Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Oh, The Joyful Days of Summer

It's that time of the year when the schools are out, and the kids are home all day long. ALL DAY LONG. And you get to see a lot more of them than you'd bargained for.

Here's what's going on around my place.


Beautiful World 

I see a bunch of science channels on Youtube for Peanut, and recommend she spends time looking at them instead of One Direction videos. After a few days, I realize she's only watching the Slo-Mo guys, who just film everything in slow motion - a balloon bursting, you know.

I scold her, saying 'What's the point of that? What do you learn?'

Her answer is simple 'I learn how beautiful the world really is when you slow down and look at it.'

I have no answer. She's probably quoting directly from the show. But I can't think of a better use of her time this summer. So I hold my peace.

Be mine, B-Minor

While leaving and getting late for work, the last thing you want is a chubby Pickle wrapping himself around your knee and saying 'Mom, can you teach me B-minor?'

'He wants to play Waka-Waka.' Peanut says by way of explanation. 'We are playing it on the piano, and I taught Papad. But I can't teach Pickle on guitar.'

'Can I teach you later?' I'm harried and halfway out the door. But the boy looks so crestfallen that I drop my laptop bag, sigh and sit down to tell him.

'Okay, so your first finger is on this fret, second fret. Then it climbs up, here like this. Then the little finger here. And the middle finger here. What are the chords?'

'D ...A....Bm....G....' says Peanut.

I play and we all sing along. And the second Pickle hears the B minor on the song, his face breaks into a huge grin, and he spontaneously claps in excitement and hops around. He can't wait to take the guitar from me and practice. And I stare at my little son, thinking that his little applause was the best this day is going to get. The best life can get, actually.


Farting is Such Sweet, Sweet sorrow. 

I'm working at my laptop in the evening, and Peanut comes and stands in the middle of the drawing room and lets out a long, fairly musical fart. She then looks really pleased with herself, and I look up at her, disgusted.

'Yuck, Peanut. That's gross.'

'It's normal, Mom. Besides, it's the silent ones that smell.'

'Whatever. You don't have to be so proud of yourself.'

'Mom, come on, it's not like you haven't ever farted.'

'Well, I certainly wouldn't do what you just did - middle of the drawing room and then looking really happy about it.'

'Yeah.' She skips off. 'I bet you do that in meetings.'


Wow,  Phoren ROCKS

Their cousin Nikki sends them an excited whatsapp video, saying in her cute British accent 'Guys, you're not going to believe this - we're moving HOUSE, and I'm SO excited!'

Peanut, Pickle and Papad are very impressed. It's only later that I find out they may have varying interpretations of why the U.K is so cool.

Papad for one, proclaims 'I really want to go to the UK! Do you know why, Mom? 'Cos Nikita saw a MOVING HOUSE!'

So Many Best Days

I give in one fine evening and order food from McDonald's. The Happy Meal comes and it makes them happier than anything else.

'How do they make such TASTY BUHGUHS?' Pickle smacks his lips and takes another bite.

'I know.' Papad enthuses and finishes his mouthful. 'This is the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!'

I gaze at him, amused. 'The best day, huh?'

'Yeah.' He bites again and considers this point, chewing thoughtfully. 'But then, I have SO MANY BEST DAYS.'

'Me too.' Pickle agrees. Peanut just nods silently.

And I look at the three of them. And I think to myself, I agree too.

And I have them to thank for so many best days of my own.



*****
And you? How's Summer going for you? 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

From the Unfinished 'Still Married, Thank You'

I had originally written out a sequel to my first book 'Just Married, Please Excuse' called 'Still Married, Thank You.' I never finished it though, and now, we're publishing 'The Farmer's Wife' which is the story continued, many years later. But there are some fun moments from the unfinished manuscript. Sharing Chapter 6. And who knows, it may be abandoned for now, but maybe some day I'll finish this one too! 


                                                      Chapter 6:  Healthy Living in Garden Greens


When I announced to Vijay the next day that the plan was to hire a new driver, he thought about it for just a moment before saying ‘Okay.’
I looked at him suspiciously. I had expected some resistance to this idea, as an automatic reaction on Vijay’s part - since he believed his role was to play devil’s advocate in every situation. I repeated ‘Okay? Is that it?’
‘Yes. Why not, I say? I have this long drive…Mummyji-Papaji have also been saying that it would be a good idea for me to have a driver.’
I relaxed. He always listened to Mummyji-Papaji, treating their opinion on every matter with the greatest reverence. This made sense.
‘And…’
I looked up from the newspaper headlines again. ‘What?’
‘Yesterday,’ he said slowly, clearly embarrassed by this ‘I was driving home, and on the way, I stopped at a red light and this guy who had been sticking his thumb out for a lift came rushing up to me and asked where I was going – I told him that I wasn’t going to give him a lift, but he kept insisting…’
‘So?’ This didn’t sound particularly outlandish to me. ‘What’s the big deal about that?’
Vijay finished in a rush, it seemed as if he really wanted this over with. ‘He put his hand on my arm and said ‘Bhai…main bhi toh driver hoon…hume ek doosre ki help karni chahiye.’
It took a moment for it to sink in but I burst into hoots of laughter ‘He thought you were a driver? Hahahahahahaha.’
‘It was that battered old Maruti Esteem of Mama’s…I’m telling you, we need a new car.’
I said sadistically. ‘But see, I think it’s also the fact that you’re just so skinny. Most drivers are skinny…’
He thought about this and agreed that this observation was true, although as far I was concerned, it had actually been based on the sample size of one, our Vinod.
‘You know what?’ Vijay was thoughtful ‘I think maybe you’re right. We really should start getting some more exercise. My games with Nachhu are barely once a week. We need to make it more regular.’
‘Okay.’ I jumped at the opportunity with alacrity. ‘The pool is opening this Saturday, and we should also sign up at the gym. They give a couple discount.’ I added cleverly. ‘Okay?’
‘Okay.’ said Vijay and gave the puny muscles on his arms an appraising look. With renewed determination, he added ‘Let’s do it!’
I exulted silently behind my paper, which I wasn’t really reading. I thanked the random fellow who had mistaken my husband for a driver. So many good things had resulted from that statement. God really did work in mysterious ways.
                                                                                    *****
Over the next few weeks, we actually managed to make good use of the facilities in Garden Green. We started with the Pool.
The swimming pool was open for business till about 9 p.m. every night, and children were allowed in it only till 7 p.m. We had bought Peanut a cute little flowery blue costume, and she always had a good time in the pool although she could not do anything more than splash around at the shallow end and possibly pee in it.
I told Vijay once while swimming with him that at least on weekends, we should change our swimming time to before kiddie time instead of always swimming after kiddie time since I was certain the pool was full of pee. I was explaining to him that I knew this because as a kid, I always peed in the pool when Mum took us swimming, but he just swam away from me mid-conversation saying ‘Beep Beep –Too much intimacy! Too much intimacy!’
Vijay and I began to enjoy our swim time so much that we tried to make it every evening. Even when we got home late for any reason, we still went for a dip since it was so invigorating, and even a few minutes were always worth it.
One Sunday night, it had become really late as we returned to Gurgaon from my mother’s place in Delhi. We both really wanted a swim as it was a particularly hot day, but traffic ensured that we made it back only at 8.45 p.m. We decided that Something was better than Nothing and that we would go for it even though it would be just about ten minutes of swim time.
We went up to our flat and deposited Peanut there to look after Kajal, calling to both of them that they might amuse themselves with some television until we came back, and quickly changed into our swimming costumes and bolted out the door in a race towards the swimming pool. I giggled at the thought of the two of us running around like kids in a perfectly respectable colony.
When we got to the pool, there were exactly ten minutes left to swim. We rushed to our respective changing rooms. I couldn’t get mine to open, and started banging and calling out indignantly to the ladies inside. How inconsiderate it was of them to lock it when I had only a few moments swimming pleasure to look forward to. Just as I heaved my shoulder against the door, a bemused lady opened it from inside, causing me to stumble into the changing room in a clumsy manner. ‘It was open all the time’ she informed me. Whatever.
Vijay had no trouble with the changing room and was out the door again in a flash. I watched as he majestically dove into the deep end of the pool, his long frame glinting in the moonlight. He was a much better swimmer than me, of course, and he had already traversed half the pool before he felt the need to come up for air.
Of course, the effect would possibly have been even more majestic had he remembered to actually tie the nada of his swimming costume and consequently not parted ways with it due to the impact of the water as he dove in.
I was watching him closely and figured out what had happened in a flash – I started laughing and nearly fell into the deep end myself as a result. He floundered around in embarrassment and retrieved his floating black swimming costume quickly, glad that it was dark and that there were only a few people around. No one else seemed to have noticed, and that was a good thing.
Yes, even just a few minutes in the pool were always worth it.                                                                                                                                                            
                                                                                     *****
In the very first week that we started the swimming, we made an acquaintance with the man who we came to refer to as Friendly Pool Uncle.
He was a very nice man. The problem was that he apparently came to the pool with the sole purpose of socializing and chatting, and was always asking questions. We could not avoid him because he appeared to live in the pool – he was there when we got in, and still going strong when we got out.
Vijay started to get busy at work, but I was making it a point to be regular with my swimming. Friendly Pool Uncle and his incessant chatter bothered me, but I could hardly be openly rude with him, and so was forced into daily conversations with him.
‘How are you, dear Yashodhara?’ he would say in his gentle, sing-song voice and I would reply that I was fine.
‘And dear Anoushka?’ he would enquire and I would assure him that she too was in the pink of health.
‘And dear Vijay?’ he could never forget Vijay who appeared to be a favorite, as with so many people.
I would answer that everybody was fine, and would prepare to swim off for another lap when he would continue ‘And why isn’t he here today?’
I would say that he was late at work and attempt to push off again, only to be stopped mid-push by his well meaning questioning of ‘And where is it that he works?’.
He would rattle off another series of related questions including Did Vijay Work Weekends as well, Did he at least enjoy his job, Had he considered coming in for a swim in the mornings instead of evenings and move on to only loosely related ones such as What was Vijay’s Hometown, How long had he lived away from it, When did we move to Delhi. When he started to enquire about the health of our parents, I answered cursorily and would quickly swim away, making my way to the other end of the pool as fast I could swim.
I would emerge breathless but triumphant at the other end of the pool, gasping because I had not paused for a single breath on the way. I would be quietly celebrating my newfound freedom when Friendly Pool Uncle’s voice would chime in my ear saying ‘And what about you, dear? Do you work Saturdays too?’ I would whip my head around with a start to see that despite being twice my age, he had already swum up behind me with his slow and steady strokes, which apparently conserved his energy and left him able to carry out another few hours of conversation while treading water.
You would think that Friendly Pool Uncle would eventually run out of questions but it never happened. Firstly he had an impressively large store of questions including those regarding everyone’s health, habits, education and work. Secondly, it turned out that he vaguely knew my mother; my Bua and grandfather who lived in the complex; and possibly even some relatives I never knew that I had, and so he was always enquiring after them and asking me to give them his regards. Finally, he had a failing memory and would ask me the same questions over and over, day after day, week after week such as ‘Your Bua also lives here, right?’ which he asked me four times in one week alone.
Friendly Pool Uncle was such a fixture in the pool now that it was really hot that I began to vaguely suspect that he was a in fact, a merman. Thankfully, we had another alternative to our exercise regimen, and I began to use that more regularly – the good ol’ Gym.
                                                                                    *****
The gym was a fairly nice one, with decent equipment which looked rather unused. The residents of this colony didn’t appear to be the gymming type, but still, there it was. A fellow called Aman was the trainer in the gym – he was a short, stout fellow who looked like he had never actually worked out a day in his life himself. However, he was clearly determined to earn his pay and gave me and Vijay all forms of invaluable advice about how to work out properly, which we had the good sense to ignore since he really didn’t sound like he knew what he was talking about, despite the confidence with which he delivered his rather nasal instructions. He also perceived his major responsibility as pressing the ‘On’ button of any machine that I chose to approach. If I ever made the mistake of switching the button on myself, he would take great offense and punish me by increasing the time limits that I had set for myself.
He had asked me the first time I came to the gym with Vijay about whether I had ever worked out before. I told him that I climbed eleven flights of stairs almost every day and he looked clearly disbelieving of me. He didn’t actually say ‘Lagta toh nahin hai, Motu.’ But that was the gist of his look. I decided I didn’t like him very much.
We spent about an hour in the gym, about three days in the week. At least,  I did – Vijay, as always was far less serious about this. It was typical – on the very first day, I had seen him start to admire his muscles after just ten minutes of working out- he appeared convinced that the weights that he had done were having an immediate impact and he would soon have a body like Salman Khan, only much taller. But with his typical inability to finish anything he started, he soon began to slack off.
The instructor Aman however, had already become a big fan of Vijay’s – the strange charm that Vijay had on people had worked its magic on him too. Every time I landed up, he would annoyingly ask me ‘Where’s Vijay?’, sounding exactly like all the members of my family. I didn’t feel like explaining anything about Vijay’s whereabouts to Aman, so I took to just shrugging and smiling helplessly.
Aman answered himself one day though ‘Oh, he must go to office na…must be difficult for him.’
I tartly retorted that I also worked and we both left for work at the same time each day. Aman expressed shock at this statement too. He didn’t quite say ‘Aap bhi kaam karti hai? Lagta toh nahin hai, Motu.’ But that was my takeout anyway. I decided I hated him, actually.
Vijay’s visits became more and more infrequent and more and more comical. I often caught him just admiring himself and his non-existent muscles in the mirror. When he did deign to work out for a few minutes, he followed it up with much longer bouts of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and ‘budhaapa aa gaya’s. He decided that he would pass his time by fooling around. I would be running on the treadmill, only to find him running alongside me mockingly, and then slowly overtaking me, passing me with a gleeful grin. I would be furiously pedaling on the exercycle and would look up to find him leaning on the handlebar, gazing into my face. He would ask with an interested expression ‘Kahan pahunche, bhai?’
At other times, when Aman wasn’t looking, he would position himself behind me so that only I could see him in the mirror while working out, and he would start dancing to the music playing in the gym, his long limbs flailing in a strange rhythmic manner. It was very distracting.
I decided to get back at him one day when he was on the exercycle – I went up to him and used his own silly line on him. I leaned on the handlebar and said ‘Kahan pahunche, Bhai.’ But he just smoothly replied, without batting an eyelid ‘Ajmeri Gate.’ I stood there blinking, trying to come up with a smart response, but unable to think of what to say. In the meantime, Aman came up to me and in a rather annoyed manner, asked me to get back onto the treadmill, telling me that three minutes was not enough and that I really needed to get more serious if I wanted my time here to have any effect. I sputtered at him indignantly – he never said that to Vijay. I muttered malevolently and went back to the treadmill.
Aman’s lack of appreciation of our clowning around didn’t really stop us, though. I was on the exercycle one day when Vijay came and sat on a much lower cycling machine next to me. Because Sholay happened to be Vijay’s favorite movie and therefore he had ensured that I had seen it several times over the last few years, we were of one mind. As Aman watched in bemused annoyance, Vijay and I  looked at each other, and raised our hands up in the air, and started singing 'Yehhh dosti.....hum nahiiii chhodenge...'


Okay, I reasoned to myself. So maybe all of this working out wasn’t exactly having the desired impact on Vijay’s health. However, it certainly had its moments. Laughter, they said, was the best medicine. At the very least, we were getting us some of that, and much needed respite it was in the middle of our rather busy lives.

*****

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Keeping up with the Lal-Sharmas


Pickle walks up to me, looking both pensive and guilty.

'Yes, Pickle? What happened?' I say gently.

'Mom.' He bites his lip, and then holds up his fist. With his other hand, he points towards it 'Don't do this with your hand, ok?'

'What? What do you mean?'

'This thing.' He indicates the middle of his fist. 'This part. You should not do that.'

'What are you talking about, Pickle?'

'It's rude.' He exclaims, getting frustrated.

'What is?'

He holds out his middle finger and flips me the bird. 'THIS. This is a very rude thing!'


*****

Peanut keeps asking me questions about her homework. This annoys me as it interrupts me and also reveals my ignorance about various topics.

'Why don't you go look it up?' I complain. 'You can find all these answers on the internet.'

'Ah yes.' She smiles cheekily. 'But it's easier to blame you than the internet if it's wrong.'

*****

Vijay and I have taken to watching Suits on Netflix. I tried hard to avoid watching any series because of the time-suck they end up being, but we're hooked.

We both like hotshot arrogant but good-hearted lawyer Harvey Specter although of course he is too-good-to-be-true, like most of the show. His secretary Donna, Vijay suspects, of being in love with Harvey.

'How do you know?' I demand.

'You can just tell, it's in her expressions.' He says smugly.

'Umm...Vijay, you do realize...we're watching a TV show...she's only acting.'

'Yeah but I can still tell.' He says smugly. 'She's not that good an actor.'

****

I tell Vijay, making sure Peanut is in earshot 'Our daughter is so bright. She's going to totally be a scientist. Some sort of inventor. I wonder what she'll end up creating for the world.'

Peanut pauses and looks at me.

'Ah! There you are!' I exclaim. 'What are you going to create for the world, Peanut?'

'I was thinking a blueberry flavoured Jolly Rancher Lollypop.' Shoots off the smart-mouth before skipping off.

****


It's just about midnight. The twins have fallen asleep in our room. Of course a parent's love grows when they see their children peacefully in never - never land.
I see Vijay too, gazing fondly at Papad. He leans over and whispers in our son's ear.
I am curious about this display of fondness and move in to hear what he is saying. Only when I am much closer can I make out that he is gently but firmly repeating in a soft lilting way,

"Daddy's the best...Daddy's the best.... Daddy's the best..."

*****

Because a picture says a thousand words. This is how a six year old chooses to carry your yoga mat home post Zumba class.




*****

And when your kid is finally old enough to plan her own birthday party.



And this is how she writes about her first love, reading.



Even though it's clear she's frustrated that someone left us in charge.



And her brothers come up with these gems.



And his twin brother, when asked to write what questions he will ask on his class field trip to the farm, comes up with this list.





*****

But the best part is when your family provides you with material so that your long-time publisher HarperCollins loves your latest manuscript and decides to publish it in November 2017.