Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dance Your Blues Away

It's now been almost two years since I started with Zumba. It's funny how seemingly random events can have a profound impact on you. I had no idea what Zumba was when I first did a Google Search on it, and amongst the instructors in Gurgaon was given the cell number of a certain Sameer Sachdeva. When I finally attended his class, I was completely taken in by how much fun and how challenging it was, and became a regular.

Suddenly, the eight extra kilos of post-pregnancy weight after the twins birth melted away - I had been struggling with the fat for over a year and a half, and then with 3 days of Zumba a week, and no other change in routine or diet - I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and have stayed there ever since.

Sameer and I became friends and he was the one who encouraged me to take Zumba up as an instructor. I dilly-dallied about it for a while, but eventually went ahead and got my license as a B1 (Basic Training One) instructor last November. I take classes only in my own colony mostly, and on weekends.

There are about seventy songs or more that I have prepared choreography for, and try to add about one a week; but in one class we only do about 14 songs and the class likes plenty of repetition, so I don't actually get to do all the songs I'd like. These classes however, I remind myself, are about the students - one problem that I have is that I get a sneaking suspicion that the students don't attempt to get any vigorous activity during the week because of 'lack of time', and concentrate all their physical fitness efforts only on the weekend. I don't think that works. I run weekend classes only, and I still say openly that taking only two classes on a Saturday and Sunday will only be for maintenance of fitness and won't be too helpful for weight loss, beyond a point. I used to do classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and that worked brilliantly for me. So I encourage my students to get in at least one more class, maybe an evening batch, or do some running. Swimming, I'm not that big a fan of, because I remember reading that it makes you hungry enough to put that weight back. I'm living proof of it anyway.

Zumba works at so many different levels for me, and for a lot of people I've spoken to. First of all, it's really vigorous, involving movements that are intense and varied. We use the concept of interval training and slow it down and speed it up between songs and within songs. It's challenging enough to require your attention or you won't be coordinated enough to keep up with the class or the instructor. The group energy adds a great deal to the whole concept. Finally, it's so much damn fun that unlike most other forms of fitness, you won't get bored with it. I know because if something hasn't bored me with my fleeting attention span for two years, it's unlikely to bore anyone else!

I'm a part of the team called Zumba@DelhiSalsaClub, led by Sameer. Sameer himself is an outstanding instructor, and his background in dance - he runs the Delhi Salsa Club, after all - helps a great deal, although it is his energy that it is unparalleled. He's my age ( okay, just a few months younger) and I don't know where he gets that energy from, but the good thing is that it is highly infectious. The other instructors are great too - Aparna Deshmukh, one of the earliest instructors in India, who for me is a fellow mom and a fellow ex-Unilever-ite too; Nancy Rustagi who's got some serious Bollywood moves; Anuj, whose energy and smile are about as big as each other; and the newly certified but bursting with energy and some awesome Bhangra moves, Sahil Kapoor. We don't get to meet as often as we'd like to because each and every one of us does various other things too; but we're bound, at least for the time being, by the love for dance and fitness. And ultimately, it is this world-wide phenomenon called Zumba that is responsible for bringing the lot of us together!

If you're in Delhi NCR, join up with us. If you're anywhere else, join up anywhere else. You may really really like it; it makes you fit...and happy!

Here's a clip of Sameer and Nancy taking the Zumba at Raahigiri. This is in the sweltering heat of Delhi which would make most people melt, but Zumba enthusiasts are made of sterner stuff.

And please don't judge us by the Honey Singh, we love this choreography and it's a great favourite amongst all our students. I'm not exactly sure which of the team members developed this choreo, but I suspect it's between Anuj, Sameer, Nancy - will update once I find out!

For classes in Delhi NCR - call Anuj at 9899771415

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Mahabharata Pop Quiz

I love the Mahabharata, and have read several versions over the years. I've yet to find a version that fully satisfies my curiosity, although the interpretation I've loved most is the Palace of Illusions by Chitra Devakaruni.

My curiosity is nothing compared to that of my daughter though, who's already read two kiddie versions at lightning speed. And my knowledge about the story is far more limited than I had thought, as I discovered today in the car on the way to the Music school where we're both enrolled.

'So Mama, can I ask you a question?'

I refrain from the wisecrack 'Well, you've already asked it, haven't you', and instead say 'Sure. What is it?'

Peanut asks 'So are you serious that Chhota Bheem grew up to become the Bheem in Mahabharata?'

Me: 'Erm...no...actually...Chhota Bheem is just a cartoon and...'

Peanut: And the other Bheem was real?

Me: Well, no. I mean, yes, more real than Chota Bheem.

Peanut: But you told me that it was the same Bheem.

Me: No, what I meant was that the big Bheem came first in the Mahabharata story and then some guy thought 'Hey let me make a cartoon of this guy and fool a bunch of kids into becoming his fans!' ( I say this in my Kalia-impression-voice)

Peanut (makes a face): Very funny Mama. But tell me, na, why did Bheem Shah not get killed by the arrows?

Me: Bheem Shah? (Realization) Oh, you mean Bhishma.

Peanut: Ya, Bhimsha. Why did he not killed?

Me: (struggling to keep up) So...he lay on the bed of arrows...until he chose to die. He was a great man of many powers and so he could choose when to die.

Peanut (shocked): But why didn't he just choose to live longer?

Me: (realizing this is an opportunity for some education about a topic that oft bothers us) Because not everyone wants to live together, Peanut. Bhimsha, I mean Bhishma wasn't the type to come crying into his Mom's room every night saying 'But I don't wanna DIE'. He was tired of living, maybe and just wanted to rest.

Peanut (still can't believe it): But why would he want to die?

Me: Maybe he believed in heaven? You know anything about heaven?

Peanut ( impatiently): yeah yeah, it's the sky. Okay, but Mama, can I ask you a question?

Me: Well actually...

Peanut (ignoring me): So Mama, Bhishma could also have just wanted to spend time with Pandavas, right?

Me: See, given that they were on opposite sides, it may not really have worked out.

Peanut: But he could have waited to see who won the war, and then spent time with them. Didn't he like the Pandavas?

Me: He loved them, but you don't do stuff like that...just wait to see who wins the war while lying on a bed of arrows so you can spring up and hang out with the winners...he wasn't that kind of guy...

Peanut (changing track again): But Mama, why did he fight against the Pandavas? I thought he liked them better than the Kauravas...

Me: Yeah, he did , but...( My memory fails me here and I'm thinking - yeah, why did he do that?)

Peanut (happily moved on anyway): But Mama, why did Karnaa become their brother?

Me: Karan, Karan...he was their brother because Kunti was his mother.

Peanut: So why did he go away from them?

Me: Well, because...( I don't know how to explain this but decide I can't just leave her hanging)...actually, he had a different father.

Peanut (Shocked): How can that be? How can brothers have a different father?

Me: (struggling) But...but...even the Pandavas had different mothers, right? It's okay, it happens! ( I really don't want to get into the details here)

Peanut: So then Karnaa wasn't the son of Panda?

Me: Panda? ( beginning to laugh, knowing fully well what she means)

Peanut: I mean that hugging guy, the guy who hugged his wife and died...Pandu...stop laughing!

Me: But Peanut, you're just so funny.

Peanut (accusingly): You don't know the Mahabharata!

Me ( with a sigh of relief, looking out the window): Look! We're at the music school....come on now, we're getting late...

Peanut: Okay, but Mama, can I ask you a question?

Me:  ( Dragging her out of the car and propelling her towards the building) La la la la la la, come on now, chop chop

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Dead End:Extract from Sorting Out Sid

This is a scene from the Chapter 'The Dead End' that comes about one third down the way into my book 'Sorting Out Sid'. It may not be a usual practice to give away something like this, but I think it's obvious even from the book blurb that Sid's marriage to Mandira is doomed. So here goes. This scene isn't as funny as the rest of the book but I like it somehow and it represents a big turning point for Sid, and there's so much more that follows. If you like this, you can go ahead and get your copy of the book from Flipkart here (They're running a huge discount and free delivery right now, so check it out!) 


The phone rang about ten times, but he waited patiently still tapping his fingers on the wheel. Finally Mandira picked up, sounding slightly breathless and more than a little annoyed. ‘Ya Sid? What is it?’
‘Nothing much,’ he said, ‘You enjoying your party?’
‘It’s fine,’ She answered curtly, ‘How are Mummy and Daddy?’
‘Oh, we’re all missing you very much. Hey, how come I don’t hear any music at the party?’
‘I’ve stepped out to talk to you in the hall.’ was her quick reply, ‘So why are you calling?’
‘Nothing, yaar … I just thought I’d tell you …  I was getting a little bored, so I’m going to see Vikas tonight. Sunny told me he’s working on a presentation at the Farm. Remember the Farm? I guess you wouldn’t, we went there together to a party only once … years ago. So, anyway, I thought I’d surprise him there, maybe have a beer with him.’
There was a moment of silence and Mandira’s voice rang out shriller than before, ‘You can’t do that … you can’t just land up and disturb him …’
‘What disturb him, yaar!’ retorted Sid, ‘He’s my friend. I just felt like seeing him, it’s no big deal.’
Her voice was panicky now, ‘Listen … don’t leave Mummy and Daddy alone. They come to spend time with us, and …’
‘And you go out to an office party? Come on, if you can do that, surely I can go and see my oldest and best friend? Don’t worry, I won’t be long. I’ve almost reached anyway. Chalo … bye.’
Mandira didn’t even bother to say bye. She quickly cut the call and Sid took a deep breath and stared at his phone. He wished that there wasn’t this perverse part of him which had started to enjoy itself, especially since most of him felt sick to the stomach.  He looked out of the window towards the gate, and waited.
It wasn’t a long wait. In about one and half minutes the gate opened and she emerged. She didn’t notice him, and he watched her now sprint across the road. Oh. That’s where she had parked, he could now make out the red of the Verna behind the  tall bushes. It had been hidden pretty well. .  It helped Sid to focus on the logistics of the situation. This took away some of the discomfort he felt from the  bile in his throat as well as the bitter feeling of disappointment that rose from his stomach. Of course, he  realized that somewhere in the back of his mind he had known this all along.
He watched Mandira scurry and hit the button on the remote keychain, from several meters away, to unlock the car. She scrambled into the driver’s seat and drove it out, heading  with reckless speed down the road, away from him.
He pressed the redial button and waited until he got another breathless ‘Hello?’. He watched her from his vantage point as she slowed down marginally, saying, ‘Sid, I’m driving. I’ll be home soon, okay? What is it?’
‘You’re going the wrong way.’ Sid said in a pleasant, conversational tone. She pulled to an abrupt stop and even from the distance he could see that she was sitting frozen rigidly in her seat, the phone glued to her ear.
When she didn’t respond,  he hastened to add, ‘The main road is the other way – that’s a dead end you’re heading for.’
Her stunned silence continued, and a feeling of weariness hit Sid all over again. Whatever little fleeting pleasure he had derived from his grand expose was already fading away. In fact, he was beginning to feel painfully sorry and embarrassed for her. He wished he didn’t have to put her through this  - but it was too late now.

He sighed and waited for her to respond. What could she possibly say though? He had hit the nail right on the head. They had both been heading for it for a while, and now they’d reached it – The Dead End.

Buy the book from Flipkart here
Get the e-book on Amazon here
And my first book Just Married, Please Excuse is here 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Interview Time!

Bangalore-based Writer and Journalist Bhakti Mathew interviewed me over the weekend for a new series she's starting on Indian Authors called 'How They Did It.'

And here's an open offer: If you guys have blogs or websites on your own and would like to feature me on any topic ( from parenting to Zumba to freelancing to writing to you get the picture but I'm happiest talking about my books ;), I'm just an email away at yashodhara dot lal at gmail dot com.

Bhakti's interview:

At first glance, it can be easy to shrug her off as just another alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM) wanting to write a book (not that there’s anything wrong with an IIM-alumnus or any alumnus writing a book!). But she’s funny, really.

Read more on Bhakti's blog. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Vijay and The Call Centre Lady

My husband realises at the last minute ( as usual) that he has very limited time to submit some bank documents at the office. So he calls up the bank and requests the Call Center representative for the same.

Vijay: ...so that will be the Interest Certificate along with the Repayment schedule. Right?

CC lady: Yes, Sir. You will receive the Interest Certificate within 2 days and the Repayment Schedule within 15 working days...

Vijay (shocked): Hang on, Hang on...I have only five days left to submit everything. Why will I get the Repayment schedule within 15 days?

CC Lady: Sir, actually that's our system.

Vijay: What's your system?

CC Lady: The Interest Certificate will be sent by Courier and the Repayment schedule by regular post.

Vijay: But why?

CC Lady: Usually, people require Interest certificate more quickly, so that's our system sir.

Vijay: But...but...I need them both at the same time.

CC Lady: Sorry sir, but I can't help you. That's our...

Vijay: System, system, I know. (Inspired) But tell me. Can't you just send both documents to me by courier?

CC Lady: No sir. That is not something we can do.

Vijay: Listen . Do they come from separate sources or something?

CC Lady: No, sir. They are both taken out at same time from the computer.

Vijay (slowly): So you're telling me the guy who takes the printouts will put them into separate envelopes for despatch through two separate sources?

CC Lady (pleased that he's finally getting it): Exactly sir.


Vijay (taking a deep breath): So why can't he just put them in the same envelope?

CC Lady: That would not be possible, sir. It's the system.

Vijay (trying to turn on the charm): Look Madam. Can't it just be something between you and me? As an exception - you just tell that dude to put the Repayment schedule into the same envelope with the Interest Certificate and send both by courier?

CC Lady (aghast): No, sir.

Vijay (getting desperate): No one else has to know! And if he likes, he can quietly send me an empty envelope through regular post also....dheere dheere woh bhi pahuch jaayega...

(Ad infinitum. In short: I really don't know who to feel more sorry for when I hear Vijay speaking to customer care representatives). 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Holiday Ramble

For the last twenty days or so, Peanut-Pickle-Papad have been goofing off at home. I can only thank my lucky stars that our help, who had gone away for a full five months, returned in April and manages the three of them deftly. I myself, no longer the sprightly young woman that I used to be, simply lie around with an ice-pack on my head as she chases the three of them around the house.

I've been busier than usual over the last couple of months with a marketing consulting assignment having been added to my plate. It offers a fair degree of flexibility, but in a connected world, you're never really switched off. Still, I'm managing fine. My yoga teacher, an excellent young woman named Apoorva, often asks me to slow down, stay in the present moment and all that other cool yoga-type stuff which works well for a while and then I forget and then she reminds me the next week. So that's cool.

I had taken on piano lessons along with Peanut a couple of months ago and am valiantly keeping at those, although I don't get to practice as much as I'd like ( damn, I should go and do it right now) and therefore I'm not progressing at the rate that I should. However, it's a big high for me learning how to read music; I couldn't manage it when I last fancifully took guitar lessons a couple of years ago. However, a year of coaching Peanut and cheering her along before I started my own lessons meant that I'm reasonably up to speed with Piano theory. Practicals, yeah, not so much. But the other day I managed to play Beethoven's Choral Symphony Theme (it's easier than it looks but what the hell!) - I had played something composed by Beethoven. Take that! It really felt good.

Peanut is doing very well under her new teacher ( yes: we shifted schools, more on that another time) and is jumping Grade 1 completely and moving straight to Grade 2- and that too, of the more strenuous Royal School of Music, which I am told is for the more 'serious students'. Well, she's not serious about the Piano, but it seems to have just become a natural part of her everyday routine ( Ahem: okay so maybe I've forced it into being natural but never mind). The other night, I was feeling a little creeped out about some sounds that the A/C was making. I cuddled closer to Peanut, who put her arm around my neck and in her sleep, murmured 'Bye Mama.'

'Bye?' I said, feeling even more creeped out.

'Mama.' She said, changing tack, eyes still closed. 'Listen.'

Her tone was serious and I held my breath. She continued 'You have to play it like this - looong-short, loong-short loong-short.'

It took me a second but then I realized what she was taking about. Our piano teacher had instructed her to play the bass portion of the Mickey Mouse March, a duet we were doing for fun with a slight 'swing...looong-short, looong-short'. A couple of days later, my daughter was still dreaming about it. It was so ridiculous and cute that I lay back and guffawed with laughter.

Peanut giggled too, still fast asleep and then urged me 'Shhhh...Mama...Shhhh' and was quiet for the rest of the night. She had no recollection of it the next day and still thinks I'm making it up.

So anyway, the Piano and Yoga goes on. We're doing vocal lessons too - Peanut and me - which is fun too although this is one thing I never get to practice during the week, unlike piano, yoga which is fairly often even though not for as long as I'd like. The Zumba is restricted to the weekends. Work assignment involves a few hours in office a few days a week, and I'm working on a third book. Haven't been to the Happy School in a while, but they've anyway closed for summers now. It's a full schedule but that's nice for now. The kids are keeping each other busy, and this is why I recommend that three is a good number for children. One is fun, Hum Do Hamare Do. But my slogan is - after one P, have two more and see. Okay, now I know that's a really bad one. All three kids are into Taekwondo and they love the swimming pool we have here. And as of two days ago, there are some summer activities that have started up in the colony for 2 hours each day by parent volunteers, so hopefully that should keep them busy too. Which reminds me. I'm doing voluntary Zumba for the kids on Thursday. Ack! No songlist yet.

Rambly post this is, but then it's a rambly life too.
And how's Summer going for you?
(Poetic today, aren't I?)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chapter 3: Just Married, Please Excuse

Here it is: The third and final instalment of the free-three-chapters I'm putting out from my first book. If you like it, go ahead and get the book on Flipkart here. The Kindle version is available here. It's a laugh riot, I assure you. If you don't laugh throughout the book, you get your money back. Just send me a recording of your reading the entire book as proof. 

I Saw the Sign
I watched Vijay walk out of the Arrivals terminal, unaware of my presence. His dark brown hair glinted in the harsh airport lights and he was simply dressed in a blue long-sleeved shirt and a pair of black pants – one of the three decent pairs that he possessed. He slid along gracefully, almost gliding and as always, he gave me the distinct impression of being a giraffe on skates, but one who had been practising with great dedication for years for some sort of championship. He looked like he was just out of college – the one and only thing that he had ever displayed any sort of vanity about.
It was only because I was observing him closely that I noted that as usual, his brown eyes were not steady but shifting about at lightning speed. He had once told me that the reason he was able to drive so well was that his eyes were never still and he was constantly looking about all over the place and was very aware of his surroundings. Of course, I started calling him shifty-eyes after that, although this rapid eye movement was barely perceptible to the naked eye of other mortals. Sure enough, those shifty eyes now cut through the colourful confusion of the airport and settled on me, even though he hadn’t been expecting me. He smiled and raised his hand slightly in a cautious wave. Unlike me, he was always wary of public displays of affection. Still, for me, that little wave was sufficient to cause another tiny skip in the cardiac region and I hurried towards him.
We greeted each other with a hug, warm on my part and hurried on his, as he simultaneously tried to register exactly who in the crowd of strangers was watching us. We held hands as we walked along and I started to talk about some inane things while he steered me towards his waiting taxi. I was still chattering happily in the car, when I noticed that he hadn’t said very much and was watching me in a bemused manner.
‘What?’ I asked warily.
‘Nothing. I was just wondering if you’ve thought about it some more.’
I started to observe the scenery outside the window and said coldly, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
I knew exactly what he was talking about. And he knew that I knew. And I knew that he knew that I knew. This was getting slightly complex, so I was glad when he cut into my thoughts with ‘Oh come on, honey. How much do you think we’ll be able to put it off anyway?’
This was too much. ‘You’re rushing me, Vijay. It’s too soon for anyone to make such a big decision.’
‘Arrey! But I’ve decided, na? I want to marry you only. So why would it take you much longer?’
‘Because ... I’m just not ready.’ ‘And when will you be ready?’ ‘I don’t know,’ I said honestly.
Honesty is rarely rewarded in this world.
‘What do you mean you don’t know? And how will you know you’re ready, by the way?’
I decided to adlib. ‘It’s one of those things, Vijay. You just know. I’m sure I’ll just know. But please give me time.’ I preempted his next question with ‘At least a few more months, maybe one year.’
His face fell. I knew that this would be tough for him to digest, but I had to buy myself more time. A year wasn’t that long. I heard him mutter, half to himself, ‘I love you but I’m not really sure I want to marry you ... I don’t understand this thinking ... is it supposed to be very modern or something ... aaj kal ki ladkiyan ...’
Sometimes Vijay acted like he was not only from another planet but another generation altogether. This only served to strengthen my resolve that I would wait for a long time before making any sort of commitment.
He stopped talking about it, clearly having decided not to pursue the matter any further. Instead, he rolled down his window and produced a cigarette. I watched incredulously as he lit up in front of me, knowing fully well that I absolutely abhorred his smoking. I decided to give him the royal ignore, which would probably have worked well if he hadn’t started giving it to me first, and turned away from him to look out the window. The taxi was crawling along in the traffic – it would have been quicker to walk.
As we sat there in a moody, smoky silence, I thought bitterly that maybe it would even take two years before I knew I was ready.
Three months had clearly not been enough, in any case. My mind began to wander over the various small incidents that had taken place over the past few months.

Unlike Vijay’s pretence of being some sort of champion solo drummer in college in a lame bid to impress me, I had always let him see the real me. Take it or leave it types.
The only time I had stretched the truth slightly was one morning when he said that he had to go out for a haircut. Since we were at that happy lover’s stage where every minute apart is seen as a minute wasted, I told him that I was great at cutting people’s hair.
‘Really?’ he asked and I replied that I had been quite the lady in demand when it came to haircuts in my earlier days.
What I omitted to mention to him was that I had been in demand one day when I was ten years old – and that it was only my mother who was demanding to know where I was hiding, after a rather unfortunate haircut that I had given my younger sister. The result had come out rather uneven, although I stoutly maintained that I had intended it that way and that I quite liked it. As I had crouched in the cupboard of my room, listening to my little sister’s inconsolable wailing and my mother shouting for me, I had understood even at that early age, that I was destined to be something of a misunderstood genius.
After hearing about my supposed expertise with the scissors, Vijay eagerly asked me to give him a cool haircut. I said, with an appealing combination of generosity and modesty, ‘Sure, why not?’
He sat on a tall stool in the bathroom and I assumed a professional stance behind him. He was gazing into the mirror so I didn’t dare to touch the front much, but I snipped away happily at the back, pausing to admire the effect now and then. I gave him an attractive series of about five steps on the back of his head. He couldn’t see it, but when he reached back to touch it, he said it ‘felt nice’ and that he had never had this kind of haircut before.
He went happily to office the next day, clearly expecting some admiration for his new haircut, but the general reaction was summed up for him by an unnecessarily outspoken colleague who informed him that it looked as if ‘kisi billi ne noch-noch ke baal nikaale hain.’ Vijay was not very amused by this and over the next few days in office, could not keep from self-consciously covering the back of his head with his hand. To my chagrin, he never let me come near his hair again, even when I offered to ‘fix it by snipping a bit off the back and evening out the layers.’
Our different temperaments also resulted in many fights. Given his tendency to make silly wisecracks and say whatever he felt like all the time, I often flared up about something that he did or said.
At the time, Vijay’s elder brother Ajay and his wife Garima were living with Vijay and I got along well with them. They had been witnesses to quite a few of our fights, which usually ended in my flouncing out of the house. I discovered that they usually took my side, especially Ajay, who would always explain to Vijay, ‘Tu bada hain. Tujhe samajhna chahiye.’ Quite sweet of him, I thought, and my heart would warm to Ajay when Vijay reported this to me.
One late night, Garima found Vijay sitting on the balcony of the flat, staring forlornly at the children’s playground below. When she asked what he was doing, he pointed to a lone figure sitting on one of the children’s swings and said, ‘Yashodhara. She’s angry with me again.’
Garima breathed, ‘Oh how sweeeeet.’ Vijay stared at her in incredulous annoyance. It was anything but sweet, according to him.

It had all started with a casual remark he made about one of my favourite kurtas – an ethnic looking black-and-yellow long-sleeved, beaded number that I often wore with my jeans. I had always been under the impression that I looked really cool in it, but Vijay had lovingly asked me, with no small degree of interest, while toying with the beads, ‘Tell me, na – why do you always wear this Hare-Rama-Hare- Krishna kind of stuff?’
It was all downhill from there and ended with my walking out of the house in a huff.
Not having any place to go so late at night, I headed to the playground, thinking that I would console myself with a little swing. A few minutes passed and I was sniffing and feeling very sorry for myself when Vijay suddenly materialized out of the black night, holding two Orange Bar ice lollies, one of which he held out to me. I took it without a word and he sat on the swing next to me with the other ice lolly, saying, ‘Garima said we fight like kids, so we should make up like kids too.’ We ate our ice lollies on the swings in philosophical silence and went back upstairs after a while.
He rarely lost his composure. Only once, when I had started getting upset about some small thing, he had announced, ‘I’m telling you, I don’t know how to deal with such tamper tentrums.’ It was then that I discovered his tendency to lose his already tenuous command over the English language in moments of high emotion. He kept repeating the phrase ‘tamper tentrums’, obviously not spotting any flaw in it, until I finally melted and broke down in a fit of laughter. He thought I had lost it until I breathlessly explained to him why I was laughing. Thereafter, we often used the words ‘tamper tentrum’ to
try and lighten the most unpleasant moments of conflict. Sometimes it worked.
As our taxi pulled to a stop, I briefly debated with myself whether to try and use this phrase to lighten the mood, but decided against it. The blatant smoking in my face was really the limit. Maybe, I thought as I moodily slammed the cab door behind me and stomped towards his flat, it would take me three years to decide. Who knew?

We had a quiet dinner at his place with Ajay and Garima. We routed most of our conversation through that hapless couple, addressing each other only a few times with exaggerated and dangerous politeness. Once in our room, we simply turned our backs on each other. I was only pretending to be asleep – I really wanted to talk to him and make up but just as I finally turned around to do so, he let out a gentle snore. I tried to shake him awake and whispered with increasing loudness, ‘Vijay. VIJAY!’ but he was out like a light. Irritated, I turned my back on him again and grumbling to myself, tried to go to sleep. It took me a long time.
I woke up late the next morning, the bright sunlight hurting my eyes. I licked my dry lips and realized that I was feeling very sick. It was probably my lunch of leftover Maggi and chips the previous day that had done me in, because my stomach was hurting terribly and I felt nauseous and weak.
This was the first occasion in the past few months that I had fallen sick and so I had not yet discovered Vijay’s weakness for tending to the sick. He immediately forgot all about our differences of the previous day and started to fuss over me in a way that even my mother had never done.
He asked me whether I wanted to eat something and I replied in the negative – I was feeling too sick and didn’t think I would be able to keep anything down.
‘But how will you regain your strength if you don’t eat?’ he chided.
It was kind of cute at first, but then it started to get a bit out of hand. I insisted that all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but he kept fussing over me and suggesting that I eat or drink this or that and started measuring my temperature at fifteen- minute intervals. I just lay in bed with a thermometer in my mouth, while he pottered about with an enthusiasm that he had hitherto not displayed. To my horror, he even declared that he was planning to take off from work the next day – Monday – in order to nurse me back to perfect health.
He kept coming up with new and inventive ways to fuss, but it was clearly in the matter of nourishment that he felt he had found his specialization because he kept offering me all the food and drink in the house, until I finally agreed that maybe I would try something after all.
Thrilled by this first sign of success, he made me drink a huge mug of chocolate milk, reasoning that ‘milk is generally good for health’ and ‘even if you don’t eat something, it’s important for you to drink and keep your fluid levels right.’
My condition showed no visible improvement. In fact, my stomach felt significantly worse after the milk, leaving me groaning and clutching my belly in agony – until he made me sit up in bed and consume a large bowl of papaya. ‘I know papaya is really good for the tummy, my mother said so.’ Against my better judgment, I somehow gulped down the pulpy fruit. I had never liked papaya and now started to feel even more queasy.
‘You’re feeling queasy?’ He had the remedy for this too. He grated some ginger and asked me to chew on it, assuring me that this would make me feel better instantly. If there was anything I disliked more than papaya, it was the taste of ginger, but I was too weak to protest and began to chew on it with an air of resignation. 
The wave of nausea that overcame me right after this was too strong to resist, though I gathered up enough strength to lurch towards the bathroom. I began to throw up violently into the toilet. In between bouts, I became aware that the very concerned Vijay was standing behind me and trying to help me throw up. Weakly, I tried to push him out and shut the door behind him, but he insisted on holding me up over the toilet seat, running one hand over my hair to keep it out of the way. After I finally finished throwing up, I stumbled towards the washbasin and started cleaning up. When I looked up, I caught a glimpse of both of us in the mirror. I took in my own appearance first – I looked completely washed out, my face pale, hair matted and oily and eyes red and watering. Repulsive was the word that I would have used to describe myself.
Then I caught sight of Vijay in the mirror. He was gazing at the back of my head, still stroking my hair affectionately and muttering in self-reproach, ‘Oh yaar ... it’s my fault ... I should have added some lemon juice to the ginger. That would have worked ... come on, I’ll make you some nimbu paani, okay?’
It was then, at that exact moment, that I knew.
I drew in a deep breath and my words came out with the slow exhalation. ‘Okay ... let’s do it.’
‘Okay?’ he said with the same undue enthusiasm. ‘Okay, you wait, I’ll get it ...’
‘NOT the nimbu paani, you dumbo ...’ I hissed. ‘Okay, as in ... okay, let’s just get married.’ 

***End of Chapter***

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Also read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2