Saturday, July 9, 2016

So Much SmartAssNess in First Half '16

I had this feeling that I've got a lot of mini-stories about the kids on my Facebook page here; and the feeling was right. Below is a compilation. I feel much better now that I've got them here for posterity ;). But join the Facebook page for more regular doses of randomness and the occasional brilliant flash of insight (rare).

*****

Papad beats Pickle in a swimming race and gasps proudly 'TodyaCRUSHya!'
I turn to him and say 'What?'
Peanut sighs, treading water near me 'Oh, he just copies my motto. Everyone copies my motto.'
'What's your motto?' I am amused.
'It's kind of a song I made up. It goes -
I told ya, I'd crush ya,
I crushed ya, I win!'
'Peanut! That's ...' I'm impressed, but I try valiantly to be a good parent. 'Not very sporting. Where did you come up with that?'
'I was playing tennis with Anusha and I beat her and then when I was shaking her hand over the net, I whispered it to her - I told ya, I'd crush ya, I crushed ya, I win!'
'Well, you're supposed to be saying 'Good Game' at that point, right?'
'Right!' She gives me a bright grin. 'But it was more fun this way.'
I struggle with it for a while and then give up. 'You mind if I use it on your Dad?'
She shrugs wearily 'Go ahead! Everyone uses my motto anyway. I bet even the President of the United States will want to use it.'
Inside I'm thinking, yeah, maybe not the current one but sounds about right for at least one contender. But I refuse to let that thought spoil it for me.
I Told Ya
I'd Crush Ya
I Crushed Ya.
I WIN!

******

Pickle and Papad are watching the 'Finding Dory' trailer.
It finishes and then a Spanish version of the trailer starts, with baby Dory speaking to her parents.
Pickle (with a frown of concentration): What they are saying?
Papad (with an air of great wisdom about him): Pickle. It's FISH language.

*****

After watching Football, some match between Italy and Spain, for an hour with my husband, my kids run out of the room shouting
'Guess what? Idli won! Dosa Lost! Yesss!'
How educational.

*****


From Peanut's diary. How interesting.
"My mom is an author and a famous one." I smile at that.
"We are not really that rich like I expect other famous authors to be."
Smile gone.


*****

Me, getting angry because he's not listening to me: Pickle, now I've told you enough times that you're supposed to brush your teeth first thing when you get up and now you're asking me for things to eat without doing that and ...
Pickle, in the most biting and spiteful and mocking manner that the words have ever been said: Baa, baa, black sheep, have YOU any wool?
(Sweeps out of the room with impressive dignity)

*****

And this is how I'm misrepresented at home.
Papad walks up to me and shows me the bandage I tied on his foot 'See I am bare-footed. That means hurt, right?'
I correct him. 'No, bare footed means you're not wearing anything on your feet.'
'But I am wearing the bandage.'
'Yes, but not shoes, right?'
'So what is that word for hurt?'
'Wounded?'
'Yes' He says with inordinate pride 'Wounded. I have a wounded feet.'
'Foot. Yes, wounded foot.'
'Mom! Will I have to take this off if I go for a swim?'
'Well, I guess it would come off anyway, so yes I suppose so.'
He nods sagely with complete understanding and then trots out of the room on his wounded feet and I hear him tell his twin. 'Pickle! Guess where Mom says we can go? For a SWIM!'

*****

My daughter, the one with the sense of humour. She sees a certificate from Micromax "To a Colleague who was awesome till the last mile..."
Turns to me and asks "Hey mom! What happened to you in the last mile? Why were you only awesome TILL it came?"

*****

Me: Peanut, just help Papad finish his homework please...
Peanut: How? He is just copying the letters...
Me: I don't know! Just... Cheer him on or something.
Peanut (yelling right into her little brother's ears): Papad, Papad, He's our man! If he can't do it, no one can!

*****

'Will you kids please stop shouting?'
'Why?'
'Your Tau is sleeping. He doesn't sleep at all at night, so he's sleeping during the day.'
'Why?'
'Because he's still on America time.'
Peanut shakes her head and chuckles. 'Americans are so weird!'

******

"Do you know what they're doing?" My husband asks me.
"Nope."
"They are playing music on the laptop and waiting for birds to come..."
"What music?"
"That Mary Poppins song... What is it?"
"Feed the birds, Tuppence a bag?" I guess.
"No, the other one... With that robin..."
"Ah... " I get it. "Spoonful of sugar?"
"Yeah, that one." Vijay is very amused. "And they are wondering why the birds aren't landing up!"
Childhood. Such innocence. Such wonder.
Such little Bhondus they are.


*****

I look with interest at my husband's new profile pic on Whatsapp. That's cute. When was he on a boat? And hey, it looks familiar but-
Waitaminute.
I message him furiously "what the heck? Did you cut me OUT of your profile pic?"
A few moments of silence and then watch him typing back.
"Of course. If I didn't cut you out, no one would look at me."
Well saved, buddy.
Well saved.

*****

We are sitting and watching Frozen.
Princess Anna and Prince Hans fall in love and sing their duet "Love is an Open Door"
Peanut sings along word-for-word.
Pickle covers his ears and protests "sing in your MIND!"
Papad beams beatifically and then wonders out loud "How do the prince and princess know the same-song-words?... Why you laffing Mom?... Tell me!!"

*****

Peanut stares out the car window and since I am not paying attention either, we almost miss our turn to the music class.
After correcting the driver, I unfairly mutter to my child "Why are you dreaming?"
"Why shouldn't I dream?" she says calmly.
I am chastened. It's true. She is but a child and I expect her to do a lot of things with the maturity of an older person. These are the days she must enjoy and cherish, and if one isn't allowed to dream now, by George- when?
"I'm sorry, Peanut." I whisper.
"It's ok Ma" she beams "you know nowadays if anyone asks me why I am doing something, I just ask them why I shouldn't do it! It works very well."
Now I'm a little pissed. It was just a trick.
"Bit of a smartass, aren't you?" I sneer.
Another peaceful smile with just a hint of smugness
"Why shouldn't I be a smartass?"

*****

Random statements by Random Kids:
Papad: (excited) ...and it's the best in the WHOLE WIDE UNIVERSITY!
*****
Peanut: (wonderingly) Mom, if I am trying to adopt someone when I am 21 and I write 50 instead of 15 by mistake - (now panicking) what will I DO if I end up with a child OLDER than me?

*****


*****

I am doing my yoga this morning before work, in the privacy and sanctity of my bedroom.
BANG. My son shoves the door open and potters in, waving a piece of paper excitedly. 'Mom, mom, I made DIS.'
I resist the urge to ask him to retreat and look at his picture. It has a tiny creature drawn in the centre that looks like a cross between a camel, a baby elephant, and if he insists, a mouse.
I am in Ommmm mode, and thus I remember that a child has to be appreciated for the effort he puts into his work. Criticism is to be avoided at all costs, as is the natural desire to correct his efforts. And at the end of the day, he is clearly doing this for the love of art, and it's good to see that he's interested in something besides breaking his toys and the house.
'It's great, Pickle.' I enthuse. 'Well done! And you even wrote Mouse.' I can't stop myself here.'Well, you wrote Muse, but that's great too!'
He looks up at me with a crooked smile and says in a brisk, businesslike way. 'Wanna buy it? Only fifty lupees.'
I stare at him for a moment. Get out, get out, get out of my loom, I want to scream. Oommmmmm.
(I ended up buying it for fifteen lupees.)

*****

It's a possibility that my kids may be watching too much TV.
Papad, spotting my husband coming home, shouts ''Daddy's BACK...!'
And then adds 'On NICKELODEON!'

*****
Pickle brings me his homework sheet after I come home from work, saying 'What we have to do in dis?'
I turn my bleary eyes towards the sheet.
Peanut barks at him 'Bring ME your homework. Let Mom relax.'
I turn my teary eyes towards my 8 year old daughter.
If I'm dreaming, don't nobody DARE pinch me today.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Little Lemonade Bottle

'Well, I was here at 1 p.m. for my appointment! You've kept me waiting for 45 minutes already! It's the doctor who should adjust...'

Vijay and I watched with some bemusement as the hapless doctor's assistant struggled to formulate a response. The typical aggressive Delhi-type scene played out again and again, with many irate patients taking their anger out on the assistant. We waved at him timidly again to remind him that we were still there. 

'Three more patients before you.' He murmured. 

I was feeling hungry and suggested to Vijay that we go and grab a bite at the nearby Haldiram's. We felt a lot better about life once we had some Papadi Chaat and Chole Bhature in our tummies, not to mention the Badam Milk and Rasmalai ( My no-sugar experiment is going really well these days). As we pushed our plates away, my husband said thoughtfully -

'I bet the Doc hasn't eaten.' 

'Yeah, I'll bet he hasn't.' I agreed. it was 2.30 p.m. already and judging by the commotion outside his room, it was unlikely he'd had a bite. 

'Poor fellow. He's probably not eaten since morning.'

'Yes.' I wondered where this was going. 

'Shall we take something for him?'

I stared at him. 'What, like Chole Bhature? No!'

'Why not!' Vijay cried. 'He'll like it.'

'Vijay, please. No! We can't take a smelly parcel into a doctor's clinic. That's just...'

He looked a bit deflated. 'Maybe Lassi? He might like Lassi.'

'I don't think so, Vijay. It's a bit weird. Anyway, let's get going now, shall we? It's time for your appointment.'

I ducked into the loo for a couple of minutes and when I came out, I noticed Vijay was carrying something besides his MRI report. 

'What's that for?'

'What?'

'That Nimbooz?' I demanded. 'You already had a nimbu-pani with lunch.'

'Oh.' He said carelessly. 'That's for the Doc.'

'Vijay! Seriousy?' 

But the husband's jaw was set. So I gave up. 

We were signalled in by the hassled assistant and the Doctor today looked rather hassled. It was only the second time we were meeting him but it was clearly a bad day for him, even though he greeted us with enthusiasm. 

Vijay put the Nimbooz on the table. 'This is for you, Doc. We thought you might not have had lunch?'

'What? No, no, not for me.' He indicated a packet to his left that lay unopened. 'No time, I have to rush for an operation.' 

Despite two interruptions from his assistants and a call from the Operating Theatre which he answered with a 'Coming, just coming.', he managed to give us the instructions to do with Vijay's knee report. 

'...so make sure you do the physio exercises diligently and I'm sure you won't need a procedure.' He finished. 

'Thanks doc.' We said, feeling sorry for him. We stood up and then he told Vijay, signalling the Nimbooz 'Don't forget this!'

'Oh, no, Doc, it's really for you.' Vijay pressed. 

'Really?'

He paused for just a moment and then shrugged his shoulders. 'Well, actually - I think I might just need it.' With that, he picked up the bottle and stood up. 

We went out of his room and in a couple of minutes, he overtook us, hurrying down the hall towards the OT. 

I watched as he opened up the Nimbooz and glugged from it without breaking his stride. And then he disappeared around the corner. Vijay saw him too but said nothing. 

Later that evening, several hours later, Vijay received a text message from the doctor with 'Thanks for the Nimbooz. I really did need it and it put a smile on my face.' Vijay read it out to me with a smile. 

And I stood corrected. 

It doesn't matter whether something you do is weird or unusual as it long as you mean well. In other words: 

It's never out of place to be nice. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Baniani

This Saturday morning did not start well. About two hours earlier than I was going to wake up, Vijay opened the door to the room, managing to make just enough noise to startle me awake. And that was not good.

One thing led to another and a few hours later, we were on the verge of a major fight, led entirely by yours truly who was intent on blaming the husband for everything in the world that's wrong, including the melting of the polar ice caps. The poor man, recognising that I was in a more hormonally-inflicted state than usual, managed to keep his cool throughout, but no matter what he did, I was not calming down. This went on for a long time, well past mid-morning.

That's when he hit upon an idea. 

'And another thing...' I was spewing when I noticed that he was cackling to himself. 

'What is it now' I said through gritted teeth.

'Oh honey.' He smiled widely. 'I just remembered. M (Our elder nephew) is upstairs right now.'

'Okay' I growled. So? I figured M, who lives in Mumbai had arrived because it was his parent's anniversary. Vijay's sister lives two floors above us in the same apartment building, so it's all like one joint family scene some days. 

'You don't understand.' Vijay protested. 'he's sitting upstairs...wearing a girls' banian. You know...' 

'A camisole?' I wondered, inspite of myself. 'Why would he do that?'

'I don't know!' Vijay burst out. 'But he is. I somehow controlled myself from laughing at him. I thought you'd like to see him. You want to come up now?'

'What? That's ridiculous. Why would I want to do that?'. Ridiculous. I knew this was just an attempt to distract me from scolding him. 

*****

10 minutes later, upstairs, Vijay and I stood just outside R. Didi's flat. 

'Now remember.' Vijay warned. 'You're here to wish her a happy anniversary, just like I did. We're not here to see M in his camisole.'

'Of course not,' I scoffed. 'This is silly anyway. Don't know why you dragged me here.'

The door opened and it was R.Didi. 'Happy Anniversary!' I bent down and touched her feet. My eyes scanned the flat for M. Yes, there he was in the living room reading the paper. Good. 

She was delighted to see me. 'Ah Yashodhara. Perfect, we were just talking about where we should go tonight.'

I walked in further into the room, saying 'M is here? Let's see - M, hi!'

'Hello, Mami.' said my handsome young nephew, lowering the paper. I stared in disappointment and looked at Vijay. Vijay looked equally dismayed. M was wearing a pale green shirt over his shorts. 

'You had a bath already?' Vijay demanded.

M looked a little taken aback 'Yeah...just had one.'

Vijay and I looked at each other while R didi peered around. Vijay mumbled. 'What was the hurry? Why couldn't you have waited a little longer? It's not even 11.' 

'Er...what happened?' M asked suspiciously. 

I was looking sullen. 'Nothing.'

'Yes, what is it?' chimed in Rama didi.

'Nothing, nothing.' said Vijay. 'It's just that...there was no need for him to change so quickly out of that...'

'You were wearing a girls banian and I wanted to see it!' I burst out before I knew what I was saying.

'Huh?' M looked flabbergasted. 

R Didi stared at us for a moment and then began to laugh. 'Yes, that thing he was wearing? I thought so too - I wondered where he'd got that banian-i.'

'It wasn't a baniani.' M said, clearly torn between irritation and amusement. 'It was just a normal banian.'

'No, no.' Vijay protested. 'It was a spaghetti-waala-straps-waala top, the kind Y sometimes wears for Zumba.'

'Huh!' said M. 

'Where is it?' I demanded. 

'In the wash!' said the hapless nephew. 

'Put it on and show us.'

'No way!'

'I'll get it.' Vijay went into the bedroom. 

'I didn't bathe in there!'

'Okay, this one?' he headed to the second bedroom. 

'No.'

'Fine, here?' He went into the third. R Didi was now busy laughing loudly at the proceedings, while in the meantime trying to tell M that he should fetch his banian himself instead of making Vijay-Mama do it. Within a few seconds, though, Vijay was back, triumphantly holding up a white banian with dark blue border.

I examined it critically. I had to admit the straps did look the spaghetti-waala type. But otherwise...

'It doesn't REALLY look THAT much like a girl's banian.'

'You have to see him wear it.' Vijay turned to M. 'M, come on, put it on for a sec.'

'You must be joking!' M burst out and seemed to realize something. 'Wait a minute...is this why you brought Mami up?'

'Of course not.' I said piously. 'I came up to wish your parents a happy anniversary.'

'Hmmm.' said the young man, entirely unconvinced. 

'Are you putting on the baniani?' I ventured.

'No!' 

'Where did you get this anyway?' Vijay asked, with interest. 'Is it your girlfriend's?'

'No, okay? I don't know where it came from! I got it out of P's cupboard!' 

He was referring to his younger brother, our younger nephew. There was a moment of stunned silence and then R didi, Vijay and me started guffawing. 

'You mean.' I gasped. 'I might walk in here one morning and see P wearing the baniani?' 

Oh happy day. 

None of us really had any idea why this was so funny, but somehow the prospect of seeing at least one of my strapping young nephews sitting around in a girl's banian filled my heart with glee. The day had totally turned around for Vijay and me, and we went home in an inordinately companiable manner.

Later that evening, M and P were like the rest of us, dressed all spiffily as we headed out to the celebratory dinner at the club. 

I whispered to M 'I hope you didn't tell P about the baniani thing. It would ruin it if he suspects we're all waiting for him to put it on.'

'No, I didn't' he said drily. 'But I don't think it will remain a secret for long.'

'Really?' I was disappointed. 'Why?'

'Because.' he sighed. 'Pickle and Papad came up today and were shouting all over the house - we know you have a girlfriend and you wear her banian. And also her jeans. And shoes.'

Damn. I shrugged and shot a guilty look at Vijay.

NO idea where they'd picked that up from.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air

It's not often that I talk about books on my blog (yes, yes, I know, but my own books don't count here!)... but Paul Kalanithi's 'When Breath Becomes Air' is one that took my breath away. There's a pun in there somewhere, but you must excuse me. It's a rather facetious way to start a post about a really great book with a message of profound importance.


Paul Kalanithi is working towards becoming a fully qualified Neurosurgeon - after having been in training for almost a decade, he discovers that he's got lung cancer and it's clear he has only a few months, or at best a few years to live.

In his memoir, which is written with great honesty and feeling, Paul comes off as a very promising and caring doctor and essentially a really nice guy. He loved literature and his use of language is is lyrical even as what he writes about is immensely relatable - strange that few of us have ever been neurosurgeons. Even the use of medical terms doesn't throw a reader off.

Essentialy, Paul talks about his experience of dying, or rather living with the knowledge that he's got anywhere from a few months to a few years to live. I find myself struggling with how important I think this book is, given that for so many people I know, including myself, our so-called problems just pale by comparison to that of a young man faced with the pain of a debilitating disease and the certain knowledge that death is around the corner.

Paul with a colleague in Stanford Hospital in Feb 2014
One of the things that I'm amazed with is that the book contains nothing or very little that I could sense of irony. Paul always had a desire to understand death and to relate to it - the fact that it crept upon him so quickly even as he spent years in training as a neurosurgeon responsible for saving so many lives himself - it seemed like it would have been potent material for a lot of bitterness and irony. If there was any, Paul left it out of his book, and given how honest the book is, I think he possibly chose to let it out of his life.

Paul and his wife Lucy decided to go ahead and have a child, which was the other surprising thing for me - they knew they had a host of problems and limited time with each other, but their choice was to create another life. Even though the other side of the argument is equally rational, which is the simple desire to experience that type of love which comes with having a child of your own - I still feel that it was ultimately a very brave thing to do. On the other hand, it's usually the brave things that are most rewarding, and Paul's note to his daughter at the end of the book is what had me in tears. I would have reproduced it here, but I think it's best discovered in the flow of the book.

Paul never got to finish his book. That is to say, he became too sick to complete it but his wife Lucy took over and she actually completes it for a reader in a beautiful, poignant manner that describes Paul's end and how they took it as a family.

Paul died at the age of 37 in March 2015 ( It strikes me hard - I'm 36). The book was published in January 2016. I've always disliked the word 'posthumous'. Seems to me so pointless - something of note happening after the person has died. But this particular book, published posthumously seems anything but pointless. The exact opposite, in fact.

I read a few reviews of the book before I bought it and I recall the one that said it left a reader unsatisfied because it didn't quite have the 'answers.' But as I read the book, and closed the pages with sadness, I thought the answer was intrinsic in the pages. Yes, life is brief, it is ironic, it is painful, and yet it's incredibly beautiful. The answer is in not losing sight of love.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Box of Love & Laughter!


So here's the deal! I get my own brand new 3-box set...and you get all my books in a neat package at a highly discounted price from Amazon!

Also, check out this cool new feature called Kindle Instant Preview - click on any of the covers below to get a preview of the books, in case you still need convincing about why you need to buy. Makes for a very good gift for anyone who appreciates intelligent humour laced with romance!



P.S - I'm very kicked by the cover design. Check out the pic below!
P.P.S - please don't be like my friends and post smart comments i.e. ''I already have the books, can I just get the box?'


Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Little Too Class-y?


( This piece has been written for ConnectMyGurgaon)

'Go on, go on, you have Taekwondo now! GO!' I bellow at my kids.

'Yes, Mom, I know.' yells Peanut, ' But Pickle can't find his belt!'

There's some more argument about Uniforms and finally I shove them out the door. They rush out and I heave a sigh of relief.

*****

Whatever happened to free time? You know -just chillin', hanging around, reading - basically, doing nothing?

Gurgaon, like many other cities, offers a whole range of services and I for one have been availing of them for myself and the kids - and how. I started a bunch of things during my sabbatical - guitar class, piano class, yoga class. On top of it all, I took Zumba classes and ended up an instructor myself. All of this still goes strong for me even though I'm back at work - the music classes are once a week, and Zumba is on weekends, while Yoga has moved to a fortnightly or even monthly instruction rhythm with my excellent teacher. It's manageable - but just about.

For the kids - I'd started a couple of years ago with Piano and vocal classes for 8 year old Peanut, and then got Taekwondo going twice a week for all three kids. My husband happily added Tennis three times a week on the available days. And then, Pickle & Papad started clamouring for music classes and I found through Urban Clap, the same instructor who'd got Peanut started years ago, and he now comes home once a week to teach them guitar and piano.

In the meantime, as the kids have become older, their timing at school has increased. Now they barely have an hour at home before running out for class. Surprisingly, there has been no rebellion from them as they seem to enjoy most of their classes. But now, Sunday is the only day when we're all free ( wait, no, crap! I teach Zumba on Sundays but never mind) - it's the only relatively relaxed day for all of us.

Vijay seems bemused by all this. He doesn't feel the need to add any skills to himself - he talks about joining a Gym or taking up Yoga, but that's all more talk and less action. He hasn't said anything about the schedule that the kids are following, apart from some mild surprise on the days that they say they didn't really get enough park-time.

Now that summer's here, we're all signing up for swimming too. The kids aren't good swimmers yet, and I'm tempted to use the weekend to get them a little bit of instruction time. But it's really all getting too much.

It's worth a mention that all these classes add up in terms of cost too. I just did a quick calculation and it's almost thirty grand a month to keep all of this going. I'm super-lucky that my Zumba classes offset some of these costs while still keeping me fit, and they're great fun too - but after the rent & the Zumba license fee I pay, and given that I'm restricting classes to just ten students, they'd cover only a third of the cost of of all our classes.

But the main question is - why should it be like this? There really isn't actually that much pressure that we take from the outside world on any of this. We're not really the keeping-up-with-the-Saxena's type of family anyway. The classes just seem to have been added organically by themselves. Young Peanut isn't the least bit perturbed -in fact, she's been asking 'What class do you think I should take on Sundays, Mom?' She pushed me for joining Ballet a while back, that was the one which I said no to.

It's also not that big a deal in terms of transport or coordination because most of the classes are at home or around home. In a way, it's tempting to continue since it does seem to be a good way to just have the kids doing something apart from watching television or 'wasting their time.' Sports build character. Music will be a friend for life. Taekwondo would be really life-saving especially if they're faced with another pint-sized attacker who moves in slow motion. Discipline. Perseverance. Grit. All the good stuff. Yeah.

But what about just being bored? What about coming up with creative things to do out of that boredom? I remember being bored a LOT as a kid. Hot summer afternoons watching random insects buzzing. Pulling out books which suggested projects - spray painting with toothbrushes, creating colourful cane-baskets and other such random things.

What about me thinking about all of this was a conversation with a senior colleague, with older kids than mine.

'I've told them horse-riding, and for my elder one, guitar, and that's IT.' She said decidedly. 'And when I got home yesterday, my younger one had decorated her entire desk with nail-paint. She asked if I was mad, and I said - NO, it's BEAUTIFUL.' She turned to me. 'See? That's what comes of being bored! Isn't it great?'

It's great, I murmured, feeling confused. The fact is that some of these classes, especially music, they just don't work or mean anything without at least a little bit of daily practice, and that then further adds to the amount of 'structured time' that they have at home. Where really is the time to be bored?

I wouldn't say my kids aren't creative because they seem to be making a lot of stuff at home too ( read: messes) - Peanut especially draws a lot, now teaching herself a surprising amount through Youtube Instructional videos. So I can't quite put my finger on the problem, but I get the feeling that kids should be allowed to do more 'nothing' than always doing something.

But it's all so convenient, so easy, so productive, that there just doesn't seem to be a good reason to stop anything right now.

So I have now come up with the perfect solution.

We need to move out of the city. That's all.

P.S - I'd love to hear what you have to say about this subject! Comment? Share your experiences and thoughts. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Passports

For the longest time, Vijay and I had put off the idea of getting passports for our twin boys. We had only ever travelled to the United States once with young Peanut, and even now, Vijay would ask her what she remembered from the trip, and when she drew a blank, he'd sigh and lament 'See? What was the point of that expensive ticket?'. She was two years old at the time.

But we didn't have that excuse given that the young boys themselves were now over 5 years old. So we kept telling each other 'We should get passports done for the twins.' And then we'd agree solemnly and proceed to do exactly nothing about it. This went on for a long time.

I was going through our files recently and saw that Peanut's passport had expired.

'WHAT?' said Vijay.

I showed it to him - more than five years had passed since we'd got hers, and it was actually almost a year ago that the passport had expired.

For some reason this galvanized us into action. I determinedly went hunting online for the passport website of the government - here it is for those of you who are worse than me in such matters - and immersed myself in the process of figuring out the forms and documents required and so on. It took me a while, but not anywhere as long as I'd assumed. In about an hour, I had the forms ( fairly longish) filled for all three kids - the first one took me a while but the second and the third were much smoother because by then I had all the information ready.

Vijay insisted that we go ahead and schedule an appointment at the earliest, so I gave in and decided a half-day off on a Friday in the subsequent week wouldn't be so bad even though it meant the kids would have to miss school, which is something that I hate. We took the appointment and for all three kids, the slot was 9.45 a.m. to 10 a.m. This was strange. How would we manage to do it for all three at the same time? Still, we resolved philosophically, we would just have to see.

The day before the appointment was chaos. It was all very well to fill in forms online, but I had given the responsibility of getting all the documents printed, attested, photocopied etc. to my dear husband who put it off till about the midnight of the last day, and so we were basically tense and arguing with each other. Okay, so I was tense and arguing with him while he beatifically went around arranging the papers and ignoring me, whistling softly to himself. I had to admit he ended up doing a pretty good job with multiple back up copies everything, even the things that we didn't need.

Annexure 'H' - mysterious thing but we found a copy online. Check. Both of us signed? Check.
Passport copies of parent with spouse name endorsed? Check.
Birth certificate with self-attested. Wait, did this mean we had to attest or the kids had to attest? Never mind, we'd figure it out there. Check.
Aadhar cards as proof of address, Check.

You get the picture. So on the appointed day, we took three excited kids who had no idea what to expect to the passport office in Udyog Vihar. We left about 40 minutes before the appointed time and ended up reaching 15 min early at 9.30 a.m. Pickle and Papad especially were thrilled at the idea of getting their passports. They clearly thought that the minute they had the little booklets in their hand, they'd be whizzing off to 'America' or 'London' or 'even Asia.' as they put it.

My heart sank at the sight of the government-y looking building, whatever that means. It actually looked like every other dull old building, but it was the air of quiet desperation amongst the people lining up that got to me. But wait - there weren't really THAT many people. In fact, whoever was there was being ushered in fairly quickly. This wasn't that bad. We went through the unsmiling security checks and found ourselves in a waiting room sort of area with some people milling around. There were four or five counters, and I sat down with the kids while Vijay went and stood in a line with the papers.

Pickle and Papad decided this was all a very nice adventure and started to run about, inspired by some other kids who were doing the same. My attempts at admonishing them and telling them about the seriousness of this whole venture went unheard. They tried to slip into a cordoned off area and the guard told them to get out, which they did and just went to create havoc elsewhere. I gave up trying to figure out where they are, and just sat there with a quiet Peanut, until I spotted them opening the door and trying to escape into the bright sunlight. A few sharp words from me brought them in again, and caused a couple of the people sitting around me to edge away slightly.

Vijay came back triumphant. In a matter of moments, the names of the three kids were called out in quick succession. The man behind the tall counter couldn't see them at all,  but he didn't seem perturbed.

'Is he here?' The man asked Vijay. Papad raised his hand and waved over the counter and the sight of his little white palm was apparently enough for the man. He proceeded to do the same for the other two and then we had to go through into the actual passport making area.

It was about 9.45 a.m. by the time entered, and what exactly ensued in those 15 minutes is not very clear in my memory. Vijay whispered 'This is all TCS managed - don't worry.' Suddenly the electronic notice board was flashing our numbers. We had to go to counters C5, C6 and C 20. Okay. You take Pickle to C6, I'll take the other two, said my husband. Okay, but...before I could ask him anything, he had disappeared with two of our children. I went trailing after him with Pickle trailing after me, and soon was at the desk of another unsmiling young man. He asked for the passport application and the birth certificate photocopy. I fumbled with the file and took them out and gave them to him. Move to the side, Madam, I have to take his photograph. Okay, I moved to the side. Stop moving around, little boy. Pickle had his photo taken. Then there was a thumb-impression taking exercise. Vijay appeared saying he needed the file with our passports, and by the way, since Papad's counter was actually right next to Pickle's, I might as well handle both side-by-side. Okay, but...he was off again to Peanut's counter before I could say a word. The new guy who was to handle Papad's passport took his picture and the passport application and asked me where the parent's passports were. I said waitaminute please and ran to get them from Vijay who was barely done with them by the time I landed up. I snatched our passports from him and ran back and gave them triumphantly to the second guy for Papad. The first guy who was doing Pickle's passport asked me for some signatures on a document to be submitted to the Municipal Authority of the zone where Pickle's birth certificate had been issued. In the meantime, the two men started to argue about the necessity of thumb impressions but the first guy convinced the second it was needed and so Papad also gave his thumb impression. He couldn't quite keep still so it took a few tries and the man was a bit impatient which made me even more nervous.

This part done, we went ahead to the next series of counters. This time, again, we were lucky enough that two of the counters were next to each other, but the parallel processing started to get a bit confused to me because speed and time were clearly of the essence. There was this one annoying woman there whose job seemed to be to make people uncomfortable in the process of keeping things moving along. N20, she barked at me twice? Are you N20? I am indeed N20, Madam, but right now, I am struggling with the documents of N18 which my husband keeps stealing from me for N19. She was unconvinced by my answer and just shouted in my ear again N20, you need to go to counter M-5 immediately. A flurry of documents, originals, photocopies, my children milling about, unfriendly faces were making me very disoriented,  and it was only the presence of the calm, unperturbed six feet two tall gentleman weaving about with a big folder and three sub-files that caused us to manage to get through the whole thing without much incident.

It was only at the gate where we were submitting our final application receipt that there was a bit of panic. Where is Papad's receipt, I cried? It was with you all along. I knew it, I knew it, I wailed and then Vijay pointed to my side. I had the receipt firmly ensconced under my armpit for some reason. I drew it out sheepishly and handed it to the fellow behind the counter, and just like that, we were done.

'Not...bad!' Vijay declared as we stepped out the door. I counted to make sure there were five of us as Vijay said 'it's only 10 a.m.!'

'WHAT?' I was shocked. That entire series of lines, stamping, photographs, signatures, counters, N20s being yelled had taken us only 15 minutes - and we were actually done? With three passport applications, all done?

We walked to the car, and as we got in, I marvelled at the change. I remembered how horrible it had been getting my own passport done in Bangalore several years earlier. The exact details failed me but I did recall that their 'system' had consisted of a couple of hundred people sitting about the room and a security guard who would tell us to shift-up-shift-up as the people in the front seats went up to the counter. My bum had therefore sat on about 100 chairs in the process of shifting-up. There had been no bum-shifting here. It had all been very smooth. While I did think that the staff could have been more friendly especially to the kids, I was quite amazed at the speed of the whole thing. Very efficient.

I looked at my phone. There were three messages - your passport application has been received and the printing of the passports has been initiated. I showed it to Vijay wordlessly and he looked very impressed.

'Can we have ice-creams?' The kids started to plead. My first reaction was to say no, as always, but then I gave in and nodded.

This was indeed cause to celebrate. They were going to get their passports. We might even get to travel internationally as a family soon. Maybe even to Asia.