Friday, January 26, 2024

Tennis, Anyone? Seriously? No-one?

Late at night: 

 'I'm never playing tennis again - I fell sick after that game in the sun two weeks ago,' I announced to Vijay. 'My yoga mentor said I'm a Pitta personality and the sun just boils my system. Sorry, but you'll just have to play with Shirish and the others..' 

'Okay,' agreed Vijay, unperturbed.

'Because it's a little hard on the knees too,' I overexplain, miffed that he won't miss playing with me. 'As a yoga student and teacher, I have to think about sustainability. I don't want to injure my knees. Knees are important.' 

'Yes,' he is tuning out already, and then remembers he's supposed to respond with something, so he adds agreeably. 'It's the hard court. Hard on the knees.''

The next morning: 

'Wanna play tennis?' I ask brightly.

'Huh?' Vijay looks out the window uncertainly. 'But it's sunny...'

'You don't want to play with me? I knew it!' I say spitefully. 'You only want to play with Shirish!' 

'No, it's not that...we can play. It's just that you said - '

'You don't want to spend time with me? You hate me and want me to die!' 

Vijay rolls his eyes, and says 'I'll get the rackets. Let's go.' 

As we walk along, I chat happily while he grunts occasionally in response. '....see the thing is that sports need to be incorporated into one's schedule at least once in a while as per this Mindvalley program on longevity that I saw and therefore when one thinks of sustainability one cannot ignore the aspects of camaraderie and sportsmanship and overall, the social aspects of ...' 

'We're here!' He looks a little too grateful to have arrived at the court. 

During the knocks on the court: 

'Why are you glancing outside the court at all the passersby?' I demand. 'You hoping for Shirish to just swing by or what so that you can have a real game?' 

'What? No! And anyway, I already asked him if he can come in an hour.' 

'Oh, right. So you'll just warm up with me because I can't really play, and then have your actual game with him, right?' 

'That's not...anyway, he's probably not going to come, he might be busy.' 

'If you didn't want to play with me, you should have just said so. Why the resentful compliance?'

'It's not that I don't want to play wth you,' he snaps, 'I just want you to stop doing your choo-chaa.' 

'Choo-chaa! I do choo-chaa?'

'No, no. No choo-chaa. Come on, just play' 

'Then you should stop gazing at everyone else, and just look at me!' 

'I don't have to look at you, I have to look at the ball.' 

'Fine, then look at the ball.' 

I serve, and am rejoicing at the fact that the ball goes over the net. Vijay hits it back with unusual aggression and I think a hint a malice, and I jump out of the way. 

'Very funny.' I call. 

Vijay looks innocent.


I am panting and running around on the court, but my shots are going mostly into the net, or otherwise completely out of the court. I find myself wishing the courts weren't so public, many morning walkers pass us and look curiously at my bumbling. I run toward the ball and miss yet another shot and am about to throw my racket on the ground, when Vijay decides to give me a tip. 

'Get to the ball.'

'Wow, Honey.' I say sardonically, 'Get to the ball. I would never have thought of that. How about you get the ball to me?' 

'That's not how it -' He swallows the rest of his words. 'Anyway, what I meant was that you are preparing your racket too early. Instead, focus on just making it to the ball - and then swing.' 

'Ah.' I nod wisely. 'Okay.'

The next shot he hits toward the front of the court, I charge determinedly at the ball and place myself squarely in front of it. It hits me in the stomach. 

'Very good,' Vijay says encouragingly. 'Now, just remember to actually swing.' 


'Honey,' I beseech him after a while. 'I'm demotivated. Can you give me positive strokes?' 

'Sure.' he says, 'Positive.' 

'You don't just say 'positive' randomly. You're supposed to compliment me when I do something well.' 

'Oh.' I can see the wheels turning in his head. He's wondering when that will be possible. 

I serve the ball straight into the net.

'Okay, try catching it higher on the toss, and then flick your wrist.' 

I do that and it goes over the net. He hits it back, and shouts something. In my confusion, I swing my racket wildly and miss the ball. 

'What?' I yell. 

'Lovely serve!' He calls.

'Oh.' I said. 'But you confused me. Can you let me hit first and then give me the positive stroke?' 


I serve again, and his tip is working - it goes over the net. 

He hits it back and it's too close to my feet, and I swing clumsily, stumbling over my own feet, miss the ball and hit my left elbow with the racket. My pride and my elbow are both now hurting in equal measure. 

'Lovely serve.' Vijay calls, encouragingly. 


'Just get your angle right.' Vijay says, and demonstrates by swishing his racket, 'Like this!'

'Like this?' I imitate him. 

'No, like this.' He does it again. 


'No...see, it's like this, two C's - one C goes like this, swinging the racket down, the other C swings it over your shoulder from the front, like this.' 

'Okay, so like this?' I swing it again in the two Cs. 

'No! Like THIS.' 

'I can 'C' you are on the verge of giving up,' I say and wait expectantly for him to laugh. He doesn't.

'Look.' He says, 'Just use the face of your racket on the ball.' 

'Got it.' I say. 

The next three rallies are great. My shots are accurate like never before. 

'Hey!' He's surprised. 'That's amazing. How are you doing that?'

'Oh. I don't know.' I say. 'That cue just really worked, I guess. Face of the racket on the ball.' 

He squints at me curiously for a while. 'You're imagining slapping someone in the face hard, isn't it?'

I look innocent. 


After about an hour of this back and forth, as it were (heh heh), I find myself glancing longingly at the passersby on the road. 

'What is it?' Vijay asks.

'Isn't...Shirish coming?' 

'No, I told you. He said he's probably heading out. Are you getting tired?'

'Me!' I scoff. 'No!' 

But I find my mind wandering. When he says 'Ace' at one point, I'm thinking of Ace Ventura and wondering how come Jim Carrey isn't acting a lot in the movies these days. As I bounce the ball before a serve, I am thinking 'Wow I bounce the ball so well. I must look like a pro. These shorts are cool. Damn, did I miss the Republic day sale? Should have bought two more! Must check when I reach home.' 

I send the ball into the net three times in a row. 

'Maybe we should head back.' I tell him nonchalantly. 'My pitta personality and all, it's getting sunnier.' 


I head over to the bench and stretch for a while, and Vijay serves about a dozen hard, vengeful shots to an invisible Shirish. 

As we walk back together, I'm chatting happily 'I think I should just get Knee-braces, right?' 

'We have some at home. You can use those.'

'Nah! I'll buy them in a brighter colour. Then I'll look even more like a tennis player. So what if I really can't play, right?'

Vijay knows better by now. 'You played well today.' 

'I know, I know. I was amazing, I think. But still, I Knee-d the braces. Haha! Get it? Knee-d?' I poke him hard in the ribs 'Get it?' 

'Ha HA!' For effect, he also claps his hands together in a show of delight. I clap my hands too and laugh in a mildly delirious manner at my own cleverness. 

Tennis is a nice game. A person like me really should not play it. But once in a while, I am sure it's alright.  

Sunday, April 3, 2022

To Hyderabad, or Bust. Apparently, the latter.

 'Are you sure?' Vijay said. 'Just for one day - flying in the morning and then back late night? It will get really hectic for you.' 

'I'm sure!' I said, 'It's Sanjay's FIRST poetry reading ever.' Sanjay is a very dear friend, who lives in Hyderabad.  'I want to be able to surprise him. I'll just show up and be like...SURPRISE! It will be wonderful.' 

'Alright then,' Vijay said, sounding amused.

'Yeah.' I said, 'Besides,  Peanut is coming too!' 

'Really? ...but she has exams!' 

'Oh, that's okay. She says she's got the exam thing under control. Really wants to come, she wants to see Sanjay perform too - and besides, the event is called Queer-e-mehfil! This is surely a better education than studying for an exam.'

'I see.' Vijay knew better than to argue. He did anyway, 'But...'

'Look here.' I snapped. 'Peanut is a teenager now, and she needs to get exposure to different environments. It will be a great bonding trip for us too. And I can take decisions for myself, I'm an adult and a parent here too. So please stop trying to get in the way.'

'I'm not!' Vijay protested. 'I won't. Fine, you  go.'

'Good.' I fumed, and then waited a few seconds to make it respectable. 'So can you book our tickets?'


One week passes, Anouk and I are really excited about our trip. 

The twins are less than thrilled about being left out, however. 

They start with 

'You love her more than me' ....

moving on to  - 

'I've never even BEEN to Gujarat! ' ('It's Hyderabad, STUPID,' yells Peanut and I admonish her.)

settling down eventually with a sulky 'Bring back a Chicken dum friend in school said it's good...although it sounds like its for dum people.'

A couple of days before the trip, I start to worry. It's all very well to land up and surprise Sanjay, but this is India and you don't land up empty-handed. I assume. It's really not often that I land up at people's homes. But what to buy for him? When my kids used to get invited to birthday parties, I would simply insist on getting their friends books, no matter that they said their friends didn't like to read. I had a book dealer on speed dial, 'Yo, Amit, what's up, can you wrap up a few books for an 8 year old boy who likes football and hates reading. Football almanacs? Great, whatever.' Eventually, the problem got solved as over time people stopped inviting my children over for parties. But I wondered - what does one buy for an adult who actually already reads a lot?  

I also worried - what if I surprise him so hard that he has a heart attack or something? How can I just leap out at him on a Sunday morning, what if he slips and falls? But he's in good shape, I tell myself. My kids often leap out at me from darkened corridors and I turned out just fine. Just a little blood pressure issue sometimes, occasional dizziness, no big deal. No heart attacks. Yet. 

Eventually, I assuaged myself by deciding that Sanjay is quite young, in his late twenties, and so would be fine. Also, being young, he might like the same things that my children like. So I purchased a few Toblerones and some Walker's Shortbread biscuits, extravagantly throwing in a Lindt Dark Chocolate with Chilli flavoring ( I wanted to try a piece). 

Vijay was travelling and returning to our home in Goa only on the day that Anouk and I were to leave for Hyderabad ourselves. It had been a very hectic week for him and he was looking forward to coming home and getting some rest. 'So you all set?'

'Easy peasy.' I said. 'Nothing much to do but land up on time. Should be fine.' 

'Well, good. I am turning in early. So should you.' He said, sounding exhausted. 'Have a good trip.'

'Hey,' I said, and my voice became low and sultry. 'How about that web check in, eh?' 


I knew the only real challenge would be to get Peanut up on time. The previous day, I had attempted seventeen times to wake her up. She believes that on weekends, she should sleep till 2 p.m. and hence resists any and all attempts to rouse her earlier. But we had made a deal that she would get up immediately. Like me, she too hates being late for flights, and the rush it entails. 

At 5 a.m. I went to her room, and shook her gently and lovingly. 'Peanut.' I whispered. 'It's 5 a.m.' 

To my surprise, her eyes snapped open and she looked at me. It was kind of scary because she looked half crazed, like a possessed kid out of a poltergeist type movie - but I was impressed and pleased. Although in the next second, I realized that for the last four years, I'd been played by her while trying to wake her. This was not the time for arguments. 

I turned away, and she kicked me on my butt. 

This was unacceptable, even though perhaps she thought she was being funny. I whirled around to tell her off, but her eyes were now darting around the room in a highly creepy fashion. I retreated quickly to get ready. This was not the time for arguments. 


We were well on time, even though for some reason there was a traffic jam up ahead. The driver Mukesh, a mild mannered quiet sort waited very patiently. A little too patiently. After about fifteen minutes of just crawling along, I felt there was something wrong. The cops were diverting traffic from the bridge leading us to the airport and I called out to one - 'Bhai sahib ...flight!' 

'The bridge is closed at this time - has been announced in the papers last week,' he said, 'Your driver should have known.' My driver looked hurt and flabbergasted at this. For once in my life, I wished that I read the papers. Of course, this was all Vijay's fault for travelling to Jaipur at a time like this - after all, he ordered and read the papers. He might have known. 

'What?' I glanced at the time. 'How do we get to the airport?'

'Circle around from Ponda.' The guy was already turning away.

'But how long will that take?' 

'When is your flight?'

'7.30 a.m.' 

'Yes.' He nodded with a look of satisfaction. 'You will definitely miss it.' 


We raced to the airport via Ponda anyway. I was NOT going to miss this chance to see Sanjay do his poetry reading. He was a friend. This was Peanut's education. I had bought Toblerone, dammit. 

It was of course a fool's errand, but a friend of mine who was helping coordinate informed me there was a 10.05 a.m. Spicejet flight that was not listed online. What a GENIUS, I thought, as the car hurtled around the country roads, even as I tried valiantly to speak to a Spicejet Bot who was useless, eventually finding a human being who was equally useless and could give me no information other than that the flight was on time, and that she had made a 'note of my request to hold the doors.' 

Peanut and I, who both hate rushing through airports, reached the departure gates, looked around wildly, ran in the wrong direction for a few seconds, ran the other way, and then shot towards security check, pleading with the guards to hurry up. 

At Security Check, our tray came through and then got stuck as the belt stopped. I asked Peanut to reach out and get them- she stretched out her long upper body, practically lying down on the conveyer belt, and strained, reaching out her long spidery arm towards it- only to find it was 2 centimeters short, exactly when the belt started to move again. She muttered something about never having been so humiliated in her life, but I hurried her towards the boarding gates. 'Which Gate!' 'I don't KNOW, just any gate! I mean, look for the Spicejet person.' 

We did find a Spicejet person. One short, thin lady with an air of cool confidence that you might expect from the pilot of the airplane. She looked up with a raised eyebrow at us as we skidded to a halt three feet away from her, dishevelled and panting 'Spice Jet! Hyderabad! Bridge closure! Please let us get on it.' 

'The flight has departed,' she informed us nonchalantly, looking down again. 

For some reason, I repeated 'But can you let us on it?'

And then it registered. 

But all hope was not lost. 'I believe.' I said with authority. 'You have an unlisted flight at 10.05 a.m to Hyderabad. How about you get us on that one?' I checked my message from my reliable genius friend. 'Flight 3735.' 

'That's a night flight 10.05 p.m.' she said without any emotion. 'Would you like that?'

Perhaps all hope was lost after all. 

Given that I had a return booked an hour prior to that time, I realized that particular flight option wouldn't work.

After about an hour of wandering around the airport to check with every airline whether we could somehow get to Hyderabad in time for the show, we gave up. It took another half an hour for us to be allowed out of the airport. Apparently, if you miss a flight, you need to be accompanied by a staff member of the airline in order to leave the premises. 

The staff was very thin in more ways than one. The one skeletal woman we met accompanied us off the first floor onto the ground floor, and then disappeared into air even thinner than herself. We were once again stuck at the main gate where the security was adamant. 

'Please let us LEAVE' I begged the official after thirty minutes of trying to locate any Spicejet staff member. This was ridiculous. I imagined I knew what poor dead souls might feel upon finding the Pearly Gates closed in their faces, being left to wander forever as ghouls in some in-between world. 

'You must let us LEAVE!' In desperation, I pointed at my daughter 'My daughter is UNWELL.' My daughter looked surprised and tried to appear unwell. 

'What to do, Madam.' The official said. 'The airline should staff properly no? We are also trying to reach them...they only have to sign you out...'

Our reserves of good humour were fast disappearing as sleep, hunger and disappointment hit us and the foolish euphoria and hope about the trip vanished. I told my daughter that I loved her, and that violence was never to be condoned, but she was about to see me get into a fistfight with an airport guard. Luckily at this point, I spotted the skinny lady in red strolling around with two similar skinny ladies in red. 

'Hey!' I yelled, waving as though greeting an old friend, let's say, Sanjay. 'HEY! It's US. You have to let us OUT again.' 

Unperturbed, she broke away from her friends, and accompanied us to the door, signing in the register our names ( she remembered and I glanced at the register - Yahohara and Anouksa, writing something unintelligible in the column next to our names, which I imagined might be 'Idiots') At this point, I could only take comfort in the fact that our names weren't the only ones on that list. Some other poor suckers had missed their flights too. Stupid Bridge.

'That bridge closure.' I said conversationally to skinny lady 'Bet many people missed their flight because of it today.'

'A few,' she admitted, adding unnecessarily 'Everyone else for the Hyderabad flight made it though. You two were the only ones who missed it.' I decided I hated her and would never speak to her again. 


The 1.5 hour journey back was more sombre. After a while, I decided to call Sanjay. I texted him to check if he could get on a video call. 

'Hi Yash.' his text read 'Sorry for the delay. It's such a lazy Sunday morning, I just woke up!' 

I almost hated him too in that second and reminded myself it wasn't his fault. 'Whenever you're ready.' I texted back. 

'Calling.' he replied. 

In the next moment, we had his bright shining face beaming at us. 'Hi ! Where are you, Yash? Is that Anoushka? Hiiii.' 

'Hello.' I said sardonically. 'We were going to surprise you today. But the bridge was closed, so we missed our flight.' I smiled bravely at him. 'Guess you're not the only one surprised then!' 

Peanut corrected me in a whisper 'We didn't get to surprise him.' I gave her the evil eye and turned back to Sanjay. 

'Oh Noooooo!' He was delighted and upset at once, of course. 'That's so wonderful! But I feel so bad! But So sweet of you! But ...Oh noooo!' 

I felt a little better after speaking to him, and warmly wished him the very best. We promised to surprise each other soon, although we probably ruined it by discussing the options too much. 

Very tired by now, I turned to my daughter and told her, with complete honesty 'You know, if I had been through this myself today, I really would have been in a sada hua mood. But somehow, it was almost fun. I'm so happy you were with me. And still being calm and cheerful as much as possible. You're such a great kid.' 

'Thanks.' she said expressionless. 'You really humiliated me with the conveyer belt thing.' 

We consoled ourselves by eating Sanjay's Toblerone on the way. At least, I did. 

Peanut refused, saying matter of factly 'I hate Toblerone. You know that.' 


We reach home, and I tell the driver to park some distance from the house. 'Let's surprise Pickle-Papad! Maybe we'll catch them playing a computer game instead of studying!' I am determined to surprise SOMEONE today. 

We sneak past their room into the back garden. We end up looking like fools because they are just eating breakfast innocently and have no reaction beyond mild bemusement when they spot us creeping around the lawn, and greet us with 'Hey, you're back. What happened?'

I give up. We tumble into the house, saying simultaneously 'We missed our flight.' 

I tell Peanut 'Get some sleep please.' and start to crawl upstairs to my room. I decide I still have a lot to be thankful for. A great home. A bed. Three wonderful kids especially a pretty cool, mature teenager who clearly knows how to deal with a minor crisis and the little inevitable disappointments of life. I hear my kids talking -

'How do you miss a FLIGHT? Duh!' 

'We miss it when a BRIDGE is closed, STUPID! Don't even TALK to me, okay?'

I continue to crawl upstairs, clutching my bag closer. The Shortbread and Lindt are still in there. Good for me.  

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Let's Talk about Sex, Babies

One of the things that I am pretty clear about is that my children will not grow up as confused and mystified about sex as I was when I was a kid. 

Back in the day, as many of us will perhaps recall, the way to handle difficult but necessary conversations about puberty, growing up, sex, etc was to deliberately and studiously ignore them. Cannot blame anyone for it, it was just how the times were. But things are different these days.

'Wow.' Peanut's voice was dripping with sarcasm, one evening a couple of years ago. 'Thanks a lot.'

'What happened?' I asked.

'We had a ''workshop'' today in school.' She scowled at me. She actually used air quotes for the word workshop. 


'It was about - ' She lowered her voice and hissed at me 'Sex.'

'Oh?' I was surprised. 'Was I supposed to know?'

'Yes.' She said. 'They said they sent an email to you. ''Mother''' 

The air quotes were beginning to hurt. 

'Okay, so I don't keep up with ALL the emails from your school. There are like hundreds of them.' I protested. 'But's good that you're getting sex education. Do you have any questions for me?'

'Oh. Nah,' She said airily. 'It was just embarrassing to not have a heads up. But I knew everything anyway.'

'How?' I said suspiciously.

'Reading. Friends.' She said blithely and then added crushingly. 'I probably know more than you.' 

And that my friends, was my loving pre-teen a couple of years ago. You can only imagine how she is these days. 


Fast forward to the present year. I am convinced that I need to do this better with the twins. Especially because the evil Peanut has been at them already, it would seem. 

'They're a little worried.' She giggled to me in a confessional mood. 'Because I told them about the workshop coming up for them this year.' 

'Why are they worried?' I had mixed feelings - relief that my kids were talking about this so openly, and horror about what she had told them. 

'Ah.' She giggled some more and then said. 'I just told them that in the workshop, they'll probably be called to the front of the class to show everybody.'

'Show them WHAT?' As if I needed to ask.

'You know.' said the incorrigible child. 'Their family jewels. Bwahahahahahaha.'

I had to fight very very hard to not laugh. These are the struggles of parenthood. I chastised her appropriately and then decided I would soon set the record straight with my innocent twins. This was not a conversation I would shy away from. 


Unfortunately, the moment arrived sooner than I had expected - a few months ago - so I didn't have any time to prepare. 

'Mom.' Papad sighed as he looked up at me, cuddling up close. 'Where did I come from?'

'You came from her tummy, dummy.' his twin informed him from the other sofa. 'Just like me.'

This was clearly my cue. I swallowed and sat up straighter. 

'Okay.' I cleared my throat again. 'You know about sex, right?' It was a dumbass question to ask a ten year old. 

'Yes.' said Pickle quickly. 'It means Gender. Peanut didi told us.' 

Nice deflect, Peanut, I thought admiringly. I then steeled myself. This was totally normal. I went ahead and explained to them the basic nuances of how babies are actually borne, to the best of my limited knowledge and experience of having birthed several of them purely by accident. 

It was very well received, I must say. Some of the feedback that I got from my audience included -

'What? The PENIS? Ewwwwww......'

'Where? WHERE exactly, can you tell? WHAT? Ewwwwww.....'

' Head, my Head...I was NOT ready for this.'

'Why? Why did you have to tell me this? I didn't even ask! I was just SITTING there.'

'The man does it because he LIKES it? Or because he HAS to?'

'Are you saying Dad would do something like this? I thought he was a PROPER man.'

'Why would you? Why would anyone?'

'Next time, just DON'T tell me this even if I ask.'

'I thought Sex was GENDER.'

'Now I know this...I want to go back to being a child again.'

'But that's where you urinate from. I just don't get it.'

'What if I get nightmares about this now?'

'At least we know now.' (One saying consolingly to the other.') to be told 'It's YOUR fault for asking, I didn't WANT TO KNOW.'

And my personal favourite curious questions 'So do you guys still do it?' And even a bold 'Did you do it yesterday?' after which I knew it was time to stop. 


Things settled down again, but I did encourage them to read a book and ask (their father) if they had any more questions. It's called 'Just for Boys.' and it seemed age appropriate. It had stuff about body odour, body hair, liking girls, bullying and also some innocuously put information about bodily changes and functions which I hoped they wouldn't miss. 

'Have you read that book?' I pressed them. 

'Yes.' said Pickle, adding unnecessarily. 'And I have all the information that I need, mom, and I don't need to talk about it, thank you very much.'

'Huh.' I was a little hurt even though I was relieved. 'I hope you've read it properly. Don't read just the silly parts, read the important parts.'

'Mom.' said my son a little spitefully. ' I have read it. And the silly parts ARE the important parts.'

Okay. That proved it. He'd read it. 

I decided to back off. 

For now. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Going Out With a Bang

'It's storming!' my ten-year old son Pickle shouted from the balcony.

'Mom!' his twin Papad piped up hopefully, 'Can we go outside?'

I peered out. There was a strong whistling wind, and the rain had started to come down hard. I bit my lip, feeling my own child-like impulse to run out and play with my children. And then, a combination of intuition and sense came together and I said firmly 'Maybe after a while, it looks like it's going to be a bad storm.'

The twins groaned and Papad muttered bad-naturedly 'But it will be no FUN if it stops raining.' Still, they knew better than to push their point, and instead we sat down for lunch together. It was a good call because the thundering noises from outside indicated it was a very rough storm.

We jumped in our chairs at the sudden crash and some tinkling sounds from outside.

'What was that?' Pickle jumped from his chair. 'I'll go see...'

'Sit back down.' I instructed. 'Must be one of the lights.'

After lunch, I glanced out and saw it was relatively calmer. I announced. 'We can go for a bit now.'

'It's BARELY drizzling,' grumbled Papad, but his bubbly brother was already running to put on his shoes and so he followed suit.

'Peanut,' I called to their almost-teenage sister. 'Let's go out in the rain.'

Her usual reaction would have been to protest about doing anything along with the twins, but surprisingly, she just nodded nonchalantly and agreed to come along.

We had barely walked five steps when we stopped in our tracks. There was a crowd of people, security guards and drivers in front of us, but what caught our eye first was actually the object they surrounded. A huge tree just near our house had fallen right over in the storm and lay sprawled by the side of the road. We drew closer and gasped. It had fallen right on top of someone's parked car. The crash we had heard had been from its windshield shattering and the front and side of the vehicle was damaged and bent in various places. It didn't have a hope.

'Ohhhhh.' I breathed. 'Poor...whoever...' I was relieved no one seemed to have gotten hurt, although I also felt simultaneously relieved that it hadn't been our new car that had been totaled.

Pickle and Papad were staring unabashedly at the damage and I hurried them along from that spot into the main park area. There we spent a blissful hour with the two of them running around, and Peanut and I practising cartwheels, my enthusiasm notably higher than the gangly child already taller than me. It was a beautiful afternoon and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We were the only ones in the park, which is common during the rare occasions that I do take my kids into the rain, and I turned the other cheek as the boys found muddy puddles to splash around and roll in.

When I'd had enough - or rather when Peanut decided this was boring and she had cooler almost-teenage things to do elsewhere, we headed back. The twins of course didn't want to leave and dragged their feet.

I passed the fallen tree again. The crowd had disappeared and I was suddenly overcome by a sense of sadness. Hang on - this was the same tree that I never could never actually remember the name of - Gulmohar? - the one with red flowers. I had recently looked down at it from the terrace and it had looked beautiful with its bright red blossom in full glory. And hey - I now noticed; this was the one tree that actually shaded almost the entire small park where Vijay and I had started to do our morning yoga. I looked up and saw that we would now be exposed not just to the rays of the sun each morning, but would have no privacy at all because rows and rows of flats now looked directly onto this park. Oh no.

My steps slowed as I crossed the tree. How old was this tree anyway? How many years it must have taken for it to grow to its full height - it was huge. And it took just a few seconds for it to fall over and die. They would clear it up soon and all but the stump would remain. How had the storm got the better of it anyway? The other trees were spared; and this one had looked so sturdy and strong...

I looked around to make sure the twins were coming. They were nowhere to be seen. I retraced a few steps and then I saw them - the boys were near the tree, examining with awe the spectacle of it resting on its broken, hapless victim, 'some uncle's car.' With no one to tell them to get away, my twins were taking in the sight fully and with their usual unrepressed glee.

When we got home, Pickle wrapped his arms around my waist. 'Thank you, mom!'

'Get off me, you muddy pig.' I scolded and extricated myself. I smiled at his cheeky grin. 'And what are you thanking me for anyway?'

'Thank you for taking me out to the park! It was so fun!'

'It was, I suppose.' I had to agree.

'The best part,' He went on though I hadn't asked. 'Was the fallen tree! On the car! In the rain!' I gaped at him, but he just closed his eyes and his smile widened even further as he relived the moment, breathing reverentially - 'It was all so bee-yoo-tiful.'


Death is something our family is familiar with. My father passed away when I was 19; we have had various relatives die over the years and my grandparents all passed away recently so my children also know what it means to lose someone in the family. I almost died ten years ago myself and the experience profoundly changed my outlook on life.

My daughter has been particularly uncomfortable with the thought of death; as a younger kid, she used to cry often about it especially at nights and it was more than we could do to fully comfort her. 
More recently, she came in completely panicked and weeping to our room and she went on saying 'I don't want to die. I won't die. I'll never die. How can I just end? I won't, I won't, I won't.' 

My husband launched into a sudden panicked lecture himself on the scientific studies around elongating life and how Peanut herself might be one of the great scientists who ensured everyone lived to be a 150 easily, and more along those lines. 

I was listening to what she was saying about 'Never ending'. After my husband's words had no effect whatsoever, I interrupted him and told her, 'Peanut, you said you never want to end, right?'

'Right.' Came the muffled voice from the face buried in our drenched pillow. 

'Okay,' I said as calmly as I could, 'But we don't know what happens after death, right? How can anyone know for sure if we do end?' 

This did the trick. I'm not usually the more calm or responsive or responsible or effective parent, but my listening skills as a coach do prove handy from time to time. Peanut calmed down drastically. In a few moments, she was ready to go back to her room, but she hugged me and asked, 'Mom, can you write an article for me about death, so I can keep reading it if I feel scared?'

I promised to her that I would.

And then I didn't. I kept waiting for the moment to be right. 

The death of the beautiful tree spurred me to write this, though.

We are all going to die. And we are unlikely going to get to choose how or when we do. If we are allowed to grow old and then die, it is a great privilege. It is. But personally, right now, I must admit it is scary for me to think of losing my body's strength and vitality and my mental acuity, and to be unable to pursue so many of the things that I love because of some health issues that may crop up. So am I scared of death? No. Am I scared of poor health and elongated process of dying? Yes.

So my personal preference - not that it matters much, it's not like we get to place an order for this sort of thing out of a menu - would be to go out like that tree (minus the part of landing on the car maybe, I'd like to avoid hurting anyone). But definitely with a bang and not after a period of slow decline and rot. In the midst of an awesome storm, with a thunderous crash that rocks the ground, perhaps only some sort of momentary dance of resistance.

To have someone think later. 'Oh...but she was so strong. Just yesterday, she was blooming, full of life and vitality!'

To have someone think later. 'I'll miss her. She gave me loving protection that I didn't even realize while she was around. It mattered...I want her to know that.' 

And maybe, just as I noticed the park was going to get more light and sun, to also think without guilt. 'There's more light and maybe it will be okay once I figure it out. I wonder what's possible.' 

And also, as it happens when someone we know or know of passes on - 'Wow. If she could go out like that, it could happen to me too. Well, at least she looked like she did what she really wanted. What if I have less time than I think? What might I do differently?'

Because death does seem awful; and it will inevitably be rough on those who will miss us after we're gone. But we who pass on are unlikely to feel a thing - or maybe we do feel something amazing and liberating - who knows?

The point is, no one of us knows what happens.  We'll just each have to find out for ourselves. Not much choice there. And despite my fantasy about how I would like to go out with a bang, I'm unlikely to have a choice in that matter, as well. So? I suppose we only get to choose our attitude towards the whole thing. We can choose dread, or discomfort, or grudging acceptance...but we can also choose from peace, wonder, curiosity and whatever else we want. 

And then, maybe, we can relax a bit about it. And let the idea of the inevitable just be a reminder over what we do have some modicum of influence on: the question of how we're going to live in the time that we do have. Starting right now. Because it is all so bee-yoo-tiful. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

A New Spin on the Permission Wheel

(This article was originally published by SAJTA, the South Asian Journal of Transactional Analysts, in July 2020. This is my first article to the journal and I'm thrilled to have had it published. Hopefully there will be more in my journey into the fascinating world of psychotherapy).


The Permission Wheel, developed in the 1980s by Gysa Jaoui, is a visual representation of the various limits and permissions in a persons life. This article seeks to explore the tool, its potency, and the possibilities for its customization and usage.

Laurie Hawkes 2007 article contains a simple, lucid description of the Permission Wheel, brought alive by the case study of Marie. In our training group, we recently had the opportunity to examine and practice creating the Permission Wheel. This article uses insights generated in the process, and those from a few experiments that I conducted with my clients.[1]

The Basic Framework

Permissions, a key part of the therapeutic process in TA, are described by Berne (1972) as Parental license for autonomous behaviour. Berne also states true permissions are merely permits, like a fishing license.Hence - there is no compulsion to use permissions; but there is freedom to do so.

A key aspect of Jaouis Wheel is that a permission is not seen as binary i.e. you either have it or you dont- but exists in degrees, e.g. a high or low permission to be joyful. A quick way of understanding this tool is to look at the Permission Wheel Hawkes used for her client Marie, Figure 1.

Figure 1: Maries Permission Wheel
( Laurie Hawkes, 2007, Transactional Analysis Journal 37:3, Pg 213).

There are four quadrants in the wheel representing permissions to Self in the areas of Feelings, the World, Myself and Others. Ten concentric circles represent degrees of freedom (each 10%), filled in based on the therapists understanding of the client. We, thus, are able to get a mapthat represents the clients overall permission spaces i.e. their Script Enclosure (Hawkes, 2007)

The darker areas in Figure 1 were Maries original pre-therapy permissions and the lighter areas show an expanded space over a period of therapy. Hawkes highlighted that a major benefit of the tool is being able to monitor progress over time.

In our training group, we each drafted our individual Permission Wheels and also worked in pairs to help deepen insights around each others wheels; we used empathetic listening and open ended questioning to discover correlations and patterns in our emerging wheels – for example, high permission to be a child correlating with high permission for joy in one case; and in another, low permission to grow up corresponding with low permission to make decisions.

We concluded that the intuitiveness and visual nature of this tool makes it a very interesting framework for discussion and co-creation; and that in a therapeutic setting, the awareness created can enthuse the Child in the client - so that the Adult may contract for changes that emerge, with the support and co-operation from the Child.

The Play Pen

Hawkes likened the script-enclosure to a play pen, close to the playpen described by Gouldings in their 1976 article on injunctions (Gouldings, 1976). This seems apt, because the degrees of freedom across different areas form a metaphorical ground within which we are safe and comfortable.

A question that arises: even if clients work with their therapist to increase permission in an area, does that mean that they will actually step into the new ground? Or is it possible they may avoid it, preferring to hover in familiar parts? What would allow a client to really take in a permission?

For this to happen, the client needs to believe that the increased permission is good for them and must feel safe in trying out behaviours prohibited earlier. This is where the therapists potency and protection are important (Crossman, 1966); and both must be powerful enough for the client to go ahead and disobey their Parental injunction. Exploring new territory will require practice by the clientuntil this unfamiliar new ground becomes familiar, and the client is able to experience something along the lines of Hey! It really is OK to venture out here.

Whos in Charge of This Permission Business, Anyway?

Since I was enthusiastic about the idea of the permission wheel, my trainer, asked if I would write an article on the topic for SAJTA despite the fact I had been in training only for two months. The permission to think, and to succeed were implied in that ask; but, despite being a seasoned writer, I still felt a sense of uncertainty as to how to approach my first article on TA.

I called my trainer to ask somewhat breathlessly whether I could use personal examples and a non-academic voice, both natural components of my writing style in other words, I was looking for the permission to be myself.

My trainer, recognizing an anxious Child looking for validation, spoke from her Nurturing Parent, assuring me that it would be okay to write the article as naturally as possible and we would have the editorial teams inputs to review. I appreciated her assurances; however, I found myself still unable to get started until I decided it would be okayand more than that, my Child got excited and decided that it might even be fun.

As with injunctions, the Child ego state is key in permissions; permissions may be given by Parent figures, but they have no power unless they are taken in by the Child.

I realized my trainer was excited about my writing this article her Child ego state was involved in this process as well. Thus, her asking me to write a SAJTA article can be seen as a permission transaction (Berne, 1972), depicted below in Figure 2.


Figure 2: The Permission Transaction

Adult-Adult –
S1 (Trainer-Me): Would you like to write this article?
R1 (Me-Trainer): Yes, I think it would be a good exercise, actually.

Intra-psychic (For me)
S2 (My Parent - my Child): You really think you can do this?
R2 (My Child - my Parent): Youre right, I probably cant.


S3 (Me-Trainer): Would it really be alright for me to write this as me?
R3 (Trainer-Me): Of course, dont worry about it.

S4 (Trainer-Me): Itll be fun!
R4(Me-Trainer): You know, I think it will!

The last two transactions with my trainer involving my Child receiving her parental permission, and being infected by her Child enthusiasm led to the following intra-psychic conversation, where I accepted the permission completely

(My Child my Parent): My trainer thinks its going to be fine, and in fact, were going to have some fun with this.
(My Parent my Child): Alright, you sound like you know what youre doing. Go ahead and give it a shot.

And so, I got down to writing.

Thus, we see that in a permission transaction, all ego states tend to be involved; but ultimately they need to be granted to; accepted by, and then explored and acted upon by the Child.

We have Permission to Modify the Permission Wheel!

The four quadrants in Gysa Jaouis original Permission Wheel are highly relevant; however, our training group saw the opportunity to also add different areas into the wheele.g. romantic relationships, creative pursuits. Any modifications are completely in line with the creators original intent for the tool she shared it generously and encouraged creativity in its use.

1. Enhancing the list of permissions

Our group brainstormed other possible permissions, listed below. In my experience, the Wheel became unwieldy and complex if too many items were added; practitioners will need to experiment and find their own balance between granularity and overcomplication. A non-exhaustive list of options to consider are in the following table:

Me & My Feelings
Me & Myself
Me & Others
Me & The World
To feel all feelings
-  To make meaning of the world
-  To feel wonder
-  To dream
-  To feel excitement
-       To be beautiful
-       To make mistakes / be human
-       To relax
-       To be sexual
-       To be okay
-       To approve of myself
-       To deal with my problems
-       To be silly
-       To just be
-       To be naughty
-       To be creative
-       To be intuitive
-       To trust in myself
-       To be loved
-       To forgive
-       To love
-       To express self
-       To refuse
-       To be independent
-       To ask for help

-To be important
-  To be different
-  To be rich
-  To learn
-  To grow
-  To make an impact
-  To lead
-  To stand out
-  To be ordinary
-  To win
-  To decide
-  To change one’s mind
-  To be innovative

Figure 3: Possible Permissions To Include In the Wheel

Coming up with this list was a liberating exercise; and in fact, as I used it with my clients, their involvement and excitement grew as they added to the list for themselves. 
What other permissions might be there? The possibilities are endless; it depends on our clients and their context, and our own creativity - and awareness about what permissions might help them most.

2. Mix & Matching Two Wheels

As an experiment, I decided to work with one of my clients, Raman (name changed) to overlay a Permission Wheel on another tool, the  Coaching Wheel (adaptation of the original Life Wheel created by Paul J Meyer in the 1960s) wherein different life areas are plotted and marked for the clients satisfaction levels, as a means to decide priorities and actions (see figure 4)[2]