Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Oh, The Joyful Days of Summer

It's that time of the year when the schools are out, and the kids are home all day long. ALL DAY LONG. And you get to see a lot more of them than you'd bargained for.

Here's what's going on around my place.

Beautiful World 

I see a bunch of science channels on Youtube for Peanut, and recommend she spends time looking at them instead of One Direction videos. After a few days, I realize she's only watching the Slo-Mo guys, who just film everything in slow motion - a balloon bursting, you know.

I scold her, saying 'What's the point of that? What do you learn?'

Her answer is simple 'I learn how beautiful the world really is when you slow down and look at it.'

I have no answer. She's probably quoting directly from the show. But I can't think of a better use of her time this summer. So I hold my peace.

Be mine, B-Minor

While leaving and getting late for work, the last thing you want is a chubby Pickle wrapping himself around your knee and saying 'Mom, can you teach me B-minor?'

'He wants to play Waka-Waka.' Peanut says by way of explanation. 'We are playing it on the piano, and I taught Papad. But I can't teach Pickle on guitar.'

'Can I teach you later?' I'm harried and halfway out the door. But the boy looks so crestfallen that I drop my laptop bag, sigh and sit down to tell him.

'Okay, so your first finger is on this fret, second fret. Then it climbs up, here like this. Then the little finger here. And the middle finger here. What are the chords?'

'D ...A....Bm....G....' says Peanut.

I play and we all sing along. And the second Pickle hears the B minor on the song, his face breaks into a huge grin, and he spontaneously claps in excitement and hops around. He can't wait to take the guitar from me and practice. And I stare at my little son, thinking that his little applause was the best this day is going to get. The best life can get, actually.

Farting is Such Sweet, Sweet sorrow. 

I'm working at my laptop in the evening, and Peanut comes and stands in the middle of the drawing room and lets out a long, fairly musical fart. She then looks really pleased with herself, and I look up at her, disgusted.

'Yuck, Peanut. That's gross.'

'It's normal, Mom. Besides, it's the silent ones that smell.'

'Whatever. You don't have to be so proud of yourself.'

'Mom, come on, it's not like you haven't ever farted.'

'Well, I certainly wouldn't do what you just did - middle of the drawing room and then looking really happy about it.'

'Yeah.' She skips off. 'I bet you do that in meetings.'

Wow,  Phoren ROCKS

Their cousin Nikki sends them an excited whatsapp video, saying in her cute British accent 'Guys, you're not going to believe this - we're moving HOUSE, and I'm SO excited!'

Peanut, Pickle and Papad are very impressed. It's only later that I find out they may have varying interpretations of why the U.K is so cool.

Papad for one, proclaims 'I really want to go to the UK! Do you know why, Mom? 'Cos Nikita saw a MOVING HOUSE!'

So Many Best Days

I give in one fine evening and order food from McDonald's. The Happy Meal comes and it makes them happier than anything else.

'How do they make such TASTY BUHGUHS?' Pickle smacks his lips and takes another bite.

'I know.' Papad enthuses and finishes his mouthful. 'This is the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!'

I gaze at him, amused. 'The best day, huh?'

'Yeah.' He bites again and considers this point, chewing thoughtfully. 'But then, I have SO MANY BEST DAYS.'

'Me too.' Pickle agrees. Peanut just nods silently.

And I look at the three of them. And I think to myself, I agree too.

And I have them to thank for so many best days of my own.

And you? How's Summer going for you? 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

From the Unfinished 'Still Married, Thank You'

I had originally written out a sequel to my first book 'Just Married, Please Excuse' called 'Still Married, Thank You.' I never finished it though, and now, we're publishing 'The Farmer's Wife' which is the story continued, many years later. But there are some fun moments from the unfinished manuscript. Sharing Chapter 6. And who knows, it may be abandoned for now, but maybe some day I'll finish this one too! 

                                                      Chapter 6:  Healthy Living in Garden Greens

When I announced to Vijay the next day that the plan was to hire a new driver, he thought about it for just a moment before saying ‘Okay.’
I looked at him suspiciously. I had expected some resistance to this idea, as an automatic reaction on Vijay’s part - since he believed his role was to play devil’s advocate in every situation. I repeated ‘Okay? Is that it?’
‘Yes. Why not, I say? I have this long drive…Mummyji-Papaji have also been saying that it would be a good idea for me to have a driver.’
I relaxed. He always listened to Mummyji-Papaji, treating their opinion on every matter with the greatest reverence. This made sense.
I looked up from the newspaper headlines again. ‘What?’
‘Yesterday,’ he said slowly, clearly embarrassed by this ‘I was driving home, and on the way, I stopped at a red light and this guy who had been sticking his thumb out for a lift came rushing up to me and asked where I was going – I told him that I wasn’t going to give him a lift, but he kept insisting…’
‘So?’ This didn’t sound particularly outlandish to me. ‘What’s the big deal about that?’
Vijay finished in a rush, it seemed as if he really wanted this over with. ‘He put his hand on my arm and said ‘Bhai…main bhi toh driver hoon…hume ek doosre ki help karni chahiye.’
It took a moment for it to sink in but I burst into hoots of laughter ‘He thought you were a driver? Hahahahahahaha.’
‘It was that battered old Maruti Esteem of Mama’s…I’m telling you, we need a new car.’
I said sadistically. ‘But see, I think it’s also the fact that you’re just so skinny. Most drivers are skinny…’
He thought about this and agreed that this observation was true, although as far I was concerned, it had actually been based on the sample size of one, our Vinod.
‘You know what?’ Vijay was thoughtful ‘I think maybe you’re right. We really should start getting some more exercise. My games with Nachhu are barely once a week. We need to make it more regular.’
‘Okay.’ I jumped at the opportunity with alacrity. ‘The pool is opening this Saturday, and we should also sign up at the gym. They give a couple discount.’ I added cleverly. ‘Okay?’
‘Okay.’ said Vijay and gave the puny muscles on his arms an appraising look. With renewed determination, he added ‘Let’s do it!’
I exulted silently behind my paper, which I wasn’t really reading. I thanked the random fellow who had mistaken my husband for a driver. So many good things had resulted from that statement. God really did work in mysterious ways.
Over the next few weeks, we actually managed to make good use of the facilities in Garden Green. We started with the Pool.
The swimming pool was open for business till about 9 p.m. every night, and children were allowed in it only till 7 p.m. We had bought Peanut a cute little flowery blue costume, and she always had a good time in the pool although she could not do anything more than splash around at the shallow end and possibly pee in it.
I told Vijay once while swimming with him that at least on weekends, we should change our swimming time to before kiddie time instead of always swimming after kiddie time since I was certain the pool was full of pee. I was explaining to him that I knew this because as a kid, I always peed in the pool when Mum took us swimming, but he just swam away from me mid-conversation saying ‘Beep Beep –Too much intimacy! Too much intimacy!’
Vijay and I began to enjoy our swim time so much that we tried to make it every evening. Even when we got home late for any reason, we still went for a dip since it was so invigorating, and even a few minutes were always worth it.
One Sunday night, it had become really late as we returned to Gurgaon from my mother’s place in Delhi. We both really wanted a swim as it was a particularly hot day, but traffic ensured that we made it back only at 8.45 p.m. We decided that Something was better than Nothing and that we would go for it even though it would be just about ten minutes of swim time.
We went up to our flat and deposited Peanut there to look after Kajal, calling to both of them that they might amuse themselves with some television until we came back, and quickly changed into our swimming costumes and bolted out the door in a race towards the swimming pool. I giggled at the thought of the two of us running around like kids in a perfectly respectable colony.
When we got to the pool, there were exactly ten minutes left to swim. We rushed to our respective changing rooms. I couldn’t get mine to open, and started banging and calling out indignantly to the ladies inside. How inconsiderate it was of them to lock it when I had only a few moments swimming pleasure to look forward to. Just as I heaved my shoulder against the door, a bemused lady opened it from inside, causing me to stumble into the changing room in a clumsy manner. ‘It was open all the time’ she informed me. Whatever.
Vijay had no trouble with the changing room and was out the door again in a flash. I watched as he majestically dove into the deep end of the pool, his long frame glinting in the moonlight. He was a much better swimmer than me, of course, and he had already traversed half the pool before he felt the need to come up for air.
Of course, the effect would possibly have been even more majestic had he remembered to actually tie the nada of his swimming costume and consequently not parted ways with it due to the impact of the water as he dove in.
I was watching him closely and figured out what had happened in a flash – I started laughing and nearly fell into the deep end myself as a result. He floundered around in embarrassment and retrieved his floating black swimming costume quickly, glad that it was dark and that there were only a few people around. No one else seemed to have noticed, and that was a good thing.
Yes, even just a few minutes in the pool were always worth it.                                                                                                                                                            
In the very first week that we started the swimming, we made an acquaintance with the man who we came to refer to as Friendly Pool Uncle.
He was a very nice man. The problem was that he apparently came to the pool with the sole purpose of socializing and chatting, and was always asking questions. We could not avoid him because he appeared to live in the pool – he was there when we got in, and still going strong when we got out.
Vijay started to get busy at work, but I was making it a point to be regular with my swimming. Friendly Pool Uncle and his incessant chatter bothered me, but I could hardly be openly rude with him, and so was forced into daily conversations with him.
‘How are you, dear Yashodhara?’ he would say in his gentle, sing-song voice and I would reply that I was fine.
‘And dear Anoushka?’ he would enquire and I would assure him that she too was in the pink of health.
‘And dear Vijay?’ he could never forget Vijay who appeared to be a favorite, as with so many people.
I would answer that everybody was fine, and would prepare to swim off for another lap when he would continue ‘And why isn’t he here today?’
I would say that he was late at work and attempt to push off again, only to be stopped mid-push by his well meaning questioning of ‘And where is it that he works?’.
He would rattle off another series of related questions including Did Vijay Work Weekends as well, Did he at least enjoy his job, Had he considered coming in for a swim in the mornings instead of evenings and move on to only loosely related ones such as What was Vijay’s Hometown, How long had he lived away from it, When did we move to Delhi. When he started to enquire about the health of our parents, I answered cursorily and would quickly swim away, making my way to the other end of the pool as fast I could swim.
I would emerge breathless but triumphant at the other end of the pool, gasping because I had not paused for a single breath on the way. I would be quietly celebrating my newfound freedom when Friendly Pool Uncle’s voice would chime in my ear saying ‘And what about you, dear? Do you work Saturdays too?’ I would whip my head around with a start to see that despite being twice my age, he had already swum up behind me with his slow and steady strokes, which apparently conserved his energy and left him able to carry out another few hours of conversation while treading water.
You would think that Friendly Pool Uncle would eventually run out of questions but it never happened. Firstly he had an impressively large store of questions including those regarding everyone’s health, habits, education and work. Secondly, it turned out that he vaguely knew my mother; my Bua and grandfather who lived in the complex; and possibly even some relatives I never knew that I had, and so he was always enquiring after them and asking me to give them his regards. Finally, he had a failing memory and would ask me the same questions over and over, day after day, week after week such as ‘Your Bua also lives here, right?’ which he asked me four times in one week alone.
Friendly Pool Uncle was such a fixture in the pool now that it was really hot that I began to vaguely suspect that he was a in fact, a merman. Thankfully, we had another alternative to our exercise regimen, and I began to use that more regularly – the good ol’ Gym.
The gym was a fairly nice one, with decent equipment which looked rather unused. The residents of this colony didn’t appear to be the gymming type, but still, there it was. A fellow called Aman was the trainer in the gym – he was a short, stout fellow who looked like he had never actually worked out a day in his life himself. However, he was clearly determined to earn his pay and gave me and Vijay all forms of invaluable advice about how to work out properly, which we had the good sense to ignore since he really didn’t sound like he knew what he was talking about, despite the confidence with which he delivered his rather nasal instructions. He also perceived his major responsibility as pressing the ‘On’ button of any machine that I chose to approach. If I ever made the mistake of switching the button on myself, he would take great offense and punish me by increasing the time limits that I had set for myself.
He had asked me the first time I came to the gym with Vijay about whether I had ever worked out before. I told him that I climbed eleven flights of stairs almost every day and he looked clearly disbelieving of me. He didn’t actually say ‘Lagta toh nahin hai, Motu.’ But that was the gist of his look. I decided I didn’t like him very much.
We spent about an hour in the gym, about three days in the week. At least,  I did – Vijay, as always was far less serious about this. It was typical – on the very first day, I had seen him start to admire his muscles after just ten minutes of working out- he appeared convinced that the weights that he had done were having an immediate impact and he would soon have a body like Salman Khan, only much taller. But with his typical inability to finish anything he started, he soon began to slack off.
The instructor Aman however, had already become a big fan of Vijay’s – the strange charm that Vijay had on people had worked its magic on him too. Every time I landed up, he would annoyingly ask me ‘Where’s Vijay?’, sounding exactly like all the members of my family. I didn’t feel like explaining anything about Vijay’s whereabouts to Aman, so I took to just shrugging and smiling helplessly.
Aman answered himself one day though ‘Oh, he must go to office na…must be difficult for him.’
I tartly retorted that I also worked and we both left for work at the same time each day. Aman expressed shock at this statement too. He didn’t quite say ‘Aap bhi kaam karti hai? Lagta toh nahin hai, Motu.’ But that was my takeout anyway. I decided I hated him, actually.
Vijay’s visits became more and more infrequent and more and more comical. I often caught him just admiring himself and his non-existent muscles in the mirror. When he did deign to work out for a few minutes, he followed it up with much longer bouts of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and ‘budhaapa aa gaya’s. He decided that he would pass his time by fooling around. I would be running on the treadmill, only to find him running alongside me mockingly, and then slowly overtaking me, passing me with a gleeful grin. I would be furiously pedaling on the exercycle and would look up to find him leaning on the handlebar, gazing into my face. He would ask with an interested expression ‘Kahan pahunche, bhai?’
At other times, when Aman wasn’t looking, he would position himself behind me so that only I could see him in the mirror while working out, and he would start dancing to the music playing in the gym, his long limbs flailing in a strange rhythmic manner. It was very distracting.
I decided to get back at him one day when he was on the exercycle – I went up to him and used his own silly line on him. I leaned on the handlebar and said ‘Kahan pahunche, Bhai.’ But he just smoothly replied, without batting an eyelid ‘Ajmeri Gate.’ I stood there blinking, trying to come up with a smart response, but unable to think of what to say. In the meantime, Aman came up to me and in a rather annoyed manner, asked me to get back onto the treadmill, telling me that three minutes was not enough and that I really needed to get more serious if I wanted my time here to have any effect. I sputtered at him indignantly – he never said that to Vijay. I muttered malevolently and went back to the treadmill.
Aman’s lack of appreciation of our clowning around didn’t really stop us, though. I was on the exercycle one day when Vijay came and sat on a much lower cycling machine next to me. Because Sholay happened to be Vijay’s favorite movie and therefore he had ensured that I had seen it several times over the last few years, we were of one mind. As Aman watched in bemused annoyance, Vijay and I  looked at each other, and raised our hands up in the air, and started singing 'Yehhh dosti.....hum nahiiii chhodenge...'

Okay, I reasoned to myself. So maybe all of this working out wasn’t exactly having the desired impact on Vijay’s health. However, it certainly had its moments. Laughter, they said, was the best medicine. At the very least, we were getting us some of that, and much needed respite it was in the middle of our rather busy lives.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Keeping up with the Lal-Sharmas

Pickle walks up to me, looking both pensive and guilty.

'Yes, Pickle? What happened?' I say gently.

'Mom.' He bites his lip, and then holds up his fist. With his other hand, he points towards it 'Don't do this with your hand, ok?'

'What? What do you mean?'

'This thing.' He indicates the middle of his fist. 'This part. You should not do that.'

'What are you talking about, Pickle?'

'It's rude.' He exclaims, getting frustrated.

'What is?'

He holds out his middle finger and flips me the bird. 'THIS. This is a very rude thing!'


Peanut keeps asking me questions about her homework. This annoys me as it interrupts me and also reveals my ignorance about various topics.

'Why don't you go look it up?' I complain. 'You can find all these answers on the internet.'

'Ah yes.' She smiles cheekily. 'But it's easier to blame you than the internet if it's wrong.'


Vijay and I have taken to watching Suits on Netflix. I tried hard to avoid watching any series because of the time-suck they end up being, but we're hooked.

We both like hotshot arrogant but good-hearted lawyer Harvey Specter although of course he is too-good-to-be-true, like most of the show. His secretary Donna, Vijay suspects, of being in love with Harvey.

'How do you know?' I demand.

'You can just tell, it's in her expressions.' He says smugly.

'Umm...Vijay, you do realize...we're watching a TV show...she's only acting.'

'Yeah but I can still tell.' He says smugly. 'She's not that good an actor.'


I tell Vijay, making sure Peanut is in earshot 'Our daughter is so bright. She's going to totally be a scientist. Some sort of inventor. I wonder what she'll end up creating for the world.'

Peanut pauses and looks at me.

'Ah! There you are!' I exclaim. 'What are you going to create for the world, Peanut?'

'I was thinking a blueberry flavoured Jolly Rancher Lollypop.' Shoots off the smart-mouth before skipping off.


It's just about midnight. The twins have fallen asleep in our room. Of course a parent's love grows when they see their children peacefully in never - never land.
I see Vijay too, gazing fondly at Papad. He leans over and whispers in our son's ear.
I am curious about this display of fondness and move in to hear what he is saying. Only when I am much closer can I make out that he is gently but firmly repeating in a soft lilting way,

"Daddy's the best...Daddy's the best.... Daddy's the best..."


Because a picture says a thousand words. This is how a six year old chooses to carry your yoga mat home post Zumba class.


And when your kid is finally old enough to plan her own birthday party.

And this is how she writes about her first love, reading.

Even though it's clear she's frustrated that someone left us in charge.

And her brothers come up with these gems.

And his twin brother, when asked to write what questions he will ask on his class field trip to the farm, comes up with this list.


But the best part is when your family provides you with material so that your long-time publisher HarperCollins loves your latest manuscript and decides to publish it in November 2017.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Designing a Fuller Life

Quite a wonderful experience delivering this talk at TedX, SIU Lavale, Pune. The kids at Symbiosis are awesome! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This is a program worth trying out!

Fabulous program. Not based on dance, but high intensity tempo training.

Incidentally, I believe this program's license is being opened up even to non-Zumba instructors in 2017.

Check it out!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Best Way To Celebrate a Birthday - EVER

So a couple of days ago it was my birthday. You'd think that if you were turning thirty seven, the excitement of the celebration would be more muted than previous years.

You'd be wrong.

First of all, clearly I have the best and most creative team at Genpact - the kids who work with me in CSR and Diversity. About a week prior to my birthday, or maybe more, they'd started planning a visit to an NGO opposite our office, the Desire Society in Suncity for HIV positive kids in Gurgaon. One by one, they started to sneak the plan to me, each one telling me not to tell the others, barely able to contain their excitement and stating they were just telling me to make sure I didn't make other plans. I assured them that I would act surprised, and that given that Vijay was out of town, we had no major plans for the evening.

So between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. we were to go and celebrate with the children. Despite having known about this visit for days, I hadn't got enough detail from any of my team members about the ages of the children - and it was only at about 2 p.m. that I started to enquire what the plan really was. It turned out that the team had contributed to collect several thousand rupees which was being used to sponsor the children's meal for the day, including the treat of non-vegetarian food. I thought that was fantastic and immediately wanted to contribute - except that I only had a couple of hours left to organise anything for them.

I turned to my go-to guy Prashant of Giftark in Nirvana Courtyard. Unlike many toy shop owners who are strangely grumpy, Prashant is a genuinely nice and friendly guy who always has the best idea about what kids will like. It was a busy day for him, but upon my persistent calling, he got on the phone with me and then we immediately started to exchange messages on whatsapp - he shared several options with me for gifts until I finally cried to him 'Prashant, you just pick what you think they will like!' I had told him the kids ages, but we basically settled on these crazy light-up mugs for the younger kids and another set for the older ones - pretty cool, with straws and lids and all. I sent my driver to go and pick up the gifts, telling Prashant not to bother with the wrapping. Being the guy he is, he also happily agreed to give me the stuff on credit, and in fact, threw in a discount, saying 'It's for a cause - I'll do my bit too.'

Safe with the gifts in the car, and only slightly late, I rushed home to pick up Pickle, Papad and Peanut, who also had been looking forward to this unusual celebration for about a week. We were all supposed to perform for the kids, and I took my guitar to accompany Peanut's singing, except that she developed cold feet and I was the one in our family who sang. But I wasn't alone - my team displayed their talents, especially Young Krishna who turned out to be an amazing musician, playing the Djembe and the flute for the kids, getting everyone to dance and sing along. Young Shrutunjaya, we already knew was a fabulous singer, trained in Carnatic music and he did his jugalbandi with Krishna's instrumental capability. The rest of my team clowned around and danced with the kids. But it was the kids and their own performances that really lit up the evening for us.

The two hours passed by in a flash, with cake cutting and stand up comedy and performances and general partying -  and my own kids mingled with the others easily, with Pickle especially immediately making new friends. The youngest girl in the house, a little sweetheart of merely two years was feeling unwell and cranky - it was the older kids who carried her around and tried to cheer her up. Thankfully, when she got her hands on the glass handed out as a gift to her, she was delighted and went around showing it to everyone.

I find it hard to describe how I felt. We usually blow money on parties and gifts to celebrate and the pleasure is momentary; but it really lasts when you make a connection like this. I know for a fact I'm going back there to meet the kids - I was really struck by the sense of humour, the desire to express themselves, and the kind of caring and affection that they showed each other as a group - and I'd like to be able to do something for them on an ongoing basis.

My own journey with volunteering on weekends began at the Happy School a couple of years ago; and sadly it's been a while since I went back there. But the impact of that experience has been high - it's what gave me the clarity that I wanted to try my hand at a role where I could make a difference to society and lo and behold - after more than a decade as a marketing professional, here I am leading Corporate Social Responsibility and Gender Diversity globally at a large organization. But the fact is that it tends to get so busy that while there's plenty of interaction with NGO leaders in my job, and much by way of strategic planning and operations at a organizational level - the interaction with actual beneficiaries of these NGOS isn't as high as I'd like it to be, and that's something I'm hoping changes as this year progresses.

All in all - this was an amazing experience, and I actually think if more organizations, including our own, do more to encourage celebrations and team building activities of this nature, we'll start to see more volunteering, more awareness and more connections with the outside world - and that's definitely a good start.

And I know, for one, what it means to have a team that cares - and one that's created a memory that will last for a long, long time. One that deserves to be shared. And therefore, enjoy these few clips!

And hey look - I just discovered this cool Facebook plug-in - it contains the above two videos, and more ;)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Take Me To The (Children's) Movies

For several years, I didn't even think about going to the movies. The kids were small, I was short on time, and I generally wasn't much of a movie-goer anyway.

But I just realised over the past few months that the occasional trip to the cinema makes for a great family outing. It's comfortable, what with online booking and Uber, and the kids love it, and hey, I must admit - I think I enjoy the movies we watch almost as much as them. I have also noticed that these movies for kids nowadays actually make for really decent overall entertainment.

While I'm thinking that this year I'm going to have to be more disciplined about my writing and therefore will cut back on the movie thing, I look back fondly at some of the films we saw over the last year. And just because I feel like writing a one-or-two line summary of what we thought about it, I'm going to do so!

In no particular order but however they pop into my head now, they are -

The Jungle Book - I remember being really impressed by the animation in this film - very life-like. The Mowgli character was very likeable too, although I wouldn't call the kid the greatest actor in the world. We all went for this and enjoyed it - I would have liked the music to be a little more pronounced in the movie, but the reinterpretations were pretty good.

Zootopia - what a great film this one was! It brought about the subtleties of bias and discrimination in a really clever way. This has to be among my favorites, although I really don't know about whether it would pull me in for a second or third watch.

Nil Battey Sannata - Peanut and I both have fond memories of this one because it was the only movie that just the two of us went for - wait, until one more later. Still, I was advised that if you have a daughter, go ahead and take her for this film, so I did and she really liked the movie a lot - and is still fond of 'Maths me Dubba Gul' as a song. I personally thought it was mildly overrated and predictable but still enjoyed it.

Moana - another great animated film. I thought the singing in this movie was pretty stellar and I really liked that the main protagonist wasn't this pretty princess but a rather daring and feisty daughter-of-the-chief. But my favorite character in the movie was the demigod Maui, and my favorite song is 'You're Welcome' - the one that he sings when Moana first meets him in her quest to 'restore the heart of Te Fiti' and save their land.

Kung Fu Panda 3 - the children loved this film, but I really thought it was Meh. They laughed throughout. Of course, it may have also been that I was traumatized by the fact that I had lost Pickle in the mall (for about three minutes but that's enough). More about that another day, but I resolved never ever to take 10 kids to the mall for a birthday celebration by myself.

Storks - So Storks was also one of the watchable, fun and eminently forgettable films of 2016. Much like Kung Fu Panda 3 according to me.

Trolls - Ah, much better. Trolls also featured some really great music and animation. I quite like Justin Timberlake's voiceover for the grouchy troll Branch, and Anna Kendrick's singing. 'True Colours' was the discovery of that month for me, and I even performed it as a duet with Nikhil, my guitar teacher yesterday.

Dhannak - very sweet as a movie, a great story, and again, the music is very nice in this movie but hell yeah, those two child actors - especially the girl who played Pari - amazing. I connected with her right from the beginning of the movie to the end, and the fact that this was both predictable and unbelievable as a film was more than made up for by just how endearing the two children are and the way that their bond as brother and sister is showcased in the film.

Ice Age 3 - yeah, frankly, I don't remember a thing about this one, so I guess it's kinda in the Kung Fu Panda/Storks category for me.

Pete's Dragon - I do remember the storyline of this one vividly. It's a decent film and the children really liked it a lot - but this was one movie that I remember actually getting bored by, which really didn't happen in the other cases. Sweet, warm, nicely made but nothing stellar.

Finding Dory - it lacked the magic of Finding Nemo somewhat, but then it was centered on a character played by the lovable Ellen Degeneres so that kind of made it one of the better films of the year for me. I liked this one.

The Good Dinosaur - I actually like this movie a lot but the kids seem to have enjoyed other films more. They found it sad that Arlo lost his dad ( this is not a spoiler - it happens really early in the film) but I was very taken by the little boy 'Spot' and how he behaves so much like a puppy - except when he's being a ferocious little tiger.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them - now we're talking! This was a GREAT watch. I loved the special effects, and I loved the main characters in the film and how they were cast and developed. The nervous, distracted and very focussed Newt; the No-mag ( Muggle) Mr. Kowalski -and of the two sisters, I really liked Queenie. The entire thing about setting story in the Wizarding world in America and the references to Hogwarts and characters we are familiar with thanks to the Harry Potter series. JK Rowling really has created her own parallel universe and we are lucky to be part of it. I bought the screenplay and thought it was okay ( only a million times better than that Cursed 'The Cursed Child' - but found myself wishing it had been written as a proper book)

Dangal - you may notice it's one of the only three Hindi films in this list ( would you call it Hindi, it's more Haryanvi perhaps). I'm not (at all) a fan of Aamir Khan, but I have to say I was totally, totally captivated by this film. We all went for this one, Vijay included, and enjoyed it from beginning to end. The casting and the acting and the dialogues and the music ( we have had some GOOD music in the movies in this list) was all really great, and the story in the film about grit and determination and girl-power, all good. The only slight issue I had with this film is that the part where Aamir Khan's youth was shown seemed too limited and short to me, so it felt as if something was missing there - but that's a small price to pay for an overall brilliant film. I think for me, it may have even competed with Fantastic Beasts, and that is really saying something. The masterstroke here is that the final match was handled on the strength of the main protagonist alone, and it's not like she 'owed' anyone anything for it. (Not that there is anyone left in this country who hasn't seen Dangal, but I've tried to be vague about it here to avoid a spoiler!)

So that's it. That's how many of my weekends were spent last year. I'm really very keen to cut back on the movies in 2017. (Not doing too well on that, saw 'Sing' today and it was just about decent, ha ha ha)

How about you? How many of these films did you catch in the last year? What did you and your kids think?