Culture Unplugged Video

April 29, 2009


Chicken Pox!

April 25, 2009

Shaba-Aunty’s daughter, H, is down with chicken pox. She’s maybe 7 or 8 years old. She became symptomatic last Saturday, with high fever, vomiting, and of course, the pox itself. So naturally, this whole week, Shaba-Aunty has not been coming.

Shaba-Aunty became more than my “cleaning girl” in February, when I started working from home, and she started managing the kids in the mornings, while I worked. She dropped them to playschool, picked them up, gave them lunch, and put them to bed, apart from the usual domestic chores like washing dishes, putting out or picking up the clothes, sweeping, swabbing, dusting the house and so on. I’ve written about Shaba-Aunty’s immense value in my life in an earlier post. After two plus months of life with the enhanced Shaba-Aunty services, I’ve been sent back to the dark ages in the past one week and life has been pretty bleak indeed.

Right after breakfast, I’m deluged with house work. I don’t even attempt to do as thorough a job of cleaning the house as Shaba-Aunty does, but at least I have to make a modicum of effort to sweep most areas of the house. Then there’s always a mountain of dishes to wash, and all the rest of the housework. Meanwhile, there are the two pesky devils, demanding to be entertained and threatening to turn the house upside down unless I cooperate pronto.

Way back in the dark ages when Shaba-Aunty just did the house cleaning and buzzed off in less than an hour, I was used to handling the kids solo all day long. Besides, I wasn’t working then. Now, I’m ostensibly working – at least, I have been getting paid, so I should be working – but with two pesky devils and no Shaba-Aunty, I might as well attempt to climb Mount Everest without oxygen, so futile is any attempt to work while the kids are awake. Luckily, work has been going easy on me, so I manage to squeeze every inch out of the two hours when the kids sleep in the afternoon and make do with that… but it isn’t easy.

The simplest way to keep the kids occupied in these long, lonely days of no school and no Shaba-Aunty, has been to get them out of the house. I’ve taken them swimming three days this week, and it has them happily engaged and physically stretched, so that they eat well and go straight to sleep afterwards. Oh, and their swimming skills are improving too.

But all in all, it’s true what they say: once you get used to having household help, you can’t manage without them. I’m just waiting for poor H to get better so that Shaba-Aunty can relieve me from the drudgery of housework around the clock.

I asked her about vaccinations against chicken pox, she said that when H was small, the doctor told her that this one vaccination alone would set her back by Rs2,000, so they just didn’t do it. I wonder whether she regrets that decision now. At least her own health is not at risk, as she says she already went through her bout of chicken pox when she was young. Hopefully the girls won’t get it now… that would be a disaster.


Sad Goodbyes

April 23, 2009

It’s one of the many things – not all good – that start at an age when we’re too young to know what the word means, and keep on cropping up at inopportune moments till the ends of our lives: sad goodbyes.

When their biological mother left the twins in the hospital, when they were barely a day old, it must have been a tough, even a heart-rending goodbye. I don’t think – whatever the circumstances might have been – that it could have been an easy decision for any mother. But the twins were too young to know.

When we arrived in their lives, and uprooted them from the only home they had ever known and tore them out of the only arms that had ever cared for them, it was yet another momentous goodbye. Maybe they knew, maybe they understood goodbye by then. But several months later, when we took them back there, they showed no signs of recognizing either the place or the people. It was already a forgotten goodbye.

More recently, when their playschool closed for summer holidays, it was just the end of another day of school, for them. Again, though we told them, they didn’t really understand that it was a goodbye; that they would never meet all those kids, those teachers, in that happy environment, ever again. Even now, if asked, they will rattle off the names of some of their “school friends” and till a few days ago, they still asked rather plaintively for school. I know that there are bigger and better things in store for them, come June, but they don’t know that what they thought was an integral part of their lives just came to an end one fine day. Nobody asked them about it, nor about any of the previous goodbyes.

And so it goes. You leave a city, or a country; you leave a preschool, a school, or a college; you leave a workplace; or you stay, but other people leave. Or you stay and they stay but your paths just don’t cross that often any more. So many goodbyes come and go, some sudden, some so gradual you don’t even realise until much later. Saddest are those that you never asked for nor wanted; that you couldn’t avoid; that you’d give anything to reverse; but they come and go just the same.

You don’t know what exactly I’m talking about? Neither do I. I’m just saying… goodbye is a sad lesson that we start to learn too early in life, and keep learning, right until the last goodbye.


Twinnings 3

April 21, 2009

The twins have turned into absolute rascals. They cannot be left unattended for even a few seconds. Our house is as childproof as can be, but, unless you live on a ship, some things just can’t be nailed down or set in concrete. For example, the dining table. It’s not made to be pushed around, right? Well, the kids got sick of being reprimanded for pushing the chairs around, so they decided to push the table around, instead! They also love to rip the bedsheet off the mattress (absolutely infuriating for me, having to tuck it all back in neatly); throw the top trunk off the bottom one in their bedroom (dangerous if they get caught under it); incessantly slam shut doors and drawers that they can both open and close; turn on the tap in the bathroom basin and turn off the tap that fills the toilet flush tank; take out all the clothes from the laundry basket, drag them all over the house, and put on as many of them as they can; throw clean and dry clothes into a bucket full of dirty, wet clothes; and generally drive me mad in short order.

They now know how to get into and out of their high chairs without any assistance whatsoever. They can’t yet undo the clasps that buckle them in place, so they simply stand up in the chair and the belt falls off their feet and then they scramble off with utter delight.

There’s no longer a single horizontal surface in the house that is safe from their grasping hands. I’m not exaggerating. It’s not as though they’ve attained my height – short enough as that is – it’s more to do with the fact that I don’t usually stand on the chairs to put things away, but they, merrily and without a second thought, will pull up a chair, or cushion, or whatever else is required to reach things they want to reach. The kitchen counter is an area that sees constant skirmishes. They have to grab every single thing they see there, most of which I don’t want them to grab – sharp knives, electric starter for the gas stove, glass glasses, mugs of hot coffee, and plastic boxes full of hot and/or fluid food that can be easily opened and spilt.

Before we bought this new fridge, which is about 6 feet tall, I used to use the fridge top of our old, small fridge, as a convenient dumping ground safe from the kids’ reach. Now, I can dump things on top of the new, tall fridge; it’s just that, having done so, I literally lose sight of the object and can never find it again. The top of the washing machine has long since been swept clean, as has the top of the chest of drawers, which was formerly sacrosanct. The only spaces which are safe are those which are physically locked – the study, and both verandahs. These, therefore, specially the study, now resemble municipal dumping grounds – every single object which is required but to be kept out of reach of kids winds up in the study, except the particularly offensive ones such as old, spare tyres, half used cans of paint, and half sacks of cement. (You really don’t want to know!)

The other day, I turned my back on the kids for two seconds – yes, two whole seconds – and they made a beeline for their latest obsession – the wires dangling in the living room. We have wires dangling all over the house, most of them up near the ceiling where Amit can’t get entangled in them. (It’s ugly, but it’s nothing compared to the paint flaking off the walls.) The wires in the living room connect the speakers to the music system. They’re draped way high up on the wall, well out of my reach. The kids grab one wire simply by climbing up on to the sofa. Not on to the seat of the sofa, mind you, on to the back of the sofa. Then they stand up there. That brings the wire within arm’s reach. They almost brought a large framed painting down in the process.

Meanwhile, their verbal skills are improving in leaps and bounds. They now know they name of their new school, though they sometimes get it mixed up with quite different matters. Mrini went to the bathroom and said, “Mama, new school, sussu kiya,” (=I peed). I guess their new school name sounds a bit similar. Another salient bathroom observation, after she does the big job: “Mama, aloo (potato).” Well, it does look a bit like one, I suppose, but must she point it out to me?

The other day we came back from a long, hot morning outing. It was time for their afternoon nap, but they were both thirsty. I gave them water somewhat warily, since I didn’t want their new school (or sussu kiya) happening on the bed during their nap. But Tara wanted more and more water. When she’d had about 200 ml, I told her to stop. Then she pulled out her trump card: “Mama, little bit”. So I filled a little bit of water in her bottle and handed it to her. Immediately she gave me an outraged look and said in an accusatory tone: “That’s all?”

Yesterday afternoon, around 5, I went in to wake the girls up. I don’t usually do this, but they usually get up around 3. Yesterday, they had gone to sleep late, and I didn’t want them sleeping too late and then not being sleepy at night, so I went to wake them up. I knelt on the bed to give Mrini a wake-up kiss. In a sleepy, grumpy, disgusted (and very adult) tone, she said to me: “Mama, go away.”

Tara loves to converse. Every so often, she’ll pull up her chair (whatever that happens to be at the moment), sit down next to me and say, “Mama, let’s talk.” If I agree (which I usually do), she’ll set the ball rolling: “Mama, how are you?” Then she follows it up by asking my name, “baba’s” name, “this girl’s” name (Mrini, that is) her own name, the table’s name, the sofa’s name, my jeans’ name… on and on, till she runs out of objects and starts over.

Yesterday evening, a new word was added to the family vocabulary when Mrini came to me and said, “Mama, all fetty-fetty.” I thought she was merely being rude (or factual; in this case it amounts to the same thing) and calling me fat, but I was puzzled, because “fatty” is not a word we have used with them. Then she rubbed her head and said, “fetty-fetty” again. Oh, right. Sweaty-sweaty.

Their pronunciation is often interesting. The other day, we fed them some rusk at dinner time. They can’t say rusk, of course, so they called it “rocks”. Today, they wanted rocks for breakfast, so I gave them some. Later on, somebody asked them what they had for breakfast! My heart sank – if they said “rocks”, I’d probably be imprisoned for child abuse or neglect or something. At the very least, I’d be impaled by a dreadfully dirty look. Thankfully, they simply replied “milk”.

Despite our best efforts, a couple of vulgarities have entered their vocabularies as well. They know that we look at the clock and comment on the time, so they look at the clock and go, “Ten o’clock.” Except, they can’t say the “l” in clock.

Then, once in a way, their frock gets entangled with their underwear. Tara coined a word to describe this: “frock-in”. Again, they haven’t mastered “r” yet, so… Next time that particular four letter word escapes me, I’ll have to hastily pretend it was their frock I was referring to.


Felling 1800 Trees in Lalbagh is Criminal and Insane!

April 19, 2009

Building a metro is a good thing, I suppose. Maybe it will actually make it easier to get around in the city and reduce traffic congestion and pollution. But there must be some other way of doing it. This is just heartbreaking. Is there no voice in this whole city powerful enough to prevent this?

I have written before, long, long ago, of my own personal Garden of Eden. It was the idyllic garden of my childhood, where every conceivable kind of fruit tree stood, and none was forbidden. I must have spent at most six years of my childhood in that house, with that garden, but it defined the way I relate to trees – and by extension to nature – for good. I remember once, running a fever of 103, bundled up in my warmest sweater on a mild day, clamouring to be let out; and when I was finally let out, I headed straight for the shady depths of the litchi tree. I remember sitting under the angular, white-barked guava trees, slicing green guavas with a blunt knife and rubbing them with black salt and gobbling them up fresh, without even the benefit of a quick wash first. It was the Garden of Eden – why wash the fruit?

Trees are friendly people. Before I knew anything about photosynthesis and carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the atmosphere, I knew that trees were good to have around. They provided a cosy, leafy, shady haven in any kind of weather; and at the right time, they provided various types of delicious, sweet, juicy, cool fruit. They were wise and cool and steady as grandparents, warm and inviting and loyal as best friends. They never disagreed with you or scolded you or laughed at you. They were, in fact, almost as valuable as the imaginary friends I shared them with.

But now I’m all grown up; and though it still feels like murder, I force myself to accept that at times it is necessary to cut down trees, in the interests of our selfish, modern, urban lives. In the usual greedy way of the human race, we need more space for our roads, our houses, our offices, our hotels. But Lalbagh is THE botanical garden of Bangalore. Is there really no other way to create our precious metro by going around it. Do we really have to take one thousand eight hundred trees down for this? With all our science, technology, creativity, and every other kind of skill available to us today, can we find no way around this small, tiny island of greenery, nature, beauty? Really?


That’s Cricket

April 17, 2009

The girls have, in their vast hoard of playthings, a pair of hockey sticks, a couple of tennis rackets, a shuttlecock, a couple of old tennis balls, a small golf ball, a green plastic ball and a yellow smiley ball. They don’t, strangely enough, possess a single cricket bat, but it doesn’t seem to matter, because they play reverse sweeps quite effectively with the hockey sticks.

Most of this motley collection of ‘bats’ and balls is reserved for using in the park only, as the confined space indoors guarantees severe damage to person and property, should they be allowed to swing these various sticks and rackets around freely.

So, for indoors cricket, they have made their own arrangements. Usually, it’s just the two of them, byt today they roped me in as well. I, armed with a tweety-bird-yellow plastic pencil box, and seated at the dining table, was the batsman; Mrini, armed with a tennis ball was the bowler. She demonstrated Newton’s third law of motion (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) beautifully; every time she let go of the ball, it went flying off wildly in some unpredictable direction, while she tumbled over equally wildly in some other, equally unpredictable direction.

Sometimes, the ball arrived somewhere in the vicinity of the pencil box (I mean, the bat), and I lunged at it, also rather wildly. Even armed with a pencil box, it is not easy to hit a missile hurled with a good deal of determination and no clear direction from about two feet away.

On the rare occasion when the bat made contact with the unguided missile, the result was that the said missile went careening off in a new and still highly unpredictable manner. Once it missed the moving blades of the fan by a couple of inches. Had it made contact, it would have been interesting.

Tara had the unenviable task of fielding. According to me, it is the worst job in the world, but some dogs like it too, so I suppose there’s no accounting for tastes. Egged on by Mrini, she went chasing off after every ball, tracked it down (usually by crawling under some furniture), retrieved it, and very sweetly handed it over to Mrini.

After the game had progressed in this organised and disciplined manner for one entire over, Tara, the fielder, took the ball and ran off. Mrini squealed and ran after her. She got the ball back after a bit of a struggle, but she had learned her first major neighbourhood-cricket lesson: if you want to be the bowler, you’d better be ready to do the fielding too.


An Inconvenient Truth

April 16, 2009

Four or five years behind the times, Amit and I finally sat down to watch this movie. It’s been lying in the movie collection for ages, gathering dust, while we passed it over time and again, or just turned on TV and watched rubbish before turning in for the night. We thought it would be kind of grim and depressing, and it was. Grim, actually, more than depressing. But it’s a movie that every single person needs to see, at least once.

The movie speaks largely to an American audience, but its message is relevant all over the world. In India, our per capita carbon footprint is mercifully small – tiny, in fact, compared with the per capita carbon footprint in the US. But there’s no reason for people like us – the affluent 5% of Indian society – to feel smug about that. It’s not an active choice made by millions of Indians, but the exigencies of life in a “developing” (poor) country that does that. If we could, we’d have a carbon footprint just as big as any in the world, but, unfortunately or otherwise, most of us here just can’t afford it. And so those who can, people like us – with our two cars, three or four computers, microwaves, TVs, fridges, frozen food, bottled water and whatnot – indulge in all the luxuries the world has to offer, without worrying too much about the size or impact of our carbon footprint.

But what can we do, or what are we doing to save the planet?

Practically nothing. Amit very zealously turns off every light he can, but of course they are those CFL (or whatever) bulbs, so it doesn’t save much. We’ve been talking since forever about installing solar power at home, even though it is exorbitantly expensive compared to line power… but we haven’t actually done it yet. And talking doesn’t save any fossil fuel, does it? Ok, so we don’t have any “climate control” (air-conditioning or heating) at home, just fans. But that’s only thanks to Bangalore’s (mostly) marvelous weather. If we were in Delhi, we’d have an air-conditioner in every room, just like everyone else we know who lives there. And probably electric blankets in the winter too.

Somehow this drop-by-drop approach makes no sense to me. We are simply not going to save the planet drop by drop. We need way more than that, and it’s not something that you and I can do at our individual level. I don’t mean this as an excuse for not making an effort – I do want to make every little effort that I can at an individual level, and I think you should too – but I just think it is futile. And, where do you draw the line? Do you give away your fridge, throw away your TV, sell your car and settle yourself down to a rural lifestyle where you only get as far as your feet, your cycle, or the public bus can take you, and news is what the guy next door found out from the guy down the road? How realistic is that?

Global warming is real and depressing and it’s a problem we can no longer wish away. But is there really anything worthwhile that just one person can do? (If you’re not Al Gore, I mean.)


This Is Why I Hate Bureaucracy

April 14, 2009

We have owned the apartment we live in for about seven years. We have never paid property tax on it. I’m not quite sure why this is so: Amit just thought we didn’t need to and I never thought about it at all. And actually, why should you have to pay tax just because you own property?

Anyway, a couple of months ago, Amit suddenly woke up to the fact that we DO have to pay property tax. Since then, it’s been hanging over us like a Damocles sword, threatening to slay us every Saturday when we try to work up the enthusiasm to tackle the task. Once the 31st March deadline had come and gone, we could breathe easy. The next deadline was 30th April, which gave us another whole month to procrastinate over it. Meanwhile, in the course of some diplomatic negotiations of the kind that frequently occur between man and wife, the responsibility for this onerous task mysteriously got dumped on yours truly.

Since I’m not the kind of person to let grass grow under my feet, and since it has already been growing for six years, unbeknownst to me, I charged off to pay the tax at the first opportunity. I had no idea what this involved – and Amit failed spectacularly to brief me – so I went armed with ignorance, the sale deed, a largely blank form (the scariest looking form I have EVER seen, full of entirely incomprehensible jargon and asking me things I had absolutely NO clue about), my cheque book, and a truckload of determination.

I reached Mayo Hall a little before 10.30 and spent some time getting pushed from pillar to post. One chap (in an office right next to the public toilet, and looking like part of the said public toilet) spoke to me in English, ogled my cellphone, chastised me for not reading Kannada, gave me a cellphone number to call, and told me to go to the Koramangala BDA Complex. I called the cellphone number, and the fellow told me to go to Mayo Hall and then cut the call before I could tell him that I WAS at Mayo Hall. I got pushed around a bit more, coincidentally bumping into my cook, who was trying to obtain her Election ID card. Several people told me to come back after 20th/24th/28th of April because they were busy with “Election duty” – when all they seemed to be busy with was chatting and drinking tea. So why, I demanded belligerently, are you people putting large ads in the newspapers urging us people to pay our property tax NOW, if you actually want us to do so only after the blessed elections?

That, of course, was a waste of breath.

One chap took pity on me, so I put on the poor-little-lost-girl act for his benefit. He took me under his wing, marched me into the Manager’s room (only to find that the Manager was still enjoying the long weekend break), calculated the tax for me and scribbled it in my still-largely-blank form, watched me write out the cheque and scribbled the cheque details in the form, then marched me to the counter where I could make the payment for the arrears. He spoke to the person behind the counter in Kannada, assured me my work would get done, just as soon as electricity came back, left me there and disappeared. I had thought that he was some kind of tout who would ask an exorbitant fee/tip for his help, but apparently he was happy to do it for free. It’s hard to believe.

I hung around for 45 minutes. Electricity, in fact, came back in about five minutes, but there was some problem with the UPS, so just that particular computer that was needed specifically for my work was not coming up. I stood glued to the spot for 45 minutes (I could actually feel the roots growing under my feet), and at last somebody fixed something and the computer came on. The fellow stretched out his hand to take my papers. I handed him my scribbled-on form. He returned it and asked for the receipt. I explained that I had never yet actually paid tax, so I didn’t have a receipt, so could he kindly accept my cheque for arrears and issue me a receipt? Pretty please?

No. I had to have a receipt and if I didn’t have a receipt I should have an order and to get the order I should go back to the other office and get one and without out he couldn’t take my money. No. No way. No.

I don’t know too many people who take kindly to being jerked around, but I know that I’m not one of them. I don’t like being jerked around and I don’t like wasting 45 minutes only to be told that they can’t do something that they could just as easily have told me 45 minutes earlier they couldn’t do. My truckload of determination rapidly turned into a truckload of frustration which I was just itching to dump on the fellow’s head… but I somehow gritted my teeth and walked out and went back to the other office.

By this time it was close to 12 noon, and the Manager had finally showed up. I went and put my case to him. Guess what he said: We’re busy with election duty, come back on 28th April. Several of his staff smirked behind me, saying, clearly enough, “I told you so.”

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!

The Manager went on to add that if I hadn’t been in any hurry to pay my taxes in the last six years, surely I could wait another couple of weeks. I told him that since I only came in to do my duty once in six years, it might be another six years before I came again. But that’s no skin off his nose so he sent me away with a shrug and returned to his “election duty”.

And home I came, having achieved nothing other than a significant spike in my blood pressure. Sigh.


If parenting is a full-time job, does it come with paid vacations?

April 12, 2009

The answer, I guess, is: it depends.

One way of looking at it is that full-time parenting (I mean, stay-at-home parenting) is a paid vacation. But I don’t know. Stay-at-home parenting is a break from work, it’s true; it’s just that, depending on the kind of household help you have, it’s a vacation that involves a heck of a lot of work, and not the kind of work that you are used to, either. And it’s not all fun.

Then, of course, you can always go on vacation with the kids. This is especially easy before the kids start going to school, and Amit and I have actually made a good attempt at this, with trips to Binsar, Lakshadweep, and an abortive trip to Leh to our credit. The moot point about traveling with small kids, though, is whether, from a parent’s perspective (and especially from the perspective of a stay-at-home mom), this can be considered a holiday at all. There’s actually more work to be done when you’re away from your regular set-up, and many variables that are worryingly difficult or impossible to control: travel times, meal times, nap times, quality and quantity of food and drink available, toilet availability and cleanliness and usability…

There is another option: leave the kids with someone, the most likely candidates being their grandparents on one side or the other, while both parents go on holiday together. Without passing a value judgment of any kind, I have to say that this option is not for me.

And there’s at least one other option that I can think of: holidaying alone. Or, to put it more precisely, each parent taking a holiday separately, while the other stays home with the kids.

In Binsar, while I was still recovering from the trauma of the drive up (which had both kids retching and puking for three straight hours), I decided that this was the only alternative left to us. Staying at home with the kids all day, while it has its joys, is not – in my dictionary – the definition of a holiday. Neither is holidaying with two two-year-olds.

It’s not that I’ve never traveled alone before; I have, on more than one occasion, and both for business and – on separate occasions – for pleasure. I have to admit that at first I had my doubts as the to “pleasure” aspect of traveling alone, but now no longer. While it’s great to travel with a companion, it’s also nice in a quite different way to travel alone.

But, in the past whenever I traveled alone, I left only Amit behind; next time, I’ll be leaving Amit and the kids.

The longest I’ve ever been away from the kids till date is when I took a day-long trip to Pondicherry and back (for some adoption-related paperwork). That time, Mrini was terribly upset with me and refused to come near me for hours after I returned. That really hurt – the more so because I was totally unprepared for such a reaction. But they are a good bit more grown up now, and if I tell them I’m going away and that I’ll be back in a few days, they will understand it, won’t they?

When Amit travels on work, the kids don’t fuss much about it. They do ask after him sometimes, but they don’t seem upset or anxious in any way. But then, they are used to him going away from home every morning and returning in the evening. With stay-at-home moms, it’s different.

In the past couple of months or so, they have grown accustomed to my going away from home from time to time, usually leaving them in the care of Shaba-aunty. They’ve never seemed put out by it, nor upset when I return. So does it mean that they’ll be ok if I disappear for a few days at a stretch?

The other day, something went ‘click’ in me, and I decided it was time to put the kids to the test. I would take a short three-day break, get away on my own, lounge by the sea, read a book or three, eat, drink, sleep, and not worry about a thing. Then I’ll come back, and we’ll see how the kids cope with this. Amit, of course, will be at home with them for the entire duration. This should work.

I have, of course, several complex and contradictory feelings about this: guilt and selfishness and a reprehensible sense of self-indulgence; all covered over with a thick layer of pure, delightful anticipation. Amit has been totally supportive about it, and in fact I think it has even prompted him to go ahead and book his own holiday later in the year, which is good because it helps me feel a little less guilty about mine.

But all the guilt and questioning notwithstanding, I’m planning to go ahead with my solitary vacation. What do you think: is it completely selfish and self-centered to do this, or only just a little?


Fishy-Fishy

April 8, 2009

Our trip to Lakshadweep in December last year apparently was quite a hit with the girls, especially Mrini. She loves to talk about “boat” “ship” “island” “Lakshadweep” and especially “so many fishy-fishy”. The ride in the glass-bottomed boat clearly made a lasting impression on her. I remember how she sat and watched enthralled, as tiny, multi-coloured “fishy-fishy” glided around in the crystal clear waters under the boat.

On our recent few trips to the swimming pool nearby, Mrini has sat for an incredibly long time on the edge of the pool, feet dangling in the water, occasionally dipping her hands into the water and splashing gently, waiting and watching for the fishy-fishy to appear. For several days, she didn’t venture into the water, but eventually she did, and even managed to hold on to me or the railing with both hands and attempt to kick her legs out behind her. Still, despite recent successes, she has spent most of her time at the pool sitting on the edge and looking for fishy-fishy.

Tara has interpreted the whole water experience in a different way – she’s decided she IS the fishy-fishy. The very first day at the pool, she gamely came into the water, clinging on to me like a monkey and enjoying the bouyancy. Since then, she practically cannot be kept out of the water, even when she starts mildly shivering with cold. Pretty soon, she had started to hold on to my two outstretched hands and float there, almost as if she were floating without support. She did have some of her weight on my hands, but it looks like it’s only going to be a matter of time – and not too much time, at that – before she realizes that she can float on her own. What’s more, she has walked off the deep end already once – well, not quite deep, but by pre-schooler standards, water up to your nose is deep enough that you shouldn’t just stroll off the edge of the pool and into the water without warning.

Tara’s intrepid attitude is the cause of much parental concern for Amit and me. She seems to have no fear and no sense. While Mrini understands the problems of heights, depths, and water, Tara stops at almost nothing. She’s going to get into so much trouble, that girl. Mrini, on the other hand, is endearing – she shows that she’s scared, but slowly and bravely, and no doubt partly inspired by Tara, she tests the waters and tries to overcome her fear.

On an aside, if only nature and nurture contribute to personality, how can indentical twins, whose genetic makeup is identical and whose upbringing has been so similar, have such totally different personalities from such an early age?


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