Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Ceremonies Begin

Yesterday my mother organised a Puja - the Sunderkaand Paath - since my sister is getting married next week ( Yayyy!). Vijay and I drove all the way to Noida and walked into my Mom's home. I did a double take - there were about 5 elderly men sitting there, none of whom I had ever seen before in my life. Was this wrong house? No. These were just the Pandits. Apparently a couple of them had bailed. This was going to be one heavy puja, I figured. Mom, as usual, had it all under control, floating about in her simple yet elegant green salwar kurta - the arrangements had been made wonderfully, with the furniture removed, sheets laid out on the floor, even a microphone and various other puja paraphernalia laid out and ready.

It began shortly after we arrived. The little booklets with the words to the paath were handed out and for the first few minutes, I was very enthusiastic, singing along and clapping with all my might. My sister, demurely dressed in an orangish Anarkali-type thingy, turned around a couple of times and asked me to cool it, but I beamed at her in the 'Hey, you're getting married and I'm the older sister! If you think this is embarrassing, wait till you see me at the Sangeet!' sort of way. It was a complex message but we've always had a bit of an understanding, so she got it and turned back around with a sigh.

My enthusiasm waned quickly enough. The words were complicated and I kept losing track. Soon I figured that just making loud nasal sounds in the approximate tune also seemed to be working but I tired of that too soon enough. We were sitting in the back of the room and my back was beginning to hurt and Vijay had made himself comfortable by leaning his heavy frame against my shoulder. He whispered to me that he was going into a meditative state, which I assumed meant he was going to sleep now.

The puja went on and on and on. I kept looking at the clock. And then my sister, who looked brave and resigned. And then I saw my mom, who looked at various points - intensely involved, emotional, peaceful but overall, I knew she was happy about this whole thing. I leaned back and tried to meditate. After a long time I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. Exactly one and a half minutes had passed.

Three hours of energetic singing from the Pandits, each playing some tinny instrument or drum, loud and fairly harmonious. I was as impressed as I was agonized about the whole thing. My bum was hurting and Vijay and I were very, very hungry. When I was on the verge of breaking down and crying, the singing ended. And then....a Pravachan started. Oh yes. Another 30 minutes of my sitting there in stunned disbelief, while the rest of the group listened, seemingly quite interested in the lesser known stories from the Ramayana. My stomach was rumbling now but everyone ignored it. Even Vijay was clearly awake now and leaning forward and smiling. I wanted to bop him on the head, but refrained, given the general setting.

The highlight of the ceremony for me had been during the beginning, when one of the Pandits turned around and handed me his cellphone, asking me to turn it off. I was thrilled. Never in my life EVER had anyone EVER asked me for ANY help with regard to technology (my young children don't count). I was now a tech-genius. I gazed at the phone in my hand, unsure of what to do. My sister and Vijay simultaneously whispered 'The button on the top'. I pressed it with all my might and then powered off. Yes indeed - I was now a tech genius! I felt like my young nephew Pikki, who is known to the be go-to guy in the family for tech-related issues. I felt young and rejuvenated and all-powerful like I'm sure all tech-geniuses feel on a regular basis.

But now, the thrill had worn off and the Pravachan was still going strong. Suddenly a phone rang from the corner of the room. Loudly. Everyone ignored it but I could see it was throwing the Chief Panditji who was giving the Pravachan off. This would mean it would take longer. I scrambled up to the phone. I suspected it belonged to one of the Pandits but all of them were cleverly disowning it at this time. It was a Blackberry sort of thing, on charge in the far corner, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to switch it off. One 'Savita' was calling and she was the persistent sort because it had already rung about 12 times and she was still waiting. I pressed a couple of buttons and disconnected the call. Within a minute, Savita was back, and the phone was ringing loudly again. This time I did the clever thing. I simply answered the call and Savita started speaking. I put the phone on mute and quietly put it back where it had lain. For the next several minutes, Savita kept talking to no-one seemingly without noticing - apparently, her Pandit was the strong and silent type -and we were not disturbed again.

And then it was over. The Aarti, followed by the handing out of the Prasad. Vijay was quite aghast at my eating the entire apple. He gently suggested that it was Prasad and we could have taken it home for everyone there. I mumbled 'Whatever' and continued chewing.

After the Pandits had been served, we sat down to eat and it was the most delicious meal of my entire life - alu-sabzi, kheer, puri, raita and even some pumpkin thing that tasted divine. Mother was still very happy about the overall proceedings having gone successfully. I hugged her and then we were off for another long drive.

It wasn't until I had put the kids to bed at night and was sitting and watching my favourite show House ( the only thing I ever watch occasionally on TV) that I realized what had happened today. It was the point when House tried to weasel out of Cuddy's birthday dinner because her Mom was going to be there and she growled at him.

'House. I need you there for two hours behaving like a normal human being. Yes, you will be in hell but I will feel better having you there. THAT's what a relationship is. We average our misery.'

It left House stunned.

It left me stunned.

That's what it was. We do stuff like this for each other because that's what a relationship is. Of course, Mom wasn't miserable. She loved the Puja. And I know she felt good about having Vijay and me there. It also explained why I actually felt so good despite having internally moaned for about 4 hours today. After all, my sister was getting married and this Puja marked the starting of the proceedings and putting everyone in the right frame of mind, invoking the blessings of various powers and beings but more importantly - getting the family together. It was great! It was a great day!

Plus - I now felt kind of like Dr. House. A Tech-genius and a fantastic sociopath of a doctor. Not bad for one day. Not bad at all!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

No Dearth of Clowns Here.


Last week, Peanut was in for a disappointment - her brothers were invited to a party and she wasn't. It's always been the other way round and she was wailing about it. I explained that this was the party of a 3 year old boy and a friend of the twins' and that she would have to get used to the fact that she wouldn't always get to go to parties where her brothers were invited. She muttered 'But the's always so delicious.' However, being a rather understanding child, she let the matter go.

The party ended and the twins came back, flushed with happiness. I was touched when I saw that they had actually got back a large piece of cake for young Peanut. What good brothers my little boys were turning out to be!

Peanut stuffed her mouth with the cake, now flushed with happiness herself.
'Wasn't it wonderful of Pickle and Papad to actually bring you cake? They must have heard you saying that's what you like best about parties!' I gushed.
Peanut swallowed another mouthful and then informed me 'Well, I told them to bring me some cake..'
'You DID?' I was aghast but only for a moment. My smile came back and I said 'Well, it's still something that they actually remembered to get it for you...very sweet of them, and...'
'Ya, but Mama' Peanut wanted to confess something, it seemed, and she went on. 'Actually, I promised them that I would pay each of them five rupees if they remembered...'
This time my smile disappeared for good, but my child continued innocently 'I knew they would never remember otherwise...'


Vijay and I were invited to our children's school for observing their Morning routines in the class. One day I went ( to Pickle's class) and the next day, Vijay went ( to Papad's).

I was amazed at the serenity with which all the activities were conducted. The storytelling, the morning circle...all with a certain hushed reverence around it. The children were terribly well-behaved. Pickle was pleased to have me hovering in the back of the class but when I reached out to tap him playfully in the back, he shrugged me off and whispered 'We don't play like that in the class.' I was mighty impressed with this good little boy.

And it struck me. How different our children were in the school environment just an hour after being shoved out of the house, with all the screaming and shouting about getting late and why aren't you wearing your socks and Now you'll miss your bus for sure and so on. Clearly, the teachers and the school had a certain thing going on. It was better to build this silent peaceful routine based on trust and respect and mutual understanding than to engage in threats and shouting all the time. We had a lot to learn.

I discussed this at length with Vijay later and then we turned to our twins. I asked, although I was sure I already knew the answer ' come you're so very good in school in the morning routine?'

The twins looked at each other and then Papad spoke up 'Becoss othelwise we will be taken to Plincipal office...' and Pickle added 'And the Madams will schold us!'

Vijay looked at my stricken face and said dryly ' it's not so different from here after all...'


Me (getting hassled especially by the twins in the morning) And the next time I see you guys without socks, you're getting punished! It's cold, and you're not well...
Peanut : But Mama, we feel hot in our socks at we take them out.
Me (snapping): I'm not talking about's okay when you sleep at night without your socks...I'm just saying that you should wear them in the mornings, okay?
Peanut (muttering to herself now): Okay, so that means as soon as I wake up without my socks, I'll be punished... first thing in the morning.


Me (reading a story to Papad) - and then Noddy said
Papad (getting up) I'm going to go bathroom,  Mama. (Turning back towards me and holds out his palm with imaginary remote control) PAUSE.


Me (trying to get Pickle to read the words in the story): And this is...?
Pickle: (Loudly) TO
Me: No, sweetie, that's 'in' ...we know 'in' we've done it so many times, right? Now I will read some words and you will read some...'So .. (looking questioningly at him, pointing to the word)
Pickle: THE
Me: (Very happy) That's correct. THE Baby Bear..(looking at him, pointing to the word)
Pickle: AND
Me ( Delighted) Yes! ( Now confident he can read most of the sentence- So the baby bear and his sister scrambled to their feet...) 
Pickle: AND...HIS...
Me (prompting on the bigger words): Sister...Scrambled...(Thinking... Come on, I know you can do this, Pickle...)
Pickle (face shining in triumph) EGG!


Vijay: I can't find my phone...
Me: Peanut, find Daddy's phone.
Peanut (calling from the other room): How?
Me: Think about would we find it?
Peanut (after a short pause, calls out) By calling him!
Me: Ya, so call him.
Peanut: How can I call him?
Me: (Rolling my eyes at Vijay. This is the kid who calls us every given opportunity from the landline to complain about her brothers, while we're in the office. I call out to her) Well, how do you always call him?
Peanut's voice floats in promptly, with a sweet sing-song lilt:  Oh, Daaaaa-ddddyyyy....

Saturday, November 15, 2014

3 Peas in a Pod

Pickle Story of the Day: 

'I'm hungry' he announces just as we leave the house. Vijay is driving us all out for an errand and all three kids are in the back, 'just along for the ride.'
'Already?' I say 'You just ate breakfast!'
'Ya but I'm still hungry, Mama.' he says, rubbing his tummy for effect.
Vijay is feeling indulgent. 'There's a McDonald's Drive-Thru.'
I open my mouth to protest, but then recall that Saturday is Junk Day as agreed between us and the kids. 'Hmm. Not very healthy' I murmur out of the side of my mouth, but the kids are already exulting, happy at the prospect of their Happy Meal.
Soon, all three of them are peering into their Happy Meal packs for their toys 'Cool, a Tom and Jerry Sticker-Glass!' (Whatever that is). Now I'm feeling all soft-hearted and even add a Soft Serve Vanilla Cone to their terribly unhealthy meal.
The children are all smiles as they bite into this long-forbidden-due-to-viral treat and then Pickle announces 'Say thank you to ME.'
My widening smile freezes - I expected him to finish that sentence with Mama-Daddy. 'What, Pickle?'
He turns to his brother and sister 'I was the one who said I was hungry so you got all this, na?'

Papad Story of the Day: 

I am leafing through his school journal and find a page where he's drawn something round.
The instruction says 'Draw your favourite character from the story The Little Red Hen and tell us why.'
Under his drawing, the teacher has transcribed his reason 'I like the Greedy Pig from the story because ... he eats all day.'
In the same handwriting, the teacher writes politely. 'Interesting thought, Papad. But do you really think eating all day is a good habit?'

Peanut Story of the Day: 

'Mom, I don't understand this book.' She complains. 'Can you please help me?'
I look over and see it's the Selfish Giant. I am instantly reminded of how my grandma used to tell us this story. Dang, I really thought she'd made it up herself. Sigh.
'Sure.' I say 'Which part don't you understand?'
'The very end.' She says 'The last know, I just don't understand what happens...'
I run my eyes over the words on the last page and a sinking feeling hits me. This is my kid who's obsessed with the thought of death, and here's a story where the main character dies in the end. Wonderful. But hey, I'm the mom. I can break it to her easy, right? It's all about presentation.
I explain in a cheerful tone ' See, did you notice something? It says here that many years passed and the Giant grew old. And then one day the little boy he loved reappeared in front of him. How could it be, Peanut?' I figure it helps to be analytical here. 'If the Giant grows older, why does the little boy stay the same age? Can you think of whom it might be?'
She thinks hard and then puts two and two together 'He is...God.'
'That's right.' I say enthusiastically. 'See, he also says that the Giant let him play in his garden, and now the Giant must accompany him to his garden, known as Paradise. So you say, he's inviting him to Paradise, like Heaven, where the Giant will always be very happy with him. Cool, huh?'
I beam at her but she's still frowning at the book. Then her brow clears, and she nods. I let out a sigh of relief.
'So.' I ask gently. 'You get it, right?'
'I get it.' She nods firmly and picks up her book. 'God killed him and took him up to Heaven.'
She scrambles up off the bed and marches off, and I stare after her for a moment. And then I find my voice again, 'Hey wait, Peanut...'

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thank you for the Music

I somehow rush home in the nick of time after work on Thursday, grab a calm little Peanut and rush her to our music school. 

The Piano teacher M suggests in his business-like manner that today I let him give Peanut a mock test since her Grade 2 exam is coming up next week.

I readily agree and sit outside the class, lost in my own world. My guitar teacher N, with whom I have a class after an hour or so, passes by and gives me his usual formal 'Oh hello Yashodhara.' ( He's one of the few people I regularly interact with who uses my full name) 'I hope you've been practicing.' 

The guilty look on my face obviously gives it away even before I can say the words, but he's rushing for another class and gives me a wave. I hear the strains of Peanut's playing through the door. It sounds like she's doing alright. Whoops, she missed a note there. And there's a little faltering on that scale. But she'll do fine. Right? Right. 

Before I know it, there's a cool little pair of hands covering my eyes and I'm guessing it's not any of the teachers. 'Hello Peanut' I say. 

'How'd you know it was ME?' 

She's been sent out by M to call me into the class and I pick up my books and guitar and purse and phones, feeling hassled and enter the class. There is no chair today but I don't bother and just sink to the floor in a tired heap. It's been a busy day at work and this routine is one that I'm still adjusting to. 

'How'd she do, M?' 

'Very BAD.' M says, busy tabulating her score in his diary. He finally looks up. '75 only.' He gives me a look that suggests it's all my fault, even though I'm one of the enthu enough parents who's actually taking piano lessons with the kid in a bid to try and keep up. 

We go through her lesson, with him explaining the things that Peanut is supposed to work on. Scales. Arpeggios. Slurs. Her pieces. Adjusting her position on the stool and so on. I take notes assiduously, for once, my phone to one side. I try to keep my handwriting neat because now that I have less time at home, I have to make sure that the notes are clear enough even for Peanut to read and absorb herself at home. Thank Goodness she's a good reader, I think. 

After a while, Peanut's class time is over and M says to me 'Now YOU.' M is a very, very good teacher and a fantastic player himself and this makes me a little afraid of him. I have tried to practice for a few minutes daily but I've missed a couple of days this week and it shows up in my underconfident playing. After I've warmed up though, I'm able to play some of the songs that he's been helping me with earlier. 

'Very strange song.' He says about one Oriental sounding number from Peanut's Grade 2 book that I've been trying.

'Because of how I play it?' I suggest.

'Not only that.' He says, face completely straight. 'The song itself. Very strange one.' He's taught the Trinity grades, and he's not all that used to teaching the Royal School of Music curriculum. He was of the view that the latter is only for 'Serious students of music' but once he heard Peanut playing the pieces initially, he was convinced that she was advanced enough to switch to that system. 'Anyway' He nods slowly. 'There's some hope for you with this song.'

M is a very straightforward fellow with a quirky sense of humour that shows up only at certain times. I realize he means to be encouraging. 'Oh really?' I can't help but smile at him. 'You think? You really think there's some hope for me?'

'Yes, yes.' He says, still very serious. 'Some hope is there.' He nods again. 

I roll my eyes and decide to try a new song. He gives me his excellent technical instructions on how to read the music and apply the fingering. And then, ten minutes before the class is to end, we're looking at each other blankly. I'm tired and don't really want to go on anymore. Peanut is happily scratching on the whiteboard in the room, humming to herself. She's quite amused by my attempts at piano, often informing me at home 'But MA, that's an E-flat..' or 'MA, you're so SLOW.' I have requested her to be quiet in the class while I'm getting my instruction from M. Or else. So she leaves me alone now for the most part. 

'That's enough.' M says now, much to my relief. 

'It is?' I sigh and start to put away my book. 

'Yes, yes.' He says with great conviction and then adds 'For ME.' 

I look at him to see if that was meant to be a joke, but he's already busy making notes in his diary about our lesson so that he can remember what to catch me out on next time. 

Ten minutes later, I'm seated in front of N in a larger studio room. N is a younger man than M although both of them appear to be in their twenties. N is probably about twenty three and reminds me of Vijay's nephews. He's an easy going man who has quite the vocabulary. His emails to me and even his conversation in the class include things like 'This will perhaps make things more lucid' or 'While the timbre is rather questionable here, I feel...' I always wish I had audio recorder and often have to hide my smiles when he goes into his earnest and incredibly articulate explanations around technique. 

'So.' He's not smiling today, in fact his well-cut high-cheekboned face is rather stern. 

Usually he's extremely polite and warm with me, even a little diffident - only going as far as to say stuff like 'Ballpark.' or 'Something like that.' when I play something where the Timbre is Questionable. But I've picked up the signals by now and know when he's not happy - I just have to look at his face while I'm playing and there's a particular goggle-eyed, slightly horrified expression that he has on, which quickly melts when I stop playing and he then nods vigorously saying something like 'Almost.' before proceeding to tell me exactly how I was screwing it up. 

'You've not been practicing. At all.' He says to me. I shift uncomfortably in my chair. It's the first week that I haven't picked up my guitar at all since I started lessons with him a few months back. 

'I know. I'm sorry. I just about manage a little time each day for piano. Been missing guitar practice.' I try to lighten the mood and say jocularly. 'I guess I'm a little more scared of M than you.' 

Big mistake. 

N draws himself up in his chair and suddenly, he's looking both goggle-eyed and menacing instead of the handsome easy-going youth that I'm comfortable with. 'Well.' He says 'That can be corrected. I can be strict.' I squirm a little more and proceed to busy myself with getting my guitar out of the case. 

N has a plan in mind. He's not teaching me anything new and he knows my penchant for wanting to constantly learn new songs. He says instead that I should just go over everything we've learned over the last few months and focus on the techniques he's been trying to instil in me, which have involved a fair degree of unlearning of years of wrong fingering and hand position. It's a more silent and intense class than usual and I fervently wish I had remembered to carry my guitar-diary into this class. I resolve to make the notes on my phone as soon as we're done with the class. 

By the time we're done, N has thawed a little bit and the light is back in his eyes. I'm still unable to look him in the eye for too long though as I think through when on earth I should fit the guitar practice in. 

I've not been able to fit writing anything new in while busy on weekdays, as it is; the days seem to pass by in a flash ever since I started work; but I know it's something I was meant to do. It's just that with the kids, the work, the yoga and so on, it's a little tough to fit in regular practice with both piano and guitar. Why am I learning two instruments again? It was easier when I was doing piano and voice. But heart of hearts, I know the guitar is my instrument and it makes a difference to be able to pick it up again. 

Peanut is taking a group voice lesson and it finishes exactly when my guitar lesson does, and she's waiting outside for me, humming to herself and looking rather pleased with life in general. We bundle into the car and go home together. I'm still feeling a little hassled and inadequate. 

But the one thing that I really value about this one day in the week is the fact that Peanut and I get some mom-and-daughter time together. She's singing a song to herself now, reading from the paper that her teacher has given out today.

'Make me a channel of your peace...where there is hatred, let me bring your love.'

I listen to her little clear voice, still going a little bit off in some places. I close my eyes and then the words register. Hang on. 

'Let me see that.' I demand, practically snatching the paper. 

It's as I thought. It's a musical rendition of the beautiful prayer attributed (perhaps wrongly) to  St. Francis of Assisi. It's something that I repeatedly used in my sabbatical and one that I'm very fond of. I discovered it through the writings of the brilliant Eknath Easwaran, first suggested to me by the one and only Dipali. 

Peanut and I sing it together now and I pick up the tune easily. My driver as usual silently suffers through it all the way back home. And as the words sink in, suddenly I'm relaxed and happy. Life is good after all. 

And in the silence that follows, I remember seeing the sign at the music school's reception, on the notice board, declaring. 'Without music, life would be a mistake.'

True. True. And it's not one that I'm going to make. Or Peanut. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wednesday Wedding-clothing Woes

My sister’s getting married in December. Isn’t that wonderful?

It IS wonderful in every possible way, and I am so happy for her, especially since the man she is going to marry exhibits all signs of wonderfulness himself, including a tendency to make random jokes in his head and then laugh out loud merrily and un-selfconsciously. For example, yesterday evening when they were over, I caught him craning his head to get a good look at the ceiling light of our drawing room.He caught me eyeing him curiously and grinned widely ‘That’s a CFL bulb’ and burst into loud laughter. I have a soft corner for people who actually enunciate each Ha in their Hahahahahahaha and so smiled, feeling a little bewildered all the same. My sister intervened to explain that it had something to do with a work project that is currently occupying the fiance’s mind, perhaps a private joke. I didn’t probe the matter any further. I remember the way my sister used to look at Vijay before we got married, and for a while after, heck to this day – the expression suggesting ‘Oh he’s very sweet but a bit mad.’ Which is actually about right.

Anyway, so it’s wonderful that she’s getting married, except that it involves my getting clothes. Now, even for my own wedding 12 years ago ( GodDAMN!), I didn’t bother with too much shopping, leaving it to the mother and some help from the sister, although she was a barely-twenty college type at the time. I had a beautiful lehenga at my wedding and a very nice sari. I pretty much never wore the sari again, and the lehenga was pulled out for a wedding a few years ago, and it was discovered that it was so loose for me that it had to be safety-pinned. My sister was not impressed.

She had been chasing me for a while now about the wedding outfit and I had been deftly avoiding the question. The feeling of dread was growing though – she warned me that it wasn’t so easy to get stuff done at the last minute just before wedding season and therefore I should get my act together. So finally, I did what I usually do in moments of personal crisis. I turned to my other sisters in the Gurgaon Moms forum and asked them what the hell I could do about getting outfitted when I am the type who wears these things only once and therefore hate spending a bomb on new stuff.

The moms jumped in with a bunch of fabulous suggestions and encouragement as usual, but the one that appealed most to me was to go to this Lady in Gurgaon who runs a business out of her basement, and is great at converting old stuff into spankin’ new stuff. Now this was great, I thought. I ran the idea past my sister who was not altogether pleased saying that I was the BIG sister and I should wear SOMETHING new. I negotiated with her that I would indeed buy SOMETHING new for one or maybe two of the functions, but why not at least check out what was possible with the old stuff.

And with that, another two weeks passed, with my doing nothing further on the subject. Until Wednesday.

Since it was a holiday due to elections ( I voted by the way – did you?) I requested my sister to come along with me as I went to visit the Lady in her Basement. Being the rather good-natured and helpful sort, the sister agreed and landed up this morning at the stated time of 10.30. I of course wasn’t ready, having busied myself with some other mundane errand of sorting out some winter clothes and so I then rushed to get ready. Together we went to the Lady, and soon, the conversation was going like this.

Lady (to me): ‘So which material do you think you want for the blouse?’
Me: (shrugging) I dunno.
Sister: I think crepe, gorgette ( something about brocade)
Lady: (turning to her) Yes, and even silk would be an option.
Sister: Yes, but…
Me: ( Doo-doo, la, la la…)

Lady (to me): ‘Don’t you think we should look at adding a tinge of orange to this?
Me: (aghast) Orange? I dunno…
Sister (nodding slowly) Yes. Yes. Yes, actually, that would make all the difference. It will really brighten it up, and we can do the same with the dupatta.
Lady (turning to her) Isn’t it? How about this shade? Or something like this?
Sister : This one, I think. Definitely.
Me: (Doo-doo…la, la, la)

Lady (to me): And the sleeve length that you’d like for this?
Me: Huh? I dunno.
Sister: This will look nice sleeveless only
Lady: Yes, I have some good options. This one, with this back? This material here is wonderful sequin work, very in these days.
Me: (trying to contribute) Sleeveless? But it’s December, it will be cold.
(Blank looks from both the women, and then they turn back to their discussion)
Sister: This back looks a little better, I think, it will go well with the traditional look of the material.
Lady: Exactly what I was thinking, it will complement it very well.
Me: (Doo-doo, la, la, la)

So you get the picture. I pretty much shut up after that and let the two of them make the decisions for me. So some refurbished outfits were agreed upon, and I am now on the prowl for something ‘new’ as promised to my sister. It’s her big day and apparently as the REAL sister, I’m not supposed to be able to let her down in this clothing department. Damn.

In the car on the way back, she remarked ‘You know, I was wondering why you’d need me for something like this.’
I asked her wryly ‘Do you not know me at ALL?’
She nodded to herself. ‘I understand totally. Just make sure when you go to her for the actual fitting that everything actually FITS, okay?’
‘Okay.’ The doubt in my voice must have given me away.
‘YOU CAN HANDLE THAT, RIGHT?’ My sister was gazing at me through narrowed eyes.
‘Sure.’I hesitated. ‘It’s just that…I find it difficult to say no. If they tell me it fits, I’ll say yes and walk away with it.’
‘NO!’ My sister shouted. ‘How can you not know if something is too loose or too tight?’
‘I DUNNO’ I cried. ‘I guess I feel that might be how it’s SUPPOSED to be or something!’
Stony silence.
‘We can do it on a weekend?’ I offered tentatively.
‘Fine.’ She growled at me.

She seemed to calm down after a while, and then asked ‘And what about Vijay? Has he thought about what he’s going to wear for all the functions?’

Me ( Staring out of the window, pretending I haven’t heard her, starting to hum to myself) Doo-doo, la, la, la…

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Last weekend I went for the Goa Lit Fest - turning it into most awesome family holiday ever. For the first time till date, we didn't rush back a day early for one reason or the other, and me, Vijay, the kids and my mom had the most fantastic time.

Our first couple of days were spent at Sunbeam, a lovely holiday home owned by a friend of my mother's ( what a joy it is to have a mom with such friends ;) - after which we moved to the TreeHouse Blue, which was also a very nice Serviced Apartment, and I took great joy in taking out some pots and pans and whipping up an elaborate meal for the family.

The children were totally thrilled. It was Pickle and Papad's first time on a plane and they enjoyed every minute of the experience, shrieking with laughter as the plane took off and generally running about enjoying themselves. Peanut's been on a plane several times as a small kid but she remembered nothing of those trips and the experience was all-new for her too.

We ate a lot, played on the beach, swam and generally loafed about and enjoyed ourselves. The surprise of the trip was the Goa Science Centre, suggested by our driver as having a bunch of things to do for the kids, and it was fantastic for them. Basically, my children love to fiddle with things, and here was a place that actually invited them to push a lever here, pull a string there, touch that button to see what happens and so on. The 3D show was one on marine life specifically on sardine shoals and while the quality of the experience left something to be desired, my kids didn't care and simply screamed with laughter every time it looked like an attacking shark was jumping out of the screen at them. This show was followed by another one on the Universe at the little Planetarium, specifically on the life of a star. I was fascinated and humbled to think about the billions of stars and the billions of years they would survive long after we're history. I turned to share this moment with my husband and noted that he and all other members of my contingent were fast asleep.

Net-net, it was a fantastic time that we had and now am back. Work is going pretty well, it's interesting and I'm convinced now that I'm meant to be in a corporate space at least for the forseeable future. I enjoy the coffee :) and the fact that my maids don't come in and ask me 'Khaane mein kya banaye?' Besides I usually get home at a reasonable time to hang out with the kids and that's great.

I've got one book coming out with Harpers next year and am seriously contemplating self-publishing the other one, a funny childhood memoir about growing up in the 80s/90s - essentially centred around the trials and tribulations of the twelfth year of my life. Does that sound like something you'd read? Let me know in comments!

P.S - a big hug to those who stick around here. I love you guys.
P.P.S - the elaborate meal was of course Maggi. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Weekend

Aah. Here it is!

Whoops. There it was...

Zumba in the mornings, 3 Parent-Teacher Meetings to Attend, various other exciting events in the colony. Quick as a flash, Sunday evening hath arriveth ( Donth thath justh sound like lisping?) Anyway, going forward, I hope to be able to fit writing into the new schedule, and that includes blogging at least once a week.

See you around, guyzzz!

P.S - a big thanks to those of you who did bother to delurk on the last post. Waiting to hear from more as motivation to actually take out the time to carry on with this space!

P.P.S - conversation with Peanut -

'Mum, is Roald Dahl alive?'
'Is Enid Blyton alive?'
'Wow. Are all authors dead?'
(Silence for a moment and then she looks at me appraisingly)
'Oh yeah. YOU'RE alive.'
(Goes back to her book while I continue to stare at her)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

And yet another 'Final' Sabbatical Round up

So I find myself back at work after a bit of a gap. Older and wiser and yet ready and eager. It kind of just happened, but I think I was ready for it.

The last couple of years have been great fun and a wonderful learning experience. But it kind of hit me when a lady of about my age attended my Zumba class and then asked if I could be her 'mentor' - she said that I seemed to be following my passion and it looked so enviable and that's what she wanted to be doing now that she's had a baby and been working for ten years herself...and so on. The alarm bells went off in my head. Over the last couple of months, I had been feeling restless and influenced greatly by Cal Newport's book ''So Good They Can't Ignore You''. I highly recommend this to anyone on the verge of quitting their job in favour of the wonderful, entrepreneurial, ''follow your passion'' type of life. From the outside, I realized, it really looked like that's what I was doing. I don't regret a single moment of the last two years, but the fact is that there's a lot to be said for having to get up and get ready and go to work and of course, having an income outside of some not-very-impressive royalty cheques. So I told the lady not to be fooled by appearances, and to basically read the book herself!

I passed out of IIM-B in 2002 and had a pretty decent record in my field of Marketing so I was very lucky to have built that track record before I took my break. The most fun I've ever had was at my last job as Business Head for a movie review website. So I've been lucky to find a role now which looks like it will be perhaps as interesting, and that too, in Gurgaon. All this kind of just happened, and it happened at a time when I realized that Pickle-Papad are well-settled in school, all three kids tend to keep each other busy, and my help R seems to have settled back in for at least the medium term with us. Now that the children are older, it is clearer that they should be able to take care of themselves and each other. It amazes me how much of a help Peanut already is, with her advanced reading skills, in assisting  in getting the twins homework done.

I've done one earlier 'final' round up before I went back to work at my old organization in 2012. That was a stint of a few months; subsequent to which I had two more work assignments. The one that I'm taking on currently may last longer if all goes well ( although I've already had a bit of an adventure on Day 3 which I'm too embarrassed to report and maybe will show up in a subsequent book).

Despite the fact that I've had 3 work assignments over the last two years running into almost a year in total, I just felt like taking a look at the overall period and musing over what's happened. So here goes:

- After Just Married, Please Excuse (in August 2012) came my second book 'Sorting Out Sid', which released earlier this year (Feb 2014). If you still haven't read my books, please follow the links and check out the reviews and ratings on Flipkart- they're also available on Amazon as e-books and I promise you they're laugh riots at the very least. Now, 'Dear Rimi' (work in progress title) is already with HarperCollins and my esteemed Chief Editor loves the book, which is really saying something. It will be out next year sometime. Simultaneously, I've also written a funny childhood memoir and am trying to figure out what to do with that one - I've got great feedback from some of you on the first three chapters and just need to see about the publishing plan for it. So as you can see, I'm kind of written out for now anyway and felt like taking a break from it. However, when inspiration strikes, I'll be back and doing the writing thing for an hour a day. I've made my peace with the fact that I much prefer looking upon writing as a passion than a career and can't follow the advice about ''sitting down every single day to write no matter what''. I just can't. But you'll be seeing lots of books from me. 5 before I'm forty for sure! And I'm parking here, in September 2014, a random prediction that there's going to be significant developments for me when it comes to writing after December 2016. It will be fun to check back here after two years and see if it happens!

- I'm a weekend Zumba instructor with the excellent team at Delhi Salsa Club, led by the inimitable Sameer Sachdeva. Although I only take a weekend batch, I'm really happy about the fact that this month I've got 10 students signed up and they really seem to enjoy the workout. I've been tempted often to take on mid-week classes, even went to Ozone Gym for 5 Thursdays, but gave that up as I figured that it was eating into other things.

I'm highly amused about the fact that in an interview last year, someone made a sarcastic remark about ''how will you manage work when you do this...Zumba thing?'' following it up immediately and pre-emptively with ''don't feel you have to be defensive, of course''. I answered him politely but I was thinking it would make sense for him to take out a couple of hours a week for his own workout and no one would question him about how that would affect work. His colleague of course, topped him on the same day by asking me ''Wow. 3 kids, huh? How will you manage them and work?'' Needless to say, it didn't work out with that organization and I'm particularly glad. Incidentally- a year later and apparently at least one of them has quit already.

But coming back to the Zumba - it's a brilliant form of exercise and I'm just so glad that I stumbled upon Sameer, totally by chance. Any other instructor would unlikely have left the kind of impression on me that he did, and his initial training helped much more than the actual Zumba workshop. I'm hoping to keep this up for as long as I'm physically able to.

- I finally found an excellent music school in Gurgaon, several months back for Peanut and me. My daughter's piano playing has reached a whole new level with a wonderful teacher called Vee, who is now unfortunately leaving the country. But she has been replaced by another great teacher who comes all the way from the Delhi School of Music and we are still enjoying our lessons. I'm also learning guitar  again under a wonderful young man at the same school, while Peanut goes in for a group vocal session. The wonderful young man is probably ten or twelve years younger than me, but has a distinguished style and polished vocabulary and turns out to have been an engineer and a trade analyst who left JP Morgan because he just didn't like it very much. It puts a little pressure on me to have to practice two musical instruments but I'm telling myself that surely 10 minutes a day on each is manageable while I'm strict with Peanut about getting in a good disciplined 30 minutes in total on her piano. The important thing is for her to develop her talent. Me, I'm doing it for the fun of it and yes, it is fun to finally correct my guitar technique and learn a new instrument, figuring out how to read music ( it's like a new language altogether) and so on.

- To my regret, I have stopped going to The Happy School for now. The last thing I did for them was prepare a bunch of students for their Annual Day function and that felt really good. I will need to figure out another way of being associated with them. The kids can definitely still expect their annual haul from Santa Claus after writing him letters about what they want, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to be more regular with my weekend voluntary spoken English classes there. After all, weekends are all I get with the family, so I'm trying not to guilt-trip myself too much about this.

- I did a lot of fun stuff with the kids in terms of just hanging out, taking them to various places in Delhi which you'll have read about if you're a regular reader here. And now for the first time ever, we're all going to Goa as a family next month for just a couple of days, using the Goa Lit Fest where  I am apparently an invited author as an excuse- now, young Pickle and Papad have never been on a plane or a beach, so it's a first on both counts for them. I think I'm more excited about it than they are though. Cool, huh?

- And then there's the Yoga. The most excellent instructor, Apoorva Gupta, about a year younger than me but approximately seven times wiser nevertheless, made her way to Gurgaon last year and I got in touch with her. She's often exasperated with me but also keeps pointing out changes in my posture and spine that I never notice myself - the practice is definitely helping me because it's meditative in nature and I highly recommend Yoga to all and sundry all the time. I am no longer able to take instruction from my father-in-law as he is in not in a great physical condition himself these days, but Apoorva is helping me a great deal with doing Yoga the 'right' way. And while I know there's a lot on my plate, the good thing is that these classes are only once a week or sometimes once a fortnight if we are both too busy to make it and she ends the class by making these very handy notes and diagrams for me which ensure that I don't forget what she taught me to do for the next week.

- We've got ourselves a CA-type of person who's quite efficient, ensures that our taxes are filed on time, that we aren't overpaying and we actually manage to get our refunds from the government and in general has shamed us into being at least slightly more organized with regard to future planning and paperwork and filing stuff and all that shit. Many thanks to him for that!

So in short, I'm going to be really busy from now. Not that I've been blogging much anyway, but you can expect to see a post here maybe once a week or so, so please do keep coming back. And it's been a real long time since I asked for a de-lurk and took stock on content direction. I know comments are now mostly on Facebook yada yada but would it trouble you too much to just comment today and let me know who you are and what you'd like to see more of on this blog? Much appreciate it, ta.

P.S - read the book by Cal Newport that I mentioned, okay?
P.P.S. - sadly, I still don't know how to cook although it figured on my sabbatical list. But I cracked those besan ke laddoos. Yesssss!!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Will the REAL Shrishti please stand up?

Riding along in the car with my various children often gives me the opportunity to listen in to their conversations.

Peanut: Pickle! You know? I always thought that Shrishti was in your class because one day I saw you say bye to her after school. But today I saw that she was going into Papad's class. So she's in Papad's class.

Pickle: No. Shrishti in MY class.

Peanut: Oh no, but I saw her, her elder sister was dropping her to her class and then she pushed her into Papad's class and not your class.

Me (only slightly aghast, interrupting) Why would she push her in?

Peanut: Ya, she pushed her in, I saw her do it, like this! ( She re-enacts a rather cheerful older sister sideways shove) So now I know that Shrishti is in Papad's class. Right, Papad?

Papad ( gazing dreamily out of the window, not paying any attention whatsoever) Ya.

Peanut (turns to a glowering Pickle) See Pickle?

Pickle: NO! Shrishti in MY class and MY friend.

Peanut (sagely) No but I saw her sister....

Me ( interrupting because I see Pickle clenching his little fist) Peanut, has it occurred to you that perhaps there are two Shrishtis? One in Pickle's class and the other in Papad's class?

Papad ( now attentive suddenly) Are they awso twins?

Me: Now don't be silly Papad, if they were twins, would they be named the same?

Papad (smiles beatifically at his own silliness and goes back to gazing dreamily out the window).

Peanut ( dismissive) Well, even if there are two Shrishtis, the one I am looking for is in Papad's class. That's the REAL Shrishti.

Pickle: Real Shrishti awso in MY class.

Me: Yes, his Shrishti is also real, Peanut. Now stop teasing him.

Peanut: But I'm just saying that the REAL Shrishti is the one that I am looking for, and she is not in Pickle's class.

Me: You can't say his Shrishti isn't real. You're teasing him for no reason.

Peanut: (Sulkily) Alright, alright. ( Adds in a loud whisper) But the REAL Shrishti is Papad's.

Pickle looks like he's about to strike her, but somehow controls himself and comes up with an inspired solution, shouting -


Monday, September 1, 2014

The Children Are Back

The morning hours are quiet and enable me to get some work done - whether it's working on a consulting assignment or a new book. Happy to announce that two book drafts have been created this year (more on them in the next post).

But in the afternoon, it's as if a hurricane is approaching. You can hear the screams from the time that they are fifty feet away - they could be squeals of terror as they pretend that they're being chased home by a rabid dog; screams of delight as they each rush to tell me about some fascinating new development of the day; or just howls about a fight in the bus wherein one of them attempted to deprive the other of a grubby biscuit or something.

Papad waltzes into the room first 'Hello Mumma!' He says cheerfully 'Do you know? I didn't fuss today at all!''

Recalling full well the struggle to get him to wear matching socks in the morning, I swallow and say ''That's great!'' He rushes up and hugs me and then tries to sneakily press a button on my laptop, immediately pissing me off.

Peanut comes in, all officious, and reports ''Hello Mama. Do you know, Papad cried all the way in the bus home because first he ate his lollipop and then wanted to have Pickle's and then Pickle didn't share because you said that we are supposed to eat sweets only on Saturday-Sunday and so then he....''

''Peanut, calm down, take a breath.'' I turn to sullen Papad. ''Papad, did you do that? I've told you not to eat sweets during the week, they're not good for your teeth...''

''But I shared with everyone on the bus.'' Papad retorts defensively.


Peanut nods sagely ''Yes, Mama, he let everyone have a lick from his lollipop and then he ate the rest himself...''

''That's...'I can't find the words.''Ewwwww....'' I glare at my son, aghast. ''Don't ever do that again.''

''Okay.'' he agrees and then says ''But Pickle wasn't sharing me, I shared everybody and...''

The wails from the third child are louder. He has apparently been so upset that he insisted on being carried home all the way from the bus stop. He walks into my room, mouth open so wide that I feel like I am Ma Yashodha and might actually see the whole world in there, but there's nothing apart from a pink tongue and little teeth. His fat cheeks are glistening with tears and he comes up and puts his arms around me, sobbing 'Papad hitted me.''

''You hit him?'' I am very angry at Papad now. I turn to the older sister, always a reliable witness ''You didn't tell me that, Peanut.''

''Ya I was going to tell you but then you interrupted me and started talking to Papad, I was saying that he wanted Pickle's lollipop after eating his own but Pickle was being a good boy and saying that we are not to open the sweets and then Papad hit him on the head with his bottle...''

Pickle, who always stops crying to listen when Peanut relates events in order to make sure that she's getting it right, now pipes up ''No, he hitted me with MY bottle.''

''Ya ya that's what I said that he hit him with his bottle''

''NO! MY BOTTLE!!'' Pickle holds out a fist at his sister and then struggles to reach out and hit her. I restrain him.

''Pickle!''I scold ''We are not supposed to hit each other right?''

''Ya.'' says Papad piously.''Ma'am says Keep yore hands to yore self.''

''You're one to talk.'' I snap at him. ''You hit him. You're not supposed to do that. Now say sorry.''

''Solly.'' Papad says to the wall.

''Say it to Pickle and hug him.'' I order. I have also read enough articles about how forcing apologies isn't the best way of resolving a fight, but I suspect the author didn't have twins and so disregard the advice.

Papad tries to reach out and hug Pickle who shoves him away and buries his face into my neck. Since Pickle is a bit of a less demonstrative child, I secretly enjoy the closeness and continue to hug him while Peanut tells me about seventeen different things at the same time about what happened today in school.

I've read that children become less communicative as they grow and soon there will come a time when I will ask ''So what did you do at school today'' and all I'll get is a sullen ''Nothing.''

So for now, the loudest, most hurricane-like moment of the day when the three burst into the house is a highly treasured moment for me, no matter what it's interrupting.

I know I won't be around at this time of the day for long, so allow me to prepare for the storm now. As long as the screams start up in an hour or so and don't indicate any broken bones, I'll know - life goes on... and life is good.


This post is dedicated to Sindhoora Marru, who emailed me in response to a post on my Facebook page wherein I asked for volunteers to beta-read the first few chapters of my new book. She said in her email -

''Without sounding stalkery, i say i wait for your blog feed everyday. sometimes, i refresh many times a day. i read some of my favorites in ur old posts when i get annoyed waiting.'' 

Sindhoora, enjoy :) and thanks!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Just say I love you, Na?

When I announced that I was going away with my friend for a 3 day holiday, my husband was initially very supportive. It was only after I actually booked the tickets that his attitude seemed to change.

'I've booked the tickets, honey!' I said happily to him. 'We're going next Wednesday?'

'What?' He frowned 'You're actually going?'

'What do you mean?' I flared up. 'We discussed this weeks ago, and I told you the dates already. Don't tell me you've fixed work travel then?'

'No, no.' He said quickly. 'It's not that. You go ahead. That's fine.'

He wasn't very convincing though but I gave up after staring at him suspiciously for a while. I then messaged Chhaya about the booking that I had made after struggling for a long time with the Indian Railways website.

'Just don't do anything stupid.' Vijay remarked to me at breakfast the next day.

'What?' It was a fairly out of context remark as far as I could see.

'You know.' He said 'You're always doing stupid things. Don't do them when you go to Kasauli.'

'Stupid things like what?' My hackles were rising.

'Generally.' He said vaguely and yet managed to sound wise. 'Just because Chhaya is into adventure sports, doesn't mean that you can handle it.'

'I can too handle any adventure sport!' I protested. 'I've done rafting...and...'

'Exactly.' said Vijay. 'That's all you've ever done. And you probably almost drowned then.' I opened my mouth to protest but he went on. 'Anyway, what I'm saying is, don't be stupid.'

'Will you stop calling me stupid for no reason?' I demanded. 'What's the matter with you?'

'Nothing.' He said and then in a positively hostile way, he added 'You're stupid.'

I stared after him as he got up and left for work.

Even when the day before the morning we were to travel and Chhaya had come over to stay the night, Vijay was at it.

'Have you packed?' he said tersely as Chhaya and I looked at Tripadvisor to see what there was to do at Kasauli.

'Not yet.' I said. 'It's cool, it's only a few things I'll need...'

'Have you packed your medicines?'

'No, I will.'

'Stupid.' He murmured. Chhaya raised her eyebrows at me, and I shrugged and rolled my eyes. He had clearly lost it. He made a big show of going about the room and gathering up all sorts of medicines and within fifteen minutes had finally made his 'Medicine bag' for me.

'Here.' he said gruffly. 'I've put in Emeset, Pan-D, Combiflam, Augmentin, Eno...'

'I don't need all that!' I said

'Oh be quiet.' He growled. 'Where's your suitcase?'

I pointed at the one I had chosen and he snorted 'Are you nuts? Why are you taking that old one? Take my new one, it's got a case for your laptop. I suppose you'll take your laptop even though you're going on holiday.'

I struggled to retain my cool and said with dignity. 'I am a writer. You never know where inspiration will strike.'

'Yeah.' He said sarcastically. 'Also, you use your Mac as a charger for your iPhone. Stupid.'

I was about to yell at him but thought it would be inappropriate in front of mild-mannered Chhaya, especially after he had prepared a bag full of medicines for me. I remained sullen as he dragged out a more compact bag which was indeed more suitable for a short trip. He put in the medicine bag.

'Why don't you just pack my other stuff?' I suggested sweetly.

'Hah. Shut up.' He was being very rude indeed. 'I'm going to bed. You guys should also sleep early in case you actually plan to go tomorrow.'

'What do you mean?' Chhaya asked him 'Actually planning to go? Our train is at 6.40' She looked at me 'What time should we set the alarm for?'

'7.30, I think' Vijay suggested and then walked out of the room.

Chhaya and I looked at each other once and then turned our attention back to Tripadvisor.

The next morning we were running about to get ready in an attempt to actually leave for the station on time. Vijay was up too, I noted to my surprise. He was hovering around and muttering malevolently to himself.

I went over to say goodbye to Papaji, who is an early riser, and to my annoyance, Vijay murmured from behind me 'Don't forget to touch his feet.' Just when I was going to bend over and touch his feet. I went ahead and did that anyway and then headed out the door with Chhaya.

'Wait.' called Vijay 'What about saying a prayer?' He indicated the pictures of the Gods in Papaji's carefully maintained little Puja area in the kitchen.

Oh. Well, I didn't usually do that, but if it made him happy, why not. I had my shoes on so I didn't go into the kitchen but I dutifully closed my eyes and folded my hands in a small silent prayer.

It was just at the moment that I had opened my eyes that I felt a hard thwack on the back of my head. Vijay must have meant for it to be a playful little smack but it really hurt me. This was the final straw. My forty-plus-year old husband had clearly regressed to the level of a Kindergartener pulling on the pigtails of the girl he liked in class.

'What's WRONG with you?' I hissed at him. 'You CAN just say you're going to miss me and tell me you love me, na?'

'Fine!' He said. He pushed me out of the door, saying 'I love you.'

He shut the door firmly behind me, but I still heard him adding 'Stupid.'

I stared at the door for a while and then squared my shoulders and walked away for my holiday, shaking my head but already smiling. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

But there's nothing to DO at Kasauli...

A couple of weeks ago, I took my first ever break away from the family ( in 8 years. Wow, I'm a Loser!). My friend Chhaya and I headed over to Dharampur to visit some very nice people who happen to be friends of my parents. Dharampur, in case you're wondering, is about 20 minutes away from Kasauli, which is quite the tourist destination.

It really tickled me when our well-meaning Family friends suggested we head over to Shimla, a few hours away, because 'There's nothing to DO at Kasauli.' First of all, we hadn't really gone over there to DO anything; quite the opposite, because especially for a slightly hyperactive person like me, even taking a break of this sort takes 8 years. You know what I mean. So the idea was to just chill.

Anyhow, we walked all over the place and thought it was absolutely beautiful. The nicest part about travelling with a friend like Chhaya is she is the type who carries tissues, hand-sanitizers and other random things with her so you never have to remember anything! ( Oh, your ears are uncomfortable because of the altitude? Try sucking on this Pan Pasand toffee....Seriously, dude, Pan Pasand from the 80's? Gimme!!)

So while I rarely do picture posts, they're the way to tell this story, and here goes!

The beautiful drive. I think that cluster of red-roofs is actually perhaps Kasauli, but don't go by my knowledge of geography.

One of the landmarks of the place - the Church. It's quite small and peaceful. It rained so we ducked in there and it was quite nice, but could do with some renovation and maintenance work. Very picturesque nevertheless.

This mother with her baby really caught my fancy. The monkeys were real rogues overall, trying to snatch our Bhuttas. Luckily, the bhutta-lady knew just how to drive them away (Screaming: Besharam! Jaao, school ka time ho gaya!)

This was a lovely little forgotten surprise at the end of the Mall road - a beautifully and lovingly maintained flower garden which we almost missed. After we went in, a bunch of people wandered in after us, and I heard one man muttering 'Oh yeh private nahin hain.'

The cobbled stones leading to some of the houses down at the end of the market caught my fancy enough to take a picture.

How could we possibly be in Kasauli and not have a Bun-samosa? It's the speciality of the place, and we had it from one of the oldest shops around so they're probably experts - an article by Khushwant Singh put up proudly near the entrance will identify it for you since I've forgotten the name of the joint.  The first day, Chhaya and I shared a bun-samosa because I was scared of falling sick, but nothing happened except for the fact that she complained the entire evening about how I had prevented her from enjoying a whole bun-samosa. Consequently we had to go back the next day and have a full bun-samosa each. It was worth it. The Gulab jamuns were to die for too - really awesome, the long ones without any elaichi-type-crap inside.

Can you tell I was really fascinated by the simians?

It wasn't the fog that we were occasionally caught up in - it was a cloud settling around us. Beautiful feeling.

We went on a long trek to a place called Sunset Point - took us about 1.5 hours, but could have easily lasted longer if we had explored more of the place. By this time, however, I was feeling sick and it had nothing to do with the Bun-Samosas.

A pine cone. I find them almost as fascinating as monkeys. I brought it home for my daughter, who said 'Oh Wow' and then quietly threw it away. Sniff.

Also, we went to a place called Manki Point, which is also known as Monkey Point. There's a Hanuman Temple and you have to climb a few hundred meters to get there, which really isn't very easy, but took us all of 20 minutes, I'd say. We weren't allowed to take our phones into the place because it's in the middle of some Air Force Base. Apparently this is the point where Lord Hanuman's foot touched the ground as he went leaping and bounding to get the herb that would save Laxman. But again, like with my geography, don't go by my knowledge of History either. Social Studies - always my worst subject. But hey - I digress. We did a lot of shopping from the Mall Road, buying several Kullu Shawls (apparently made of Yak Wool, very warm) and Minchy's Wunder Wyne ( Chhaya chose Plum and I chose Apricot but she left her bottle at my place so I'm enjoying both alone at nights) and Amul Dark Chocolate ( very, very nice and only Rs.100 for a really large bar so I wish I'd bought more) and something called Red Chilli Chuk ( very, very spicy and adds that bit of fire to several of my meals) and loads of little toys and paraphernalia for the children, including three whips even. Vijay took one of these when he went jogging at night because he's afraid of being bitten by a stray dog. He's so charming.

The children couldn't understand why I had to go away for three whole days. 'Why can't Didu or Masi go with Chhaya Aunty?' They lamented. But I had to get away, and I'm glad I did. It was a beautiful holiday, three days of doing nothing and everything with a nice companion and our wonderful, warm, large-hearted hosts.

In short. Expect nothing... and go to Kasauli. You won't regret it. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dance Your Blues Away

It's now been almost two years since I started with Zumba. It's funny how seemingly random events can have a profound impact on you. I had no idea what Zumba was when I first did a Google Search on it, and amongst the instructors in Gurgaon was given the cell number of a certain Sameer Sachdeva. When I finally attended his class, I was completely taken in by how much fun and how challenging it was, and became a regular.

Suddenly, the eight extra kilos of post-pregnancy weight after the twins birth melted away - I had been struggling with the fat for over a year and a half, and then with 3 days of Zumba a week, and no other change in routine or diet - I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and have stayed there ever since.

Sameer and I became friends and he was the one who encouraged me to take Zumba up as an instructor. I dilly-dallied about it for a while, but eventually went ahead and got my license as a B1 (Basic Training One) instructor last November. I take classes only in my own colony mostly, and on weekends.

There are about seventy songs or more that I have prepared choreography for, and try to add about one a week; but in one class we only do about 14 songs and the class likes plenty of repetition, so I don't actually get to do all the songs I'd like. These classes however, I remind myself, are about the students - one problem that I have is that I get a sneaking suspicion that the students don't attempt to get any vigorous activity during the week because of 'lack of time', and concentrate all their physical fitness efforts only on the weekend. I don't think that works. I run weekend classes only, and I still say openly that taking only two classes on a Saturday and Sunday will only be for maintenance of fitness and won't be too helpful for weight loss, beyond a point. I used to do classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and that worked brilliantly for me. So I encourage my students to get in at least one more class, maybe an evening batch, or do some running. Swimming, I'm not that big a fan of, because I remember reading that it makes you hungry enough to put that weight back. I'm living proof of it anyway.

Zumba works at so many different levels for me, and for a lot of people I've spoken to. First of all, it's really vigorous, involving movements that are intense and varied. We use the concept of interval training and slow it down and speed it up between songs and within songs. It's challenging enough to require your attention or you won't be coordinated enough to keep up with the class or the instructor. The group energy adds a great deal to the whole concept. Finally, it's so much damn fun that unlike most other forms of fitness, you won't get bored with it. I know because if something hasn't bored me with my fleeting attention span for two years, it's unlikely to bore anyone else!

I'm a part of the team called Zumba@DelhiSalsaClub, led by Sameer. Sameer himself is an outstanding instructor, and his background in dance - he runs the Delhi Salsa Club, after all - helps a great deal, although it is his energy that it is unparalleled. He's my age ( okay, just a few months younger) and I don't know where he gets that energy from, but the good thing is that it is highly infectious. The other instructors are great too - Aparna Deshmukh, one of the earliest instructors in India, who for me is a fellow mom and a fellow ex-Unilever-ite too; Nancy Rustagi who's got some serious Bollywood moves; Anuj, whose energy and smile are about as big as each other; and the newly certified but bursting with energy and some awesome Bhangra moves, Sahil Kapoor. We don't get to meet as often as we'd like to because each and every one of us does various other things too; but we're bound, at least for the time being, by the love for dance and fitness. And ultimately, it is this world-wide phenomenon called Zumba that is responsible for bringing the lot of us together!

If you're in Delhi NCR, join up with us. If you're anywhere else, join up anywhere else. You may really really like it; it makes you fit...and happy!

Here's a clip of Sameer and Nancy taking the Zumba at Raahigiri. This is in the sweltering heat of Delhi which would make most people melt, but Zumba enthusiasts are made of sterner stuff.

And please don't judge us by the Honey Singh, we love this choreography and it's a great favourite amongst all our students. I'm not exactly sure which of the team members developed this choreo, but I suspect it's between Anuj, Sameer, Nancy - will update once I find out!

For classes in Delhi NCR - call Anuj at 9899771415

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Mahabharata Pop Quiz

I love the Mahabharata, and have read several versions over the years. I've yet to find a version that fully satisfies my curiosity, although the interpretation I've loved most is the Palace of Illusions by Chitra Devakaruni.

My curiosity is nothing compared to that of my daughter though, who's already read two kiddie versions at lightning speed. And my knowledge about the story is far more limited than I had thought, as I discovered today in the car on the way to the Music school where we're both enrolled.

'So Mama, can I ask you a question?'

I refrain from the wisecrack 'Well, you've already asked it, haven't you', and instead say 'Sure. What is it?'

Peanut asks 'So are you serious that Chhota Bheem grew up to become the Bheem in Mahabharata?'

Me: ' Bheem is just a cartoon and...'

Peanut: And the other Bheem was real?

Me: Well, no. I mean, yes, more real than Chota Bheem.

Peanut: But you told me that it was the same Bheem.

Me: No, what I meant was that the big Bheem came first in the Mahabharata story and then some guy thought 'Hey let me make a cartoon of this guy and fool a bunch of kids into becoming his fans!' ( I say this in my Kalia-impression-voice)

Peanut (makes a face): Very funny Mama. But tell me, na, why did Bheem Shah not get killed by the arrows?

Me: Bheem Shah? (Realization) Oh, you mean Bhishma.

Peanut: Ya, Bhimsha. Why did he not killed?

Me: (struggling to keep up) So...he lay on the bed of arrows...until he chose to die. He was a great man of many powers and so he could choose when to die.

Peanut (shocked): But why didn't he just choose to live longer?

Me: (realizing this is an opportunity for some education about a topic that oft bothers us) Because not everyone wants to live together, Peanut. Bhimsha, I mean Bhishma wasn't the type to come crying into his Mom's room every night saying 'But I don't wanna DIE'. He was tired of living, maybe and just wanted to rest.

Peanut (still can't believe it): But why would he want to die?

Me: Maybe he believed in heaven? You know anything about heaven?

Peanut ( impatiently): yeah yeah, it's the sky. Okay, but Mama, can I ask you a question?

Me: Well actually...

Peanut (ignoring me): So Mama, Bhishma could also have just wanted to spend time with Pandavas, right?

Me: See, given that they were on opposite sides, it may not really have worked out.

Peanut: But he could have waited to see who won the war, and then spent time with them. Didn't he like the Pandavas?

Me: He loved them, but you don't do stuff like that...just wait to see who wins the war while lying on a bed of arrows so you can spring up and hang out with the winners...he wasn't that kind of guy...

Peanut (changing track again): But Mama, why did he fight against the Pandavas? I thought he liked them better than the Kauravas...

Me: Yeah, he did , but...( My memory fails me here and I'm thinking - yeah, why did he do that?)

Peanut (happily moved on anyway): But Mama, why did Karnaa become their brother?

Me: Karan, Karan...he was their brother because Kunti was his mother.

Peanut: So why did he go away from them?

Me: Well, because...( I don't know how to explain this but decide I can't just leave her hanging)...actually, he had a different father.

Peanut (Shocked): How can that be? How can brothers have a different father?

Me: (struggling) But...but...even the Pandavas had different mothers, right? It's okay, it happens! ( I really don't want to get into the details here)

Peanut: So then Karnaa wasn't the son of Panda?

Me: Panda? ( beginning to laugh, knowing fully well what she means)

Peanut: I mean that hugging guy, the guy who hugged his wife and died...Pandu...stop laughing!

Me: But Peanut, you're just so funny.

Peanut (accusingly): You don't know the Mahabharata!

Me ( with a sigh of relief, looking out the window): Look! We're at the music school....come on now, we're getting late...

Peanut: Okay, but Mama, can I ask you a question?

Me:  ( Dragging her out of the car and propelling her towards the building) La la la la la la, come on now, chop chop