Sunday, April 26, 2015

I can't wait to grow up!

Well, I can't quite believe how time flies.

When I started this blog in 2006, I had no children and no real intention of having children. And now, I seem to have rather a lot of them floating about the place.

The twins are full of their little antics all the time. From a Facebook post on my page earlier this week -

Of Love:
Pickle: I love this ploglam! (translation: program). But I don't want to marry it.
(A few minutes later)
Papad: I love this chikin (translation: chicken). But I don't want to marry it.
Me (Finally having put two and two together, yelling out to their older sister): Peanut! Stop telling your brothers you have to marry something if you love it!

Of Hate:
Me: (Trying to cheer up sulky Papad at the bus-stop, since he's just been scolded at home by Vijay for fussing) Papad! Look, Neeru has a nice cap. Would you like a cap? Which colour?
Papad: (Glowering at the road) I will take blue cap. But it will have I HATE DADDY written on it.

The one who I feel I haven't been writing very much about, of late, is little Peanut. And she's almost 8 years old now. Good God!

It always amazes me how observant this kid is. I randomly chanced upon an article on the 11 Mistakes in the Movie Frozen and I clicked on it - it pointed out about one song near the beginning in the movie wherein Anna jumps upon a sofa that wasn't there in the previous scene. I rolled my eyes and clicked the close button. Who would bother to notice stuff like that?

Sure enough, the next time we were watching the movie, young Peanut suddenly stiffened and said 'Hey! Where did that sofa come from, Mum?' I was flabbergasted by the fact that she had picked up on it. The kid notices just about everything. Including later, how 'Hey Ma, how come Elsa and Anna's mother never says a word during the movie...it's always the Dad who's talking...but oh yeah, at one point, I think she says just 'Oh'...so it's not like she can't talk...'

Peanut's a fairly sorted little girl in most ways, which kind of pleases me as much as it mystifies me, since I don't know where she's got THAT from. She seems very clear about the importance of family, and is conscientious about her school work.

She's been doing only two classes outside of school - music and Taekwondo. Her brothers used to go with her to the Taekwondo class but I pulled them out last month after I happened to attend a class and saw them lying on the wooden floor pretending to swim, while the other students laughed and the Master looked on helplessly. They claimed they hated Taekwondo so I told them to forget about it, but Peanut wanted to continue.

It was driven home to me how sorted she is today, when she looked into my phone and saw that there was a Whatsapp group created for her friend's birthday party ( I really wish people didn't do that, but given that all my kids' birthdays are coming up in July, I'll let you know my final view on this one later). Anyway, so Peanut was all excited to see her friend's birthday party invitation - but then I gently told her that it was clashing with her Taekwondo class. The kid didn't miss a beat but just smiled and said 'Oh. I'll tell her I can't come then.' And then she skipped off. There I was, staring after her, mouth open.

I was definitely being a bit of a Tiger Mom about her Piano playing until recently. We got a new teacher at the music school, who gently spoke to me about the fact that she believed Peanut didn't need to do any more exams anytime soon. She had skipped Grade 1 and aced the Grade 2 Royal School exam last December, and I was all pepped up about getting her to go ahead with the next one this year. The teacher said that she could see a couple of things from her observation class -

The first, that young Peanut hadn't picked up on certain techniques, which tended to happen when there was an over-focus on exam preparation.

The second, that she just sensed that if I continued to sit in on her classes and pressurise her about her playing, she might be heading for a burn-out.

I had been listening to her with some resentment and was basically getting ready to argue how my own intervention was what had caused her to get so far in just two years so far. But that last word - burn-out - did it for me. The one thing I want my daughter to do is to enjoy music and have it as a part of her life. And if my 'gentle' attempts at getting her to be regular with her music were endangering that, it was time for me to Back Off. And so I did.

I rarely ask her about her practice sessions now. The teacher had suggested was that it was anyway a good idea to let her figure out her own schedule now, take her own notes and basically take responsibility for her own musical development. So I've got my fingers crossed, and am hoping that even if Peanut never makes it to some great level with her playing - she keeps up her music and it's there as a part of her life. After all, as the teacher, who is beginning to seem increasingly wise to me, friends will come and go, but her music could always be there to make her feel better.

I know that I see a lot of myself in young Peanut. Perhaps for that reason, I'm also a lot harder on her at times than I am with her brothers. I'm very sensitive to how she's feeling, but there are many moments when I find myself getting really irritated with her. She has the ability to get on my nerves because she has the ability to suddenly behave like a rude adolescent with all the 'Fine!'s and 'You don't love me's and the door-slamming that goes with it. She has taken to writing me love-notes and even emails now which express her feeling. This was cute in the beginning but now has begun to really piss me off because there's only so much written evidence you need about the fact that you're a bad parent.

Sample email exchange at a time that I yelled at her ( and she happened to be generally emailing me with lists of kiddy applications for a work project I'm on):

Mail 1:


Mum

 I hope you mind that i am asking you but why did you say shut up to me when i haven't done anything ??????

I felt really sad  and angry 


Did i do to anything to you that made you say that???????????????????????

If yes then sorry


I got 2 more games that i don't think you've written


1. Chotta bheem ice bucket challenge
2. chotta bheem archery

Aapko aapka shona baby yad hai kitna shona baby tha hai na???????????

Tata

Regards

Peanut


 Mail 2 (My reply):


Dear Peanut

I can't even begin to tell you how sorry I am about that. It was bad-tempered of me and stupid too. 

I was in a terrible mood about something else and I just wanted to be left alone and it was really wrong of me to react that way to you. 

You're a total sweetheart and thank you for letting me know how you felt. I sincerely apologize to you for that. 

I would like to make it up to you, will think of something, okay? 

Much love,

Your Mom

              P.S - How did you learn to make those sad and angry faces! You're pretty clever!!

Mail 3: (Her reply)


Well thats OK

I even know how to fill the color like this


Tata


She has a strong sense of fairness and this, I have learned over the years, isn't necessarily a great thing given that the world isn't always fair. I've been trying to explain to her that comparing with her brothers all the time is not a good thing. This is the one area where she tends to be most upset, saying 'They always get more than me...' and 'They didn't share their chips with me, why should I share with them?' and so on. At most times though, she displays great generosity and understanding with her brothers. And I have to hand it to her, it's not easy having twin brothers like Pickle and Papad. Yesterday, she confessed to me quite frankly 'I love them deep inside, but actually, I mostly hate them.'

It's not true that she mostly hates them. In fact, I think she knows she's quite lucky to have them. I still remember how lonely she was as a 2 year old before I got pregnant with the twins, and eventually ended up giving her not one, but two playmates. She's a great influence on them and helps out a significant bit with their homework and many aspects to do with them. At the same time, they all tend to fight and build their camps and hatch evil plots  against each other and I suppose that's all natural. I'm trying to make her feel less discriminated against now - today I gave in and walked into the shop to buy her an 'extra treat because last time they got two things and I didn't even get one, and...' She ended up buying a pack of Hide and Seek biscuits and announced at the counter. 'I LOVE these biscuits.' She then mumbled something and I missed it. I asked her to repeat herself, and she repeated it in a loud whisper, which I missed again. I leaned in close, saying 'What are you saying, Peanut.' She looked up at me with mischief in her eyes and repeated slowly 'I Said - But. I. Don't. Want. To. Marry. Them.'

It's Pickle who's her real copy-cat. He admires her a lot and in several ways, has quite a similar personality to hers, being more conscientious about his work than Papad, who frankly, has all the makings of a class-A lazy bum.

During Peanut's entrepreneurial phases therefore, it's Pickle who volunteers to be the helper. She gets these attacks every couple of weeks. First it was the Greeting Card business, wherein there were a whole bunch of cards created for all possible occasions, including 'Gandi Jayanti.' Peanut added her own little creative touches to each card, putting in little factoids such as (for her Janamashtmi card) -
'Janamashtmi is the day that Krishna was born in a dungeon.' I spotted Pickle doing 'card duty' one evening, just sitting by her shelf wherein she had displayed the cards. He saw me looking at him and said, a trifle rudely 'Wanna buy a card, Mama? 5 rupees.' Eventually, I bought all her cards.

The next one was her lemonade stand. She made a couple of calls to enquire when my sister and mother would be visiting next and then hopefully set up a table that weekend. Unfortunately, she had no takers and ended up drinking the lemonade herself. Pickle helped then too.

When I was travelling to Bangalore, Vijay sent me photos of a rather ingenious looking cardboard-box set up that Peanut had used to make a Pizza (cum lemonade) stall. This time she had even put up signs all over the house right from the front door with arrows pointing to her little stall near the dining table. In another crafty touch, she had decided to go the made-to-order route rather than investing monies in inventory before the customers came in. Sadly, she was still unable to make a sale as 'No one ever comes to our house, Ma!' I looked admiringly at the sign she had put up -

'Peanut's fantabulous pizza - be sure to come this way' with an enticingly drawn red arrow.

Ultimately, this business too collapsed, along with the cardboard box that Papad carelessly leaned into and destroyed, to much wailing and anguish all around.

Peanut is now planning ahead, quite sensibly. She says she's going to be opening a Bakery called 'The Bake-a-Cake shop' and not anytime soon.

'When did you start work, Ma?'

'When I was 22, Peanut.'

She settled back and said, 'Well, okay, then I'm gonna start my bakery when I'm 25.'

'Why?' I was curious about the wait.

'I will first go to the office for 3 years and earn money.' She said, thoughtfully. 'I think in 3 years, I should have enough.'

Impressed, I said 'Yes. Well, that sounds like quite a plan.'

'I'll hire you and Masi to bake the cakes.' She said decisively. 'I'll just take the orders. Do you think that I should let the customers eat the cake IN the shop? But then we'll need tables...'

I missed the rest of what she was saying because I was wondering whether to break it to her that her Masi and I might not actually want to be hired as bakers in our fifties, but I caught her enthused summary line which was 'I can't wait to grow up and start my Bake-a-Cake Shop.'

I smiled and nodded encouragingly. Inwardly, I was thinking -

Oh, Little Peanut.

What's your hurry?




Sunday, April 12, 2015

Goodbye Rinki


So after almost 5 years of being with us, Rinki has left.

Back in 2010, I was suffering greatly after two surgeries after complications with the twin pregnancy. In the recuperation period, it was incredibly tough, having to deal with two newborn baby boys while still suffering from fever and pain. It had been a difficult enough time before they were born, but it was absolutely crazy afterwards. And that's when Rinki just walked in.

When she joined us, she was a shy sixteen year old girl who spoke only Bengali - not a word of Hindi. She never looked up when we spoke to her, but mumbled unintelligible responses to the floor. But she showed signs of animation when looking at the babies and that was good enough for me. I hired her immediately.

Rinki turned out to be a big blessing, and I quickly discovered that having a lady in the house who was half my age and possessed twice my energy levels was a real boon, given the three small kids and their various needs. Over a period of time, she grew to be more like an elder sister to the children.

In many ways, she was of course still a kid herself. Climbing trees like a monkey, teaching them to pick up mulberries, entertaining them with grossly inappropriate ghost stories and superstitions from her time in the village. But she had a golden heart, and it was very easy for us to become very fond of her.

She had her flaws, of course. Who doesn't? She was prone to drama and had a fiery temper, and this resulted in various fights and flare-ups, especially given that there are several other strong-headed folks of all ages in my home. But I noticed that over the last year, Rinki had greatly matured and handled most situations with a lot more grace and ease than before. Alas: it was also time for her to go.

She told me in January that she would be returning to the village with her family, and probably not coming back. My heart broke, even though I had been expecting this - it had been a long time and she was a young woman now. I asked if they wanted to get her married off, and she refuted it stoutly, saying she wanted to start up her own beauty parlour, and didn't want to get married anytime soon. However, I suspect otherwise after speaking to her mother- another fine lady, who I employed at one time as a cook. She was not a fine cook and I had to unemploy her. But a fine lady, high on integrity and caring from whatever I could see, and from her influence on young Rinki.

I did a lot to retain Rinki. She was a very bright girl, and expressed the desire to study. By some stroke of luck, I found a lovely retired schoolteacher in the colony, and she took her on as a student, teaching her over the course of a couple of years the basics of English and Math. As a consequence of this, (and with considerable help from my daughter Peanut) Rinki, as of now, understands a lot of English and can even converse in English to some extent.

She also had an interest in learning sewing, so while the kids were in school, she went off for sewing classes for a while, and became fairly adept at stitching, even making a pretty little dress for Peanut which delighted the little one greatly.

But Rinki's real interest was in learning how to do parlour work. Happily, in the last few months with us, we managed to send her off for training to a parlour. The other maids were heard squealing in protest as Rinki offered to practice her threading on them. Already, the girl had a knack for hairstyling and Peanut was most thrilled to have her long, fine hair constantly pulled into the most elegant and innovative styles that had people cooing over her constantly.

Being one of the smart ones, Rinki was of course on her smartphone a lot, and youtube was a source of entertainment and information for her - in fact, some of the more challenging hairstyles were made easier for her with step by step instructions on youtube how-to videos.

There was a clear transformation in the young girl over the period that she was there with us. The last time I saw her, her skin was radiant, she wore my barely worn clothes better than I would have, her long hair was in a stylish bun, she carried about her the air of youthful good health, and a certain confidence about who she is and who she wants to be.

She has been a fantastic help to us and a lot of what I have been able to do over the last few years is, in large part, due to her presence in the house. The other maids, of course, have done their bit, but most vital have been Rinki and our other full-timer, the old K.

The kids wept copiously the day that Rinki left. We cut a cake for her and had a little celebration party to send her off, and Peanut kept lapsing into tears and setting the small boys off, and Rinki didn't help matters by breaking down herself.

A young girl called Lalita watched the proceedings with bemused interest. We will have to see how this new one pans out, but that will be another story. This is assuming (and deeply hoping) that she lasts with us, given that we have been rejected by 3 maids who just threw up their hands and ran away screaming 'Itne naughty boys...aur teen-teen bacche! Nahinnn....'

We will all miss Rinki, and I can only hope that she gets what she wishes out of life. And if she does start her own beauty parlour, I might just make a trip to a distant little Bengali village to get my hair done sometime. I know Peanut will come with me.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

There's Something About You: July 2015



As I just posted on Facebook:

There's Something About Being Published.
Opening up to a page like this never gets old.

Coming soon to a bookstore near you!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Conversations

Call me lazy if you will, but I think this compilation of Facebook posts makes for a weekend blog post ;)
Follow www.facebook.com/yashodharalal if you want to see me through the week!

1. Me: 'Will you stop THAT! ...Fickle, don't Piddle!'
Peanut: 'What, Mama? You said Fickle, don't...'
Me: (quickly) ' I did NOT...I said Pickle, Don't Fiddle!'
Papad: (all innocent) what does Piddle mean, Mama?'

2. Me: 'You guys are ready for school so early? That's awesome!'
Pickle: 'Ya, and I did Potty awso!' ( Chorus of 'Me too'! 'Me too'!)
Me: 'Well, that's great...all of you have done, um, Potty in the morning...that's very good.'
Papad: 'I did it FURST!' (Chorus of 'No, Me first! ...I was first!')
Me: 'Now, wait, stop fighting...it doesn't matter...listen...'
Peanut breaks the impasse with the announcement 'Well, I did the MOST!'
(Stunned silence.)

3. Me (singing Papad to sleep, a Beatles song): ''If you don't take her out tonight, she's going to change her mind...''
Papad (sleepily): Mama?
Me (interrupting my musical flow): Um, yes, Papad?
Papad (slurring): Uska Mind kyon change karenge?.. Naya dimaag kaahan se aayega?

4. My desperate attempt to keep my three kids indoors this cold, wet Holi.
'Hey, who wants to watch the DuckTales theme song on Youtube!'
'Me!' 'Me!' 'Me!'
(After 1.5 minutes, I realise this is not going to work and get another idea)
'Who wants to watch an ENTIRE EPISODE of DuckTALES?'
'Me!' 'Me!' 'Me!'
As they settle back happily for 15 minutes and I press the play button, Papad leans over to his twin brother and I hear him whisper out of the side of his mouth.
'Pickle...do you know what is apisode?'

5. Taking the twins to the doctor this morning, along with my maid Rinki.
We're driving along the highway, and I say, pointing to the Airtel Office.
'Look, there's Daddy's old office'
Pickle and Papad are very interested and peer out the window. 'That rainbow one?'
'That's right' I affirm. 'And now, coming up on the right is Mama's new office.'
'Micromax!' Papad shouts excitedly as he sees the logo that he recognizes from my I-card.
'Correct.' And then as we speed along, I spot an old building to the left, next to Signature Towers. 'And that's the Unilever office. You know Mama and Daddy used to work in Unilever?'
They process this piece of information as they stare at the building.
After a few seconds, I announce. 'And there, on the left that's Mama's old office, at Hindustan Times...'
My maid Rinki can no longer hold herself back. 'AAP LOG KITNA OFFICE CHANGE KARTA HAI?'
I mumble something in embarrassment. Vijay spent 12 years in Levers and now 5 years in GSK. I did 6 years in Levers and almost 5 in HT. And yet, we now look like flighty job-hoppers to our maid who's been helping raise the kids for the last 5 years.
It's just that damn highway.

6. Itna Shtylish Lag Ke Kaha Ja Rahe Ho? Jumba class?
(I'll take that as a compliment, my ghaati 4-year old. And no, I'm going to the office)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Zumba Pic courtesy Little Papad



About two months ago, my four year old was hiding behind the door of a small cupboard in my Zumba class, and taking pictures with my phone. And he ended up taking what has become my favourite Zumba pic of all time. I know it looks like I'm doing a Yoga pose here, but it's actually a leg lift, probably during the song 'Bouje'. A friend remarked I look like a particularly zen-like, happy cat and that pretty much sums up what I feel when I'm in the middle of a class!

So basically: Join a Zumba-fitness class near you. You will not regret it. And if you're in Gurgaon and want to join mine, write to me at yashodhara dot lal at gmail dot com :). Mine is a weekend-only class (Saturday-Sunday 9-10 a.m.) ...but the rest of the Zumba @ Delhi Salsa Club team has classes on weekdays too! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Happy Women's Day To the Women in My Life!

(This article first appeared on Daily O here)

For a good part of my life, I'd say from the age of ten to the age of 30, I maintained that I had a tough time making friends with other women. Most of my friends from school to college to IIM Bangalore to the corporate world were all male.
I mean, let's face it. Women are complex creatures. We're emotional, we're difficult, and oftentimes we're just plain competing with each other. There was my arch-enemy in school who read my secret diary around to the whole class, and then in college, the girl who sneakily took over my lead part in the play, the senior who casually threatened to drop out of our pathetic five-member basketball team unless I stepped aside to let her be team captain. It just became easier to avoid women, and barring a few exceptions, I found my male pals just so much more steady and reliable.
It was especially mystifying for my husband Vijay. "But why do you have so many male friends?" He'd say. "I can't keep up!"
Even when it came to his oldest friends' wives, there'd be a problem. "It's not my fault!" I'd exclaim. "Did you hear what she said to me?" I'd break into a high-pitched whiny imitation "I never thought Lambu would marry a girl like you. I mean…he's so…sweet!" I'd let the implication sink in although Vijay would pretend he didn't get it. It didn't matter. We couldn't possibly hang out in a group with women like that around.
But then - over the last few years, I noticed that things changed, particularly after motherhood and my sabbatical. So much so that now, when I look around, at the age of 35, I see things differently when it comes to the women in my life. And there are suddenly rather many.
My Zumba students. About nine ladies, most of them working women, and all determined to make the most of their weekends when it comes to fitness. An enthu schoolteacher, a television show producer, two writers and publishers, a lawyer. On my birthday, they worked out a surprise choreo to "Happy Birthday" that had me in splits. It was awesome.
Then there's my Buddhist-and-Reiki-healer-and-therapist Anupama and my yoga teacher Apoorva. Over the last couple of years, they both played an instrumental role in my health and well-being and now they've become my friends. Rather different from each other in age and approach, they're both similar in terms of their basic philosophies and unfailing desire to help others and follow their own path. In my opinion, they're shining examples of what the best of the female of the species can be.
Which reminds me - Anupama also introduced me years ago to Kamal Capoor, who runs the Happy School for underprivileged kids in Gurgaon, a fantastic institution changing the future of hundreds of kids through education and love. I cannot tell you how much that kindly, sprightly, white-haired woman inspires and humbles me.
The mommy bloggers. It doesn't even matter that only a few of us blog anymore, but we were there for each other in the days before Facebook, when commenting on blogposts was not only the polite thing to do, but also kinda cool. Today, we're still connected thanks to social media. There are corporate types, stay-at-home-moms, writers, social activists and so on. A sweet bunch and I'll always remember that we once actually held a huge surprise online baby shower together for about four of us, probably the only one I'll ever be a part of.
Gurgaon moms. This is probably one of the most vibrant communities on Facebook, and I'm just so happy to be a part of it. I've asked all sorts of inane questions about furniture, ENT specialists, how to fix a crack in a bathtub, how to get an Aadhar card made, and there's usually a helpful response within minutes. It's become an automatic reaction to post a question here. Move over, Google. Now that's powerful!
The readers of my books. I hate to say it, but the men are few and far between when it comes to reading books by women authors - even though my first book (Just Married, Please Excuse) was about marriage, an institution usually involves some men; and my second book (Sorting Out Sid) was about a man. The women readers keep me going - they often write to me with heart-warming emails, some of them really funny, such as the recent one that read:
"I recently discovered your blog and I had this urge to contact you! SO I put all my stalker qualities to use and sent you a message on FB. But obviously you wouldn't have seen it as the message would have gone under the heading of "Others" (the folder in which you get messages from creepy unknown ppl - like me.) I am not doing a good job of introducing myself."
Also, I love the fact that Indian humour seems to be coming of age, and there are so many women writers out there with their own brand of funny! I'm proud and happy to be amongst them.
And finally, there's my help, all of whom are female. I often feel embarrassed about the number of part-timers and full-timers that I have, although there are three small kids in the house constantly bouncing off the walls. I still wouldn't want to disclose the number, except to say that my brother-in-law Ajay has suggested we get them all uniforms and hold a morning assembly. Without these women to help manage different aspects of my home, I would definitely not have been able to do all the things that I love to do.
All of this isn't even counting my mom, my sister, my sisters-in-law, and my precious few soul sisters. Not to mention, the women at HarperCollins from editorial and marketing and design, who help make and sell better books.
So, Happy Women's Day to all the women in my life, and those many others out there. You must know on this special occasion (and every other day) that you're amazing, an inspiration, and basically, utterly rock this planet. And hey - the fact that I'm finally beginning to appreciate my own kind can mean only one thing - I'm no longer a girl, I'm a grown woman. Yayyy! *Skips around the room excitedly*
PS - In the meantime, most of my men-friends have recently gone and got married and disappeared for a few years into their version of domestic bliss or whatever it is that happens to us when we are first married. I'll check in on them when we're all about 40.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day? Bah, Humbug!

What Scrooge was to Christmas, my husband Vijay is to Valentine’s Day.

Before you jump to the conclusion that he is affiliated to a certain righteous political party that doesn’t approve of young couples holding hands and kissing, let me clarify. Vijay’s problem appears to be more around the meaning of Valentine’s Day itself.

‘I’m in Singapore from the 9th to the 16th,’ he announces to me.

‘Aw.’ I say wistfully. ‘You won’t be here on Valentine’s Day.’

‘Thank God.’ He says, rolling his eyes. This attitude immediately causes me to flare up.

‘Now wait a minute. What does THAT mean? You don’t want to spend Valentine’s Day with me?’

‘It’s not that.’ He protests. ‘But what is all the hoo-ha about anyway? It’s just another day.’ He gains both courage and conviction as he speaks and affirms ‘It’s stupid.’

‘Well, I don’t think it’s stupid.’ I say. ‘What’s wrong with having a day to celebrate love?’

‘Bah!’ And for a moment there, I’m sure he’s going to add ‘Humbug.’ But he doesn’t. Instead he continues ‘This was all okay when we were younger, but…’

‘Oh, so you mean that romance has to die now that we’re an old married couple.’ I’m trying to keep from getting upset but it’s not really working. I’ve got my hands on my hips. ‘ Since we’re boring old parents-of-3-kids, there’s no concept of anything to do with fun, spontaneity or surprise, right?’

‘Hey.’ He’s clearly trying to lighten the mood. ‘We’re fun and spontaneous. That’s what led to 3 kids. And weren’t you surprised about having twins? And…’

‘Forget it.’ I mutter and go back to reading my book. Or pretending to read it.

I’m really thinking about whether this is finally it. We’ve been married 12 years now. I’m approaching my 35th birthday. It may actually be time to give up on trying to revive that spark. The first few months of our courting, even the first few years of our marriage. When it was just the two of us, no family, no full-timers, talking late into the nights, aching to get to know each other more fully. Cut to the present, where a lot of the conversation seems to be along the lines of ‘It’s your turn to put them to bed.’

Vijay can see that I’m peeved. Usually his default course of action in such a scenario is to pretend that he hasn’t noticed, in the vague hope that I will come out of it myself.  But today, he seems to sense that it’s cutting a bit deeper than the usual irritation, and ventures. ‘Does this stuff really matter to you?’

‘Nope.’ I say glibly. ‘Just another day, right? How do such little things matter?’

‘Right.’ He says, relieved. ‘Just a little thing. After all, the bigger thing is that we’ve been married eleven years.’

‘Eleven?’ I can’t believe it. ‘It’s our 12th year anniversary this month, and you don’t know that?’

‘Yes, yes,’ He says hastily ‘Eleventh, twelfth, it’s the same thing…’

‘It is NOT the same thing.’ I hiss, slamming down my book. ‘This is too much, Vijay! You don’t understand the value of an important occasion…’

‘Our 12th anniversary is an important occasion?’

‘It ISN’T?’

‘More important than any other anniversary? Now, don’t be silly…’

‘Vijay, just forget it.’ To my surprise, I can feel tears welling up. My husband is not only unromantic, he’s downright callous. ‘ No, the 12thannivesary doesn’t mean anything.’

‘Yes, well, you know, it’s not even like a golden or silver anniversary…although those are silly too, after all, why would…’

‘I DON’T want to DISCUSS it.’ I am totally fed up, and rise in a huff from my bed and start heading out the door. I fumble to put on my shoes near the front door. I can hear him calling me to wait and not be silly and do I know how cold it is outside, but I don’t care. The kids are asleep and I feel like getting some fresh air.

A blast of chilly wind hits me in the face and instantly I’m wishing I had grabbed a jacket on the way. This light sweater won’t let me survive long out here. It’s been a long winter in Delhi. Instinctively I start to walk briskly, and then break into a jog. It’s been a while since I got some exercise out in the open and running always helps to clear my head.

Is it perhaps the fact that my sister just got married, and I am just fresh from the wedding madness, and my own wedding seems now so long ago, and rushed by comparison. The memories have almost faded. There was no Facebook in 2003 either, so I don’t even know now where all those photos are. Were there even digital cameras? I can’t remember if we had one at the time. I pick up the pace and start jogging faster. In pretty good shape for a thirty-five year old has-been, I think to myself grimly. I’m practicing Yoga through the week and teaching Zumba on the weekends, and it helps. What’s the point though? Vijay never remarks on how well-maintained I am beyond saying stuff like ‘Don’t get any skinnier.’ Which is what my Mom says too. So much for that. Or stuff like ‘Wow, is this your Jhansi Ki Rani pose?’ when I’m doing Yoga in the mornings. It actually is the Warrior, but it pisses me off, the way he teases me when I’m trying to be all centered and calm.

The thoughts whirl around in my head and I’m not really watching the road all that closely as I circle around the block, but a quick flash of white fur catches the corner of my eye. Cat, scared by my presence, disappearing over a low wall. And this brings back a memory from last year.

Vijay and I were jogging together in a bid to get more fitness time and togetherness time ( which lasted until the kids decided they also wanted to go on Mama-Daddy’s-night-walk). We were secretly competing with each other to see who woul dlast longer and completed another block without stopping for breath, although we were also occasionally conversing between gasps. Suddenly, a cat, a black one, darted across the road. I know my husband’s idiosyncracies well, and one of them is the tendency to be ridiculously superstitious about things like this.

‘Did you see that?’ he gasped ‘A black cat just crossed the road.’

I was about to protest that we were NOT going to change our route just because of a silly superstition, when I noticed that my husband had instead of slowing down, sped up and shot ahead in front of me. I ran to catch up with him and he was already past the point where the cat had crossed the road.

‘Hey. Wait up.’ I shouted and ran faster myself until I was finally by his side again. ‘What’s with you?’

‘Nothing.’ He muttered, breathing hard. ‘Last round and then we’ll head home?’

I glanced up at his impassive face and he pretended not to notice.

It hit me with a flash as to what he was doing. He sped up and ran across what he considered a bad luck zone. So that he’d be the one to cross it first and not me.

We went home and never spoke about it.

                                                            ******

I’ve slowed down now as I head home. I know now who was the one being silly. I remember reading in a book by Eknath Easwaran, one of my recent discoveries, about how true love is when the well-being of your partner matters to you more than your own. And in that department, I must confess, I feel I have a lot to learn from my older and wiser husband.

He’s stood by me through thick and thin, and that matters a lot more than Candy and Roses and a single day like Valentine’s Day.

I let myself in. He’s waiting in the drawing room for me and making a snack out of some leftoevers, even though it’s pretty late and he has an early morning flight. I come and sit down next to him. There are a few moments of silence.

‘Want a Paneer Pakoda?’ He ventures.

I look at the greasy, cold, unappetizing looking thing he is holding out to me.

‘Okay,’ I say agreeably. As he is handing it over to me, it falls to the carpet.

I bend to pick it up, but he takes it from my hand immediately, replacing it with another with a ‘Here, take this one.’

I smile at him and proceed consume the replacement Pakoda. It tastes pretty good. After a moment, when he thinks I’m not looking, he discreetly brushes off the fallen Pakoda against his sweater once and then pops it into his mouth.

We sit there in contented silence, munching our Pakodas. I’m thinking to myself.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey.

I hope someday I can be as romantic as you.