I've never been a big fan of trips to the mall as a means of occupying the children. But one has to admit that on a hot sweaty afternoon, it beats a public park.
In any case, I had to go and pick up some new Piano sheet music books for Peanut, and so decided that the kids could accompany me. They would walk into the big Kawai store and walk gingerly around the glistening majestic instruments, overawed and inspired by their potent silence.
I stood outside the Kawai store, blinking, my many children milling about my knees impatiently. Closed on Tuesdays. Oh. Dammit. I cursed them silently and then turned to a confused Peanut, and said 'Let's buy your books another day, okay?' I spotted a toy shop and added brightly 'How about we buy you that globe, eh?'
Peanut is all about the questions these days, as I may have mentioned and I usually have no answers. Vijay had mentioned that she would benefit from a bit of globe-gazing, and so we traipsed into the store to look for a globe, much to the delight of Pickle and Papad, who immediately went bonkers and started climbing into the toy cars.
This particular store has particularly khadoos staff, inspired by the particularly khadoos owner who never seems to have any change. I don't know why I continue to patronize it, but anyway, this time it was a matter of convenience. Except that they didn't have a globe and now Pickle and Papad were wreaking havoc and destruction. My maid Rinki's stern 'Nos' did nothing to deter them. They seemed to figure that if she were to be taken seriously, they would have been finished long ago. So now they merrily wrestled with the plastic wrapping on the toy cars, going 'Vrooom Vrooooom' while the khadoos staff voiced their disapproval.
When they registered that I would walk out without buying anything since they didn't have a globe, they called in for reinforcements. 'Raghu! Globe hai kya?' A scrawny unimpressive fellow materialized with a scowl and within a few moments had produced a globe, the approximate size of a marble. 'Yeh wala hi hai.'
I exaggerate - it was not the size of a marble, but rather tiny all the same. I squinted at it and found India. 'This will do for now,' I said in a harried manner, noting that Pickle was now waving threateningly at one store Bhaiiya who was trying to dislodge him from his car.
I paid the Rs. 155 - my 500 rupee note was of course summarily rejected by the store owner, it seemed, purely out of habit or as a matter of principle. I dug into my overflowing purse and found the exact change. It was a little too much for me when the fellow examined my slightly moldy 5 rupee note and said 'Doosra hai, Madam.' I drew myself up to my full height and said 'NAHIN.' and flounced out with the children and the maid in tow. I was back in a second to collect Peanut who was clutching her new globe while looking dreamily at a Barbie doll-house. I flounced out majestically again.
What now? I had already taken them to Nirula's just last week. It wouldn't do to make it a habit. Peanut spotted a sign 'Hangout!' She cried and then sighed dramatically. 'I LOVE Hangout. I wish I could ever go there. I have only been there two times in my LIFE.'
What the hell, I thought. 'Okay! Let's go to Hangout.' Peanut started bouncing off the walls and Pickle-Papad, without fully understanding what was going to happen, but judging by their sister's reaction assuming it was something good, started randomly doing the same.
We stood at the lift, pressing 3. It would take a while for the lift to reach our floor, but Pickle immediately began to whine 'Kyon nahin aa raha? Mama, KYON nahin aa raha?' I tried to pretend he wasn't mine, but there was only another couple standing near me and they weren't buying it. Papad decided 'Hum WO leke jaate hai,' and headed off like a shot towards the escalator leading down, to be caught by the scruff of the neck like a little puppy by Rinki and brought back squealing.
Peanut in the meantime was exercising her reading skills and my patience skills 'What's UG mummy? Upper Ground? What does that MEAN! How can a ground be Upper, ground is always down!' She spotted another sign and said 'Say..no..to...plastic...bags.' She registered this and then glanced down at the bag with the Globe in her arms 'Mama! This is a plastic bag!'
Being a terrible parent, I urged her 'Well, then, come on! Say no to it!'
'NO' She scolded her bag. Suddenly realizing that something was amiss, she looked up at me with a confused expression and said 'Wait...why did you make me do that....' Being quick to take a joke, she began to giggle and so did I 'Mama, did you just make me a buddhu?'
'Yeah' I confessed and we laughed loudly. I stopped when I saw the couple standing with us throwing me disapproving glances. Whatever, creeps, I thought as I sobered down. May you have Triplets. Then we'll talk.
Somehow we made it to the third floor and Peanut spotted Hangout. It was as if Mowgli had found his way back to the Jungle or something - all hell broke loose and Pickle-Papad escaped us to run into that Haven of Fun. They ducked under the arms of the security and disappeared. Rinki slinked in as well in an attempt to quell them. I stood in a dignified manner waiting my turn to recharge my card and Peanut waited patiently with me looking like a little angel - she too had learned the art of disowning Pickle-Papad at such times.
'How much recharge, Madam?'
I thought about it and said '500 only!'
'Recharge for a 1000 and get 100 free...'
'Okay!' I was getting excited but stopped myself 'No way! You guys always do that. I don't want ...'
'Okay, Madam, your wish' she said smoothly and handed me back my card.
I spotted Rinki with Papad, but Pickle was nowhere to be seen. I looked at her questioningly and she pointed. I turned and saw my tiny little boy standing in the middle of the large area - he was looking first this way, then that - he would take one step towards one machine and then change his mind and switch direction towards another. Finally, with reckless abandon, he went and threw himself on top of a little car which was humming with movement and lights. He was like a little bull in a China shop and I found myself excessively glad that the Kawai Piano store had been closed. What the heck was I thinking?
Peanut at Hangout has only one aim in life - to collect loads and loads of tickets in order to try and win something more exciting than an eraser. The first time we went there, someone helped us to win the game of Tetris with a bonus of 500 tickets, which she had used to buy herself a little Tiara, which was literally her crowning glory. It had even lasted two weeks, and had left an indelible impression on her mind, and she wanted the Tiara again.
We played several games with me cheating as much as possible to try and win her tickets, but as usual, we were quite the losers, usually getting only about 15 tickets per game. At one point, Pickle disappeared again and I peeped into one covered car-like space to find him wrestling with the joystick and announcing that he was the Auto-driver. I looked around and surmised that this was some sort of shooting game. But then I saw it said 'Suitable for all ages.' In the what-the-heck mode that I was in, I thought it might be fun for him, so I swiped the card and the game started. Peanut had climbed in next to me but looked a little scared about what was going to happen. I told her not to worry, this was not a scary game at all.
Within seconds, we were on a jungle trip with machine guns blasting in an attempt to keep at bay all the giant frigging spiders that were bent upon trying to make a meal of us. I reflexively grabbed a joystick and began to shoot. Pickle's joystick wasn't working because I hadn't swiped Player Two's slot, but I yelled encouragingly to him 'Good shot!' everytime he pressed the button in an attempt to fool him that he was the one doing the actual killing. Minutes passed, and some sort of strange adrenaline kept me going as I defended our party with natural ease and skill, resurfacing from some period of strange video game obsession of about fifteen years ago back when I too was a mere child.
I was dimly aware that Rinki had poked her head in and urgently asked if I knew where Papad was. I didn't know and at the moment I didn't care. I was fighting killer spiders and now as a bonus, they were sending some killer bees my way. I blasted them into oblivion too. I made it to a pretty high score and it was only when the last reserves of energy were drained from my character from having sustained too many spider-bites and bee-stings that the Game was Over. I sat back satisfied and it was only then that I noticed that Pickle appeared to have stopped playing a while back and was whimpering to get out. Peanut looked traumatized but was staring expectantly at the slot of the machine. When it became clear to her that this game didn't have any tickets despite Mama's high score, she turned up her little nose at me and said 'What a ganda game.' and scampered out. I followed more slowly, Pickle in my arms, feeling dazed and more than a little sheepish.
Papad had apparently slipped into a restricted area. The lady over there told us that we had to pay Rs.250 extra to get a kid in there, which I thought was ludicrous, as was their demand for socks. Well, we couldn't produce socks suddenly and I wasn't going to produce extra money for some stupid extra play area. Luckily, Papad was soon found trapped and panicky inside one of the more convoluted contraptions and we rescued him and made our way back to the main play area.
I tried to make up for the Spider-bee-game-thing by using the card to let the kids enjoy some more games and rides, but naturally, with a 500 buck refill, it didn't last all that long. Peanut didn't mind. She gathered up all her tickets and ran to the redemption store hoping for a Tiara again. The fellow measured the tickets and informed us drily that we had 76 points and indicated the prizes we were eligible for. Peanut couldn't believe it. After all that, only these sad little toys again? A tiny ball, a fancy pen, toffees...what was this crap? Finally, she settled for an eraser cleverly shaped like an iPhone and it was immediately snatched away from her by a belligerent Pickle. I retrieved it before she had a meltdown by bribing Pickle with a toffee. It was obvious the twins were in no mood to leave the place, so I had to entice them with Ice-cream from Nirula's again.
Half an hour later and much stickier, we left the mall. I had to send Rinki back to get the Globe which Peanut dutifully had left behind, first at Hangout and now at Nirula's. I called our driver, glad that this was now over. It wasn't as if I hadn't had fun, it was just that I needed a couple of hours to recover. I was looking forward to my quiet time alone at home when I noticed my twins were running away. I knew that good ol' Rinki would catch them though so I strolled along behind her with a happy Peanut.
After a few seconds, I realized that the twins were putting some distance between themselves and Rinki, who has become more portly over the last few weeks. She was calling out to them but they were merrily ignoring her because they were now whizzing down a ramp towards the area where the cars picked up passengers.
They were racing towards the cars.
Pickle, who usually wins races by hurtling his little self along like a tiny truck was ahead of Papad and Rinki was now way behind. A sudden panic gripped my heart and I dropped Peanut's hand and started running towards my kids. What if they didn't stop on time and continued out onto the road and got hit?
I was wearing my running shoes and my innate laziness was now overcome by abject fear, which propelled me to shoot past Rinki who was waddling along in her sandals at the best speed she could manage. The visitors to the mall were then treated to the unusual sight of a lady in her thirties dressed in a flowery green shirt and jeans running down the ramp like a madwoman screaming the unlikely combination of words 'Pickle! Papad! STOP. Right NOW! Pickle! Papad!'
It worked. Pickle heard my panicked scream and skidded to a stop a few feet before the cars. Papad stopped too, wondering what the fuss was all about. Pickle apparently hadn't liked my tone and when I came up and grabbed him by the hand, not knowing whether to smack him or hug him, he took the initiative by kicking me in the shin and screaming 'Ganda Mama'. After admonishing me for spoiling his fun by saving his life, he then promptly burst into tears and was inconsolable on the way home.
Frankly, so was I, and it will be a while before I take them to the mall again.
At least a week.