The blurb ob by blob...

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Mother, writer and daydreamer. Also chocoholic and chick-flick lover. But mainly mommy. To two boys, at that! When not escorting my Elder One (EO) to karate class, I'm trying to get in as many cuddles as possible from my Younger One (YO). And when not doing either, I'm hard-at-work trying to maintain a steady relationship with my laptop. And as for the Man I Married (MIM), well, let’s just put it this way – even though we share a bedroom, our most meaningful conversations are held over the cell-phone!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poila Boishakh 1417

April 15th was Poila Boishakh. Bengali New Year.

The night-before, I was feeling depressed. The next day, I was going to go through another one of the dubious first' first Poila Boishakh without my DaddyDearest.

But I do wish everyone a Shubho Naboborsho. Forgive the delay. May you and yours have a year full of love, laughter, good health and make precious memories.

I made one on that day itself...

Both my boys are huge Krishna bhakts. I think all little boys are. They identify with his naughtiness and impish escapades.

Now, as is the trend in these parts, whenever the boys in this house watch a movie or hear a story that they like, they argue amongst themselve as to who is going to 'be' the hero of the piece. The most brutal fight my two sons have going between them most days is who gets to be Krishna. The fights involve a lot of kicking and screaming and the end result is someone often ends up in a bundle of tears...not me, I'm usually reduced to a mass of electrocuted, frazzled nerves by the end of their matches. This is one fight that The Nephew stays far away from. He has wisely chosen to 'be' Balaram, or rather, the EO 'suggested' that he be so since he is after all the eldest, and he sweetly complied.

Anyway, on Thursday, I was lazily moping around the house. After I finally got my butt into the shower, I wore my bright, new bandhni, skirt from Jaipur; sky blue and sunny yellow with big silver chumkis all around. When I opened my bedroom door, my little YO came rushing in excitedly. Why? Because he had (or rather his ayah had) tied a tuft hair on the top of his head. He loves doing this whenever he gets the chance. Why? Because he is Krishna of course!

So, he rushes in excitedly to show me his Krishna-style and stops in his tracks, totally thunderstruck. He looks me up and down...totally in awe. He then asks me, "Tumi ki poyeychho?" (What are you wearing?) And of course he answers it himself, "Shkaartsh?" (Shirt?) He can't take his eyes off my and gives me his shy, imp grin.

What he does next, stuns me. He shyly takes my hand and says "Esho, esho" (Come, come) and leads me out into the sitting room, to show me off to his brothers, who are engrossed in TV. Then he tells them excitedly, "Dekho, dekho! Amaar mumma ki pohechhey, dekho!!" The EO and The Nephew give me a cursory once-over, smile and zne out again.

The YO, still with a goofy, shy, adorable expression on his face; still holding on to my hand; softly says something which I can't catch. I ask him to repeat it and he says just a little bit louder, for my ears only, "Tumi maiyaa aar aami Kanha." (You are {Yashoda} maiyaa and I am {Krishna} Kanha).

Tears sprang to my eyes at my little boy's sweetness and innocence. No wonder he was so dumbstruck when he saw me in a skirt that he immediately identified as typical of what Yashoda maiyaa would wear. And the coincidence that I should choose to wear exactly that, while he chose that precise moment to channel his inner Natkhat Kanha, was too overwhelming for him.

His joy and innocence just bubbled over that day and made me warm and tingly all over.

May the year bring on many such moments for us all.

And with that, I wish you a Shubho Naboborsho once again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aar Ek Cup

We've all heard the story about the devout man whose faith in God was so strong that when his village was flooded, he turned down a raft, a boat and a helicopter by saying, "God will say me." When he drowned and went to heaven, he wailed, "God, I had dedicated my whole life to You, and yet, in my hour of need, why did You not save me?" God smiled sadly and said, "My dear child, I tried to save you three times, but you turned me away each time."

Just remember this tale when you get to the end of this little narrative of mine.

I you had ever spent a night in my parents' homes in Bangalore or Kolkata, and if you had ever slept in the bedrooms near the kitchen, then chances are, you would have been woken up in the morning by a rather terrible clanging and clashing. Not even a pillow over one's head was enough to drown out the quite-deafening sounds of the pestle and mortar being made to work by my father, a couple of hours after sunup. Every morning, without fail, my father would crush a combination of herbs, spices and ginger to brew with a spoonful of tea leaves for his early morning cuppa. This trusty concoction, he claimed, was his health tonic, and in my twenties, I got hooked on it too.

Tea. My father's absolute favouritest beverage in the world. And I don't use the term 'favouritest' lightly. Any time was tea time for my father and he could happily have ten or twelve cups of the brew throughout the day. Even though my silent, introvert of a father didn't say much when friends and family were over, he looked forward to them coming with great delight and an air of anticipation. We'd tease him saying that it was because he was guaranteed another cup of tea on their arrival.

My mother would often get exasperated with my father's frequent demands for "aar ek cup" through the day; not that her irritation bothered him...if it was tea he wanted, it was tea he would get. My father credited tea with many things. He claimed that tea was the reason behind his fair complexion and that drinking tea in the summertime kept the body cool. My mother would snort in disbelief, but maybe the man had something? After all, he was incredibly fair and also the most even-tempered man that I've ever known in my life; uncomplaining, humble and never, ever given to fits of rage. My mother? Well, beautiful, wheatish and passionate about everything and everyone in her life. Also, not a tea lover. So...

I love my aadaa-chaa, elaichi-chaa and flavoured teas as much as I love my cafe latte and hazelnut-flavoured cappuccino. But often I would ask for a cup of tea in my parents' home whenever I went to visit, just so that my father could have another cup. I wonder if he knew that?

I made my father his last ever cup of tea while he was still in the hospital; in the ICU. I had said my goodbyes for the day and visiting hours were almost over. A friend of my father-in-law's was with Baba while I waited in the lobby. He came down and said that my father was calling me. With just a few minutes to spare before the guards came around asking visitors to leave, I ran upstairs as fast as I could. My father was sitting propped up in bed, a flask of hot water, an empty cup and a tea bag kept on a tray in front of him. I asked him if he was feeling alright and whether he needed anything. He shook his head and just asked me to make him a cup of tea. Relieved and happy, I not only made him his tea, but I fed it to him as well, spoon by spoon; the security guard even gave me ten extra minutes to do so. Baba relished each and every drop and let out a sigh of contentment after we were done.

That night he was put on the ventilator. Three days later, he died.

I swore off tea forever. I couldn't even look at a cup without feeling the twin emotions of absolute anguish and irrational rage.

Well-meaning family and friends tried to get me to change my mind. I was stubborn in my refusal. My mother, however, understood.

The fourth day after a parent dies, according to Bengali-Hindu customs, a married daughter as well as her children, perform a puja for the departed parent in the daughter's marital home.

In accordance with these traditions, I woke up, had a bath, shampooed my hair, wore a new sari and fasted until the puja. Certain things are supposed to be given to the departed soul for his journey to the after-life...such as rice, fruits, vegetables and other things, like a bit of bhoomi (earth), an umbrella, some loose change, and five items that the person was fond of eating, amongst other things. Of course it may vary from one household to the next.

I saw all these items placed in front of my father's garlanded photograph. Yes, there was a packet of tea leaves there as well.

After the puja, whilst I was mingling with my family and friends who had gathered round me in my time of grief, I was given something to eat and drink. Famished, I wolfed down the food on my plate and drained the contents of my cup within minutes.

It was only after everyone was gone, while I was sitting with my sons, playing back the mornings' events in my mind that I realised what had been in the cup...tea!

I burst into tears. Not tears of grief at my father's memory or tears of remorse for a broken promise, but tears of awe and wonder.

It was my dad.

It was my dad's doing. He made me have that cup of tea. It had to be. No other explanation will do. How could he bear his beloved daughter giving up something that he loved so much? And that too, for him?

When I told my mother what happened, tears streamed down her face and she softly said, "He's fine. Your Baba is fine."

I am sure he is. And I am sure he is having "aar ek cup" while watching over us from wherever he is now.

It's three months today, Baba, since you've left. And even though I know you're fine, I'm not. But with you watching over me, I kow I will be. Eventually.

Raising a cup of tea, brimful with my tears, to you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Your Attention coming up

Let me go on record saying that I do not worship the Great Bong with daily visits to his blog and leave behind offerings of salubrious, sycophantic, witty or engaging comments.

No. I'm not a groupie.

But I am a fan. And an earnest, honest one at that.

And so, when I heard that The Bongness was writing a book, I was full of eagerness and anticipation. And then, when I heard that The Bongness himself was going to be in town for the book launch, I did what any earnest, honest fan would do...I took my ample butt over hour early.

So yes, this earnest, honest fan was sitting in row two, demurely waiting for an autograph -- not gushingly, cause that's what a groupie would do -- and waiting for His Bongness to address his sea of devotees, fans and family (lots of family, I might add; very sweet!)

The man is funny. And great. We all know that. That's why he's won so many Indiblogs, which, as we all know, is the Booker of Blogdom.

He's funny. Witty. And very genial. He's the guy you want to invite over to a home adda and make the centre of attraction; not that he needs anyone to make him the centre of attraction, he just is. He's a natural and comfortably, amiably so. You want him to regale you with all his stories, witticisms and hilarities. You want to bombard him with questions, but you don't for fear of interrupting his flow of talk and thereby, inadvertently missing out on any nuggets of humour and astute observations of this human condition called life -- and Bollywood, and politics and teenage, sexual awakenings in middle-class India.

After that most lively session at Crosswords, I came back and eagerly attacked his book, "May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss?" And my one-line review of it would be...hehehe-hahaha-hohoho-meh.

Ok, ok, now that all the stones and rotten eggs have been disposed of, may I come out from behind my laptop?

Look, I'm still a big fan and I always will be. He's a keen observer of randomness and a fantastic raconteur. I'm not saying I didn't like the book; I did, I did. Very much! Heck, I even loved it in parts and chortled out loud while in wide, open, unempty, public spaces.

Here's the thing; it was way too similar to his blog. In fact, it was kind of like a well-compiled, well-edited "Best of..." paper-back version of his blog. Not that he promised anything else, and not that I didn't know that, which is why I wasn't bitterly disappointed.

But here is where I would give more points to a Parul Sharma, author of "Bringing Up Vasu" and Sidin Vadukut, author of "Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Verghese". Yes, even Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan for her "You Are Here". All these authors are also writers of immensely popular and funny blogs. Yet, when it came to writing a book, that's exactly what they did. They didn't dip into their old faithfuls to rehash any of their published content. They stepped out of their comfort zones and rose to the challenge of telling a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end; complete with plot, drama, conflict and trademark styles of humour. Did traces of their blog surface every now and then? But of course! That would be impossible to steer clear of. But at the end of the day, the final product was entirely different from what their hoards of readers are used to.

So am I saying I am disappointed with Arnab? Not at all. Did I expect different? That would again be a 'no', simply because he didn't promise anything different. Do I still think he's great? Oh absolutely! He is the undisputed Great Bong. And finally, would I recommend his book to others? Highly.

It definitely "deserves your attention, pliss."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

All Growed-up Now

Today the EO starts Class 2. Tomorrow, the YO starts Jr. KG.

SIGH!!!!!!! Where did my babies go?!?!?!?!?

While I'm busy shaking my fists at Father Time, I leave you with some EO and YO-speak.

1) The EO sees a bullock and very excitedly (having just gone for a bullock-cart ride the previous evening) points it out to the MIM and me. "Look, look! That's a bhrosh!" The MIM and I are thoroughly confused. We try to figure out what it is that he's saying and keep asking him in vaious ways to explain. Finally, the MIM asks him, "Do you mean 'mosh'?" (bangla for buffalo, but we figured maybe the EO had got his cud-chewing quadrupeds mixed up.) The EO violently shakes his head and for some reason is most irritated with his Mamma for not understanding. He then bursts out, "Ooofff! I think so you don't know Bangla!!" The MIM bursts into laughter and a truculent Mamma does the only thing she can think of to soothe her bruised ego; she pouts and says, "Hmpf! I'll ask MY mamma!"

2) We went for a short trip to Jaipur (the bullock-cart ride mentioned above was one of the momentous events that took place there, for reasons that will be detailed in another post). After coming back home, the four of us are lounging about on our bed. It's bed-time. In other words, it's time for them to shift their cute lil butts into their room and zoom off to la-la-land. Suddenly, the EO proclaims, "I wish we were back in Jaipur only. There it is so nice."
The MIM seems to understand where this is coming from, "Why? Because all four of us could sleep on the same bed?"
The EO nods his head vigourously and I grudgingly give the MIM marks for being so astute. The EO continues, "Why can't we all sleep together here in your bed?"
The MIM laughs and says, "You're right, we need to get a bigger bed."
Suddenly, the EO loudly exclaims, "OOOHHH! I know why we all can't sleep in this bed together..." And before I can put forth my theory, he carries on with his Eureka! moment by proclaiming, "it's because Mamma you've become fat!"
I was actually going for, "It's because you've both become so big my babies!", but the MIM seemed to love our elder son's explanation much better and started guffawing really loudly! Too loudly, I felt. And so did the EO, for he turned to his father and said, "Don't laugh so much Baba! You also have become even fat!"
Guess who couldn't stop guffawing after that!
MIM, darling, I say this because I love you, "Nyah-nyah-na-nyah-nyah!!"

3) So I'm taking a nice, leisurely bath. Suddenly there's violent banging on the door and a loud, "MAMMA!!!"
Said Mamma nearly chokes on shower water and slips on dropped soap. "Ki?!?!?!" (What?!?!?!) she shouts back, hands tremblingly reaching for the towel as she envisions all kinds of ghastly terrors waiting to meet her eyes.
The EO continues, "Mom, can you please call me Tom from now on?"
Mamma chokes again. "What?!? WHY?!?"
The EO: "Please Mamma, I want you to!"
Mamma, not at all pleased with the idea: "You want the same name as a cat?"
The EO: "Oh Mamma! It's not just for a cat, it's such a nice name! Any boy can also have it! Please Mamma, call me Tom!"
Mamma: "What if I call you 'xyz'? (his original pet-name, chosen so that it would match The Nephew's name, but it never really caught on).
The EO: "No. I like only Tom!"
Finally I got to the bottom of it; he was playing the video games that come with Tata Sky Plus and he wanted to type his name into a box and he couldn't figure out how to from a remote control. After all, the remote buttons ain't laptop keys!
Oooff! Logic, I tell you!

4) The YO looks to the EO for wisdom and knowledge in various subjects, especially music. Whatever songs happen to be the EO's current choice are by default the YO's faves too. So it's no wonder that my house is always reverbrating with high-pitched version of the "Three Idiots" soundtrack. However, I couldn't stop laughing when I heard my three-year-old YO singing, in all earnestness and seriousness, "...Gibb me anudder chence, I wanna gilow (grow) up onesh agen!"

Yup, they're growing up, my boys. Way toooooo fast, if you ask me!