Sunday, April 26, 2015

I can't wait to grow up!

Well, I can't quite believe how time flies.

When I started this blog in 2006, I had no children and no real intention of having children. And now, I seem to have rather a lot of them floating about the place.

The twins are full of their little antics all the time. From a Facebook post on my page earlier this week -

Of Love:
Pickle: I love this ploglam! (translation: program). But I don't want to marry it.
(A few minutes later)
Papad: I love this chikin (translation: chicken). But I don't want to marry it.
Me (Finally having put two and two together, yelling out to their older sister): Peanut! Stop telling your brothers you have to marry something if you love it!

Of Hate:
Me: (Trying to cheer up sulky Papad at the bus-stop, since he's just been scolded at home by Vijay for fussing) Papad! Look, Neeru has a nice cap. Would you like a cap? Which colour?
Papad: (Glowering at the road) I will take blue cap. But it will have I HATE DADDY written on it.

The one who I feel I haven't been writing very much about, of late, is little Peanut. And she's almost 8 years old now. Good God!

It always amazes me how observant this kid is. I randomly chanced upon an article on the 11 Mistakes in the Movie Frozen and I clicked on it - it pointed out about one song near the beginning in the movie wherein Anna jumps upon a sofa that wasn't there in the previous scene. I rolled my eyes and clicked the close button. Who would bother to notice stuff like that?

Sure enough, the next time we were watching the movie, young Peanut suddenly stiffened and said 'Hey! Where did that sofa come from, Mum?' I was flabbergasted by the fact that she had picked up on it. The kid notices just about everything. Including later, how 'Hey Ma, how come Elsa and Anna's mother never says a word during the's always the Dad who's talking...but oh yeah, at one point, I think she says just 'Oh' it's not like she can't talk...'

Peanut's a fairly sorted little girl in most ways, which kind of pleases me as much as it mystifies me, since I don't know where she's got THAT from. She seems very clear about the importance of family, and is conscientious about her school work.

She's been doing only two classes outside of school - music and Taekwondo. Her brothers used to go with her to the Taekwondo class but I pulled them out last month after I happened to attend a class and saw them lying on the wooden floor pretending to swim, while the other students laughed and the Master looked on helplessly. They claimed they hated Taekwondo so I told them to forget about it, but Peanut wanted to continue.

It was driven home to me how sorted she is today, when she looked into my phone and saw that there was a Whatsapp group created for her friend's birthday party ( I really wish people didn't do that, but given that all my kids' birthdays are coming up in July, I'll let you know my final view on this one later). Anyway, so Peanut was all excited to see her friend's birthday party invitation - but then I gently told her that it was clashing with her Taekwondo class. The kid didn't miss a beat but just smiled and said 'Oh. I'll tell her I can't come then.' And then she skipped off. There I was, staring after her, mouth open.

I was definitely being a bit of a Tiger Mom about her Piano playing until recently. We got a new teacher at the music school, who gently spoke to me about the fact that she believed Peanut didn't need to do any more exams anytime soon. She had skipped Grade 1 and aced the Grade 2 Royal School exam last December, and I was all pepped up about getting her to go ahead with the next one this year. The teacher said that she could see a couple of things from her observation class -

The first, that young Peanut hadn't picked up on certain techniques, which tended to happen when there was an over-focus on exam preparation.

The second, that she just sensed that if I continued to sit in on her classes and pressurise her about her playing, she might be heading for a burn-out.

I had been listening to her with some resentment and was basically getting ready to argue how my own intervention was what had caused her to get so far in just two years so far. But that last word - burn-out - did it for me. The one thing I want my daughter to do is to enjoy music and have it as a part of her life. And if my 'gentle' attempts at getting her to be regular with her music were endangering that, it was time for me to Back Off. And so I did.

I rarely ask her about her practice sessions now. The teacher had suggested was that it was anyway a good idea to let her figure out her own schedule now, take her own notes and basically take responsibility for her own musical development. So I've got my fingers crossed, and am hoping that even if Peanut never makes it to some great level with her playing - she keeps up her music and it's there as a part of her life. After all, as the teacher, who is beginning to seem increasingly wise to me, friends will come and go, but her music could always be there to make her feel better.

I know that I see a lot of myself in young Peanut. Perhaps for that reason, I'm also a lot harder on her at times than I am with her brothers. I'm very sensitive to how she's feeling, but there are many moments when I find myself getting really irritated with her. She has the ability to get on my nerves because she has the ability to suddenly behave like a rude adolescent with all the 'Fine!'s and 'You don't love me's and the door-slamming that goes with it. She has taken to writing me love-notes and even emails now which express her feeling. This was cute in the beginning but now has begun to really piss me off because there's only so much written evidence you need about the fact that you're a bad parent.

Sample email exchange at a time that I yelled at her ( and she happened to be generally emailing me with lists of kiddy applications for a work project I'm on):

Mail 1:


 I hope you mind that i am asking you but why did you say shut up to me when i haven't done anything ??????

I felt really sad  and angry 

Did i do to anything to you that made you say that???????????????????????

If yes then sorry

I got 2 more games that i don't think you've written

1. Chotta bheem ice bucket challenge
2. chotta bheem archery

Aapko aapka shona baby yad hai kitna shona baby tha hai na???????????




 Mail 2 (My reply):

Dear Peanut

I can't even begin to tell you how sorry I am about that. It was bad-tempered of me and stupid too. 

I was in a terrible mood about something else and I just wanted to be left alone and it was really wrong of me to react that way to you. 

You're a total sweetheart and thank you for letting me know how you felt. I sincerely apologize to you for that. 

I would like to make it up to you, will think of something, okay? 

Much love,

Your Mom

              P.S - How did you learn to make those sad and angry faces! You're pretty clever!!

Mail 3: (Her reply)

Well thats OK

I even know how to fill the color like this


She has a strong sense of fairness and this, I have learned over the years, isn't necessarily a great thing given that the world isn't always fair. I've been trying to explain to her that comparing with her brothers all the time is not a good thing. This is the one area where she tends to be most upset, saying 'They always get more than me...' and 'They didn't share their chips with me, why should I share with them?' and so on. At most times though, she displays great generosity and understanding with her brothers. And I have to hand it to her, it's not easy having twin brothers like Pickle and Papad. Yesterday, she confessed to me quite frankly 'I love them deep inside, but actually, I mostly hate them.'

It's not true that she mostly hates them. In fact, I think she knows she's quite lucky to have them. I still remember how lonely she was as a 2 year old before I got pregnant with the twins, and eventually ended up giving her not one, but two playmates. She's a great influence on them and helps out a significant bit with their homework and many aspects to do with them. At the same time, they all tend to fight and build their camps and hatch evil plots  against each other and I suppose that's all natural. I'm trying to make her feel less discriminated against now - today I gave in and walked into the shop to buy her an 'extra treat because last time they got two things and I didn't even get one, and...' She ended up buying a pack of Hide and Seek biscuits and announced at the counter. 'I LOVE these biscuits.' She then mumbled something and I missed it. I asked her to repeat herself, and she repeated it in a loud whisper, which I missed again. I leaned in close, saying 'What are you saying, Peanut.' She looked up at me with mischief in her eyes and repeated slowly 'I Said - But. I. Don't. Want. To. Marry. Them.'

It's Pickle who's her real copy-cat. He admires her a lot and in several ways, has quite a similar personality to hers, being more conscientious about his work than Papad, who frankly, has all the makings of a class-A lazy bum.

During Peanut's entrepreneurial phases therefore, it's Pickle who volunteers to be the helper. She gets these attacks every couple of weeks. First it was the Greeting Card business, wherein there were a whole bunch of cards created for all possible occasions, including 'Gandi Jayanti.' Peanut added her own little creative touches to each card, putting in little factoids such as (for her Janamashtmi card) -
'Janamashtmi is the day that Krishna was born in a dungeon.' I spotted Pickle doing 'card duty' one evening, just sitting by her shelf wherein she had displayed the cards. He saw me looking at him and said, a trifle rudely 'Wanna buy a card, Mama? 5 rupees.' Eventually, I bought all her cards.

The next one was her lemonade stand. She made a couple of calls to enquire when my sister and mother would be visiting next and then hopefully set up a table that weekend. Unfortunately, she had no takers and ended up drinking the lemonade herself. Pickle helped then too.

When I was travelling to Bangalore, Vijay sent me photos of a rather ingenious looking cardboard-box set up that Peanut had used to make a Pizza (cum lemonade) stall. This time she had even put up signs all over the house right from the front door with arrows pointing to her little stall near the dining table. In another crafty touch, she had decided to go the made-to-order route rather than investing monies in inventory before the customers came in. Sadly, she was still unable to make a sale as 'No one ever comes to our house, Ma!' I looked admiringly at the sign she had put up -

'Peanut's fantabulous pizza - be sure to come this way' with an enticingly drawn red arrow.

Ultimately, this business too collapsed, along with the cardboard box that Papad carelessly leaned into and destroyed, to much wailing and anguish all around.

Peanut is now planning ahead, quite sensibly. She says she's going to be opening a Bakery called 'The Bake-a-Cake shop' and not anytime soon.

'When did you start work, Ma?'

'When I was 22, Peanut.'

She settled back and said, 'Well, okay, then I'm gonna start my bakery when I'm 25.'

'Why?' I was curious about the wait.

'I will first go to the office for 3 years and earn money.' She said, thoughtfully. 'I think in 3 years, I should have enough.'

Impressed, I said 'Yes. Well, that sounds like quite a plan.'

'I'll hire you and Masi to bake the cakes.' She said decisively. 'I'll just take the orders. Do you think that I should let the customers eat the cake IN the shop? But then we'll need tables...'

I missed the rest of what she was saying because I was wondering whether to break it to her that her Masi and I might not actually want to be hired as bakers in our fifties, but I caught her enthused summary line which was 'I can't wait to grow up and start my Bake-a-Cake Shop.'

I smiled and nodded encouragingly. Inwardly, I was thinking -

Oh, Little Peanut.

What's your hurry?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Goodbye Rinki

So after almost 5 years of being with us, Rinki has left.

Back in 2010, I was suffering greatly after two surgeries after complications with the twin pregnancy. In the recuperation period, it was incredibly tough, having to deal with two newborn baby boys while still suffering from fever and pain. It had been a difficult enough time before they were born, but it was absolutely crazy afterwards. And that's when Rinki just walked in.

When she joined us, she was a shy sixteen year old girl who spoke only Bengali - not a word of Hindi. She never looked up when we spoke to her, but mumbled unintelligible responses to the floor. But she showed signs of animation when looking at the babies and that was good enough for me. I hired her immediately.

Rinki turned out to be a big blessing, and I quickly discovered that having a lady in the house who was half my age and possessed twice my energy levels was a real boon, given the three small kids and their various needs. Over a period of time, she grew to be more like an elder sister to the children.

In many ways, she was of course still a kid herself. Climbing trees like a monkey, teaching them to pick up mulberries, entertaining them with grossly inappropriate ghost stories and superstitions from her time in the village. But she had a golden heart, and it was very easy for us to become very fond of her.

She had her flaws, of course. Who doesn't? She was prone to drama and had a fiery temper, and this resulted in various fights and flare-ups, especially given that there are several other strong-headed folks of all ages in my home. But I noticed that over the last year, Rinki had greatly matured and handled most situations with a lot more grace and ease than before. Alas: it was also time for her to go.

She told me in January that she would be returning to the village with her family, and probably not coming back. My heart broke, even though I had been expecting this - it had been a long time and she was a young woman now. I asked if they wanted to get her married off, and she refuted it stoutly, saying she wanted to start up her own beauty parlour, and didn't want to get married anytime soon. However, I suspect otherwise after speaking to her mother- another fine lady, who I employed at one time as a cook. She was not a fine cook and I had to unemploy her. But a fine lady, high on integrity and caring from whatever I could see, and from her influence on young Rinki.

I did a lot to retain Rinki. She was a very bright girl, and expressed the desire to study. By some stroke of luck, I found a lovely retired schoolteacher in the colony, and she took her on as a student, teaching her over the course of a couple of years the basics of English and Math. As a consequence of this, (and with considerable help from my daughter Peanut) Rinki, as of now, understands a lot of English and can even converse in English to some extent.

She also had an interest in learning sewing, so while the kids were in school, she went off for sewing classes for a while, and became fairly adept at stitching, even making a pretty little dress for Peanut which delighted the little one greatly.

But Rinki's real interest was in learning how to do parlour work. Happily, in the last few months with us, we managed to send her off for training to a parlour. The other maids were heard squealing in protest as Rinki offered to practice her threading on them. Already, the girl had a knack for hairstyling and Peanut was most thrilled to have her long, fine hair constantly pulled into the most elegant and innovative styles that had people cooing over her constantly.

Being one of the smart ones, Rinki was of course on her smartphone a lot, and youtube was a source of entertainment and information for her - in fact, some of the more challenging hairstyles were made easier for her with step by step instructions on youtube how-to videos.

There was a clear transformation in the young girl over the period that she was there with us. The last time I saw her, her skin was radiant, she wore my barely worn clothes better than I would have, her long hair was in a stylish bun, she carried about her the air of youthful good health, and a certain confidence about who she is and who she wants to be.

She has been a fantastic help to us and a lot of what I have been able to do over the last few years is, in large part, due to her presence in the house. The other maids, of course, have done their bit, but most vital have been Rinki and our other full-timer, the old K.

The kids wept copiously the day that Rinki left. We cut a cake for her and had a little celebration party to send her off, and Peanut kept lapsing into tears and setting the small boys off, and Rinki didn't help matters by breaking down herself.

A young girl called Lalita watched the proceedings with bemused interest. We will have to see how this new one pans out, but that will be another story. This is assuming (and deeply hoping) that she lasts with us, given that we have been rejected by 3 maids who just threw up their hands and ran away screaming 'Itne naughty boys...aur teen-teen bacche! Nahinnn....'

We will all miss Rinki, and I can only hope that she gets what she wishes out of life. And if she does start her own beauty parlour, I might just make a trip to a distant little Bengali village to get my hair done sometime. I know Peanut will come with me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

There's Something About You: July 2015

As I just posted on Facebook:

There's Something About Being Published.
Opening up to a page like this never gets old.

Coming soon to a bookstore near you!