Wednesday, April 24, 2013


The thing with being a parent of twins is that you really don't think about them as separate individuals as much as you should.

Well, young Pickle is making sure he gets his share of mind-space.

He is ( and of course, his brother is) almost three now, and developing into a very sturdy, yet sharp young fellow with a real mind of his own. He is rather worldly wise and yet very sensitive. It's becoming a real issue, because that kid can really hold a grudge, and what's more, he's really got used to pushing me and Vijay until we crack. So it's a bit of a vicious cycle right now.

He'll do something fascinatingly thoughtful -for example, when he spots Papaji sinking into our sofa, he quickly scampers into his own room and fetches him a pillow so that Papaji can rest his head easy.

Little Pickle glows with pleasure at the praise he receives for this act from me. And then suddenly, his face turns belligerent and he tells me, as I bend over him to give him a kiss 'Aap bahut naughty baby ho.'

I reel a bit, not sure what brought this on and sit staring at him, confused and hurt. Peanut doesn't help matters with her interjection 'She's not a baby, Pickle! She's an old woman.'

The fact is that Pickle seems to have that thing which I had myself - a middle child complex. So much for my gloating that by virtue of giving birth to twins,  I had neatly avoided at least that pitfall. Pickle is a mere minute older than Papad, and yet, he does behave like the older brother. This results in young Papad often getting his own way - because he cries louder, while Pickle eventually shrugs his shoulder philosophically - but apparently continues to carry a chip on it, choosing to blame his parents for the perceived favouritism.

His relationship with his own twin is fascinating, of course. They have about ten times more fun than any non-twin could, based on my observation of Peanut growing up. So even though they battle it out as much as they play together, they are connected in a way that it is difficult for the rest of us to understand. So there's no question of blaming Papad for getting more - Pickle just blames me for everything.

He was really pushing my buttons about something the other day and I declared that I wouldn't be putting him to bed that night. His response came pat 'Koi baat nahin. Main pehle papad ko sulaaoonga, aur phir Papad mujhe sulayega.' ( I will make Papad sleep first, and then he will make me sleep). He seemed very satisfied with this simple solution and spotted no logical flaw in the same.

I do my best to be understanding and affectionate with him, but at the end of each round of cuddling which he really does seem to enjoy, he'll stalk away with an inexplicable 'Katti, Mama.' At times I'll hear a soft sound from near my door and find young Pickle glowering at me.

'What, Pickle?'
'Stop it, Mama' he says in a low voice. Pickle is under the impression that 'Stop it' is a very rude thing to say, and I indulge that impression because it's better than his picking up other ruder phrases. But given that I know what he thinks, it does kind of hurt when he throws at me for no reason that I can understand at all.

I know the one thing that I should start doing is figuring out some one-on-one time with him, and that too on a regular basis. A couple of times, I took him out for noodles and to the park and so on, but after a while, he got fidgety and starting asking me 'Where's Papad?' and wasn't at ease until his younger brother was brought out ( a very angry younger brother, who couldn't fathom why he was being left out of the fun so far).

Papad is unabashedly affectionate with me. As he announces proudly 'Main toh Mama ka Chipku hoon.' His kisses and cuddles and wide toothy grins come with no strings attached, and even if he's scolded by me, it is me whom he will always run to for comfort.

Pickle on the other hand, if scolded even a little bit, feels so slighted that he runs away from the perpetrator of the crime straight into the arms of Kajal Didi, the one person in the house who would never dream of raising her voice at him. This drives Vijay nuts, but I'm glad that at least there's someone who Pickle trusts completely.

So that's it. There's always a new parenting challenge at every stage, isn't it? But I shall rise to it. Despite the various insults that young Pickle throws my way, including yesterday.

'Aap Anarkali ho...' to Peanut
'Aur aap Phooljadi ho...' to Papad.

Before I can remark upon the fact that from now on there's going to be no more sitting in the car for long periods of time with the radio on at full blast, he looks at me sideways and concludes 'Aur aap bahut bada Chipkali ho.'

Thanks, son. Love you too.

And note: I always win. So you're going to love me right back, or my name isn't Chipkali, I mean, Yashodhara Lal. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

This should be interesting

So the little maid who looks after my twins has gone off for a whole month.

I couldn't really begrudge her this holiday - last year around this time, she was to go back to her village for some Puja and ended up cancelling - so it's really the first long holiday she's taking in two years.

Today was reasonable - I managed to get out of work at 3 p.m. because my part-timer leaves around then. Thankfully, the good ol' K is very much around.

I had to get Peanut to her Piano class at 6 p.m. so Vijay came home early and hung around with the kids. When I came home with Peanut, I heard a lot of screaming taking place from the kids' bathroom. Ah. Vijay was giving the babies a bath.

When the door finally opened, Pickle and Papad strutted out dripping wet and proudly naked. They were followed by a dripping wet and fully clothed Vjiay, who was glowering at me.

Papad explained the situation succintly, lisping 'Daddy ne mujhe nehlaya, to maine uss pe paani daal diya!'

The highlight of the day for me, though was Peanut's Piano class. Have I told you about her piano classes? Briefly, maybe although I should probably elaborate.

Peanut's a mere five year old, but her piano teacher - despite being a very sweet man, really - doesn't seem to remember that. He's a dreamy sort of fellow, but clearly quite a brilliant teacher who really has a way with kids. But he doesn't seem to be used to five year olds, because he keeps asking her things like 'So you do know about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his life, right?' and 'We use Gravity here. Your mother has surely told you the story about the Apple falling on Newton's head, right?'

Peanut's classes are going rather well, it's been a couple of months now and she is really demonstrating a flair for the instrument and is a quick learner, under my rather over-watchful eye. Her interactions with her teacher are a secret amusement for me, though, and sometimes mortification. Last week, he was waxing eloquent, waving his arms and saying something along the lines of 'And so therefore...and hereinafter...and nonetheless....' etc etc, and explaining something in great detail to her. She was fidgety and irritable but he didn't notice. He finally ended his long speech by asking in his lilting, soft voice ' Do you understand?'

Peanut, usually a serious and subdued little pupil, suddenly snarled at him with a loud, almost mocking  'Yaaaaaaaaaaa', which caused the teacher to sway a little and almost fall off his stool. I turned red and resisted the impulse to duck behind the piano, out of sight, and snapped 'Peanut. Don't be rude.'

The piano teacher, having recovered, just held up a hand at me and smiled in a benign, amused manner at Peanut, who had subsided again. I had a little talk with her on the way back, giving her an earful, and instructed her to henceforth and hereinafter only address her teacher with a 'Yes, Sir', 'No sir', and if she felt like a variation, perhaps a 'Three Bags Full Sir.' - but that was to be it.

Anyway, today was amusing in a different way, although I couldn't help feeling sorry for Piano Sir again. He asked her during the class if she knew about the Hammering action in a piano. She said no, and looked mighty uninterested in the mechanics, but he, being the dedicated sort of teacher, determined that at the end of the class, they would go across to the next room and actually open up the Acoustic Piano there so that she  could see what he was talking about.

'It's as if there's a hammer ...and it hits a string... every time that you strike a key, and ...' he enthused. 'You'll see.'

Sure enough, we found ourselves dutifully trotting behind him after the class, as he led us to the other room. He asked another man to assist him in the opening up of the piano. It was a bit of a struggle, and one side of it got stuck. Peanut was shifting her weight from foot to foot and I hoped she wouldn't be rude, considering all the effort that was being put in to show her the workings of the piano.

After about five minutes of the struggling with various parts of the piano, I began to say 'It's really okay, don't go to so much trouble...' but a final, determined yank by Piano Sir dislodged the stubborn wooden piece and viola! There it was - the thoroughly impressive and intricate inside of the piano lay exposed, in all its glory.

Piano Sir was sweaty, but triumphant. He looked at Peanut, and seemed pleased to see that her eyes were shining with interest. 'And now...let me explain...'

He raised his hand to strike a key, but Peanut exclaimed 'I know how this works. I will play this note and that thing will hit that thing. See?' The stunned Piano Sir watched as Peanut hit a few notes and demonstrated a perfect understanding and familiarity with the secret inner workings of this grand instrument. She sat back after a couple of minutes, her face flushed with happiness, and announced to him 'I saw it on Tom and Jerry.' She turned to me 'Hai na, Mama? Jerry was hiding in the piano and pushing those things and Tom was wondering what was happening...'

I knew which episode she was referring to, having seen all the Tom and Jerry episodes six times over in my own childhood, but I wasn't really listening to her. I was still watching Piano Sir's stunned face. I thanked him profusely, and hurriedly ushered Peanut out of the room, keen to put some distance between teacher and pupil.


About 7.30 p.m. Vijay fed Pickle, I fed Papad and Peanut fed herself. I had just given Papad a mouthful and he was chewing on it as he played. Vijay, having had his offering recently rejected by Pickle, tried to stuff another mouthful into Papad's face as he wandered past. I snapped 'Honey, we're doing man-to-man and not zone.' Vijay grumbled a bit, but agreed.

So anyway, this first day has gone rather well with the kids falling asleep rather early - hopefully we'll somehow manage the next month without my brilliant young Rinki. She called four times today already saying that she didn't like being away from the kids, but I hope she has a nice trip and I hope even harder that she comes back next month as promised.

In the meantime, wish us luck! We're dangerously close to being outnumbered - a lot depends on which side K decides to play on, but for the time being, I'm still hopeful it will be ours. Time will tell. 

Book Samachar MBA Special

By the folks on Storizen. Fairly amusing presentation. Check out the recent books by us boring MBA-types.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Those Pricey Thakur Girls!

I usually don't do book reviews, which is a shame because as an author, I really value each and every review for my own book. I think I've written only about books like the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, bypassing even writing about the wonderful Room and several others that I've really liked. I thought I should try and correct this, especially for a book that I picked up at the World Book Fair in February  - Anuja Chauhan's Those Pricey Thakur Girls. 

Disclosure - Anuja was nice enough to launch 'Just Married Please Excuse' last year and therefore I may have a rather positive predisposition towards her. Often as I was reading the book, I found myself smiling and thinking 'Hey, I KNOW this person.'

But the fact is Those Pricey Thakur Girls really stood out for me because I could so relate to the characters. The lead character, Debjani Thakur isn't one of those princessy-perfect types - the ''most beautiful of the five sisters'' - in fact, she's often compared unfavorably to the far more beautiful, Anjini. But there's something very endearing and human about Dabbu - and the fact that the book is set in the 1980s really took me back to the good old days. I could so relate to things like 'He wants to know what Shampoo I'm using? We only have one in this country - Halo!' Yeah, baby. That was the 80s all right! 

Apart from relatability and an interesting storyline, I liked the amount of detail and research that Anuja's clearly put into creating this rather convincing world. It looks like it took a lot of work to figure out what being with Doordarshan was really like back in the day. 

The hero Dylan is also the kind of stuff every one of us enjoys reading about - it's nice that unlike other picture perfect heroes, he has his human moments too, particularly when a dog attacks him and then a cat pees on him in quick succession. 

What I enjoyed most is the humour in the book. I was truly surprised at the dry, matter of fact way it was woven into various parts of the story. My favourite character was Gulgul Bhaisahib, whose 'bouffant goes a little phuss' when his uncle asks him about his law exam preparations. I would have liked to see more of him in the second half of the book, although the fact is that he was a side character, so I suppose it couldn't be helped.  I found the chapters rather long, especially to read at one go - but given that I read it every night for a few days before bedtime until I finished ( despite various other things to do) so overall, it worked very well for me - it's easy to read, relaxing, simple and of course, very well-written to say the least.

It's not as if the story is totally unpredictable, but there're enough twists and turns to prevent you from figuring it all out.  In any case, it's well put together and more importantly an enjoyable read even if you do think you know what's coming next. 

In short - this is one book I really would recommend. And this is me, recommending it. 

Anuja - hats off! And so looking forward to the sequel to this one - was very happy to read about the upcoming 'The House that BJ Built'