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.