Anything is For Sale

February 10, 2010

On Monday morning, I woke up with a body ache and a sore throat. I ignored it and went to work, and mid-morning I realized I could ignore it no longer. So I went home, had lunch, and went to bed. By that time, I had a mild fever. As I snoozed, the fever spiked and I had what I can only describe as a hallucination. According to the Internet, it is not a hallucination if you are not awake. I think I was asleep at the time, so technically it would be termed a dream, but it felt most un-dream-like, it felt very, very real.

In this dream/hallucination, I knew that I was in bed at home, sick. I was confused and I was trying to do some work on my office laptop, which I should not have been trying to do, because I was just spoiling a file that I had already finished editing. This worried me profoundly. As I was trying to close the file without saving the changes, Tara came into the room, riding her tricycle and smiling sweetly at me. This made me go berserk. I screamed at her, “No! No! You can’t be here! I left you in school this morning!” The realization that she couldn’t be there and yet she was there was terrifying for me. I went on screaming and throwing my arms and legs around, and she went on smiling at me. Somewhere in this chaos, I knew I had to call Amit. I struggled to get a grip on myself and find my cellphone, which, luckily, was right next to me. I think that by the time I called him, I was mostly out of the dream or whatever it was. It was almost 4 p.m. I lay awake and worried till he came home around 5, too scared to fall asleep in case some similar dream/hallucination happened again. I still had quite a bit of fever by the time he came home (though it was only 101.8 when we checked it, not high enough to cause hallucinations, I’d have thought), but nothing even close to this happened again.

I’ve had “fever-dreams” before – I suppose everyone has. I have some typical dreams that are associated with high fever, something to do with large sizes, “grossness” in the literal sense. Fever dreams have a typically “unreal” quality – even when you’re in them, they seem unreal and somehow feverish. With this particular dream/hallucination, there was none of that – it was real in time and place and in every way that it could have been except for the impossibility of Tara, who should have been in daycare, being there. I don’t know, and I suppose I never will, whether I was really awake or really not, when I saw it; or whether I really screamed and flailed around or only dreamt that I did.

Whatever it was, it was weird and scary.

Anyway, on Tuesday the fever abated. Amit stayed home the whole day, apart from dropping the kids to school and picking them up from daycare. I was still very tired and had a lot of bodyache and headache, so I wasn’t much use, and I slept a lot. We should have gone to the hospital on Monday evening, or at least on Tuesday morning once the kids were in school, but both times, just as we were about to step out the door, I backed out. On Monday, I was just too unwell for it; and on Tuesday, I wasn’t unwell enough for it to be worth the effort. Rest, on both occasions, seemed like a higher priority. Anyway, doctors would only prescribe antibiotics, which would tire me out even more and probably weren’t even required anyway.

On Wednesday I was a lot better, but still not liking the prospect of the commute and a long day at work. And my ears were troubling me. They always tend to get involved whenever I have any kind of cold or sinusitis and they can be very, very painful. I was still tired and still had bits of bodyache too. But now I’d been home two days, so I couldn’t take another day’s sick leave without a doctor’s certificate. So we had to take me to a doctor. By now I was well enough to walk ten minutes to a local hospital down the road. There a young GP took my temperature, my BP and my pulse and heard a brief recital of my symptoms. After a quick exam she wrote out a prescription for – sure enough – a course of antibiotics.

“Also, could you please issue a medical certificate, since I haven’t been able to go to office for the past couple of days,” I asked.

Actually, I’m not sure how this works. I had been sick enough to not be able to go to work, but I was a whole lot better now. Could the doctor issue a retrospective medical certificate, justifying the past two days’ sick leave? Or would she issue a certificate saying it was ok for me to take rest for the next day or two? Or would she just say that I looked ok now and there was no reason I shouldn’t go to work – which was not how I felt, but she was entitled to her professional opinion on that?

As it turned out, the answer was D: None of the above. “You have to pay Rs150 for a medical certificate,” she said.

This was not at all what I’d expected. So they didn’t really care whether I was sick or well, or how many days I needed off from work – pay the price and they’ll write what you want. I was so disgusted that I decided I’d just work from home instead of taking another day’s sick leave.

And I know you were thinking that I’d completely lost track of the title of this post, but I hadn’t – I just went all over the place getting to the point. Like I usually do.

Do Bees Do It? Do Trees Do It?

February 8, 2010

I remember the days when I waited impatiently for the kids to properly start talking. Well, they started quite a while ago, and have been going at it pretty much non-stop since then, but recently they took things to a new plane. This happened a few days ago, so what follows is certainly not verbatim, but this is the gist of it.

Mrini: Mama, dogs do potty?
Me: Yes, dogs do potty.
Mrini: Cows do potty?
Me: Yes, cows also do potty.
Mrini: Ummmm… horses do potty?
We were driving out for a prolonged outing at this point, so I began to not like this obsession with potty.
Me: Yes, pretty much all animals do potty.
Thinking to myself: Do they? What about bees? Or earthworms? Or ants? Do they all do potty? Am I on safe ground here? Oh well, she’s only three years old, it should be safe enough for now.
Mrini: Tree does potty?
Me: No, see, a tree is not an animal. A tree is a plant. Plants don’t do potty.
To myself: They don’t, do they?
Mrini (after thinking it over for a minute or two): Then what is a plant?
Me: See, both plants and animals are living things. But animals move. You know, like dogs, cows, horses, people, they all move, they can walk and run and play. Plants don’t move.
To myself: Now I know some plants do move. Surely I don’t have to go into those kinds of exceptions right now. It will only confuse the matter.

Mrin (on a different track)i: Then cycle is an animal?

Uh-oh. Now what have we gotten into here!?

I explained to Mrini that cars and cycles and the like can be made to move, but they have to have someone do the moving – like a driver. Dogs and cows, on the other hand, move on their own volition. Of course, they can be made to move too, with the use of kicks, whips, reins, or whatever. I didn’t want to go there. Plus you have other machines that move without a visible driver – like robots and things. I didn’t want to go there either. So, since we had reached wherever we were going, I let the topic drop.

It was about a day and a half later, that Tara piped up (yeah, maybe she’s a bit slow, but you can’t say she wasn’t paying attention): Mama, fan does potty?

By this time, of course, I’d completely lost track of the previous discussion. I was busy in the kitchen and I answered with a preoccupied no. I didn’t know where she was going with it until she fired her next salvo.

Tara: Fan is an animal?

Hmmm… of course, it moves, and it doesn’t have a driver, so by that definition, it should be an animal. And animals do potty, so…

Sadia is right: it’s time I started giving the girls basic science and logic lessons.

Thinking Vegetables

February 5, 2010

I read in the papers today that doctors have managed to communicate (or establish contact) with a patient who has been in a vegetative state for five years!


Apparently, they just told the patient to think of tennis if he wanted to communicate yes, and to think of walking through the rooms in his home if he wanted to communicate no. These thoughts use different parts of the brain. They scanned the brain and sure enough, as they asked the patient questions, activity showed up in either the “yes” or the “no” part of his brain. Apparently, they asked fact-based questions to which they knew the answers, and so could be sure that the replies were correct, not random.

It’s horrifying! People who have been vegetative for five years can still think! They can hear, they can understand, and they can direct their thoughts. After five years – an eternity! – of nothingness, of being “brain dead” they remember what tennis is and can visualize what their home looked like. They can attempt to communicate!

How many such people have we killed in years gone by, on the basis that they can’t think, that they practically don’t exist? Without having asked them whether they wanted to live or die?

That’s horrifying too – if you couldn’t move, couldn’t (I’m guessing) open your eyes, couldn’t breathe without a machine… if all you could do was to think, if you were nothing more than a brain, and one that had no means of communication (well, practically none), would you still want to live? Or would you want to be “put out of your misery”? Is it misery? Or is it, maybe, some weird kind of freedom? What is it like, to be all brain with no way in or out? What do you think of, after having had five years to think and no fresh input, no exchange of ideas? If you can hear sound and understand language (which this patient must have, or how would the doctors have explained the process to him?) does your whole world revolve around what you hear, who comes in, who goes, out, the things people say? Is that enough to keep a brain going? Or do you just go out of your mind with sheer boredom?

Yesterday, for some strange reason, I stumbled upon a list of ten people who had been buried alive, whose coffins were later opened up to discover all that they had done in their efforts to get out. If I that thought was gruesome and horrifying, this, today’s news, is much, much worse. In a coffin, a fellow only has a few hours of agony to endure before dying, presumably of suffocation. In a vegetative coma, you have to endure for years and years and you can’t so much as flicker an eyelid.

And if you can hear and understand, how does it feel when you hear people talking about pulling the plug on you?

Cinderella Only Lost One Shoe… AND She Got The Handsome Prince

February 5, 2010

Hard on the heels of forgetting to send the kids rice for their lunch, which, for the record, was Amit’s slip-up, not mine, came another “little” goof-up.

Forgetting to send them rice happened on the day of my birthday, which was a little more chaotic than usual, because we all left home together in the same car and we had to be extra organized to do so and we had an extra load of stuff to pack because of the impending late night out and so on and so forth.

Amit, strangely enough, selected the following day, Wednesday, to send his car for servicing. This meant that following the late night, he had an extremely early morning ahead, when he had to clear all the rubbish (sorry, important stuff) and car seats out of his car and get to office extra early so that somebody could come and pick up the car for servicing. All of this he managed and he got the car back that evening. Thursday morning was still very hectic for him, because he had to put all the rubbish back in his car, along with the car seats, and then he had to put the girls in the car seats and drive them to school. Thursday was my day for tennis, which meant that I was sleeping late and could not be counted upon to help. Anyhow, he managed everything and got to school ridiculously early as he always does, only to find that, although he had got both the girls plugged in all right, he had only one pair of shoes between the two of them. The other pair was lying on top of a pile of empty cartons in the garage. Yeah. That’s what comes of having a garage large enough to stack piles of empty cartons and other such junk in.

Being the practical and level-headed fellow that he is, he carried Tara from the car to the classroom, much to her joy and Mrini’s amusement, and updated their teacher about the current oversight. “Have her carried to the school van and she’ll be fine,” he said, cavalierly. Lucky for him that the school teachers were not aware of the previous lapse in the matter of their lunch, or I don’t know what they would have thought of him and, by extension, us.

Of course the daycare teacher knew all about the oversight with their lunch. She had questioned me about the wisdom of not sending any rice the following day and I’d had to explain the whole thing to her. So she already was not very impressed with our efficiency. Now Amit wanted me to be the one to call her and tell her that Tara would be arriving barefoot at daycare today, but I flatly refused. “You’ve got to handle your own messes,” I said and handed him the phone. “I’m SO not getting involved in this one.” I, after all, would never have left either girl to manage without shoes for the whole day. I’d have either gone back home for the shoes, or gone and bought a pair at the nearest shop. What WILL they say when they grow up??

We found out later that the school teacher – or the assistant, perhaps – had sent Tara off wearing a pair of bathroom slippers; all kids are barefoot in class, which keeps the place clean, and they all share a few pairs of bathroom slippers when they go to the bathroom. The bathroom slippers are not quite appealing as a choice of footwear, really, because if you’ve seen kids between 3 and 5 years of age take themselves to the bathroom, in school, you have some idea of what all goes on in there; and the smaller the kids, the smaller the slippers, the messier they are likely to be; and the slippers Tara had on were as small as they could be; but I suppose it’s better than having to wander around barefoot.

Luckily, the girls don’t yet know how completely infra-dig it is to be seen anywhere wearing bathroom slippers. In fact, they both thought it was a bit of a lark. They didn’t seem to mind that the other kids were laughing at Tara. That’s the magic of being three-and-a-half. With great delight, she took the bathroom slippers back to school today and announced to Akka that she was returning them. There was nary a handsome prince in sight.

We have been sleeping at 10 p.m. the last couple of nights, so if we can catch up on our sleep deficit soon, then maybe we can stop being such immensely neglectful parents. Otherwise some social worker probably will come calling soon enough…

Sleep Deprivation Disasters

February 3, 2010

January was a tough month. What with two jobs, no household help and a change in residence, we were sleeping past 11 each night (usually closer to 12) and getting up between 5.30 and 6 a.m. all days except Sundays, when the kids kindly let us sleep till 6.30 as a special favour. After one full month of this, we both have a serious sleep deficit. I’m not one who thrives on six hours of sleep a night – even had I been getting it; I need between 7 and 8 hours, the more so when life becomes more busy and stressful.

So this week, I’ve been practically falling asleep at my desk – all day long! The struggle to keep my head on my neck and my eyes open starts at 10 a.m. and lasts till… midnight, actually. It’s terrible – I really don’t know what kind of work I’ve been doing and whether it is at all up to the mark or not.

So it was probably not a good idea to add to our stress levels and sleep deficit by going out for dinner on a weekday evening, but Amit was adamant: Birthdays must be celebrated on birthdays, not on any old “convenient” day. Perhaps, too, I should have skipped tennis yesterday and settled for an extra 30 minutes of sleep – but what the heck: on my birthday, at least, I should get to play tennis, shouldn’t I? It was a bad idea, though, because what with the terrible cough I have (remnant from an exhaustion-induced cold I got some ten-odd days ago) and the general tiredness, I just couldn’t get my game going. That was frustrating and disappointing, and the only redeeming thought was, at least I tried.

I’d decided that I wanted the Best Ever Fudge Cake for my birthday. That’s not just a description of the cake, that’s its name. I’ve made it  many times over the 15-odd years since I first discovered it, and I’d have to say that its name lives up to its promise – it is really delicious. But, it’s a lot of work. Since Amit hasn’t ever really gotten into baking, I knew I’d have to do it myself. So I started on Sunday. Night. Right around 10 p.m. after the kids had gone to bed and I’d got their lunch and stuff packed for Monday. It was past midnight before the cakes were done, which gave me all of Monday to do the icings. But first, I had to find icing sugar.

Icing sugar is one of those things that is practically impossible to find when you really need it – just like cocoa powder. When I’m baking, I usually need both and it’s a given that I will, at best, find one – and perhaps not even in sufficient quantity. And that was back in Koramangala, where you can find most things in walking distance. Here, out in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t really expect to find it easily and I was right. I drew a blank on Sunday, so on Monday evening, I drove around the shops near office and eventually got lucky. Then, of course, I picked up one year’s supply of it. (Looking back, I find that I had a similar experience last year – hopefully next year will be better, if this lot doesn’t expire by then.)

Monday evening was a busy evening even by our standards. Some aggressive efforts over the weekend had resulted in one domestic help being engaged and she reported for work on Monday evening. She speaks only Kannada, which I speak very little of, so somewhere in our communications I understood that she would both clean and cook. By 8.15, when she had finished cleaning and washing dishes (and practically emptying our water tank in the process; why do these women always use much, much more water than required to wash dishes? Haven’t they ever faced water shortage in their lives? Don’t they – they of all people, they, who might have to carry water in buckets to their homes, who might have to share a toilet with 20 others, which will obviously run out of water – don’t they realize how precious water is????)

Anyhow, when she had finished wasting our water and giving Amit a heart-attack, she tied up her sari and made to leave. Cooking? It’s too late – some other day, perhaps, she said. Great. If I’d known that, I’d have made her do the cooking first. Who wants a clean house when you can have a hot meal instead? But it was too late now. So after she left and the kids went to bed, I got to work on the cooking and then right around midnight, I finally finished up the cake and it was ready to eat.

Why wait? I plunged the knife in with minimum ceremony and…

It got stuck!

Oh, right – that’s why the recipe calls for baking powder, which, in my sleep-deprived state on Sunday night, I’d forgotten to put. So instead of the light, soft, melting cake I usually get, I got a tough, leathery load of lead. Great. This was clearly not the best ever Best Ever Fudge Cake.

At least the icing was ok, so I gritted my teeth and stolidly worked my way through a slice; Amit, of course, gave up after a few bites. That was probably a smart thing to do – I doubt that kilo of lead in my stomach late at night did anything to improve my tennis six hours later. But what the heck – I had to have birthday cake on my birthday, right? (Sometimes, determination is SO counterproductive.)

So late nights, bad cake, and erratic tennis notwithstanding, we were headed for dinner out on birthday night. We drove to work together, dropping the kids at school, their lunch at daycare, and enduring innumerable traffic jams along the way; and a little after 5.30, we left office together, picking up the kids, enduring further traffic jams and heading for our old home. There, with many disclaimers as to the quality, we dropped off birthday cake and kids with S&P (many thanks, guys) and went for dinner. We went to Via Milano, an Italian restaurant that we’ve been to once before. It was a good evening – good food, good beer, good ambience, good service. (It was, of course, ridiculously expensive… but we only go out thrice a year without the kids, so we didn’t mind too much.) It would have been a fantastic evening if we hadn’t both been falling asleep immediately after dinner. From around 10 p.m. onwards, we both had a battle on our hands – and, in my case, a losing battle at that – to keep our eyes open till we could pick up the kids and drive back home. Luckily, Amit was driving – he does a better job of keeping his eyes open at critical junctures. Also, we did get stopped for a breathalyzer test, which I would probably not have passed.

Leaving home for a late night out with the kids is like going out of town for a week. We had the kids’ school bags, with snack boxes and water bottles; their lunch bag, with a zillion boxes of food and a change of clothes; their night bag with yet another change of clothes and a blanket; their shoes, which they had worn all day, but weren’t wearing now because they were asleep; our laptop cases; my handbag; and a bag of stuff we’d picked up from S&S along the way. At least some of this would have to be sorted out before we could crash out.

Just as I was dumping a bunch of dirty clothes in the laundry bag and the quadzillion lunch and snack boxes in the kitchen sink, I noticed that the rice box from the kids’ lunch bag was missing. Where could it be? The daycare was too organized to have forgotten to send it back. With a sinking heart, I opened the fridge, and… sure enough, there it was, sitting neatly where I’d left it on Monday night.

We had forgotten to send them any rice for lunch! Poor kids!

I was so exhausted that I didn’t have more than 5 microseconds to feel horribly guilty about it before I fell asleep. That’s what sleep deprivation does to you.

So today, the new woman in my life is going to be hit with a load of cooking; she is going to have to wash dishes with a tiny fraction of the water she’d normally use; she is going to manage the laundry; and I am going to bed at 10 p.m. Or sooner.

Let’s hope I can make it that far without slipping up on something critical.

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