Sunday, August 12, 2018

Parenting Lessons, Mostly from the Kids


God Vs. Ma

Pickle is very fascinated by an author of funny poems, whose name escapes me at the moment. But he has been reading out poems from a big fat black book to us and one of his favourites is one titled God Vs. Ma - all about the contradictory instructions that children get from God ( play with lovely stray dogs) versus Ma ( don't touch him, be careful). You get the drift.

So the kids were debating in front of me about who's right in general - God versus Mom. And Peanut says slyly -

'Well, you know, that's hard to decide...because God is also very important...and Ma, well, she's here right now and listening so it's hard to tell the truth.'

Thanks, kids.

What's the Time?

At the bus-stop, Pickle displays his usual patience. 'Mom, what time is it?'

'It's 8.15 a.m.' I say automatically.

'How can it still be 8.15?' He demands. 'That's what you said earlier too.'

'Yes.' I admit. 'But earlier was 10 seconds ago.'

'It's not 8.15, mom.' He whines. 'It's LATER and the bus is LATE and...'

'Oh, just give it a rest, Pickle. It'll be here soon.'

'Show me your phone!' He insists.

'No!' I put it out of reach.

'MOM' He grapples for it, and finally grabs my other wrist and looks at the time on my fitness tracker, just as the numbers on it changes.

'See?' He says sagely. 'I TOLD you it was wasn't 8.15!' The bus pulls up just then as he finishes triumphantly. 'And the bus is LATE.''

The kids pick up their bags and run off, and I swallow my irritation and stand waving at them. I silently wish them a good day, but even more, their teachers.

So Good a Tune

We're walking around the colony together, Pickle and I and he's humming to himself, a bounce in his step.

He's enthusiastic but a little tone-deaf and so it takes me a while to figure it out.

'Pickle?'

'Yes Mum?'

'Were you just humming...the National Anthem?'

He beams. 'Yes Mum.'

'Er, why? You know we're supposed to stand at attention with it, right, and...'

He bursts out. 'I can't HELP it MUM it's SO GOOD a tune they made it! Na-na-na-na-mana-adhinayaka..na-na-na...'

He continues to hum the tune, skipping alongside me. I smile and let him violate the rule I don't even know who made up. It's nice that a kid actually likes the tune. It is a pretty cool tune.

Doesn't quite know me yet, but he will

The twins are excited to have been put into the Sports program at school. Which is nice because it helps channel their excess energy, of which they have a lot, and it keeps them at school longer these days which is always nice for me too.

Papad says 'I'm so happy with morning sports! And I made a new friend! He's SO nice and he plays really well, and he was on my team. I like him!'

I'm glad. 'Really? That's great. What's his name?'

Papad looks confused. 'I'm not sure. I'll ask him tomorrow.'

'Well that's great.' I'm always amused how kids don't think details such as names are necessary for establishing friendships. 'Yeah, ask your new friend tomorrow.'

Papad seems to be thinking it's time to confess. 'Actually, he doesn't know I'm his friend yet. But I'll tell him that tomorrow too.'

I stifle a chuckle.

'Yeah, son. Good idea. Do that.'

Bad Parenting

'So, Mom.' Papad says. 'I have a queschun. '

'Okay, what?'

'Is it Man Day Tory to go to college?'

'Yes. It's mandatory.' I secretly marvel at his growing vocabulary even as I swallow my horror at the question.

'But then how will I play football in the World Cup?'

'Er,' I don't know the details here but it's best to nip these things in the bud. 'You can play football in the World Cup and study, you know. You'll just have to make sure you continue to read and study for the exams even while you're on the field, in the bus, and so on.'

He considers this for a moment and then concludes. 'I think I'll just skip college.'

'Oh no you can't.' I say immediately, and then more gently 'It's Man Day Tory, remember?'

'What does that mean, Mom? Will the police come and arrest me if they find out I didn't go to college?'

I know very well what I'm supposed to say at this point.

'Yes, son,' I nod slowly. ' That's exactly what will happen. Best to avoid it.'

It's just easier this way. I'll tell him some other year, if it comes up again.

Making Herself Useful

Sundays are really weird for me. I can't quite wait for the chance to breathe. But when I do get an hour that looks suspiciously free, it bothers me and I become very restless and start tidying up. Just like my mother used to weekends.

Peanut has no such qualms - she can lie about on the sofa languidly for hours, reading or re-reading one of the three hundred books that she has somehow secreted into the house. But right now, she's been in infected by some strange kind of enthusiasm, possibly from her pesky brothers. So she's practicing some sort of Taekwondo kicks by herself in the drawing room, and narrowly misses kicking my ear as I pass her carrying an armful of books to put on the shelf.

'Peanut.' I scold crossly. 'Stop that. And why don't you do something to make yourself useful?'

Peanut stops with the kicks and begins bobbing up and down on the spot itself. 'Okay Mom. Shall I scream because I'm happy? Is that something useful?'

I'm about to tell her off but I open and then shut my mouth.

'Whatever. ' I manage finally, in a gruff manner. 'Go ahead if you must.' I walk away as quickly as I can, get into my ear and cover my ears as the high-pitched squealing begins.

Truth is, that's probably a pretty good way to spend a Sunday.



Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hindustan Times Reviews 'How I Became A Farmer's Wife'

I loved this! View it on Ht.com


Midway through this narrative, one pauses to wonder what the fuss about being a farmer’s wife is all about. In these troubling times when farmers are in the news for all the wrong reasons, no woman in her wildest dreams would think longingly about being a farmer’s wife. Neither did Yashodhara Lal, a working mother of three hyperactive kids, whose life swings between the extremes of managing a dreary boss and a husband in pursuit of creating a steady supply of organic milk from his own farm.

Part memoir and part fiction, How I became a Farmer’s Wife is really about the quest for change, for something different from the repetitive conditioning of urban life. Outwardly everything looks calm, but the turmoil within disturbs life’s rhythms. The comfortable steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurugram with their challenges, the author seems to imply, are like a tea cup with soggy biscuit bits lumped at the bottom to destroy the tea-drinking experience.

In the now familiar genre of tales of techies quitting their high-paying jobs, this story is about the coming to life of Vijay who, only a short while before, was slump-shouldered and resigned to his daily routine. That he found a new meaning in cows and crops is only part of the story; that his better half finds comfort in yoga as she unwillingly pursues a corporate career to help him with his dream is the second part. ‘Why don’t you take up yoga again; you seemed to feel a little better at that time?’ is the subtle advice given by the budding farmer to the lady of the house. Lal successfully captures the change sweeping through her household, the delicate moments, the cheeky encounters, and the weird incidents as she writes of what it takes to be a farmer’s wife.

With the choice thrust on her, there is little the author could do but float in her partner’s dream world of fresh milk and organic gobhi. The list of items coming out of the leased farm did grow in the dream sequence, but it was really only the milk which started flowing with a few packs of organic veggies tossed in. The family was forced into the on-the-job-exposure of getting into farming with some surprising results. Away from tabs, weekly visits to the farm were engaging experiences for the kids. Choosing nature over technology, they learnt to be empathetic towards puppies, cows and the crows. But it did take some getting used to. Jatropha sounded like Jethro Tull to the author, and her children took a fancy to savouring dung cakes. Still, farming turned into an engaging and entertaining vocation for everybody. Despite her initial reservations, Lal soon discovered the similarities between tending to cows and to children, and her sympathy for Vijay translated into unconditional support for him as a farmer.

Written with wit, flair and purpose, How I became a Farmer’s Wife chronicles the mid-career crises that many techies often go through. But farming is not easy, and it soon became clear that comprehending weather vagaries, understanding crop rotations, learning to milk cows, and dealing with rural eccentricity is more challenging than punching keyboards in air-conditioned cubicles.

Towards the latter half of the story, the author realises that success is more than winning the race. Even if the transition wasn’t entirely completed, the experience did create a farmer in her husband and made her accept herself as a farmer’s wife. The passion Vijay exuded and the freedom he acquired lifted the morale of the entire family. As the couple rode out of the farm for the last time, Lal writes that she felt a distinct sense of connection with her husband. Finally, the parallel tracks had begun to merge.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

You Can Take Her Out of the Corporate World...

'When are you going to call that lady about the painting and all?'

We're driving to the mall, and I'm asking Vijay about the ONE thing that I've asked him to do to get our house in better order. Over the last few weeks, I've had someone come in, check out the place and email us a quote.

'Soon, soon.' He grunts, squinting against the sunlight in his eyes. Vijay doesn't believe in sunglasses. He thinks only show-offs wear sunglasses. I am wearing my new sunglasses and turn towards him, exasperated.

'Soon?' I cry. 'You've been saying this for DAYS. I've gone and done all the scoping and pre-work for it...all I'm saying now is step in and just get it done! Call her up today and just fix the start date...I'm travelling anyway so much in the next couple of weeks, you'll have to supervise everything, and...'

'Oh, yes, of course, I will.' He says soothingly, his eyes crinkling even further. He casts an amused glance at me. 'I understand my role better now...so...YOU did all the hard work of calling up someone and getting them to come and submit a quote...and I have the simple task of just actually getting it all executed, right?'

'Right.' I mumble unconvincingly. 'Now, it's just about...'

'Execution.' He swoops in. 'Naturally. All the management decisions have now been taken...now it is just about the rigor, the details, the actual doing of the work...so I must take over. Because as the boss, you just need to set direction and targets and review, right?'

'Don't be so silly.' I say coldly and turn to look out the window.

'You can take Yashodhara out of the corporate world.' My husband muses as we hit the highway. 'But you can't take the corporate world out of Yashodhara.'

'Very funny.'

'No, I'm serious.' He insists. 'It's like...even if I were to tell you...let's just do nothing...you'd still want to see a plan around it.'

'Now you're being...'

'Yes...what has to be done?' He uses a high-pitched whiny voice to imitate my pretend-reply. 'Nothing? But we have to plan for it....(deep voice) Why?....(whiny voice)...Because if you don't plan for doing nothing, how do you know that you might not accidentally end up doing something?...(Deep voice) But, but, no one is going to do anything! ...(Whiny voice) Yes, but unless we do a weekly review to make sure that no one is doing anything, someone might end up doing something! Just put it on my calendar okay, send me a meeting invite...

I glare out of the window ignoring him, while his conversation with himself continues. My children in the back seat aren't sure what the hell is going on, but that doesn't stop them from picking up the gist and laughing along with their father at me. Ha ha ha, Bossy-Mama.

No wonder why some weekends, I can't wait for Monday to be here again.



Saturday, May 12, 2018

First time out, Sample Chapter ( Chapter 4) from 'How I Became A Farmer's Wife'

(Pleased to let you know 'How I Became A Farmer's Wife' is getting rave reviews! Get it here on Amazon, and here on Flipkart, or at any bookstore near you! And don't forget to review it please.)

‘Chapter One.’

The words confronted me mockingly. I stared at them until my eyes blurred.

Another morning, and I’d been up since 6 a.m., sitting blankly at my desk, unable to compose a word. What was this nonsense! I had the plot, structure and the experience—I knew what would work. It should have been easy to get going. I leaned back in my chair and put my palms over my bleary eyes. This was horrible. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the end of my writing career. I hunched my shoulders, defeated. It had been an hour. I’d might as well give up and go make some tea.

I pushed my chair back and got up. Both Papad and Pickle had sneaked in during the night and they lay on my bed, limbs entangled, looking like Siamese twins. I looked at them fondly and covered them up with the blanket they’d kicked away. It was so much easier to be fond of them when they were asleep. It was amazing to me, how deep they were in slumber, with not a care in the world. So unlike us poor adults. I stepped out and found the other poor adult already in the drawing room. He was gazing at his laptop.

‘Hey Y!’ he said enthusiastically. ‘Come here! I’m looking at options for farming.’

Uh-oh.

‘I’m going to make some tea.’ I headed for the kitchen.

‘Already made two cups. Come have yours.’ I peered shortsightedly at the side table. Two steaming mugs of tea lay waiting. This was unusual. ‘Okay.’ I came and sat down next to him. ‘Thanks.’

‘You know, hon,’ he said conversationally, ‘it seems as if the more profitable options are going to be dairy and poultry.’

‘Really? As if you’re going to do poultry farming!’

‘Why not?’

‘Yeah, right. What’s Papaji going to say when you tell him you’re rearing chickens?’

‘Maybe he won’t mind if I explain the business logic behind it to him …’ Vijay’s voice trailed off as he realized how hollow that sounded. The strict vegetarian, Brahmin diet that Papaji had followed all his life was sacrosanct. Secondly, as a professor of physics, he carried an old-world academician’s distaste for all things business.

‘So, have you spoken to Papaji about your idea?’ I said craftily and sipped on my tea.

Papaji had been my collaborator in recent years—we were both united in convincing Vijay that he really wasn’t cut out for entrepreneurship. Papaji felt particularly strongly about this. He had worked in the same job all his life at a University in Jaipur. He believed it was important to stick to your field, even though he never understood what Vijay and I did professionally. Either way, our working in an office was certainly better to him than the vagaries of business, which he associated with money-mindedness and, inevitably, cheating.

 ‘I’ve been talking to him.’ Vijay continued to stare at his laptop. ‘He thinks I can’t do it.’ He looked up and gave me a level gaze. ‘But this time, I’m not going to let him talk me out of it.’

‘Or you, for that matter,’ remained unsaid at the end of that sentence.

I shrugged. ‘Poultry’s probably out?’

‘Guess so,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘But I think dairy appeals to me much more anyway. That way, we will also get to have fresh cow’s milk for Papaji—it’s really good for your health, especially in old age. Yes …’ His eyes became dreamy again. ‘And I’ve always liked cows.’

 ‘Huh?’ I raised my eyebrows. ‘Since when?’

‘Since always,’ he said breezily. ‘You don’t know everything about me. I like them; they’re sweet.’

‘Cows? Sweet? And you have a problem with dogs?’

 ‘Cows don’t bark or bite,’ he said gruffly. ‘Anyway, milk is something which everyone needs regularly. That’s why if you get a good customer base, supply a reasonable quality, which of course we will, the margins will work out. With dairy, the profits come in sooner because if you buy the cows, you can get going immediately—there’s no lead time unlike in the case of crops, and …’

‘What are you reading?’ I peered into the screen. ‘Wikipedia for farmers?’

‘No.’ He shut the laptop a little defensively. ‘I’ve watched a whole lot of videos. Been up for the last three hours.’

‘What? Since four in the morning?’

‘Yeah, when my alarm went off, I figured I’d do a little research here and keep an eye on Papaji from this room. He’s gotten up only three times so far.’

 ‘You’ve barely slept! How are you going to do a full day at work?’

‘Ah, I’m fine!’ Vijay said carelessly. ‘I’ll just drink tea through the day. Got to go meet Aunty later too.’

 ‘Today?’

‘Yes.’ He nodded. ‘Now that Achu and I’ve decided we’re doing this, might as well move fast. We just need to convince Aunty that we are trustworthy. If this meeting goes well and we can get a basic agreement in place, we’ll go see the land on the weekend. It’s in Rewari.’

‘How are you agreeing to anything without seeing the land? That’s the first step, right?’

‘That’s not how it works,’ Vijay said lightly and, I thought, a trifle dismissively. It made my hackles rise.

‘Oh no?’ I spat out. ‘You don’t want to see the land before you decide you’ll be renting it? Because that’s too … logical?’

‘Hey, relax! I just meant that it’s important to establish a rapport. Besides, she’s an old lady; she’ll want a certain amount of respect shown to her. She is attached to the place, has built it up over many years, and there’s the whole ashram thing. We have to get her to like us. And, of course, we will see the place before we put anything on paper. Today, we talk to her and if it works out, she’ll get to meet you and Varsha on Saturday and she’ll see we’re also nice family men and …’

 ‘Saturday?’ I exclaimed. ‘I have my Zumba class on Saturday morning and the kids have Taekwondo in the afternoon. We aren’t going to be able to make a trek to some place hours away!’

‘Hon,’ he said pleadingly, ‘this is important. I’m not going to make any big decisions without you.’

He had me there. I remembered the number of times I’d had book launches in the last few years and he’d juggled his calendar to be there, playing proud husband, and overenthusiastic photographer. I couldn’t believe he was seriously contemplating this, but I had no choice other than to go along with it. He’d discover in time that this was impractical and unworkable. Besides, I knew that coercing him into anything only increased his determination to do the exact opposite.

I shrugged. ‘Okay. See how it goes when you meet her today. She may wonder what you’re actually going to do with the place since neither of you know anything about farming.’

He looked at me for a moment and then opened up his laptop again. I sipped my tea—it was now a little cold— and watched him type into the Google search bar: ‘farming consultants in Gurgaon.’

I put the cup aside and stood up wearily. It was time to wake the kids for school. At least one of us needed to stay in the real world.

                                                                          *****

‘It’s my turn! Gimme!’ I sighed and paused for just a moment outside the front door. They were at it again.

Vijay’s voice floated out: ‘Now … hey! I told you guys to get ready, we’re leaving at ten thirty. Your mom’s coming back now … no, Pickle, no hitting! I’ve told you … no, you give me that … ’

I pushed open the door and entered the house, sweaty after teaching an hour of Zumba. The kids were glowering at each other, and Vijay was holding up the bright blue tab I’d brought home.

 ‘Why, Y, why?’ He looked harried. ‘Why do you give them these things? They’re obsessed with them.’

‘I don’t give it to them to use all the time!’ I defended myself. ‘They’re helping me with research for the kids tab we want to develop.’

‘Oh, great idea.’ Vijay rolled his eyes. ‘Let’s get kids to ruin their eyes so we can make more profit. That’s a great value system at Optech. Anyway, everyone, get ready now … we’re going to see a farm, kids!’

‘Hey!’ I wasn’t going to let that one go so easily. ‘What do you mean value system? You’ve sold jam and squash to kids, which you’ve always said is nothing but sugar. This will be an educational tablet, and will keep them away from other devices … it’s …’

‘Yes, okay, okay! Can we please go now?’ Vijay pleaded. ‘Are you going to have a shower?’

‘Of course.’ I breezed past him. ‘I’m all sweaty and sticky.’

 ‘It will be dusty at the farm,’ he cautioned. ‘Well, kids, you guys don’t bother with a shower, just get your jackets on. You’ll take too long and get dirty there anyway.’

‘Okay!’ All three of them were agreeable to this. I rolled my eyes. As if they’d been falling over each other to bathe this early on a weekend. By the time I came out of my room ready to leave, Vijay had our lunch packed into dabbas.

‘Sukhe aloo ki sabzi and poori,’ he announced to me. ‘And we’ve got water. Let’s go!’

‘Kin I take my tab?’ Pickle smiled at us winningly.

I hesitated for a split second, but Vijay cut in, ‘No! We are going to a farm, Pickle.’

‘I am Farmer Pickle on my Hay Day farm na, Daddy!’ Pickle reasoned. ‘That’s why I want to take my tab—to compare.’

‘Don’t compare,’ Papad said piously. ‘Compare is a bad thing.’

‘Okay, no. Forget your tab now, Pickle,’ I said briskly and his face turned sulky. ‘And don’t you make that sulky face or you can just stay behind, mister.’

‘Fine. I’ll stay.’

‘And I’m taking away your tab, so don’t think you’ll be playing with it,’ I affirmed.

‘No!’ He stamped his foot.

‘No fighting, guys.’ Vijay started to usher Papad and Peanut outside. ‘Come on, let’s all go and have a nice time at the farm! Peanut, put away that book; you’re not taking it!’

 ‘I’ll read in the car.’

‘You say you feel carsick, and this’ll make it worse. Forget the book.’

‘Just a few pages, Dad.’

‘Fine!’ Vijay was clearly reaching the end of his tether. ‘Why don’t you all just stay home then? I’ll go to the farm by myself.’

‘Fine!’ The rest of us shouted in unison.

‘What nonsense!’ Vijay exploded. ‘Everyone in the car. Now!’

The kids hunched their shoulders and dragged themselves out of the door. ‘Wait! Say bye to Papaji,’ Vijay said, remembering in the nick of time. They all piled back, shoulders hunched, disappeared momentarily into Papaji’s room and slouched out the door again.

I went in to say bye to Papaji too. He was in his chair in front of the TV, with Pawan hovering at the back of the room. Papaji smiled at me, his eyes crinkling and white hair glistening.

‘Yashodhara.’ He was the only one who ever called me that. ‘You’re going too?’

‘Yes,’ I admitted in a resigned manner. ‘We’re all going, Papaji—to see the farm!’

He seemed amused by this and laughed, his eyes crinkling even further. ‘Well, enjoy yourself then.’

‘Yes, Papaji,’ I said obediently, and went on after the others, a little hunch-shouldered myself.

                                                                       *****

The car ride was less than enjoyable. The twins were cranky because they’d knocked their heads together while scrambling into the car. I asked them why they had to rush and they said it was because they were scared the colony dogs would bite them.

After they calmed down, Peanut started to squirm, saying that she was feeling carsick and really needed to sit next to the window. The twins, who had each claimed a window, took exception to this and a loud argument ensued.

I yelled that we had another row in the back of the Innova and one of them could move there, which Papad did most sulkily. The food had been placed in the back seat, and much readjustment was required before he was settled there. And even after that, he kept claiming that the food basket was touching him on purpose just to trouble him.

The drive was inordinately long, and to make things worse, we kept taking wrong turns. I looked out at the dusty, crowded road; the fat, painted trucks in front of us; the numerous roadside vendors hawking their wares; small shops packed together in ramshackle buildings. What godforsaken place was this—it was even worse than Gurgaon. Where was the space anywhere near here for a farm?

‘Achu’s sent a Google Maps pin from there!’ Vijay announced. He was sitting in the passenger seat next to Kamal and looked rather comfortable compared to me sandwiched between our children. He opened Google Maps on his phone and said, ‘Oh ho! Kamal, peechewala right turn tha. U-turn lena ab aage se.’

I sighed and elbowed Peanut a little to get her to give me room, but she took it as an invitation to lean her head onto my shoulder. It was uncomfortable, but I leaned my cheek against her soft hair for a moment. She was a sweet kid. I opened my mouth to tell her so, when she whispered, ‘Mom, I think I might vomit on you.’

I elbowed her more roughly and she straightened up and gave me an evil grin before staring out of the window again. The twins were quiet now. I glanced around to find out why. Ah. They’d both gone to sleep. Wonderful, I thought. If they ever took even a five-minute nap, they bounced around till midnight. I hoped we’d get to this farm place soon. We were now out on open road and making good speed.

Vijay exclaimed ‘Look, hon!’ To the right, I saw fields, the grass a lush dark green. Now this was more like it.

I turned to the left and saw a huge field full of yellow sarson—it was quite beautiful against the blue and sunny autumn sky. ‘Look, Peanut,’ I urged. ‘Sarson!’

She turned, but by that time, we’d already gone past the field. ‘What?’ she asked.

‘It was yellow and very pretty—sarson.’

‘What’s sarson?’

‘Uh, it’s…sesame?’

 ‘Like “Open sesame!”?’

‘Something like that,’ I murmured, my eyes peeled for the next field.

‘Er, sarson is mustard, Y,’ Vijay reminded me.

‘Whatever!’ I shot back. I knew that.

‘Yeah, whatever,’ Peanut repeated. I frowned at her. Even though I was sceptical of this entire exercise, I thought a nine-year-old should be more interested in the world around her.

‘Well, just keep a look out and you’ll see another one.’

After another few minutes, Vijay said, ‘Hey, wait, wait! There are two roads up ahead … But the map … Arre, yaar, no signal here! Kamal, ek minute roko.’

The car stopped and Pickle and Papad both stirred awake, making resentful little noises followed by sleepy cries of ‘Are-we-there-Mom?’ and ‘This basket is still touching me’.

We were on what looked like a deserted road but I then saw what Vijay had already spotted some distance to the left. Just in front of a small chai stall, was a group of five old men wearing dhotis and pagris, sitting on two charpoys with cups of tea in their hands.

They gaped at us curiously. ‘Bhaisahib!’ Vijay tried to sound as earthy and rustic as possible. ‘Yahan se Rewari kidhar padega?’

Immediately, all five broke into enthusiastic chatter. We stared, a little baffled, as they all spoke simultaneously.

‘Rewari?’ One old man raised his arm towards the road leading left. ‘Lekin jana kyon hain?’

‘Wahan se chhota padega,’ said a second, pointing to the right. ‘Waise wahan se bhi ja sakte hain,’ he admitted, pointing to the left.

‘Aap net se aaaye honge, hain na?’ chuckled another at the same time, confidently pointing to the right.

 ‘Net se kuch nahin pata chalta, Dilliwaale bhaisahib!’ This last one struck them all as a very funny joke and they all started cackling loudly.

Vijay somehow processed this and seemed to come to some conclusion, ‘Okay, thank you.’

‘Welcome! Welcome! Thank you!’ The old men were laughing merrily at us. I realized that the kids and even our usually robotic driver Kamal were giggling at the old men and their animated talking over each other. Vijay was shaking his head in amusement as he told Kamal ‘Left se chalo’.

I couldn’t help cracking a wry smile.

This might turn out to be an interesting visit, even if nothing else ever came of it.

(Liked this sample chapter? Get the book 'How I Became A Farmer's Wife' here on Amazon, and here on Flipkart, or at any bookstore near you!)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

How I Became a Farmer's Wife

I'm very pleased to announce that my newest book 'How I Became A Farmer's Wife' is now on pre-order! :)

You can get it at bit.ly/HowIBecameAFarmersWifeBook

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it - which is to say, a lot!

It's about to get Muddy, Messy and Mad!




Mild-mannered Vijay is the perfect good-Indian-husband—responsible and predictable.
Well, at least he was, until he decided to turn Farmer. 

Vijay’s unsuspecting wife Yashodhara is caught off guard when, tired of the rigors of city life, he actually buys seven cows and starts dairy farming! As if she didn't have enough going on already, what with her high-octane job, three children and multiple careers. 
Plucked out of their comfortable urban existence in the steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurgaon, the hapless family is thrown headfirst into a startlingly unfamiliar world, complete with cows and crops, multiple dogs and eccentric farmhands, a shrewd landlady 'Aunty' and the occasional rogue snake.
Things heat up further when some unexpected godmen land up as co-habitants of Vijay's farm, and strange goings-on ensue.
Will these earnest but insulated city-dwellers be able to battle the various difficulties that come with living a farmer's life? 
A laugh-out loud romp that'll leave you wanting more.

(Pre-order now at bit.ly/HowIBecameAFarmersWifeBook

Friday, January 26, 2018

Why I'm Glad I Had Kids. They're Amusing.

I'm hurrying my kids up for school and going "and don't you lose your Vogmasks! You know they're expensive!"
"Yes!" Says Pickle " 18 thousand rupees!"
"Well, 1800 but whatever." I am then overcome by guilt. "but if you ever do lose it, it doesn't matter. You know you're worth like a million million INFINITE rupees to me, right?"
"Why not dollars?" Papad pipes up, conversationally.
I stare at him.
"Just go to school".

*****
I think I just got the most earnest, best compliment in the world.
By my seven year old, Papad. He hugged me tight while saying Goodnight and declared
"I wish I could get YASH tattooed on my SOUL!"

*****

I hear my twins arguing about something. They are speaking rudely to each other. 'Tu ne kyon kiya?' 'Maine nahin, TU ne...'
I interrupt 'Guys, speak nicely. And you know you're supposed to say Aap to each other.'
They pause for a second to look at me. Pickle then turns back to his brother, and bows his head, making a sweeping gesture with his arm, announcing 'Papad, Aap bahut bade gadhe ho.'

*****

And because some things are just worth recording for posterity - 

1. Peanut's old letter to our old help Rinki when she learned that she was getting married. 


2. Peanut impressed by the tallest building in Dubai


3. Peanut sends a clear message about her brothers


4. I find Papad's diary with the following filled in rather matter-of-factly


5. A rather formal invite to a small picnic gathering


6. Heartbreaking to know you're not the favoured one. It's hard being a twin.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Owning a Piece of Paradise: Our place in Goa

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m typing this while leaning back in bed. This, the master bedroom, is large and airy, and the view through the large balcony windows is nothing but thick green trees- just the way I like it. And I cannot quite believe that we now have our own place in Goa.

We arrived yesterday to do it up. This was all Vijay’s discovery – in his frantic bid to discover farmland all over the country last year, he also happened to come across a few apartments and villas in Goa. This one, Villa no. 9, somewhere on Anjuna-Vagator road, somehow struck him as one we could actually buy. A month later, he made another trip with me and the kids, and we all fell in love with it, and by January, we’d actually paid the first instalment. And now, about ten months later, we spent our first night here last night.

The work was still ongoing when we landed up. Puneet, one of the key people at the builder who sold this to us, was apologetic about this, but he knew by now exactly how to win us over – by offering us breakfast at his own home before travelling together to see the status. The last couple of times, we had been despairing about the place not being ready, but this time, as the car drew up to the driveway, we were silent. There are nine villas in this little complex, and ours is the last one – and it looked perfect.

Built in shades of cream and yellow from the outside, and with spacious interiors in white and dark wooden material, this place had just clicked with us. Vijay had dragged me to a Pepperfry studio and we’d made a selection of contemporary furniture, and Puneet had been kind enough to get most of it set up. So as we walked in, I saw the blue sofas, the low wooden coffee table in the drawing room; our dining table up ahead in the dining area, with its four chairs and accompanying bench ( I recalled each of the kids claiming ‘I’m NOT sitting on the bench’ when we had bought it); and a few other key items, including beds with mattresses in each of the three rooms. It looked about ready to move in, even with just this much.

And then I saw the million other boxes piled up in a corner. ‘What’s all this?’ I squeaked.

‘Ah.’ Vijay grunted. ‘The kitchen items and other stuff.’

While I had pretty much decided that my furniture selection was all that had to be done, Vijay had over the last several weeks been ordering items like crazy over Amazon. Water purifier, washing machine, a Television and numerous kitchen goods. I set to work unpacking them while Vijay did a tour of the house with Puneet, who showed him that things were ‘90% done, and everything will finish by tomorrow, sir.’

It felt a bit like Christmas to me, as I unwrapped items wonderingly. I was joined by one of the workers Tulsiram, and a lady wielding a broom, who put her weapon down to instead pick up a pair of scissors and cut through the packing. Plates. Spoons. Microwave oven. Mattress covers. Bedcovers. Towels. Pearl Pet packaging. Dusting cloth. So on and so forth. It took about two hours to place things and set them up. The workers continued hammering on nails here and there.

We took a break for lunch, Vijay and I, and ended up at our favourite beach shack on Vagator beach. Vijay ordered (surprise surprise) Alu Gobi and naan and I asked for the Goan special fish fry. It must have been really special because it took an hour to be served, by which time I had already filled my hungry tummy by dipping into Vijay’s food.

 It was already 4 p.m. by now. Our plan had been to go and shop for things like curtains, but there was still work to be done in the house. Vijay had been going nuts calling up service folks to come and install things. The guy from LG, the guy from Tata Sky. The purifier guy was missing in action and pissing him off.

‘What are the necessities?’ I asked. Vijay’s big plan was to set the place up this weekend so that a few weeks later he could actually bring Papaji down here for several weeks – the idea being for him to avoid an uncomfortable Delhi winter. The polluted air has been getting to him too, so Papaji’s been warming up the idea of some time away from home.

‘Well,’ He frowned. ‘We really need to prioritize the water purifier. And then, the wi-fi.’

I laughed – it’s true. Right after air and water – it’s wi-fi that has become a necessity for us to live anywhere. But I did miss being able to do a whatsapp video call and show the kids the place – the signal here isn’t great. Which also means more time offline. Which is kind of nice.

We were super tired by the time yesterday’s work ended. But we had another task to do – grocery shopping. Vijay was determined that we get a few basic items and stock up so that the kitchen would be self-sufficient by the time he comes around with Papaji. So we went to get some items that wouldn’t spoil – it was 8.30 p.m. by the time we dragged ourselves out of the house, and we found a place called the Oxford Store – a rather large supermarket-type with an interesting collection of items, and a particularly large liquor section which Vijay noted rather gleefully. We started buying the staples – salt, sugar, atta, oil, ghee and so on, although I got rather overexcited by the biscuits section. Vijay stopped me and we forged on ahead. And then I saw the toy section. Soon, I was armed with Pictionary and Jenga ‘for the kids, when the they come here.’ But then a lady landed up and sternly informed us the store was closing. We said, sure almost done.

After about ten minutes, the lady was following closely on my heels shepherding me to the checkout counter. I desperately grabbed more items on the way, pocketing a Rum and Coke when I saw Vijay picking out beer from the the liquor section. We ended up with four sacks of items and several dirty looks from the checkout counter lady, which I didn’t quite appreciate given that we gave them over six thousand rupees of business. It didn’t matter, we knew we’d be back.

We were too tired to cook, even though we had Maggi with us, and Vijay and I had a meal at one of the zillion little restaurants that dot every road in Goa. Rather average a meal, with my Vindaloo and his Alu-parantha way too spicey. Only my chocolate ice cream made up for it and then we were home. We crawled up to the master bedroom and discovered for the first time what a pain it is to live on two different levels if you’re as forgetful as we are. ‘I left the water downstairs.’ ‘Where are my glasses now?’ ‘Did you get the phone charger?’ ‘Don’t forget the tissues, please.’

At about 11 p.m. I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and then it was all black.

At 6 a.m., I woke up to the sounds of dogs howling. I couldn’t help grinning when I saw that beautiful green view. I bounced out of bed, Vijay grumbling in protest that it was too early, but the place looked absolutely gorgeous. I walked up to the terrace and then into each of the rooms to take pictures.

After I’d made Vijay a cup of tea, fumbling around in the kitchen ( too much sugar, but he drank it willingly) and myself a cup of coffee, he was awake enough to take a walk around the neighbourhood with me. We’ve always known it’s a nice green quiet neighbourhood, but we had never actually explored it on foot because we’d always been rushing about to get the house ready. We got out of the gate, meeting Bhaiyya Lal the guard and the two strays Kalu and Neelu ( the kids are going to LOVE this) who apparently do day and night duty with the guards. We walked towards the left, the road a little uneven, through a shaded area and found a lady who had a long stick and was expertly plucking fruit off a tall tree. She looked as amused to see us as we were to see her and we grinned cordially and went on.

‘Oh, wow, bhais bhi paali hai!’ Vijay saw a cow, and since nothing makes him happier, he stopped to stare at it. ‘This place is a real village!’

We walked around and saw some plots had construction work going on. ‘Ah! This will come up soon.’ He stopped to take a picture. ‘Nice name – Glimose Villas.’

I glanced at it ‘Glimose?’

‘Ya.’ He frowned. ‘So?’

I waited for him to get it.

‘Oh, Glimpse! Why have they written the P in such a fancy way, looks like an O. Hah. Whatever.’

We walked on, and saw all sorts of quaint houses – many of them hidden well behind thick trees and vines, so that we could only get a glimose of the buildings. ‘Luis Lobo!’ I read a name plate. ‘How cool. And look. David D’Souza! This is so cool. I hope you make friends with them when you’re here in December. Please make an effort.’

‘Why?’ Vijay queried. ‘Are you hoping they like us so much that they end up leaving their houses to us or something?’

‘No, you fool!’ I snapped. ‘Just be neighborly. These are our neighbours now!’

‘They’ll probably move when they meet us.’ He said with an air of quiet confidence.

We went further and I saw something I’d never noticed before. ‘Oh look! There’s a restaurant right here! It’s called Naked! And look, unlimited liquor for only 599.’ I paused to take a picture. ‘If we put this place on AirBnB, am sure folks will like this – walking distance, a restaurant called naked, unlimited liquor…’

‘You put that picture up, people will bypass our villa and go straight there.’ Vijay informed me.

We went ahead and I was very excited to see a tiny mom and pop store, with only a pop there – the old man grinned at us. ‘Do you have anda?’ I asked eagerly.

‘Yes.’ Said the old man.

‘Do you take Paytm?’ Vijay ventured.

‘No.’ said the old man.

‘I forgot my wallet.’ Vijay whispered out of the side of his mouth to me.

‘Shall we ask him to just give us four eggs on credit?’ I whispered back.

‘No!’ said Vijay. ‘Don’t him on the spot. I’ll come back and get it.’

We walked ahead and saw some very pretty homes. Goa really is incredible. The greenery around this area beats for me the sun and sand of the beaches – even though the beach is only 3 km away and that was a big reason for us buying the place. I took some pictures of dogs stretching in the sun, and our own shadows stretching long out before us, and other random things, feeling very happy even at the idea of being able to come back here and call a little piece of this land our own.

Back we went. Vijay went to get the eggs and other stuff while I went up to the terrace and did yoga without my yoga mat. The terrace has the best view of course, and is quite private and under the bright blue sky, with the faint sounds of the labour waking up and construction work nearby kicking in, there was also the sound of peacocks crying and the dogs starting to howl again. It was possibly the best thirty minutes of Yoga I have ever done. Vijay came back just in time to catch my finale, the headstand. And then I agreed to make the old man some breakfast.

Unused to being in the kitchen, even one as well-designed and open as this one, I cooked up a meal of scrambled eggs. Five eggs in a bowl, some onions and tomatoes, salt and chili pepper and I tossed it in a pan, using our brand new cookware. With some Mosambi juice and toast (bread roasted with ghee), breakfast was ready. Vijay busied himself tidying up the groceries.

‘You know.’ I said enthusiastically. ‘We’re really lucky that our terrace is in the corner- it’s so private, it was lovely doing yoga.’

‘Can’t say the same for this kitchen.’ Vijay looked out the window. ‘I can see a naked guy from here.’

I rushed to the window to see, but came back disappointed. It was only Tulsi ram, the head labourer walking around near the pool in his Lungi.

Villa no. 9 is right next to the swimming pool, and I don’t know yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I suspect that the children will vote that it’s a good thing. We’re bringing them here in December and now I’m really looking forward to it.

So now I’m finishing typing this up to post it at some point when online again. Vijay has finished taking a post-breakfast nap and it’s time for us to go and get those damned curtains.


But the thought that I have is that however life turns out, whether or not Vijay and I actually ever get to retire here together in this beautiful place that we now on – even just these few moments here with my earnest old man who plans our life and works so hard to make our dreams come true – even just these – they’re enough.