Too Tired To Think Straight

August 26, 2009

I’m tired. I’m so tired, I can’t think straight. I have so many things to blog about, that really probably should be entirely separate posts, and some of them probably should not even be blogged about at all, but I’m too tired to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

I’ve been tired since last Wednesday. I’ve not had a chance to stop and catch up on myself, so the tiredness is just accumulating and the end of the week is soooooooo far away. Meanwhile, I’m so tired that I nap at the traffic lights while driving (isn’t that a great idea?). I was tempted to nap while waiting ten minutes outside the kids’ school to pick them up, but then I thought, what if I nap and don’t wake up for an hour or two? I’m so tired that I’ve even stopped listening to music while driving, because even listening to music takes effort. I honestly never knew that before.

Anyhow, yesterday morning I was so pleased because Mrini woke up at 5.30 a.m., said, “Mama, sussu,” went to the bathroom, peed, flushed, and went back to bed without any intervention on my part whatsoever. Wow! She’s been staying dry through the night for a couple of weeks, so I removed her nighttime diaper about ten nights ago. She’s had two accidents since then – which is not too bad really. And now this! My babies are growing up!

Not Tara so much, though. She still has an accident if she sleeps too long in the afternoon, so she’s clearly not ready for nighttime toilet training any time soon. But I don’t mind, really, if she takes her time about it.

It’s strange, though, how Mrini seems so grown up compared to Tara that she actually seems somewhat older than her. She talks more, and more coherently, she picks up activities and concepts faster, she applies herself more diligently, she’s more sensible and more responsible overall… in so many ways, she just seems to be older. I don’t think it has anything to do with birth order; this is just the way she is. It is not a good thing or a bad thing – it’s just interesting to see how two kids, genetically identical and raised in the same environment and circumstances, can have such different personalities and abilities.

One thing Mrini hasn’t figured out yet, is what exactly it means to be “smart”.

See, we listen to The Wombles in the car all the time – because they love it. There’s one song called “Underground Overture” (the second part of this video). For a long time, Mrini struggled to say it. She called it the “Wombleground Underture” (interesting, that) and she knew that wasn’t quite right. Then at last, she managed “Underground Overture” and she was delighted at getting it right. “Mama,” she said happily, “I’m not very smart.” Tara had already mastered the phrase, so Mrini added by way of explanation, “Tara’s not very smart, I’m not very smart.” Tara seemed to take that as a compliment.

And they wondered why I was laughing.

I needed to laugh at something at that point – I’d just seen something terrible. There was a long traffic jam on the inner ring road and after crawling by for ages, we saw the cause. An Esteem-type car (unidentifiable now) had crashed into an electric light pole on the divider. The pole now stuck out across one lane of our side – well, more than one lane, but by then it was high enough so you could safely pass under it. Apparently it was still live and traffic was edging gingerly past the lower section. On the other side, the crashed car still lay. It was a burnt shell. There was nothing in it – just a blackened shell. The petrol tank must have caught fire. It was gruesome. It was the sort of thing you see on TV… but… it never bothered me to see this kind of thing on TV, whether on news or movies. It never seemed real. This, suddenly, was too real. Some poor sucker driving along makes one small mistake and poof! Roasted! Or, perhaps, electrocuted.

Ugh (shuddering). It could happen to anyone.

That’s a good reason not to drive when you’re tired. Or drunk (which, at any rate, I don’t do).

Anyhow, we had a birthday party yesterday. It totally was the sort of day which reminded me why I ever wanted to be a mother. It is so simple with little kids – you do whatever you can (and that might be a lot) to make them happy, and you never want anything back, except to know that what you did made them happy. How I worked to make it a memorable day! And it was! Well, at least for me it was.

I had most of the baking in hand by Monday evening. On Monday night Suchorita came and did the decorations for me and helped me to pack the cup cakes (thanks a lot!). Then I did some organizing, blew up lots of balloons, and brought the kids’ birthday gifts – bicycles – in from outside and re-inflated their tyres. Man, was I tired at the end of that!

But it was worth it, because the girls woke up and went with great delight straight to their cycles. And with the decorations in place, it felt like a party from the moment they got up. When party-time came, enormous fun was had with the balloons – kids playing and adults watching.

It was very funny to note that the girls have completely understood the concept that on birthdays, you get gifts. The concept of “thank you” is still some way off, though. One of the other kids had an interesting comment. Urged by her mother to hand over the gifts to Mrini and Tara, who had just got their gifts from somebody else, this girl says, “but they already have gifts.”

Of course the girls had zero success at blowing out the candles on their birthday cakes – which was ultimately done by yours truly (but only after Tara manage to spew out some spit in the vicinity). But after that all went well – the cakes were decently demolished, the chips were annihilated, while the samosas were roundly ignored.

And I stayed up till well past 11, watching the videos (thanks S&S!) – which was the greatest fun of all and well worth all the effort of making the party happen.

I’ve Been Busy

August 25, 2009

I don’t think I’ve ever taken on half such an ambitious baking project before. And I probably shouldn’t have – it’s been crazy. But, it’s worth a few pictures.

Magical Moments

August 18, 2009

With all children, I’m sure, but so much more often with twins, there are these Kodak moments, magical moments of sheer joy and delight. As a parent, you want to capture them forever, to be able to look back on them and enjoy them years later. But they are so fleeting, they flash past, repeatedly, before you can grab the camera, or sometimes, even before you can call someone else (usually your better half, if he’s around) to share in them.

Blogging is one of many attempts to capture some of the antics for posterity. Like other attempts, it is doomed to failure, but perhaps a little less so – there’s so much you can try to capture in words that evades the camera.

Tara, for instance, has quite got the concept of sharing – specially food, and specially with Mrini. On the rare occasions when I give them something delicious – say a piece of cake – I obviously give it to them at the same time and in equal quantities. While Tara delicately nibbles at hers and makes it last, Mrini will finish hers quickly and then go scrounging for more. Scrounging includes staring sweetly at Tara and saying most agreeably, “Tara ha-piece-ha-piece?” Tara always nods eagerly and gives away half her kingdom smilingly. It’s amazing. Strangely enough, I’ve never seen this take place in reverse. Mrini is just too smart, I suppose.

That Mrini is equally fond of her twin sister is evident in different ways. If Tara gets hurt, Mrini immediately pats her on the back and says, consolingly, “It’s ok, it’s ok, Taya,” and sometimes adds, most endearingly, “You got a laga (hurt)? Come, I give it kissie.”

On one occasion, while scolding Tara severely for something, Amit was saying angrily to the crying girl, “Look at me.” Mrini, who was certain that it was not she who was being reprimanded, stepped in to make the peace. She went to Tara and said, “Taya, look at Baba,” and set about in all earnestness trying to turn poor Tara’s head around on her neck to make her look at Amit. The natural consequence of this was that all three of us wanted to laugh, but given the gravity of the situation, none of us could do so openly.

Often, nowadays, Mrini goes up to Tara, takes her by the hand saying, most persuasively, “Taya come, Taya come Taya,” and drags her off to do some mischief.

For Tara, Mrini is sometimes a friend, sometimes not. When she decides she isn’t a friend, she goes and sits as far away as possible – usually at the other end of the sofa, which, the sofa being a two-seater, isn’t very far at all – and says decisively, “I’m nawwwwt your friend. You don’t come near me.”

When she decides they are, after all, friends, she is, if possible, even sweeter. I saw her the other day calling Mrini to come and sit next to her on the sofa. “I’m your friend, Mrini,” she said. “You come and sit here.” When Mrini had squeezed herself into a rather tight space between Tara and the arm of the sofa, Tara still beckoned, saying,”Come closer.” And they sat with their arms around each other squashed into less than half a seat on the sofa.

And then there are those other Kodak moments, like bedtime lastnight. I dug out two sets of nightclothes. Both were raggedy old pairs, that hadn’t been used for a while. Whenever presented with similar but different instances of something – clothes, shoes, school bags, books, balls, whatever – the twins normally amicably select one each, and after a few uses, it becomes clear to everyone which one is whose. It would actually probably be pretty clear from the second use onwards, but I pay so little attention to such details, specially colour, that it takes several uses before I notice which one is whose.

Anyhow, they usually know which one is whose, so that’s good enough.

Strangely enough, though, on this particular occasion, they both wanted the same set of pjs, and whichever one wanted it howled until the other relinquished it, and then… the one who had relinquished it howled. I suggested that one of them keep the top half and the other the bottom, but this was not acceptable to either of them. In the end, when they failed to sort it out themselves, I took it away from them and substituted a less sought-after set of nightclothes. As a result of which, they both howled.

On Sunday, we went and bought them bicycles for their birthday. One cycle was pink, the other was purple. As usual, each picked one – Mrini pink, Tara purple. Both cycles wouldn’t fit in the trunk of the car, so Amit drove back with the girls and one cycle, while I was packed off in an auto with the other cycle. Apparently the girls spent the entire duration of the drive home arguing about which cycle was in the trunk of the car, and which was with Mama. Amit says they were pulling each other’s hair out over it.

It’s not their birthday for another week or so, so we parked the cycles in the balcony and explained to them that they’d get the cycles on their “happy birthday”. Strangely enough, they understood this and accepted it. They do go and look at their cycles through the window every day, but there have been no demands, no wailing, no gnashing of teeth or pulling out of hair. And yet… a raggedy old set of pjs could incite them to extreme violenc.

There’s no doubt about it: kids are really strange, sometimes.

Officially Naughty

August 14, 2009

Recently, the kids were paid the highest compliment by their class teacher.

Those who’ve followed this blog for an extremely long time know that we adopted the twins in September 2007, when they were just over a year old. When we brought them home from Pondicherry in a taxi, and for many weeks and months following that, they were meek, quiet, scared little girls. They each had a spark of mischief in them, but fear, apparently of punishment, and timidness were by far the predominant characteristics. I look at the very earliest photographs that we took of them and I see two rather miserable and distinctly scared little girls.

We must have done some things right in the past couple of years, because now there’s not a trace of fear or apprehension about them that I can see. Quite the opposite, in fact. Even when I scold them severely, they just laugh at me.

So in a way, though keeping them busy at home is not that easy, I’ve also been enjoying the swine-flu-enforced holiday. Not only do I get to not drive, I get to not experience the sheer madness of picking them up from school too. The last couple of times that I went to pick them up from school, I found myself wishing for an extra pair of arms… And legs. Most parents have to manage just one child, and appear to do so with elan. I, on the other hand, am clearly frazzled, outnumbered, and outsmarted by my kids, and rapidly end up completely losing my temper or my footing, to the endless amusement of about a million onlookers.

As soon as the girls are let out of class, they run to me and grab my legs. That’s the good part. After about four microseconds, they run off, and the mayhem begins. Naturally, they run in opposite directions, and finally converge on the slide in the sandpit. Here they climb the steps, and stop before they reach the top. That way, as long as they refuse to slide down, or sit on the top, I can’t get to them. After infuriating me for a while, one of them proceeds to slide down and quickly scamper around to climb the steps again. If I manage to catch her before she reaches the steps again, which I usually do, then the other girl manages to slide down and run around. Running to catch her means letting go of the first, who then runs off to some other corner of the sandpit. By the time I’ve rounded them both up, one wrapping her legs around me like a coconut tapper climbing a tree, the other dangling by one arm like a rag doll and almost yanking my arm out of its socket, my shoes are filled with sand – a highly irritating sensation.

Completely fed up, I try and drag both of them to the bathroom, and, immediately, I’m plunged into another prolonged skirmish. Many admonitions of “go to that cubicle, it’s clean and dry,” “hold your frock up” “front and back” “flush” “don’t play with water” “don’t step in that” and “put on your panties/pants/skirt” later, we emerge, exasperated, only to have them run off in opposite directions again, while I struggle to get their shoes and bags on them.

The whole thing is 15 minutes of absolute chaos which starts with amused indulgence on my part and ends with me ready to tear my hair out – and not necessarily just my own hair, either. On one occasion, as I ran after Mrini, I lunged for her collar so furiously that I succeeded in knocking her down. She sprawled full length, bawling hopefully, as I ignored the horrified glares coming my way, dragged her up and marched off with her, mumbling vicious threats as we went.

Just the other day, when Mrini succeeded in knocking my glasses off and tearing out one of her earrings in one single swipe, I lost my temper, gave her a spank on her bottom and a severe dressing down in full sight of her teachers, akka, and classmates. I don’t know what they all thought of that little exhibition, but I was SO past giving a fig by then.

It was, of course, abundantly clear in many ways by now, that the two timid little creatures we’d brought home two years ago had blossomed into full-fledged, maniacal brats.

So, it actually came as no surprise when their teacher smilingly, almost approvingly, told me last week that they’d suddenly become very naughty in class. “They climb everywhere, they never do what they’re told, and they don’t listen to anyone,” she said. I took it as it was intended – as a compliment, and told her, “I’m surprised it took them this long.”

More About Swine Flu

August 13, 2009

Swine flu has been a hotly debated topic in our home in recent days. Amit thinks my attitude is too ‘practical’ – which, I suspect, means unsympathetic.

Actually that’s not my intention, or even my area of focus. My only point is that, from what I’ve seen of the newspapers’ reports on this matter, the media is being irresponsible, giving a sensationalised picture instead of a balanced picture, trying to portray a doomsday scenario. Relevant reassuring information is buried. All of this tends to create a panic response in the general public.

I think that perhaps yesterday and today there is a slight improvement in the coverage – at least a few less alarmist facts and sensible precautions are also mentioned. A couple of points were made to the effect that there’s no need to panic.

It is, no doubt, alarming and sad that the number of deaths is so excessively high in India. From what I gather, several patients were admitted to hospital in a critical condition and couldn’t be saved. I wish people would get admitted sooner. I’m not, for a moment, saying that if someone gets sick, they should take it lightly until they turn critical. I do think that, with swine flu around, anyone who has fever and so on should go to the doctor. But it’s also true that an excessive number of people being tested could lead to a delay in getting the test results, with potentially serious consequences.

Plus, if you really aren’t that unwell, do you seriously want to spend some hours standing in a queue of 300 potential cases of swine flu?

A couple of news items that I read today seemed to me worth quoting in support of whatever I’m trying to say.

According to WHO, there have been 1462 deaths globally (as of Tuesday) since the outbreak of swine flu in April. (Deccan Herald page 7)

A Hindu Op-Ed article by a host of doctors says, “The hysteria created by the media and the knee-jerk reaction from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, are not conducive to rational and well-informed management of the situation.
“Swine flu is not more lethal, for instance, than ordinary flu and dengue. There is thus no need for the panic response. It can be treated like any ordinary flu, unless there are complications that require hospitalisation.”

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be worried about swine flu. I’m saying, we can be equally worried about chicken pox, ordinary flu, gastroenteritis, chikungunya, dengue, and drought. It’s just one more thing to try to avoid – let’s not blow it out of proportion.

Weekday Loafing

August 12, 2009

So with the kids’ school having closed for the rest of the week, I’m faced with the prospect of having them home full time for 5 straight days. Such a thing has never happened before in living memory – which means, not in the last six months at least. Ever since they started pre-school last October, they’ve been out of the house for at least some time every weekday morning. Of course, there were the summer holidays. But in those halcyon days, I still had their Shaba-aunty, my cure-all for any rwins-centric issue. She had a baby boy less than a month ago, and has been on maternity leave since the end of June. In fact my domestic help scenario is at an all-time low right now. I’d delegated the entire lunchtime rigmarole – of heating, serving, overseeing, screaming at, and cleaning up of girls, dishes, and horizontal surfaces in a six-foot radius etc etc – first to Shaba-aunty, and later to her sister, our cook, NJ. Just this week, though, NJ announced that, due to various other part-time jobs, she would be unable to handle the lunchtime rigmarole. I think she didn’t enjoy it much, anyway. So the entire weight of the lunchtime rigmarole is squarely back on the sagging shoulders of yours truly.

On the past several weekends, we have ended up taking the kids out somewhere practically every morning, because they’re such a handful to manage at home. I worry, vaguely, that we’re making them even more restless and excitement-seeking than they already are, but it is so much easier to keep them engaged and happy away from home that I push away long-term worries in the interests of retaining my short-term sanity. Amit has a holiday this Friday (yay!) and has promised to take sole charge of them kids on that day, so that left me with only today and tomorrow to worry about. (And the weekend, of course, but that’s three whole days away, who can think that far?)

Considering that we’d spent all of Saturday loafing, with great success, and that Sunday had been only a little less full of loafing, I decided that it was now safe to venture out in public alone with them. I had a couple of errands to run: I had to pick up the Registration Card of my new car from the Residency Road showroom, and I felt it was also high time I paid a follow-up visit to Mayo Hall to find out the status of our khata application (you can read the previous thrilling installment here). I could have driven out, and used the Garuda Mall parking lot as I usually do, but I decided that, with school closed, the chauffeur (that would be me) needed a holiday too. Besides, the twins actually enjoy going by auto. So by auto off we went.

It was a great outing. Of course, I found, to my great dismay, that our particular room at Mayo Hall had shifted to some far-away and obscure location. There were only a couple of people, a computer, a desk, and a truckload of files remaining. To really appreciate how little that is, you need to be well acquainted with public offices in general, and Mayo Hall offices in particular. While the kids ran around the cavernous hall and brought a smile to a couple of people’s faces, I enquired somewhat desperately about our khata. A polite and quite helpful gentleman, the same person who had accepted the application over two months ago, in fact, said that he’d try to find out and get back to me.

“It’s difficult for me to go so far to just find out,” I explained, indicating the twins. It never hurts to play that card.

“Oh, that new office, you’ll never find the place at all,” he assured me cheerfully. But he took my phone number and said he’d let me know by afternoon.

I’d promised the twins beforehand that, if they behaved well, I’d get us all a snack at the end of this little expedition. Thinking that we had finished our work, Mrini embarrassed me at this point by saying, loudly, “Mama, it’s lunchtime, I want my chicken.” It was just about 11 a.m., and I shudder to think what everyone around must have thought of me. I rushed the girls out of there before they could think of anything more incriminating to shout about.

Next, we took a short detour to the State Bank of Mysore in yet another futile attempt to get stamp paper. Then we walked to the Hyundai showroom, where I got my RC without any difficulty.

Now for that chicken. Since it was still quite early and restaurants wouldn’t be open yet, I took them to Nilgiri’s, where we shared a curried chicken pie, and I had a cold coffee. At a nearby table, a group of college girls were celebrating a birthday with cake and cellphone photographs. The twins were engrossed enough in their event to momentarily forget about their food. I wondered whether they would be obvious enough to earn themselves some cake, and, sure enough, they soon did. They shyly mumbled “happy birthday” and “thank you” and then proceeded to gobble the cake as though they hadn’t seen food for a week. Then we went to wash our hand, which had icing all over them, and Tara managed to dismantle a cupboard in the handwash area! I got them out of there quite quickly after that.

At the Residency Road, MG Road intersection, several of the Big10 buses were lined up. I was sorely tempted to take one of them – the kids have never been by bus, and they would have loved it – but I didn’t know where they would go. Two had signs in Kannada, and the one that had the sign in English as well wasn’t going anywhere near home. I should have asked, but in the end I lost my nerve. It’s probably been close to 20 years since I went on a local bus in the town where I lived (it’s different, of course, as a tourist). So we came back uneventfully by auto and we were home by noon.

It was more than an hour later that I realised that it was probably the first significant outing with the girls that hadn’t involved a toilet break! So they are growing up!

Live Report and Swine Flu

August 11, 2009

We’re getting close to two years since we brought the twins home. And boy, they have certainly blossomed in these two years! Apart from being mischief makers on par with Dennis the Menace, they’ve also bloomed physically. When we got them, they were at the lowest 5th percentile in terms of height and weight. They were already over a year old, so we could only hope that any physical, mental, or developmental delays due to malnutrition or the institutional environment wouldn’t be lasting.

When we took them for their annual check-up last weekend, we found, to our delight, that they’re now close to the middle of their weight range. In height, they’re still below average, but at least they’re somewhere around the 20th percentile. They might come up to average, slowly, or maybe they just have short genes. Anyway, they are generally healthy now, and have got a certificate from the doctor to this effect. I didn’t really need a doctor to tell me this – but we have to send this document to the Family Court every year unti they turn 18, as part of their Live Report – but it was nice to have it reaffirmed from a medical perspective.


I suppose what follows should, logically, be a separate post, but it seemed to me distantly related.
Swine flu is currently all the rage. It’s the number one topic for the newspapers and amongst all parents of school-going kids right now. The papers are doing their best to spread fear and chaos, as usual. Schools are agonising over whether or not to close, parents over whether or not to keep their kids at home, students over whether or not it’s hip to wear face masks. The government has been urging everyone who is even just thinking of coughing or sneezing to get tested for swine flu – without considering first how they are going to cope with the masses of people who come in demanding to be tested. Now that reality has hit them hard, they’re backtracking and saying, hey, hang on, don’t panic, just stay home and drink lots of fluid.

Maybe I’m stupid, callous, and cavalier, but… Don’t we need some common sense here? This is flu season. If you send everyone to be tested, you’re going to be so swamped, you’ll probably just miss the folks who might really have it, or get to them a couple of days later. Why not just tell people to go to the doctor? My understanding is, most cases of flu, even if it is swine flu, can be treated by rest, relaxation, plenty of fluid, and common sense. Only severe cases are cause for concern. The statistics show that, in most cases, the flu runs its course in a week, like any other flu. It is estimated to be fatal in less than 0.4% of cases, and then it is due to complications like pneumonia or pre-existing medical conditions. Don’t take my word for it – go do your own Google search (or any other search engine search, I suppose), and find out for yourself.

In retrospect, it’s quite possible that Amit had swine flu week before last – he is always working with people who travel, or with people who interact with people who travel. He had fever, lethargy, sore throat etc. And it did go off after a week without any medication, but with plenty of rest (and good food – not sure of the medicinal quality of that, but it does the morale a world of good). His doctor didn’t think it was swine flu, but apparently it’s really difficult to distinguish flu from swine flu without the lab test. All the same, unless you develop the severe symptoms or you have pre-existing medical conditions, specially lung problems, it doesn’t seem to be something to get into a panic about. I don’t think panic helps – even if the newspapers delight in it.

As a result of the newspapers’ scare-mongering, even Amit, normally quite a logical and practical person, is worried now. Our girls have had a stuffed head, particularly at night, for the past couple of weeks or more. They don’t really have a cold, only a very mildly runny and blocked nose. No fever, no sneezing, practically no coughing, no apparent sore throat, and they seem to be in fine spirits in every way. So should we be worried about the runny nose? Could it be swine flu? Should we keep them at home? Should we get them tested?

If you believe all you read, the answers would be yes, yes, yes, yes. But I believe getting them tested for next to zero symptoms would be irresponsible and a misuse of scarce resources. Amit thinks we should at least take them to a doctor. I think we just did – though for their annual checkup, not for swine flu, specifically. The mildly stuffy nose was present then, no better and no worse than it is now, but the doctor didn’t even so much as comment on it and prescribe a decongestant, so is it really likely that two cases of swine flu just walked through her clinic and she didn’t notice?

I think getting people to be aware of the symptoms and encouraging people to go to the doctor if they have symptoms of flu is sensible. Getting people to just stay home if they are sick is sensible. Emphasizing the importance of washing hands frequently, with soap, is mandatory (and I don’t see enough of that message being sent). But closing schools, testing every single person who coughs twice in a day, wearing face masks all the time etc is just over the top. Starting a panic response to the situation right now doesn’t seem like a really good idea. If a sensible, educated, informed, and generally level-headed person like Amit can be scared into taking two obviously healthy kids to the doctor just because of ordinary stuffed noses; if, in other words, an ordinary parent can be made too scared to call a stuffed nose just a stuffed nose, then you are already succeeding in overwhelming common sense with panic. That’s not sensible.

At least, that’s the way I see it. But then, what would I know?

Sizzling Saturday!

August 10, 2009

The kids put up a sterling performance this Saturday. Actually, so did I.

It started with 2-egg omelettes for breakfast. With onion, basil, and tomato. (I was thinking of you, Sup33.) In our household, this is not an everyday event. Specially not at the start of a long and busy Saturday.

We left home at 9.30 a.m., and got back at 8.30 p.m. All day, the twins were on the go without a break, and sweetly fell asleep in the car on the way back with nary the sign of a global meltdown. I have to admit that I have been overprotecting and underestimating them. Perhaps the 2-egg omelettes had a role to play too.

First we went to the doctor for their annual checkup. They’re not 3 yet, but they will be in a couple of weeks; and we also needed a medical report that has to be sent to the Family Court as part of the so-called “live report” that we must send every year till they are 18.

By the time we got out of the hospital, it was close to 11. We drove to Garuda Mall, which took close to an hour. We used the facilities, ate some cookies at Cookie Man, then walked to Kanti Sweets on Brigade Road: the twins needed an introduction to chaat (snack food of a particular category, typified by crunchy stuff, often mixed with boiled potatoes, topped with tangy sauces). They have already eaten the dry puri of pani puri (aka gol gappa, or phuchka, depending on where in India you hail from; for those unacquainted with it, this is a fantastic snack made of puris, which are small, round balls of dough fried to make a hollow casing, which is then stuffed with boiled, mashed, seasoned potatoes and chickpeas. This stuffed, bite-size ball is dipped into a spicy, watery dip or two, and is served and eaten in the space of a few seconds, before the whole thing disintegrates. Sounds complicated? It’s simple and delicious.)

Amit and me both being fans of chaats in general, we’d taken the twins for phhuchka often enough that their eyes now light up and they shout “phhuchka, phhuchka,” eagerly to each other every time it is suggested; but we’ve avoided giving them the actual pani-puri because it is usually made in far from hygienic conditions… and is quite spicy too.

At Kanti Sweets, we introduced them to a milder, safer, and perhaps less unhygienic version of chaat, dahi puri. This has the same puris, and similar stuffing of potato and chickpeas, but is smothered in rich, creamy dahi (aka yoghurt, or curd) and laced with sweet and spicy sauces. It’s delicious, and, naturally, the kids loved it.

We had a couple of errands to run, and then we walked all the way to Sapphire toy shop, where we bought a birthday gift for a birthday party we’d all been invited to later that evening. Then we rushed all the way back to Garuda, piled into the car and went to V,V & v’s place for lunch. We reached at the most horribly late hour of 1.45.

Lunch was great, as usual, and the twins were so thrilled to be playing with v and all his toys that they showed no interest in food whatsoever. They normally sleep for a good 2-3 hours after lunch, but with v to play with, that was completely out of the question, so we didn’t even try.

At 5, we all changed into fresh clothes and left for the birthday party venue – another mall nearby. We had never been to this particular mall before; by now we were about an hour’s drive from home!

The party was perhaps the best birthday party I have had the misfortune to be invited to in the last couple of years since we have been on the birthday party circuit. It was at one of those fancy, imported (I assume) play area things, filled with balls, and consisting of a slide, a cage, a tunnel, steps, and other fascinating structures and cavities. I have never seen the twins so completely comfortable and at home in so short a time as they were there; in about two seconds, they were part of the milling, swirling mass of children and balls. The fact that just about everyone else was bigger than them (the birthday boy was turning 5) didn’t seem to worry them at all. They just went ahead and did their own thing, only pausing occasionally to check what each other was doing, or to call to each other.

One of the reasons that this party was such a success was that almost all the kids (with the exception of our two) were the birthday boy’s classmates. So all the kids were of the same age and ability, and knew each other well. There was plenty of action, noise, and chaos, added to by loud background music. Since most of the parents, I gathered, hardly knew each other, it was easy to do nothing without feeling lost. Also, because this play area was an enclosed and self-contained unit, and was obviously almost 100% childproof, it was easy to leave the kids to their own devices without worrying that they’d wander off or hurt themselves. As far as I know, nobody got hurt, and nobody got lost.

The event management was also excellent. There were two attendants to ensure that the kids didn’t do anything they really shouldn’t. A few games were organised. There was musical chairs, which some of the kids didn’t really ‘get’. The losers appeared to be happier than the winners, because they could immediately run off and play in the play area again. The twins, of course, being younger than the others and not quite up to it, refused to join in this or the other games – anyway, they were having way too much fun just playing.

Then there was a treasure hunt, which involved digging under the one million colourful balls for the “treasure”, which was such a hit that many kids wanted to continue the game long after the treasures had been found.

Food was served in a most orderly fashion, and all the 20+ kids lined up on chairs at the table with their mothers hovering anxiously at their shoulders and breathing down their necks. Once the kids were mostly done, adults were served, and the kids soon ran off to play again.

The only thing less than perfect was the food itself – it was, at best, mediocre. But given that everyone was having so much fun, I don’t think anyone bothered about it; at any rate, I didn’t.

If I’d thought that the twins would be tired after their long and physically taxing day, they soon proved me wrong. It was past 7, when we dragged them off the playscape, kicking and screaming, and managed to bid farewell to our hosts. By 7.30, we were in the car, and by 7.35, Tara was sound asleep. Mrini outlasted her for only a few minutes, then she went out like a light too. If I could have, I would have followed suit.

All in all, it was a stellar performance from them, and now I’m pretty sure that they will be up to a Himalayan trek next year. Heck, who am I fooling – they’ll probably put me to shame!

Why Should This Ever Have To Happen?

August 6, 2009

This is a sad story I read in the papers yesterday and today. If you’re not in the mood for sad stories, skip this one.
There’s a young girl, educated but perhaps quite poor. Her mother committed suicide when she was very young, and she has a father and a couple of brothers. She has the misfortune to fall for a young, handsome boy from a different community. Despite staunch opposition from her family, she goes ahead and marries the boy. Her father and brothers disown her and have nothing further to do with her.

Her husband, of course, unveils his true colours by taking to drink and beating her regularly. Regardless of which, they have three children in rapid succession – the elder two are girls, the youngest a boy. When the youngest is born, the husband deserts her.

She struggles to survive for several months, then, when the youngest is almost a year old, and the oldest is about 4, she gets a job as a teacher at a pre-primary school. The two older kids (and this part I’m making up on the fly) also go to the same school. What is she to do with the youngest? Given that her family has disowned her, and her husband is nowhere to be found, and she obviously can’t afford any kind of day care… so she takes him along to school, somehow managing to keep him there between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Obviously, after a point, the school authorities object.

Now what? She can think of no other way, so she leaves them at home. She can’t leave just the baby, so she leaves all three of them. Locked up at home. The whole day. Because she has to earn money or what will they eat? Home is a shack with a tin roof. She’s not an uncaring mother – she leaves food for them. And water. But you can’t expect a four-year-old to responsibly look after a two-year-old and a one-year-old. One day, they find a matchbox and start playing with fire.

Can you imagine that? Three tiny kids, playing with matches, one of them catches fire, the other two panic, they have no idea what to do… three of them howling, but locked in…

They were charred beyond recognition. The papers say the experts say they must have died of asphyxiation before they were charred. I can only hope so – asphyxiation is not pleasant, I’m sure, but being burnt alive…

How can you – the mother, I mean – ever recover from something like that?

Brain Dead

August 5, 2009

That would be the most appropriate description of how I’m feeling right now. It’s not necessarily a bad feeling… but it’s not great either. It’s sort of like lethargy, combined with ennui. Not exceptionally tired – no more than usual; not exceptionally bored – no more than usual of that either; but just a little too much of both so that there’s nothing to do that seems worth the effort of doing. And that includes blogging.

I suppose I’ll come out of it eventually.

Meanwhile, could anyone out there tell me if, in casual conversation, someone said a particular movie was “nice” or “good” – would you implicitly recognise the difference? Or would you think of it as just two different ways of saying the same thing?

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