Caught Napping!

July 19, 2012

4.30 Sunday morning, Mrini comes into our room asking for a blanket. She normally refuses a blanket at night, so when the mercury dips, she curls up into a tight little ball. Most days, I cover her up before I go to bed, but apparently on Saturday night I’d neglected to, and that night it rained all night, hence the dip in mercury.

I covered her up and stumbled back to bed.

4.45 Sunday morning, Mrini comes into our room, pats me softly and says very quietly, “Mama, I want to brush.”

Naturally I sprang up fully awake. “Brush your teeth?” It might be a dumb question, but what else do you say to such a request at 4.45 on a Sunday morning?

When she affirmed that she did in fact wish to brush her teeth and I asked her why, she explained: Her tooth was shaking and she was terrified. We might have mentioned to them a couple of times that not taking care of your teeth and not brushing properly and regularly can lead to problems, but apparently the message had really sunk in.

There are no words to express how you feel at moments like this. I should, of course, have seen it coming and I should have explained it to them before it happened – milk teeth will fall out and it’s nothing to worry about. But I hadn’t thought they were there yet – they were still such little things, still much too young for it, right? It wasn’t even on my radar.

It took the better part of the morning to convince Mrini that there was nothing to be afraid of and that it wouldn’t hurt and wouldn’t bleed and that there would, in fact, be a brand new tooth waiting to come out and, moreover, that she’d look pretty cute with one tooth missing. Luckily, she found a “Tell me why” book that explained all about it, so that helped – if it’s in a book, it must be ok.

And now the “tooth fairy” must remember to organize a gift for the child – and she’d better look sharp about it, because now that Mrini is proudly fingering the tooth at every opportunity and doubtless showing it off at school as well, it’s not going to last very long. And I certainly don’t look forward to explaining to her why the tooth fairy got held up. Does anyone have any idea how long it takes between the first tremor and the tooth actually falling out?

Fried by Lightening

July 16, 2012

Or maybe it was the solar flare that was scheduled to hit earth today.

Whatever – when I got out of bed this morning at 6 a.m. it was to the shrieking of the UPS – which was strange, because,
a) We weren’t having a power cut just then.
b) The UPS was off.

I went and pressed the UPS’s button, but it made no difference, so I roused Amit. He spent half an hour dismantling the UPS to remove the battery and examining the trip switches at the main electricity meter outside. The entire study was without power – something had blown a fuse. As the morning progressed, I got half-hourly updates from an increasingly irate husband, until he almost blew a fuse himself. It was not just the UPS that was fried – in fact, that was merely the tip of the iceberg. The phone line was cooked. The modem was roasted. The router was toast. In the end he went to the terrace and found that the line that swings gracefully over the treetops and across our terrace was nicely burnt to cinders and lying in a charred mess in the middle of the road.

This was interesting. At first, we’d postulated a short circuit in the UPS itself, but that couldn’t possibly have travelled all the way up the phone line to the treetop. It must have come the other way – through the phone line (before it burnt itself out), to the modem, and thence to all things connected by any bit of metal, even if in the wrong direction. I mean, you’d usually expect power to go from UPS to modem, router etc, but in this case something had not only jumped from the telephone wire to the electric wire, but then proceeded to travel all the way upstream to the UPS. It might or might not have been a freak streak of lightening (we didn’t really have any jagged lightening yesterday that I’m aware of) but it does make for an eye-catching headline, don’t you think?

When the going gets tough…

July 14, 2012

It’s that time of life again – the time when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, and your domestic help has disappeared into the haze again.

It all started, as it so often does, when Amit’s dad came to visit. He wasn’t here for a terribly long time, a mere matter of a couple of weeks. Our all-in-one domestic help, V, is expecting (carrying, in a delicate condition, or plain pregnant, if you don’t follow colloquialisms) but she’s not due till early August, so in mid June, we thought we were safe. Things never work out that way, of course and it was this precise time that V’s condition became a little more delicate than it already was, with the result that the lady took a couple of ad hoc days off and ended by taking one whole week off after sending alarming news that her water had broken! Her husband, the harbinger of this news, got a tongue lashing and 500 bucks out of me and then he was gone and that – I expect – is the last we will see of them for a while to come. In fact, they did come back a week or more later, wishing for V to resume service, because, obviously, they need the money. I need her services, and desperately, but I obviously had to send them away – whatever the circumstances, I certainly don’t want to be responsible for any tragic outcome.

Amit and I spent two weeks struggling to manage all the housework – or at least all those bits of it that were absolutely essential to the smooth functioning of the kids’ life and welfare – making and packing lunch, washing used lunch boxes, washing and ironing school uniforms – before realizing that we can’t possibly go on like this. I did the only thing I could do – I placed an ad on Sulekha one weekend and spent the whole of the next week fielding calls from various agencies. I met half a dozen candidates, took on three for trial for one or two days each and thus each day of the week culinary services were assured, albeit with detailed instructions and with unreliable results. But in the end, it didn’t work out with any of those candidates. They would go to the kitchen sink to wash dishes, turn on the water full blast, and then stand there and chat, or wander over to the stove, leaving the water running. Amit turned visibly purple and I could almost see steam coming out of his ears. Only because I was physically present and presented quite a barrier between him and the hapless candidate, did some of those women escape with their limbs intact. Even a drop of water wasted is like a drop of his own blood going down the drain and to see gallons of it flowing away without a second thought… hiring any of those candidates would have landed me in terrible trouble in more ways than I can care (or dare) to imagine.

So from last week, we were back to managing all the housework on our own.

Meanwhile, I also have my archaeology module to think of. I received the course material ten days late for reasons too complex to go in to right now. I’m hoping to send off the first assignment a mere one week behind the original schedule – in other words, I’m aiming to catch up by three whole days, a pretty awesome achievement if I can manage it. Currently, it looks unlikely – I haven’t really started on the assignment yet and I should finish it tomorrow. 1500 words, no less. All properly referenced, of course.

So what do you do on a Saturday morning when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, when it’s 1.30 p.m., when you’ve not got the kids bathed and dressed yet, let alone yourself, when you don’t have a morsel of food for lunch, and when your archaeology assignment is far from done and filing your tax return is not even on the agenda? Well, if you happen to be me, you do what you’ve always done when the going gets tough – you make cake. Only this time, since Amit has turned vegetarian (gasp! shudder!), it has to be an eggless and gluten-free banana walnut cake. Delicious, of course.

And then you waste even more time blogging about it.

What Do You Do With A Hole In The Bucket?

July 2, 2012

“There’s a hole in that bucket,” said Amit to me on Sunday morning – and that’s how the bucket came to be sitting atop the gatepost on Sunday afternoon, that being the place to keep stuff that you want to dispose of; a curious custom, I agree, but then, that’s Bangalore for you, especially if you happen to be old-fashioned enough to stay in an independent house instead of one of those fancy high-rise apartments where you get to keep your garbage right outside the front door, I believe.

The girls were sent off to their room to keep themselves busy after lunch as usual, and I was in the living room trying to get through a chapter of my archaeology text book without falling asleep (an uphill task, much though I enjoy the subject) when sounds from the great outdoors began to slowly imprint themselves on my consciousness. From the sound of it, there was a game of some kind in progress upon the road. I looked out the window and found the boy next door, let’s call him S, engaged in a game of gully cricket with three others. Now I don’t really recognize S – he’s only been a neighbor for a couple of months and it’s a well-known fact that I don’t recognize under-fives until I’ve seen them at least a hundred times (and for older people, that number goes down only very slightly). But there was a bigger, tubbier boy egging on a smaller, long-haired boy by that name, so I assumed the smaller, long-haired boy must be our neighbor, whom I’ve met a mere half-dozen times for a couple of minutes each time. The tubbier boy wielded a small plastic bat. There was a tiny boy who was trying to bowl with a large-ish plastic pink ball. The bucket with the hole had been pressed into use as stumps. And S lounged in the shade of a tree – he was the fielder, of course, hence being loudly admonished by the tubby batsman – until he got up and trundled after the ball, there would be no more batting to be done. Oh and there was also, believe it or not, a wicket keeper. Him I recognized – he was the neighbours’ driver-cum-odd-jobs-man.

I told the girls, “there’s a game of cricket going on down there, would you two like to go and join?”

They stood uncharacteristically shyly at the window and watched the game silently for several minutes. Finally Tara said tentatively, “they won’t let us join.”

From there, it took another ten minutes to persuade them to go out and watch the game from the front row seats, that is, perched on top of the garden wall. Not wanting to cramp their style, I hid indoors and watched unobserved. Nothing happened. Mrini had a tennis ball in her hand, but she refused to pass it to the other kids because, “they won’t give it back.”

Tara went and got another tennis ball, that was not anybody’s favourite (they have about a dozen tennis balls and god alone knows how they can tell which one is a favourite and which one isn’t, they all look exactly the same to me), and tossed it out on to the road. It promptly came back. There were two cars parked not more than 10 feet from the pitch, and at least the driver guy didn’t want to be responsible for any broken windows. Or bones, come to think of it.

Finally Amit came and bullied Tara into joining the game. She went and stood far behind the bowler with the general aim of catching the ball, should it happen to come her way. Mrini was too smart for that – fielding is hot work; she stayed where she was.

The tubby boy had been made out several times in various innovative ways – stumped, bowled, LBW’d, run-out – but had so far stoutly refused to yield. Now he was somehow persuaded to and he handed the bat to the tiny boy and retired to the shade of the tree. Tara agreed to bowl and performed admirably, with two no balls and a wicket on the third assay. Somehow, at this point, it was Mrini who got hold of the bat and the tubby boy who got to bowl. Since he was a bit bigger and older than the rest of the kids, he bowled too fast for anyone and Mrini swung the bat valiantly several times without ever making contact before she managed to get out. Of course, as stumps go, a bucket, even with a hole in it, is pretty difficult to miss.

I’m not too sure what the score was at this point, somebody said it stood at the unimaginable pinnacle of 7. Tara stepped up to the crease – cometh the moment, cometh the man, as they say. The tubby boy continued to bowl and Tara managed, more by luck than intention, to make contact with the very first delivery that came her way. “Run!” shouted the wicket keeper, forgetting that he would ideally be on the other team. Tara looked around in a bemused fashion, and after the ball had been retrieved from the far end of the street and chucked back to the bowler, she suddenly realized that she was the one who was supposed to run. So she trotted off down the pitch and was run out before she’d got more than halfway across.

Well, at least she has potential as a bowler – half an over and she got one wicket, or rather, one bucket to be precise. She’ll go far with a beginning like that.

I left them to it and went back to my archaeology text book, now that I was sufficiently awake. It was only the next morning that I learnt of what became of the game. The tiny boy, it seems, had got fed up of it and taken the bat to the bucket in frustration. A small mound of shattered and shredded green plastic bits now lay on the verge of the road – a sad tribute to our girls’ first game of gully cricket.

Well, that’s one solution to the problem of the hole in the bucket that I bet you never heard of before.

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