upon some quiet reflection later that I realized that the kid was right. Follow the Leader wasn't a complicated song at all, it was high energy and most importantly - the instructions were right there in the music. Given the fact that I had just a few days to work with these kids and they weren't the most coordinated bunch on the planet, it made sense to get them to do this song instead.

And they did. They practiced every day - I went in as often as I could, getting some solid coordination help from another long-time volunteer, Neeta. And on the final day, I sat through the whole function in a large, crowded hall and was once again fascinated by everything that Mrs. Kamal Capoor has achieved in the setting up of this institution. It was an hour-long, rich performance replete with plays, songs, dances - the enthusiasm of the children was really something to see.

But most of all, I enjoyed the performance that my little kids put up - and yes, they got to be on the stage, which had always been the point of it all. Not one was left out, not even the naughtiest and most undisciplined of the lot.

If you watch the video to the end, you'll catch a glimpse of me looking like a proud Mother Hen. I'm glad I did this. But to tell you the truth, I'm also kind of glad that Annual days come only once a year!

P.S - if you'd like to volunteer at the Happy School, Gurgaon or contribute in any way, please write to Mrs. Capoor at kamalcapoor@yahoo.com. I would direct to you her website, but it's a little dated and she's looking for help with someone who can help update it and make it easy for her to update regularly too. You can probably Google it nevertheless :). Now watch the dance!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Big Questions

Occasionally I start agonising about whether it is yet time to go back to work. 

I decided to put the question to higher authorities today.

"So, do you think I should get a job?"


"Yes? Okay... What job should I do?"

"Umm... I think... Zero." Said Papad.

"What? I'm serious. What job should I do?"

"I think.. Red... Blue... Green."

"Papad!! I'm saying what JOB?"

"WHAT Isss JOB-a?" Shouted back my equally frustrated son. 

Never mind, I growled. I went in search of Peanut instead. 

"Peanut, listen. Do you think I should go back to work?"

"Anything you like." Said the little one wisely.

"Okay. But what should I do? What work have you seen me do?"

Peanut, who likes lists, got very interested and started ticking it all off.

"I've seen you writing books." Hmm. True that.

"I've seen you teaching the Happy School kids." Yes. Worthy cause, if only one day a week.

"I've seen you buying Tara's gift." ( recency effect - the party was yesterday. Still. I was beginning to feel better. Nothing like a little ego massage from your offspring)

"And the Zumba?" I prompted.

"Oh ya, I forgot that... And the piano and the singing?"

While these are actually classes I'm taking, I thought what the heck, if the daughter thinks it is work, it's probably work in some way. Besides, am certainly paying a lot of attention to her musical education. Not a bad mom. I began to preen. 

"And the cakes you bake for us...and you helped me with my Macau Diorama project... And took us all for Pickle-Papad's graduation day."

I was satisfied now. "You're right, Peanut." I patted her on the head and sighed " I do a lot of work even if I don't go to an office. It's all going to be fine."

"Sure" said Peanut cheerfully and skipped out of the room to play with her brothers.

She then popped her head back in and said -

"But Mama!" Her eyebrows were knitted with worry."Where will you get MONEY from?"

After a few moments of aghast silence, I started to wail.

She stared at me in fascination for a while and then decided I was joking. She giggled and waited for me to stop. I just wailed louder.

"Silly mama." she pronounced and disappeared again, leaving me to my tears and now-stifled sobs. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Little Graduates

Yesterday was the Graduation Ceremony for Pickle and Papad. I know it makes them sound like they're about twenty years old whereas they are actually only 3.5, but still, it's an important day because it marks their moving out of their playschool and into the Big School.

It was purely by chance that some years ago we stumbled upon one of the nicest and less-marketed playschools in Gurgaon - little Peanut blossomed there and it was a no-brainer for us to put Pickle-Papad there too. How time flies. And now, next month, the twins are going to be out of the house for 6 hours instead of three. (Sniff sob High FIVE!)

In the last couple of such events where my kids go on stage, I've tended to get unnecessarily emotional. Vijay was fidgeting at a recital of Peanut's a few months ago and he turned to me to complain about why we had to sit through such long agonising performances when Peanut already knew we loved her - instead, his words froze on his lips as he saw me blubbering with tears running down my cheeks. He was both alarmed and amused, and tried to tell me it was okay, it was only a little while to go before the Pippi Longstocking performance ended and we could get out of there. It took me a while to explain to him why I was crying - our kids were growing up so fast, and it was evident only when they were up there now, making fools of themselves on stage - as if they were adults in the real world already.

I was determined however, to be in complete control during this graduation ceremony. Vijay, regretfully, was out of the country. My mother and sister came along for the ceremony, which was very sweet of them, I must say. Having done a few of these now, I know it takes a whole lot of love to actually take out the time and show up for occasions such as this one, even if it seems like no big deal to anyone else. So the three of us, and little Peanut of course, sat there in the aisles waiting for the twins to come on stage.

As we waited, we witnessed a strange sort of fight taking place in the row ahead of us. One grandma-grandpa type had happily occupied a whole row in the charming, uniquely Indian style of ''I am reserving this seat with my purse, this one with my snotty hanky, this one with my invitation card which looks exactly like your invitation card but who cares it's mine so ha ha.'' The lady arguing with them was a middle-aged one sitting in the row in front of them - and she was most distraught as she had apparently reserved those 5 seats behind her, and they had just happily occupied 2 of them them and were now reserving the remaining three.

The grandpa type told her ''There is no reservation system here, madam'' ignoring the fact that he was blocking the same seats she had been blocking. The lady had a thing or two to say to them, but the oldies just ignored them. I was quite appalled at them - while it wasn't that big a deal on the whole, they were really being unfair and small. The frustrated lady instructed her small sardar son to sit on the empty seat next to the grandma, and to my shock, the grandma kept her hand on the seat possessively while the little boy squirmed uncomfortably there - not sure whether to obey his mother, or to take the subtle hint that this old lady next to him was giving. I turned to my sister and we exchanged a look - it's amazing how some people can't grow up - in their seventies.

Peanut was fidgeting too now. ''I can't see,'' she complained ''his handkerchief is blocking the view.''

''Patka...hang on, there's nothing happening on stage right now anyway'' I whispered, as did my mother at the same time. I realized I must introduce more awareness in my children of other cultures. I just don't have enough Sardar friends in my life. The only time a Sardar shows up in my life is when I'm sitting in the audience, waiting for a performance to start, in which case, there will soon be one happily sitting in front of me and blocking my view. As if on cue, the squirming little sardar's huge grandfather was brought over by Ms. Frustrated Lady, and made to sit next to him. Even as I sat there stoically staring into a bright red turbon, I was delighted that the cranky mean grandma's hand was soon withdrawn, even as her family arrived and they realized that all they had to do was drag a few more chairs up to the same row to seat them all together. Ridiculous, I thought. I shifted up a couple of seats myself and soon got a view of the stage.

Peanut was restless, and started to ask every few seconds when Pickle-Papad would come on stage. ''And don't forget you promised us all Orange Bar Icecream'' she told me. I replied that I hadn't forgotten but if she continued to remind me throughout the performance, she could forget about it. She made a pouty face which immediately won over my soft hearted sister, who can never understand why Peanut would ever need a scolding (because she doesn't live with her). Finally the announcements were made and the show started.

There were a bunch of songs, dances, speeches. I kept looking out for my sons, but there was no sign of them. I became slightly worried. I knew they didn't have any lead roles in anything, considering that I had been handed over two ''Flower'' costumes for the two of them. I was resigned to the fact that my sons were going to be flowers on stage, but it really didn't look as if any flora was going to be a part of the show at all. Finally, young Papad showed up amongst a bunch of kids who were reciting some poems, including the likes of 'She'll be climbing down the mountain when she comes'', which has to be one of the more pointless songs of its time. There was also Re-mama-re-mama-re during which Papad became rather animated, even as the rather politically inappropriate lines of 'Peechhe pad gayi Moti'' rang out.

The whole show, despite it's notable lack of Pickle-ness, was a very well-organised one and I was impressed, once again with how the team had pulled it all off, led by its beautiful Director, an elegant lady in her late fifties who always makes feel feel frumpy and inadequate. There was so much warmth and love in the speech that the Director gave about the graduating students that I felt a lump in my throat. And as the performance of the Three Little Pigs, the grand finale of the day, started, I actually started to cry.

I sat there, quietly blubbering - nobody noticed, not my mother and sister who were engrossed in the performance, and not Peanut, who was engrossed in playing Temple Run 2 on my mother's phone. It looked like I would be crying throughout the play, but luckily, the littlest pig ''who was always hungry'' had the most endearing way of delivering his constant line '' Please give me the-something to eat-a.'' This cheered me up considerably. Then I noticed that there was some louder blubbering taking place. Apparently Piggy No.2 was frightened by how loud the sound was on stage because he was sitting in his house of sticks and crying away to glory. Everyone felt sorry for him, but I was filled with admiration with the fact that he apparently had a stoic belief in the phrase ''The show must go on'' because when his unfortunate little pig-brother showed up, he delivered his line while crying ''Whhoo is it?''

The littlest brother, who had been chased here by the wolf, who was currently prancing about on stage left chasing his own tail, said ''The wolf is going to eat me.'' he then added ''I'm hungry. Please give me the-something to eat-a''.

The audience, including a now-happy me, all laughed. The crowning glory of the play for me was the next line, delivered by the still-wailing Piggy no. 2 ''Oh Piggy Dum-dum. You're always hungry.'' followed by a quivering sob as he covered his ears against the sound of the feedback from the mikes. Such angst! Such emotion! Masterfully done, Piggy 2. Masterfully done.

Anyhow, the play continued. There was an exciting chase that took place around Piggy 2's house with the wolf chasing the two pig brothers around the house of sticks. In his over-wrought stage, Piggy 2 ran too fast and soon he was running about an inch behind the wolf. This made me laugh so hard that I unfortunately missed most of what happened next, especially because the wolf's mike got displaced in all the excitement and was now hanging in the vicinity of his fake tail. Overall, I have to say it was a roaring success.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, there was the Flower dance, and a rather surprised looking Pickle and Papad, their faces wrapped tight in their bright flower headgear, bodies in the green suits that I had dressed them up in, finally made their grand entry amongst other flowers. They got into the song soon enough, and another highlight for me was how Pickle became overenthusiastic and did a few more spins (about seventeen extra) than the other flowers before settling back into his position at the back of the stage.

The graduation ceremony concluded with the handing over of certificates to the batch of 2014, all dressed up in gowns and hats, just like the real thing. This too was remarkably cute as the kids were all going the wrong way after collecting their certificates, a few falling asleep on stage, and Pickle scratching his ear so vigorously that he seemed to have channelized a dog, and knocked off his cute little graduation hat. Through it all, the staff of teachers and all their helpers, retained their cool, flitting about in pretty saris, exuding both warmth and dignity. I truly admire this school and everyone who is a part of it. If I wore a hat, I would take it off for them.

The parents gave the school a standing ovation, and I noted that grumpy grandma and grandpa right in front of us were the only ones who didn't stand up. It didn't spoil the moment in the least. Also, to my immense satisfaction, the National Anthem was the concluding song, and the oldies had to then get to their feet, rather grudgingly. Before you get too sympathetic about this elderly couple, let me inform you they were in fine health and had got up a couple of times during the performance to generally walk around and stretch.

We were now invited out for the tea and snacks while the little performers were changed out of their costumes. Hungry and tired, we made our way there,and soon had our plates of samosas, cake, biscuit and tea. I was looking around for Peanut, and failed to notice a couple of steps, lost my balance, and clumsily teetered, dropping the tea all over the food and onto the ground. A collective ''ooohhhh'' went up, as I danced around foolishly and eventually landed right next to my mother and sister, who tried to pretend they didn't know me. My sister was quite nonchalant as she asked ''How come we're always falling?''

I informed her I have no idea, and haughtily went to fetch myself another cup of tea. When I returned, I thanked my mom and sis for coming today, and my sister said 'Ah come on, we love the twins.'

'Oh, so you don't love Peanut?' I said craftily. My sister looked uncomfortable as she frowned and tried to remember why she hadn't shown up for that ceremony.

My mother, always helpful, piped up ' I don't think you invited her, Y.' Now it was my turn to look uncomfortable as the sister looked daggers at me. We concluded the discussion amicably, saying that I had probably invited her but she had probably been working that Saturday. Before mom could say anything else, I changed the subject and luckily, little Pickle and Papad soon burst onto the scene.

We enveloped the little stars in hugs and kisses, and congratulated them, while they did their version of Piggy Dum-dums 'Please give me the-something to eat-a.' After their little tummies were filled, we took them home for some of that that Orange Bar Ice-cream which had only been mentioned a dozen times by Peanut after I warned her not to.

And just like that, the twins are Graduates.

We couldn't take a picture in the show, but this one of them below is when they got outside - just before Pickle managed to break the souvenir mug that he was presented. That crisis was managed by some quick-thinking on my part ( i.e. Don't cry, Pickle, Daddy will fix it when he's home, and how about that Orange Bar we're going to have now, eh?)