New Car

July 28, 2008

It all started when we were in Delhi. Amit sat in the driver’s seat of my sister’s car, a Fiat Adventure, and was thrilled to discover that it actually fit him. (For those who don’t know, Amit is 7 feet tall.) He then drove it, and loved it. If the car had been available on the market, he would have booked it that evening and that would have been that.

However, fortunately or unfortunately, Fiat has taken that model off the market. So, Amit spent 120% of the rest of the holiday researching/planning/talking/fantasising about buying a new car. (This includes time spent sleeping and dreaming.) It’s still not quite a week since we got back (and a week during which I’ve been sick as a dog, at that), and he’s test-driven four-and-a-half models – and two of them twice!

Wait a minute. Four-and-a-half? How does anyone test-drive four-and-a-half cars?

Well, it’s a longish story.

We started with the Maruti SX4. He loved it, I thought it was ok. Powerful, of course, compared to our current car, Wagon-R, but a rather hard ride (not nice in a car). But at least he fitted into it, and comfortably.

Next, he tried the Toyota Innova, which wasn’t so comfortable and we both didn’t like the thought of a car that was quite so big, even if it was available with a diesel option. (I didn’t test that car, I was too sick that day.)

Amit had called for test-drives of the Chevrolet Optra, the Optra SRV, and the Skoda Fabia, but none of these cars showed up. Chevy, in fact, was shockingly disinterested in making a sale.

Meanwhile we breezed past the Ford stable, nodding at the Fusion and glanced at Toyota’s Corolla, then found our eyes gliding past and resting longingly on the Camry, controlled ourselves and cruised on.

The next car we tried out was the Honda City, which was a much smoother ride than the SX4, but had a clearance so low you were virtually guaranteed to scrape your bottom (sorry, I mean your undercarriage) on a large percentage of the bumps that came your way, which, in Bangalore, are many. Still, it was a good ride and we were having a tough time deciding between the City and the SX4, when Amit threw a large-sized spanner in the works.

Honda Civic

It was quite a bit outside our budget, but then, we’d already had one heady and exhilarating fling with a car outside our budget: Maruti’s Grand Vitara, which was waaaaaay outside our budget but which, we’d convinced, we could somehow afford. We’d gone to the Maruti showroom to look at the various colours of the SX4, when, naturally, seeing how big it is, it caught our eye. Amit promptly sat himself behind the wheel and would not be budged until they promised to get him a vehicle for test-drive. That – the half of the four-and-a-half test-drives – never happened. But it was a great romance as long as it lasted and it was only the dismal mileage it promised that prevented us from pursuing it further.

The Honda Civic was a different story, though. Its fuel efficiency was only a tad worse than the City and quite comparable with the SX4. (As an aside, the City is a better name than the Civic, though both are quite unimaginative. Neither is as bad as SX4, though.)

It didn’t take very long for Amit to put in the request for a test-drive of the Civic, and Honda promptly drove one halfway across town for us. I got into the driver’s seat and – oh boy! Before I had driven it a km, I just knew this was the car we would be buying. Amit had already returned from his test drive with ill-concealed excitement all over his face, so I knew we were on to a good thing. That, plus the fact that his test-drive lasted an hour!

Not that that tells you much. I was so excited by the car that I decided I didn’t even need to test-drive it much – a 2 km loop and I almost headed home to do the high-fives. I’d have time enough to drive when we got our own, I thought, and the sooner the better. Then I thought, “Oh, heck, no. When we get our own it’ll be Amit doing all the driving. I bet he’ll go to office even on weekends just so he can drive the car. So I better get a good long drive in now,” and I kept going.

The car is just a beauty. It looks absolutely sexy has a deadly dashboard, and the engine is a beast. Its ground clearance, the one factor against its sibling City, is 170 mm, the same as our Wagon-R, which never worried us. Its pick-up and power steering are fantastic, climate control is chic, music system is cool, but the best thing about it, no doubt, is the complete smoothness of the drive. As good as sex? Yes. Well, no, actually, as good as ice cream. (Sex versus ice cream? Come on – that’s a no-brainer.)

Ok, if you guys out there have driven something better, like say a Porsche or a Beamer or something, then you’re sure to be wondering what I’m going on about, but, sorry guys, this is the best I’ve ever driven, and don’t forget, I’m comparing with a humble Wagon-R. So bear with me while I gloat over it a minute.

I came home grinning, to find Amit waiting for me, grinning. We were in love. Now, we only had to work out how to bring this baby home.

Oh and – there’s one little problem. Amit’s long, long legs didn’t quite seem to fit under the steering wheel. What are we going to do about that?


Gastro

July 27, 2008

Being down with gastroenteritis is not fun. Of course, you already knew this. I’m only telling you this because I just experienced this first hand. The kids had not even recovered from their stomach bug when I went down with a dramatic episode of vomiting and diarrhoea on Monday night. And when I say I went down with it, I mean I really, really went down with it.

By the time I finally went to the doctor on Thursday morning, I hadn’t eaten for three days. How I was still functioning, I don’t know, but I could only stay upright if I didn’t eat. Even a few bites of generally wholesome food was guaranteed to put me on the throne for the next several hours.

Night times were interrupted by mission-critical rushes to the bathroom and suddenly I could appreciate more clearly than ever before the full advantage of keeping the twins bare-bottomed instead of wasting vital seconds pulling down pants.

And the fever came and went and came again.

Amit took almost the entire week off, but compensated for that by working overtime on his automobile research and purchase program.

And there were oh-so-many cars to test-drive – more than I had energy for. 😦

And I still had my income tax return to complete and file!

While the twins tried their best to bite, hit, pull and push each other out of existence.

All I can say is, thank god and Alexander Fleming for antibiotics. Where would we be without them?


Almost Talking

July 25, 2008

With their collection of two- and three-word phrases now adding up to about ten, the twins, at a month shy of two, are just about starting to talk. Here’s what they are saying:

pick it up – the first and still the favourite phrase, they love to throw stuff down just so they can say this, sometimes to us, sometimes to each other and, when all else fails, to themselves. They even say this before actually throwing stuff, by way of announcing their intentions.

how are you – fast replacing the above as Tara’s favourite. She sometimes answers herself with “Thank-u thank-u”

lie down – usually to indicate that they want you to sit back, but sometimes also to indicate that they want to lie down

get down – usually indicates that they want to get down when you are holding them

bed time – at bed time, most obligingly

pani time – also khana time and bukku time, to indicate that it’s time for water, food, or their story book

baby crying – used even for those who aren’t

bless you – usually to themselves, when they sneeze

this side – as in “pass some of that food over here please, and stop feeding the other girl”

Mrini also has taken words out of a few eternal nursery lines: little lamb, husha-busha, and johnny, johnny yapapa, which often becomes johnny yapapa and sometimes even johnny yapapapapapapa

The latest addition to this list shows how adept they are at picking up words from our conversation: new car

New car???

That’s the subject of wholly another post.


Back… but not from Leh

July 21, 2008

So that answers your questions – no, we didn’t make it to Leh.

And, next time I set out to do something against my better judgement, please somebody, do me a favour and shoot me.

I’m not a great fan of sleepless nights, and two on the trot, dragging two frisky girls around (who, by the way, don’t seem to mind being sleep-deprived) is not my idea of a vacation. So when the second long and tiring sleepless night and the interminable wait at the airport for the flight to Leh ended in a cancellation, I was ready to call it quits. Unfortunately, Amit’s dad was quite keen to try the next day and even the day after that, and the very thought of two more sleepless nights and possibly cancelled flights had me wailing in despair. Luckily, late on Saturday afternoon, I was put out of my misery: all flights to Leh on Sunday and Monday were booked out, and no additional flight was planned to compensate for the ones cancelled on Saturday, so that meant no more early morning stake-outs at the airport.

The bad news was that it meant we no longer had a holiday plan. We should have spent a comfortable week lounging around at parental homes in Delhi and Chandigarh. What we got instead was: Saturday and Sunday nights in Delhi; Monday and Tuesday nights in Chandigarh; Wednesday and Thursday nights in Kasauli; Friday night in Chandigarh; Saturday night in Delhi; and on Sunday half a night in Delhi, the rest of it spent getting to the airport in time for a 4.15 a.m. flight back home.

Apart from the long stint at the airport for the cancelled Leh trip, the kids endured two long flights, two long train journeys, and two not-so-long car drives, apart from the usual commutes to and from airports, train stations, and other people’s houses. Does that sound like a hectic trip? Believe me, it was!

The twins held up through most of it. Despite so many changes of places and faces, they were almost exclusively smiling, cheerful and relatively social. Until Friday. On the drive down from Kasauli to Chandigarh, they both threw up. Several times. (Each.) We put it down to motion sickness – it was a hilly road at that point; but that evening and night the vomiting recurred and by Saturday morning they were seriously down and out. How we all got through Saturday and Sunday, doesn’t bear thinking about. Amit and I were completely worn out from lack of sleep, worry, and general parenting duties. The girls soon developed moderately high fever and liquid stool to go along. When one was looking slightly chirpy, the other was looking completely washed out; when one was eating, the other was sleeping; when one had fever, the other had just puked, and so on.

Add to that a gala lunchtime party thrown by Amit’s dad to introduce all his friends and family to his granddaughters… Luckily, the girls slept through the worst of it.

Today’s been a tough day as well, though. Catching a red-eye flight is nothing to get excited about, but in these circumstances it’s worse than usual. And, with kids, once you get back home (not that that’s an easy job with the new airport being 45 km away, as opposed to the old one which was a mere 8 km away), you’ve got to be on the ball right away cleaning up the house, shopping for groceries, getting meals ready, unpacking, doing laundry… In the good ol’ days, we’d have just ordered Dominos pizzas and watched TV.


Meanwhile…

July 15, 2008

So travelling is not a strategy well designed to further toilet training even for twins. Or so I would have thought. Apparently, the twins aren’t too concerned. Only a week ago, I was losing hair and appetite in equal proportions, mopping up behind them. They were still refusing to squat, and were wetting themselves and the bathroom floor in a quite disgusting fashion. It was – hard though it is to believe – only last Wednesday or so, that I decided to go out and buy them a toilet seat, since they showed no interest in the potty and no ability to bend at the knees. I was sure that Mrini would not relish the idea of being perched way up there with her feet dangling off the ground, but again – she surprised me. In a couple of days, they had completely taken to the toilet seat, and were demanding to be placed on it even when there was no pressing need. Plus, they impressed me by even waiting for each other to finish and be taken down before getting on it and letting go. I can’t say there weren’t any accidents, but I’d have to say they were few, and the overall mess was waaaaaaaay less.

Then we went to Delhi and subjected the twins to completely screwed up routines, new places, new faces, new clothes, new food, and rather terrible climate. But – we took the toilet seat along (!!! – ewwwww – what has life come to???), and somehow that must have been quite comforting to them, because they decided that it was their favourite place and spent a lot of time on it.

So, now I can say that they are largely home-toilet-trained. This still doesn’t extend to outings, not even to modest outings to malls or the park… but at home, they are relatively safe, clean and dry. Hallelujah!


To Hell With Common Sense

July 15, 2008

Amit must be a world champion at emotional blackmail. Against my better judgement, he persuaded me on Thursday afternoon to accompany him to Delhi on Thursday night (well, technically Friday early morning) and then on to Leh the following day. With the twins, of course. Insane? Absolutely. That’s why I had resolutely stuck to my guns and refused to consider carting the kids off to an altitude of almost 11000 feet, where acclimatisation takes 48 hours, there’s no natural greenery so oxygen is in short supply, flights out are always sold out and descent by road takes two days and involves crossing altitudes upto 17000 feet.

So I had unilaterally decided that taking two under-twos to Leh was a bad idea and nothing Amit said could convince me otherwise… Until Thursday, when he gave me several of those looks and piled on the pleading and persuasion and I suddenly agreed.

There followed an evening of frenetic activity as we made additional flight and hotel bookings, and packed 50 kg (!) of clothing and camera stuff into 4 rugged backpacks. It was almost 12.30 before we were done, and with the new airport being so far away, we planned to leave at 3.00 for a flight at 5.30, so of course we didn’t get any sleep. What’s worse, when we carted the kids to the taxi at 3.00 a.m., they woke up and didn’t sleep again until after lunch!

The fun really started the next morning (if you can consider the dead of night to be morning) when we again awoke at 2.30 to catch our flight to Leh. It was pouring cats and dogs as we loaded everything and everybody into a rattletrap Ambassador taxi and set off for the airport. I sat with the kids while Amit and his dad handled the check-in. Then, from 4 a.m straight through till 10.30, we made the airport lounge our home as we waited for the flight to take off. It was clear from about 7, or for the hopelessly optimistic about 8, that our flight would be cancelled because no flights can land or take-off at Leh late morning onwards. But, we had to wait for the airline to take the final decision to cancel the flight and they decided to keep us waiting a few extra hours.

Meanwhile, the kids kept us on our toes. The ran from end to end of the huge lounge, watched the aeroplanes through locked doors and grimy windows, flirted with other passengers, ate cake and sandwich for breakfast, submitted to having their diapers changed in the ladies’ bathroom, sprawled on the dusty floor and made swimming actions with their arms and legs, held hands and played Ringa-ringa Roses, and generally enjoyed themselves thoroughly and provided free entertainment to all.

It was 11.30 before we got home and by then Tara was fast asleep and the rest of us were inclined to follow suit in short order. It was a really tiring and hardly a very successful start to a grand holiday. But you can never keep an avid traveller family down for long.


Toilet-Training the Twins: Two Steps Forward…

July 5, 2008

Wow. Things are certainly hotting up around here with the girls going all out to out-do each other and win the toilet-training contest. Their every success is rewarded with a few sips of Tropicana Premium unsweetened orange juice, which they love (good business for Tropicana, bet they never thought of this sales opportunity). It must be served to them at the dining table… in a glass glass, if you please. And they would rather not share the glass on the occasions when they both earn their rewards at the same time.

The good news is that Mrini has clearly realized that the bathroom is where you go to pee, and that peeing in the bathroom leads to an orange juice reward. What she still doesn’t get is the squatting bit, or the concept of the potty. So, every time she wants orange juice (which is many times), I get to do a lot of cleaning up. But. It’s progress – just yesterday, she was happy to mess anywhere in the house, now she actually says “potty” and makes a beeline for the bathroom!

Tara is equally keen on the orange juice reward, but, unlike Mrini, she can’t always produce on demand, so she’s had fewer successes. She’s very keen to learn, though – which is a good thing. It seems to be easier to train a child who wants to learn even if she doesn’t yet have the ability, than to work with one that has the ability but doesn’t yet want to use it.

Still, successes in the shower stall notwithstanding, two girls running around bare-bottomed is pretty much a full time occupation for me. There’s not a single task I can complete undisturbed during this time – at all times I have to be ready to drop whatever I’m doing – and I do mean WHATEVER – and rush one of the girls (or, worse, both) to the bathroom. The disruption to life as I knew it is immense – something I’m still trying to cope with. I suppose it’s a good deal of exercise, running around and mopping up behind them, not to mention doing quite a bit to dampen my appetite – it should be helping in Mission Weight Control. All the same, around early evening, when I’ve had enough for the day, I take the easy way out and put the diapers back on. There’s only so much I can do, after all, without completely losing my sanity. And tomorrow, as they say, is another day.


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