Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Little Graduates

Yesterday was the Graduation Ceremony for Pickle and Papad. I know it makes them sound like they're about twenty years old whereas they are actually only 3.5, but still, it's an important day because it marks their moving out of their playschool and into the Big School.

It was purely by chance that some years ago we stumbled upon one of the nicest and less-marketed playschools in Gurgaon - little Peanut blossomed there and it was a no-brainer for us to put Pickle-Papad there too. How time flies. And now, next month, the twins are going to be out of the house for 6 hours instead of three. (Sniff sob High FIVE!)

In the last couple of such events where my kids go on stage, I've tended to get unnecessarily emotional. Vijay was fidgeting at a recital of Peanut's a few months ago and he turned to me to complain about why we had to sit through such long agonising performances when Peanut already knew we loved her - instead, his words froze on his lips as he saw me blubbering with tears running down my cheeks. He was both alarmed and amused, and tried to tell me it was okay, it was only a little while to go before the Pippi Longstocking performance ended and we could get out of there. It took me a while to explain to him why I was crying - our kids were growing up so fast, and it was evident only when they were up there now, making fools of themselves on stage - as if they were adults in the real world already.

I was determined however, to be in complete control during this graduation ceremony. Vijay, regretfully, was out of the country. My mother and sister came along for the ceremony, which was very sweet of them, I must say. Having done a few of these now, I know it takes a whole lot of love to actually take out the time and show up for occasions such as this one, even if it seems like no big deal to anyone else. So the three of us, and little Peanut of course, sat there in the aisles waiting for the twins to come on stage.

As we waited, we witnessed a strange sort of fight taking place in the row ahead of us. One grandma-grandpa type had happily occupied a whole row in the charming, uniquely Indian style of ''I am reserving this seat with my purse, this one with my snotty hanky, this one with my invitation card which looks exactly like your invitation card but who cares it's mine so ha ha.'' The lady arguing with them was a middle-aged one sitting in the row in front of them - and she was most distraught as she had apparently reserved those 5 seats behind her, and they had just happily occupied 2 of them them and were now reserving the remaining three.

The grandpa type told her ''There is no reservation system here, madam'' ignoring the fact that he was blocking the same seats she had been blocking. The lady had a thing or two to say to them, but the oldies just ignored them. I was quite appalled at them - while it wasn't that big a deal on the whole, they were really being unfair and small. The frustrated lady instructed her small sardar son to sit on the empty seat next to the grandma, and to my shock, the grandma kept her hand on the seat possessively while the little boy squirmed uncomfortably there - not sure whether to obey his mother, or to take the subtle hint that this old lady next to him was giving. I turned to my sister and we exchanged a look - it's amazing how some people can't grow up - in their seventies.

Peanut was fidgeting too now. ''I can't see,'' she complained ''his handkerchief is blocking the view.''

''Patka...hang on, there's nothing happening on stage right now anyway'' I whispered, as did my mother at the same time. I realized I must introduce more awareness in my children of other cultures. I just don't have enough Sardar friends in my life. The only time a Sardar shows up in my life is when I'm sitting in the audience, waiting for a performance to start, in which case, there will soon be one happily sitting in front of me and blocking my view. As if on cue, the squirming little sardar's huge grandfather was brought over by Ms. Frustrated Lady, and made to sit next to him. Even as I sat there stoically staring into a bright red turbon, I was delighted that the cranky mean grandma's hand was soon withdrawn, even as her family arrived and they realized that all they had to do was drag a few more chairs up to the same row to seat them all together. Ridiculous, I thought. I shifted up a couple of seats myself and soon got a view of the stage.

Peanut was restless, and started to ask every few seconds when Pickle-Papad would come on stage. ''And don't forget you promised us all Orange Bar Icecream'' she told me. I replied that I hadn't forgotten but if she continued to remind me throughout the performance, she could forget about it. She made a pouty face which immediately won over my soft hearted sister, who can never understand why Peanut would ever need a scolding (because she doesn't live with her). Finally the announcements were made and the show started.

There were a bunch of songs, dances, speeches. I kept looking out for my sons, but there was no sign of them. I became slightly worried. I knew they didn't have any lead roles in anything, considering that I had been handed over two ''Flower'' costumes for the two of them. I was resigned to the fact that my sons were going to be flowers on stage, but it really didn't look as if any flora was going to be a part of the show at all. Finally, young Papad showed up amongst a bunch of kids who were reciting some poems, including the likes of 'She'll be climbing down the mountain when she comes'', which has to be one of the more pointless songs of its time. There was also Re-mama-re-mama-re during which Papad became rather animated, even as the rather politically inappropriate lines of 'Peechhe pad gayi Moti'' rang out.

The whole show, despite it's notable lack of Pickle-ness, was a very well-organised one and I was impressed, once again with how the team had pulled it all off, led by its beautiful Director, an elegant lady in her late fifties who always makes feel feel frumpy and inadequate. There was so much warmth and love in the speech that the Director gave about the graduating students that I felt a lump in my throat. And as the performance of the Three Little Pigs, the grand finale of the day, started, I actually started to cry.

I sat there, quietly blubbering - nobody noticed, not my mother and sister who were engrossed in the performance, and not Peanut, who was engrossed in playing Temple Run 2 on my mother's phone. It looked like I would be crying throughout the play, but luckily, the littlest pig ''who was always hungry'' had the most endearing way of delivering his constant line '' Please give me the-something to eat-a.'' This cheered me up considerably. Then I noticed that there was some louder blubbering taking place. Apparently Piggy No.2 was frightened by how loud the sound was on stage because he was sitting in his house of sticks and crying away to glory. Everyone felt sorry for him, but I was filled with admiration with the fact that he apparently had a stoic belief in the phrase ''The show must go on'' because when his unfortunate little pig-brother showed up, he delivered his line while crying ''Whhoo is it?''

The littlest brother, who had been chased here by the wolf, who was currently prancing about on stage left chasing his own tail, said ''The wolf is going to eat me.'' he then added ''I'm hungry. Please give me the-something to eat-a''.

The audience, including a now-happy me, all laughed. The crowning glory of the play for me was the next line, delivered by the still-wailing Piggy no. 2 ''Oh Piggy Dum-dum. You're always hungry.'' followed by a quivering sob as he covered his ears against the sound of the feedback from the mikes. Such angst! Such emotion! Masterfully done, Piggy 2. Masterfully done.

Anyhow, the play continued. There was an exciting chase that took place around Piggy 2's house with the wolf chasing the two pig brothers around the house of sticks. In his over-wrought stage, Piggy 2 ran too fast and soon he was running about an inch behind the wolf. This made me laugh so hard that I unfortunately missed most of what happened next, especially because the wolf's mike got displaced in all the excitement and was now hanging in the vicinity of his fake tail. Overall, I have to say it was a roaring success.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, there was the Flower dance, and a rather surprised looking Pickle and Papad, their faces wrapped tight in their bright flower headgear, bodies in the green suits that I had dressed them up in, finally made their grand entry amongst other flowers. They got into the song soon enough, and another highlight for me was how Pickle became overenthusiastic and did a few more spins (about seventeen extra) than the other flowers before settling back into his position at the back of the stage.

The graduation ceremony concluded with the handing over of certificates to the batch of 2014, all dressed up in gowns and hats, just like the real thing. This too was remarkably cute as the kids were all going the wrong way after collecting their certificates, a few falling asleep on stage, and Pickle scratching his ear so vigorously that he seemed to have channelized a dog, and knocked off his cute little graduation hat. Through it all, the staff of teachers and all their helpers, retained their cool, flitting about in pretty saris, exuding both warmth and dignity. I truly admire this school and everyone who is a part of it. If I wore a hat, I would take it off for them.

The parents gave the school a standing ovation, and I noted that grumpy grandma and grandpa right in front of us were the only ones who didn't stand up. It didn't spoil the moment in the least. Also, to my immense satisfaction, the National Anthem was the concluding song, and the oldies had to then get to their feet, rather grudgingly. Before you get too sympathetic about this elderly couple, let me inform you they were in fine health and had got up a couple of times during the performance to generally walk around and stretch.

We were now invited out for the tea and snacks while the little performers were changed out of their costumes. Hungry and tired, we made our way there,and soon had our plates of samosas, cake, biscuit and tea. I was looking around for Peanut, and failed to notice a couple of steps, lost my balance, and clumsily teetered, dropping the tea all over the food and onto the ground. A collective ''ooohhhh'' went up, as I danced around foolishly and eventually landed right next to my mother and sister, who tried to pretend they didn't know me. My sister was quite nonchalant as she asked ''How come we're always falling?''

I informed her I have no idea, and haughtily went to fetch myself another cup of tea. When I returned, I thanked my mom and sis for coming today, and my sister said 'Ah come on, we love the twins.'

'Oh, so you don't love Peanut?' I said craftily. My sister looked uncomfortable as she frowned and tried to remember why she hadn't shown up for that ceremony.

My mother, always helpful, piped up ' I don't think you invited her, Y.' Now it was my turn to look uncomfortable as the sister looked daggers at me. We concluded the discussion amicably, saying that I had probably invited her but she had probably been working that Saturday. Before mom could say anything else, I changed the subject and luckily, little Pickle and Papad soon burst onto the scene.

We enveloped the little stars in hugs and kisses, and congratulated them, while they did their version of Piggy Dum-dums 'Please give me the-something to eat-a.' After their little tummies were filled, we took them home for some of that that Orange Bar Ice-cream which had only been mentioned a dozen times by Peanut after I warned her not to.

And just like that, the twins are Graduates.

We couldn't take a picture in the show, but this one of them below is when they got outside - just before Pickle managed to break the souvenir mug that he was presented. That crisis was managed by some quick-thinking on my part ( i.e. Don't cry, Pickle, Daddy will fix it when he's home, and how about that Orange Bar we're going to have now, eh?)

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