Saturday, December 3, 2011

My little performers

My two and a half year old made her stage debut today! It was her school annual day and Tara played a little red fish in the school musical performance of The Rainbow Fish.

When I first heard that her school was planning an annual day, I didn't take it seriously at all. I thought it was just another show and tell kind of thing the school likes to do to keep parents happy. Her school is really big on the marketing front anyway, and I don't mind since I just ignore it for the most part. But when they sent me a circular saying the performance would be at a cultural center in the city in an auditorium and that I needed to deposit 800 bucks for a costume for her, I got pretty fussed about the whole thing. For one thing - 800 bucks for a fish costume? Really? I don't even buy her real clothes that cost that much. And knowing Tara (as I thought I did), I was pretty sure she would seriously injure anyone who tried to put her in a contraption that would make her look like a red fish.

But more importantly, I just didn't agree that a two and a half year old needed to be involved in anything that requires choreography and rehearsals and costumes. Why put her through that kind of stress? Don't we routinely ruin her days by doing terrible things like making her wear warm clothes in the winter, combing her unruly hair, putting her in tights that aren't tight enough, and asking her to wear shoes when she gets out of the house anyway? Why add to her troubles (and the troubles of all those within a 2km radius of her) by asking her to dress up as a fish and dance on a stage?

Besides, I couldn't see the objective of a stage performance for kids that age. What good could that possibly do for her? I can kind of see the point once they're Vir's age. When he had his school assembly and was Papa Bear, it really meant something to him. He was totally willing to put on a warm and fuzzy (and ugly) bear outfit and practice his lines because there was a sense of achievement to be had at the end of the beary hot event. Tara, on the other hand would have no clue what was going on. With this conviction, I went up to Tara's principal and asked her to remove Tara from the annual day performance and not expect her to show up on the day of the event. I can't describe the look the poor lady gave me. It was a mixture of distaste, disbelief, despair, and worry about the 800 bucks that I wouldn't be depositing and some other stuff only she could elaborate on. To her credit, she really tried to explain to me why she thought this whole event was a good idea. I stood my ground though and walked away feeling like I had really done a good job, taken a stand, stood up for my daughter's interests and other such. Damn the education system and all that I say.

So how did we get from there to today's performance? Howcome I'm writing about her stage debut when only a couple of weeks ago, I was seen walking out of the principal's office with a look of smug satisfaction on my face? Turns out Tara was really excited about the rehearsals in the school and just wouldn't be kept away. She did all the steps the teachers were practicing to perfection and was ever willing to show them off to us at home too. What's more - they had a dress rehearsal and Tara loved her red fish outfit. Her teacher call me to ask for my final decision on whether she would perform at the annual day or not. What could I do except chew my words and choke up 800 bucks?

Wouldn't you know it though, Tara turned out to be a complete natural on stage. Despite all initial misgivings, I was super excited to see her do her little dance and am proud to report that she was the best in her class. In fact in the whole school. No other kid swayed from side to side quite like she did and certainly no other kid could have looked cuter than my little red fish. Sad red fish who don't have beautiful scales because the Rainbow Fish just wouldn't share them don't come any cuter than this.

I could see her scanning the audience looking for us as she was dancing. When Vir ran up to a place where she could see him and called out, she called out to him and pointed but didn't even miss a beat or a step. She was busy making mental notes though, because when she finally met me after the performance, she looked at me accusingly and said "Vir mereko dekhne aaya....tu nahi aaya?" Little do you know little one that my eyes were on you every second of the way and that (though I'm really embarassed to confess) I even teared up at the thought of how much you've grown in just two and a half years.

Well, my eyes would have been on you and the rest of the play throughout had it not been for the diversion created by your big brother. Vir was so excited about the entire stage performance idea that he decided he needed to go up and contribute too. And the best thing to do, he thought, would be to tell a story. When he shared his intention with me, I, of course just laughed it off saying he could do that at his own school assembly. He was really serious though. So serious and so seriously hurt at being stopped that he spent the next 20  minutes howling loudly and uncontrollably that he wasn't being given his shot at fame. So there we were - Vijay and I - faced with yet another situation life had not prepared us for. One the one hand, a carefully prepped and choreographed school annual day complete with scripts and props and printed programs and harried teachers and nervous principal, and first row reserved for VIPs. On the other hand, a 5 year old kid who is taking it  very personally that he's not being allowed to show an audience of 250 people what he's really got and who might (we think) withdraw into a shell  if his talents were thwarted at this early age. What were a pair of insecure and unprepared parents to do?  Luckily for us, the principal opened up the stage to parents as part of her thank you address. We jumped at the opportunity, and requested her to let Vir have the stage for a while too. It was a little embarassing I must admit because this is the same principal, you might remember, from whose office I had been seen walking out with a look of smug satisfaction on my face not too long ago. Something about not wanting kids to perform on stage if I remember correctly.

Back to the point though. Vir got his chance. He wiped his tears, put on his game face and walked right up to the mic on stage under the spotlight in front of 250 people, took a deep breath and said, "Good morning parents. I will tell you the story of the Little Red Hen." And proceeded to narrate without a single fumble or error an entire story from beginning to the very end when all the farm animals were ready to eat the bread. It was at least 3-4 minutes of talk time and he was a pure natural through the whole thing. Vijay and I had no idea how to react. So we just sat back and watched our little boy do his thing!

Little red hen and little red fish - you surprise us every day and every day you make us proud! Of course, we're mostly totally unprepared for the stuff you throw at us, but in your defence, you never promised otherwise, did you?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Didn't Gandhiji just walk a lot?

I had the best weekend! Two of my best friends got married. To each other. The reception was in Kerala, and I got to go without the kids and with other friends. Doesn't get better than that! Vijay was really great about taking the kids over completely for the weekend. He gave them a really good time and though they missed me and thought I had come back everytime the doorbell rang, they weren't unhappy. And Vijay says they were no trouble at all! I really should do this more often. Muhahahaha.

On the way back, I wanted to pick up little presents for the children. Tara's present was easy - a cream and gold Kerala saree style cotton lehenga. She's totally into legengas these days ever since I got her one for Diwali and the wedding. She loves wearing it. She loves looking at it. She loves talking about it. So I figured, why not double the happiness. Vijay had already bought her another necklace to add to her collection while I was away, so it's safe to say her girl needs for the week have been met.

For Vir, of course I had to look for cars. Because that's the only category of things that's guaranteed to make him happy. The only toy vehicles available at the airport were an Ambassador car and an auto. So that's what I got. He had fallen asleep in the car on the way over to pick me up from the airport. And wouldn't you know it, the first thing he mumbled in his sleep when he started waking up and realized I was back was whether I had brought him cars! He couldn't wait for me to pull them out of my suitcase and he really was thrilled with them. But I think a small part of him may have been disappointed that his new cars weren't sleek and fancy. How do I know this? Because after the initial excitement of new cars wore off, he came up to me and said, " this an old car?" "No, it's new...I just bought it for you, Vir," I said. "No. I mean in real. Is it an old car? Was it very long ago? Did Gandhiji used to drive this?"

Even if he would have been happier with a Ferrari or something, I'm happy that he hasn't come out and said it or complained in any way. He loves his little Gandhi car...he really does! But he just can't help knowing the difference between Gandhi's car and L.N.Mittal's car:-)

Monday, October 31, 2011

They're going to hate me for this one day...

...but how can I not post this conversation I just overheard between my two little ones:

Tara: chalo Vir, hum fillow pighting karte hain.

Vir: theek hai, pehle mein susu kar leta hoon

(Tara follows him to the bathroom and Vir feels obligated to use this as an opportunity to teach her something useful)

Vir: dekho Tara, mein khade hoke susu karta hoon. Aise. Jab aap 4 years ke ho jaaoge, tab aap bhi khade hoke karna. Stand karke. Aise. Okay? Sit karke nahin.

Tara: theek hai. Tab meri bhi "tail" ho jaayegi. Tab mein bhi stand karoongi. Theek hai?

Vir: Tara, tail monkeys ki hoti hai. Hamari nahin hoti. Okay?

Tara: (nodding understandingly)...haan...theek hai.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Keeping busy on the train

Vir made this on the train ride home from Dehradun for Diwali. Ever since he started school, his pictures have become so's a lot of fun to see this develop. This train ride was a lot easier than others - sign that the kids are growing. I've mostly taken the night train to get to Dehradun because the pain of chasing restless toddlers through crowded train aisles and brushing past the same people again and again up the aisle and then down the aisle while smiling and nodding as if you find this cute is something I'd rather not deal with.

Luckily, there's a train that leaves really late at night and gets you in very early in the morning, so the kids spend most of their journey sleeping. I couldn't manage tickets to it this time around, and was terrified at the thought of 6 hours with the two of them in a closed space. It really wasn't as bad as I had made it out to be. A little bit of planning went into packing loads of stickers and colors and coloring books and toys. That really helped. Some time was taken up by the tempting snack trays courtesy Indian Railways. The rest was spent making friends with other kids scattered all over the bogey. Their parents were as happy as we were that the kids found distraction in each other. Vir is getting a lot better at starting conversations with new kids and even grown ups. In fact, he might be going too far. Still lacking the judgement to figure out whether his displays and conversations are welcome or not, he doesn't quite know where to stop. On the way to Dehradun, another mummy of a little kid was subjected to over an hour of poetry recitation and singing of artis by Vir echoed by Tara. She was really good about it and managed to keep her enthusiasm more or less constant. I briefly considered showing the same interest in her kid as a matter of politeness, but my book was so tempting and the opportunity to read it was too good to miss.

On the way  back, he befriended two 6-year old girls. After showing off every car and sticker and color he had, he invited them to draw and color with him and they were all quite busy for a bit. That sight is way up there with all sorts of good things, I can tell you. Vir also makes me really proud in these situations because he's so willing to of the little girls was hoarding all her colors and papers and the other one had nothing. As it happened, Vir also had only one sheet and 6 pens because Tara was hoarding the rest. Without another thought, Vir agreed to cut that single sheet into two and counted out 3 pens and handed them over to the little girl. Then, he found two empty seats where they both sat together and made little pictures for us. Tara watched and will eventually learn, I hope! Right now, it seems like a really remote possibility with her passion for hoarding every little possession.

All in all, I see light at the end of the traveling tunnel. As long as they can find some relatively enthusiastic listeners and admirers on trains and planes, we should be pretty good from now on.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thank you, God

My brother was in town recently and commented that I have the most religious children he's ever met! To hear them these days, that might actually be true! Vir has learnt the Gayatri Mantra and Ragupati Raghav Raja Ram at school. They chant "Om" thrice and then the Gayatri Mantra twice at school every day. So, of course, we have to do it at home now too. And God forbid if you chant "Om" twice by mistake. Ma'am says it's thrice, so that's the law. Oh and there's an element of "Om Shanti Shanti" at the end of the chanting too. To add to this, they taught the kids Raghupati Raghav as part of telling them about Gandhiji. Vir is totally addicted to that arati. He hums it while doing his homework, painting, playing, while in the bathroom - basically all the time! Of course he doesn't really know all the words so some of them come out really funny. The funniest variation I've ever heard was:

Ishwar halwa tere naaaaaam....
Sita ram, sita raaaaaaam
Hey bhagwan
Sita ram...

I'm sure Ram and Sita are smiling away up there too.
Of course, Tara has picked up all this from Vir and can also be found singing (squeaking) relgious aratis at all times of day and night. The funniest, and perhaps most appropriate use of the arati was when she sat in the car with my mom driving the other day! Mom hasn't been well and was driving a car for the first time in over a year that day. She was obviously nervous, and given the fervent chanting from the backseat, we think Tara was too!

I haven't traditionally been a big fan of organized religion. (Read that as the understatement that it is). Somehow though, the fact that my kids are learning things that, as of now, are all within Hinduism doesn't bother me. Over time, I'll expose them to the idea that there isn't just one way to address God. In my view, that comes naturally with time as long as you see that being believed and practiced around you. It happened that way with me. My dad was in the army and that automatically exposed me to temples, gurudwaras, churches, and even moques in small measure. I never saw my parents give more importance to one over the other. Wherever we went, the focus was on addressing God and giving thanks. Over time, I developed my own approach to praying and have always been very comfortable with that. That's what I wish for the kids too.

So, while I've never really chanted aratis or shlokas, it makes me happy that they're learning that there are some rituals that they should inculcate just to stop each day and thank God for everything they have. In addition to what they're learning at school, the one thing I do ask Vir to do before he goes to sleep each night, is to look back at his day and say thank you to bhagwanji for all the good stuff that happened. It's really sweet to hear him recount his day and a joy to realize how many small things make him happy - "thank you that I met Anjali ma'am in the mall today," "thank you that mummy gave me mac and cheese today," "thank you for my blue car." Of course, there are times he runs out of good things and then resorts to stuff like "thank you that I went and did susu." Four year olds and their facination with bathroom activities, I tell you. That's a whole other story that I will not be telling.

Tara has been copying Vir very seriously even in this part of the prayer. What amazed me though, is that somewhere along the way, she has figured out the point of it all too. A couple of days ago, she was lying down in bed getting ready to sleep and started off on her own - her own heartfelt little prayer. Luckily, I had my phone with me so I was able to type it out quickly. Just didn't want to lose a moment like that. Here's what she said:

Thank you God for the mall
Thank you God for ice cream because papa gave me
Thank you God because Radhya meri friend hai
Thank you God for mamma gave me duddu
Thank you God because went to mall
Thank you God because papa ne mera besan pancake khaya because mereko besan pancake accha nahin lagta
Thank you God because papa gave me one skittles

I just can't believe that my little one has figured out the logic of identifying good things that happen to her and saying thanks for those - even intangibles like having Radhya for a friend.

Also, I guess she really likes going to the mall!

Friday, September 9, 2011

She'll be a smart business woman one day!

Tara: Mamma, aaj meri bottle school me gir ke tut gayi. (looking horribly dejected)
Me: Never mind, Tara. Main tere liye shop se ek aur le ke aaoongi. Okay?
Tara: (Looking a little happier) Okay

After a pause (during which I swear I could see her mind working!!)

Also, mereko chips, chocolate, aur tic tac bhi chahiye.

Another pause...

Also, Vir ko chips, chocolate, aur tic tac bhi chahiye
 Sounds like a certain two year old is really beginning to figure things out around here!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A whole new world...

The title may be a tad dramatic, but Tara's first movie hall experience really does open up a whole new world for us! It means that not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, but a few beams of it are even beginning to warm us. It really has happened. We have been able to go out for a movie as a family. And watch the whole thing. With popcorn. That's a really big deal.

The thing is that I have always believed, very vocally, that children should not be taken to movie halls since they always trouble others there and spoil what might be a very special movie day for another person. Besides, they don't enjoy the movie themselves anyway and it's probably bad for their ears and their brains to watch the crap that some of these movies are. I'm the terrible just married non-parent who has tut-tutted and even told off more than one frazzled parent for not being able to handle their little one and forcing me to listen to the baby instead of the movie when I had actually paid for the movie - not the baby.

The indignation and tut tutting was before I was a mom. Now, at least I know that parents are frazzled for a reason. However, the belief about not bringing children to movies is more or less in place. With some qualifications. If its a movie you think your child will enjoy, and one that is not going to scar his or her brain, and if you think your kid will behave itself and if you have a plan in place that can be executed immediately if he or she stops behaving well, and if that plan is drastic enough that it involves abandoning the movie altogether if the situation so demands, then it just might be okay to bring a kid to a movie. It has taken a lot of time and of course years of desperate longing for movies and the smell of popcorn to get me to this point. That's why Vir's first movie experience was only a couple of weeks ago with Cars 2. It went so well that I was tempted to try with Tara. I figured she likes popcorn enough to stick with it for a couple of hours. And if the situation started to get difficult, I could give her some chocolate. Or a lollipop. (Note: great parenting is not always about empty calories and sugar.) And of course, if things didn't work, we agreed we'd just give up and leave immediately before much damage was done. And definitely before any of those parents I had told off years ago recognized me and ganged up for revenge. With a detailed plan in place, Vijay, Vir, Tara, and I set off to watch the Lion King.

It was superb! We were a little late and walked in just when the lights had been turned down. I thought this was not good but it turned out to be to my advantage because it scared Tara enough to just sit where I sat her down and not try to explore too much in the dark. But not enough to not be interested in the movie. She was really quite intrigued by what was going on, especially since she recognized the different animals and was able to make some sense of what was going on. And of course, we were very prompt about getting her popcorn, so that helped. She watched the whole movie with one hand in her box of popcorn and the other firmly clutching my elbow for moral support. I didn't mind sacrificing my elbow for a while. At least it was resting on a movie hall seat armrest.

Of course, this still doesn't mean we're going to be watching Delhi Belly or Basic Instinct anytime soon. But it does mean that when a short, animated, kids movie comes out, we can actually go out as a family and sit in one place and enjoy the same thing in our own little ways. Vijay can sleep, I can think about my new found freedom and celebrate with popcorn and coffee, Vir can watch with rapt attention and develop new fantasies and crazy ideas, and Tara can play with popcorn and rub my elbow. Happiness all around!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stories of freedom fighters

Vir is learning the basics of our freedom movement at school these days since August is upon us. It's incredibly cute to hear of stuff like this from a four year old! Especially when the story gets modified a little by the time I get to hear it.

"Mamma, do you know Gandhiji was on a train once and the Britishers told him to get off the train because he was black. I think he wore a black T-shirt sometimes. When he said no, they threw him out of the train and also threw his luggage and he had to walk back to India."

You smiling at the thought of Gandhiji in a black T-shirt too? 

Friday, July 29, 2011


Vir and Tara were playing under the dining table this evening and eating a "picnic" of sprouts! Yes, even sprouts are fun when you're allowed to have them on pillows and blankets spread under your little dining table house with all your toys! I'm a genius. But that's not the's what he asked us...

"My tummy is hurting a little bit. Do you think a baby will come out of there?"

Hard to keep a straight face when you get questions like that!

You'll never know, my boy, that a baby doesn't happen with a "little bit" of pain. And trust me, you'll be in a lot of pain if you suggest that to the one day mother of your baby! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fun with phonetics

Vir's class is in the middle of learning the "m" sound in Hindi these days. He brought home a little worksheet that had pictures of Hindi words starting with the "m" sound that we were going through together.

Me: look, magarmachch. What's the sound?
Vir: m
Me: and machchar. What's the sound?
Vir: m
Me: and makkdi. What's the sound?
Vir: m
Me: and machchli. What's the sound?
Vir: m
Me: and matar. What's the sound?
Vir: tarrrrr

Just when I thought he was answering without thinking!
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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ah to be little again!

It amazes me the things they come up with. They take things so literally and totally at face value!

Vir: mamma, which school did you go to when you were small?
Me: I went to lots of different schools because nana was in the army and we had to shift a lot.
Vir: Shift?
Me: ya, like move from one place to another. We had to shift homes.
Vir: But mamma, how did you push the house so far?


Vir: mamma, what are you reading? Is this your new book?
Me: yes.
Vir: who wrote it?
Me: a person called Amitav Ghosh
Vir: but how do you read?
Me: you just learn to spell all the words as you keep going to school and then you can read. Like see his name spells A-M-I-T-A-V. You know he lives in New York too.
Vir: really? But then how did he send the book to you?

It's so cute that he thinks like this! But also a little scary because it probably means he takes everything I say seriously and I don't always say the right things. Of course in time Vir will figure out that what one says isn't always exactly what one means. But I hope this simplicity sticks around for as long as possible, even if it means I finally have to learn to watch what I say and curb my hyperbolic tendencies for a while!
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My wise little one

She comes up to me after changing into a fresh set of clothes and casually asks, "How do I look?"

She sees me upset about something and says, "Don't cry mamma. Don't worry."

She wakes up Vir in the morning saying, "Bhai, uth jaa. School jaana hai."

I tell her I'm going out for a bit. She tells the maid, "Mamma ko swimming pool jaana hai."

How does she know everything?!
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I want it my way!

If I'm playing one of those association games where you have to think of the first word that pops into your mind when you're thinking of someone, I'd say for Tara it's "khud." Everything for Little Miss (too) Independent is KHUD KHUD KHUUUUUD. You just can't help her. She won't let you. For things she knows how to do and for things she doesn't know how to do. Eating? Khud! Wearing a diaper? Khud! Wearing her clothes? Khud! Cutting her nails? Khud! Brushing her teeth? Khud! Opening the car, boarding the car, belting herself into her car seat? Khud! Fixing a snack? Khud! And God forbid if you get impatient with her speed and try to give her a little helping hand without taking her permission, she will get mad at you, shake a finger at you and say no-no-no and proceed to start whatever she's doing all over again. Literally, she takes off her half worn pyjama and starts again just because you touched it and moved it along a little and now she doesn't feel like she's done it all-by-herself. Or she gets off her car seat and gets back on again just so she knows she has owned all the steps.

I admit I'm really proud of her for this trait. It's very cool that she just has this streak of independence. We've done nothing to bring it about in her - she's so small that it comes very naturally to us to just try to do things for her like feed her or dress her. But from the beginning, she's having none of that. Of course, this is not always cute. Of the hundreds of transactions in a day with a child, sometimes you really need to get ahead of your day by doing everything as fast as you can. When I have things to do (ummm - always!), the temptation to just grab her and put that damn dress over her head is so strong! And trust me, there are days when I actually do this. Not that it helps. She gets so upset at not having control that she just takes the dress right off and proceeds to run around naked all over the place leaving me totally defeated. I'm spending my days trying to avoid battles with a two-year old because I know the minute there's a battle, I'm going to lose. In the immediate moment, I complain and yell because of the constant struggles she puts me through. But in the long run, I know she'll be alright because she'll always know what she wants and won't ever wait around for someone else to make things happen for her. Go girl! Just give your poor dad and me a little break once in a while, ok?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Back off, real world

So Vir and I were chatting before he fell asleep tonight and this is what he told me:

"Mamma, when I go to school in my bus, there are some boys - they're older boys like maybe 10 years old - they call me Vir Gogi Vir Gogi and one boy calls me Vir Gogi and all of them laugh at me. One day they did that and I started crying but I didn't do waaah waaah - only tears started coming but I stayed quiet because if I cried then they would call me a cry baby. So only tears came and my face was wet. Then one nice boy who was wearing a yellow T-shirt and pants was very nice to me. He didn't call me Vir Gogi. When my home came, he just told me to come with him. He was very nice."

Yep. My heart just about broke. He's so little, why does he have to face mean boys who call him Vir Gogi already? The mom in me just wants to grab that monster in the blue T-shirt who calls my son Vir Gogi and laughs at him and makes him cry quietly and give him a good shake. But the mom in me also knows the only way to do this is to give my son a way to handle this on his own. I wish I knew what the right answer is. For now, I just explained to him what it means to ignore someone when they're trying to finger you and told him to pretend he couldn't be bothered with them and think about his next birthday cake instead. That'll bore the bullies and send them on their way. Let's hope I'm on the right track with the life lessons on the big bad world filled with boys in blue T-shirts. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Family Holiday: Mogambo Strikes Goa

I've been away from this blog for too long as always, but for a happy reason. The four of us actually managed a family holiday to Goa! We got off to a not so great start with a four hour flight delay which led Vir to announce that he wanted to abandon the whole Goa trip and just go home and sleep.

We weren't to be beaten however, and finally made it to our hotel at almost 3:00 a.m with the kids wide awake and ready to explore! Vijay and I decided we couldn't get the kids to bed, so we might as well start drinking. That was a good idea. The rest of the trip was just one good idea after another. Long naps by the sea, hours of reading while the kids watched TV or ran around with their buckets and spades, sitting at the beach and watching the kids experience the absolute joy of playing with sand and limitless amounts of water with no parental limits, leisurely swims with more than occasional trips to the pool bar...sigh. Holidays are just amazing, aren't they?

Both the kids had a lot of fun, but I think Vir more so than Tara. For some reason, though Tara seemed quite excited and was screaming Goaaaaaaa Goaaaaa at everyone three days before we were to leave, a part of her little toddler brain doesn't like change too much. Her way of protesting was to just stop eating. And for my independent little foodie, that's saying something. I couldn't understand why nothing on those elaborate hotel buffets would tempt her and why all her favorites were just being thrown around instead of munched. Now that we're back and she's eating, I realize it was just the change. But while we were there, I think it was her niggling hunger that she couldn't quite identify that made her madder than ever at the world for not doing EXACTLY WHAT she wanted EXACTLY WHEN she wanted it. If you were one of the guests at our hotel last week, you'll never forget the noise that scary toddler made every mealtime. I still get a little weak kneed thinking about it. One of the attendants at the restaurant named her DND. "You can look at her and you can admire her from a distance but you better not mess with her!" A part of me is quite happy that she is good at creating boundaries and letting people know exactly what she'll allow. Right now at the angelic and cheruby age of 2 (I'm taking refuge in sarcasm), those boundaries are very, very clear. Especially to her. And new boundaries are being formed literally as I type. This essentially means that you never know when you're crossing some sort of line with her and might start off a screaming fit complete with tears and snotty nose just because you helped her take off a sandal she wanted to manage herself or because you put a spoon of dal on her rice or because you gave her water in the WRONG WRONG WRONG bottle.

Well meaning strangers have been coming up to me to tell me that this is just a phase and it too shall pass. Vijay and I are sometimes dealing with her bravely and sometimes not. We're often seen sitting and watching another tantrum play out with a dazed and numbed-by-the-pain sort of expression. Sometimes, we deal with it by just laughing it off...the crazed and semi-hysterical laughter, not the ha-ha-this-is-fun laughter. Mostly, we just do everything we can to keep our wits about us and know exactly how she wants life to be so we can tread around the tantrums and not get sucked into them. I have no idea how to sustain our mine field treading for the whole year though...she just turned two...we've only hit the T of the terrible twos yet!

What gets us by of course is that when she's not mad at the world, she's just about the cutest little thing you ever saw. She has an irresistible smile which makes her eyes and nose just scrunch up and disappear and its the doses of that face and that little voice saying "lovelu so much mammmmi" that tell us that our little queen bee is just a little baby after all!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Growing up too fast!

My little Tara turned two this week. Cliche'd as it sounds, I just cannot believe how quickly this has happened. She was just born. She was a tiny, tiny thing being brought to me by the doctor as my heart was filled with sunshine (another cliche but equally true) that she was born a girl and I was now a daughter's mom! I don't know how to explain why this meant so much to me. Of course I would have loved a boy as much, but having her meant so many things that I so wanted. I wanted Vir to have a sister and her to have a brother like Vir. I wanted Vijay to know the joy of loving his little girl. I wanted a girl to talk to in a house full of boys. I wanted another bond like the one I share with my mom. I wanted a little doll to dress up (yes, yes I'm very shallow and laden with gender stereotypes). I wanted to justify shopping for insane amounts of clips and ribbons and pink junk. Basically, I wanted it all. And I have her to thank for making it happen. She is totally holding up her end of the bargain, giving us joy and entertainment and love all packaged up in the pink that I'll never tire of buying for her.

Before Tara came, I used to wonder how it was possible for me to love someone else the way I loved Vir. I was honestly worried that I wouldn't be able to do this twice and the second one would somehow feel less loved. I'm still amazed by how this problem went away the second she entered the world. As long as she doesn't do a post count on this blog and discover how little I end up writing about her, I think she'll feel very loved because I now know it's silly to worry about how to love your kid. You just do and that's that. Of course, a part of me knows that Tara is quite capable of conducting a post count and coming at me with the stats as soon as she can power up a computer. So, I'll be writing furiously over the next few weeks and all my writing will feature the junior most Gogoi as the protagonist. Baby Mogambo, as we have taken to calling her (only partially affectionately, I'm afraid), will only be happy when enough has been said about her and her prettiness and the prettiness of her hair, eyes, nose, clothes, shoes, and everything else to do with her. Luckily for me, I have a lot of writing material and new stuff is being developed everyday, thanks to the drama queen who just turned two.

Happy Birthday Taru. Live happy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

So this is how it's going to be!

Me: Vir, did you sit with Tejas in class again today?
Vir: No, I'm not friends with Tejas anymore.
Me: Why not?
Vir: Because a girl, Gia, came to me and asked if I could be her friend. And I said yes.
Me: So?
Vir: So I'll have to tell Tejas tomorrow that I can't be his friend anymore.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

How the humble crow came to our help in an hour of need

It constantly amazes me how the simplest and most straightforward of activities that you could just pull off without a thought before you had kids now seem like the greatest of challenges and get done either not at all or with much pain and procrastination. As an example, the light in our bathroom has been out for (I'm not kidding) over a month now. The particular tubelight that fits this rare holder is apparently only available in Sikanderpur - which is worse than a sharp pain you know where at the best of times. To go there with kids evokes such horror and fear in both me and my husband that we have happily lived with the alternative for over a month. We have chosen to live without a light and stumble along in the dark arms outstretched looking for the pot when we want to use the loo at night. We have taken baths in the light of our cell phones or little candles and even told ourselves that candlelit baths are romantic. Granted, we don't have a tub or jacuzzi and we haven't had glasses of wine and glossy magazines for company but hey, with two kids, you take whatever you can get, right?

Anyway, last evening, I had finally reached the end of my patience with make believe romantic baths and midnight stumbles just to pee and I really wanted a light in my bathroom damnit! Of course, one of us could have gone alone to buy the tubelight but we (believe it or not) wanted to spend the whole weekend together and this would be such a waste of time alone. So we gathered up our courage, made a list of all the other things that were not working in the house that we could get from Sikanderpur, got the kids and their water and the diaper bag ready, fed and walked the dog, and did all the hundred things one does when leaving the house with kids for even a little while. We felt so brave, finally on our mission to get things done, take control, sieze the day, and all that (of course it's that big a deal!)

So we get there and since Tara has fallen asleep on the way, I wait in the car while Vijay and Vir head into the market with the list of things to buy. And wouldn't you know it, as soon as Vijay gets into the shop and begins to tell the shop keeper what he needs, Vir announces that he wants to poop. Loudly in the store, "papa...potty aa gayi. Zor se potty aa gayi..." Really? Poop? In Sikanderpur? Plonk goes the whole sieze the day idea. Now it's just about buying as many of those tubelights and other things as possible before things get out of hand. Vijay hurriedly picks up some random bulbs and tubelights while telling Vir to try not to think about it and wait a little bit. Meanwhile, the shopkeeper is visibly tense because he has a business to think of and little boys who want to poop right in the middle of his shop can't be good for that. He urges the sales guy to hurry the hell up and get these people what they want already. Vir isn't helping at all with the non-stop "papa-potty-potty-papa-potty" chant.

I have no idea all this is going on and am just happy thinking of all the things I can strike off my to do list when I get back from this trip. So, I'm not too happy to see a not too happy Vijay rushing towards the car with a not too happy Vir. (Tara is happy, but only because she's asleep.) I get the jist of what's going on through Vir's chanting and Vijay's muttered grumbling. We're at least 25 minutes away from home and a clean loo. Trust kids to want to poop at all the wrong times. I try to tell Vir not to think about it and wait a little bit - that's been done before and it's not working, says Vijay.

Suddenly, when things are really on the verge if you know what I mean, Vijay remembers what worked for him when he was a kid in a similar situation. A little poem his nanny taught him. It's in Assamese and the protagonist is a crow or a kaori. The jist of it is that the crow is being asked to take away the poop and bring it back at a more opportune time. Vijay teaches Vir the poem and Vir earnestly repeats it. He forgets all the other lines after the first time and all we can hear is a very trusting little voice going "kaori-kaori-kaori-kaori-kaori." "Is it working, Vir?" says Vijay, "Is the kaori helping you?" (We're really hoping kaori is not sleeping on the job today since we need him to get us out of Sikanderpur.) "Yes," says Vir, "kaori-kaori-kaori..."

Phew. Turns out kaori really knows what he's doing because not only did he take away the poop, he also got Vir to fall asleep before we reached home. It's 16 hours later as I write this and kaori has yet to return :-)

 As for my tubelight? Let's just say we have a few more candlelit baths to take before I can report any success there!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Who needs TV?

Here's an attempted recreation of the scene before bedtime last night:

Scene: Kids' bedtime, mom tired and ready to end the day and pushing the kids to brush and change and go to sleep already. Vir is all changed up and fooling around on the bed while I'm trying to get Tara to change.

Me: Tara, lie down need to wear your pyjama.
Tara: (wisely, while holding up her PJs) Panjana
Me: That's right Tara...that's your pyjama. Can you wear it please? Lie down!
Tara: Shakes head very decisively as she always does and refuses to give me the PJs
Me: You want to wear it yourself (little miss "too" independent)
Tara: Already putting her legs in and having a go at the PJs. After a few tries, she manages to get it on up to her knees.
Me: Okay Tara, lie down please so I can pull it up.
Tara: Shakes head decisively again.
Me: Now what?
Tara: Pats bed a few times that she wants to wear her PJs sitting down (She's fiercely independent but not currently capable of thinking through her decisions.)
Me: (Okay, let me explain this calmly. Arguing with Tara doesn't help. And ordering certainly doesn't.) But Tara, if you're sitting down, how will the pyjama go up your bottoms?'ll get stuck right here...
Tara: Pats bed again stubbornly (I already told you how I want to do this, right mom?)
Me: Okay - try it. 
Tara: Tries it. Doesn't work. 
Vir: (jumping into action) Mamma...I can teach her how to do this! But I'll have to take my pyjama off to show her. 
Me: Watching in dismay as the one kid who was actually ready for bed swiftly undresses and joins the party.
Vir: (super cutely demonstrating how a pyjama is worn while Tara looks on like everything depends on this) Look Tara....first you have to hold the pyjama like this, then you have to look for the tag and make sure it's at the back, then you have to put your legs in. Now you have to stand up and pull from the front and pull from behind. (It works! Vir's pyjama is back on and Tara looks like he may have a point after all. She may be stubborn but you can't really argue with such strong visual proof. I can almost see her considering trying this radical new way of wearing pyjamas.)
Tara: does exactly as instructed by her PJ teacher cheered on very enthusiastically at every step by the said teacher and a mother who is seeing light at the end of the long bedtime prep tunnel. And will you believe it, she does it! The PJs are where they should be, Vir is ecstatic at having imparted wisdom, Tara is happy that she didn't have to ask for help, and I can't help laughing out loud at my comical kids and my uniquely comical bedtime routine!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Big School!

It's finally happened! Vir has started big school. Embarked on a long journey and all that. His Shroopie masi thinks the journey should end at her doorstep - with a PhD in hand. I'm already in awe of the said masi so I'd love for that to come true. On the other hand, I often think of the romance involved in him becoming an out of work artist. Vijay wonders why my dream involves him being out of work. If he's an artist, so be it, but can we at least hope that he should have work? There has also been a time when Vijay and I have paranoid-ally worried that he might be into car racing given his passion for cars and we have visualized ourselves as a terrified old couple cowering in the stands while our son races past at a speed at which you don't want your children to race past. Sigh. All that is thankfully later. For now, I just hope that he loves his school and his little nursery class and his two teachers and that he gets off his bus everyday grinning and full of stories for me.

I was really worried about how he would take school especially since he's been at home with me for so many months. I spent the last month prepping him for this but didn't have too much hope that this would result in him happily trotting off into class while waving me a cheerful goodbye. That doesn't happen with him. What I expected was him starting with a low grade whining about not wanting to go to school and ending in loud wails while clinging to my thigh. That happened.

Luckily though, there's a happy ending. I didn't have to peel him off my thigh and leave him crying and kicking at his unfortunate teacher, thanks to Tara! I had taken her with me to drop Vir off to class and while he was not at all interested in any of the things set up in his class to invite and encourage kids, Tara was thrilled to see all the play dough and the toys and the colors and and immediately made herself comfortable in his class. When Vir wouldn't let me leave and Tara wouldn't agree to leave the class, one of his class teachers took pity on me as I was getting increasingly frazzled (God bless her) and offered to keep Tara in class for a while too so Vir had someone he loved in there. Vir loved the idea and of course Tara wasn't complaining. So they held hands and trotted off into the classroom, this time waving me cheerful goodbyes. Phew! I managed to extract Tara after a while and bit all my nails off over the next couple of hours as I went home and waited for the bus to drop him off after school. I'm happy to report that he jumped out grinning widely and had all sorts of things to tell me about his first day.

He's off to school now - it's his third day and I just can't wait for him to back. It's strange for me to not be part of what he's doing for so many hours in the day, and all I want to do is hear his stories! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where does he get this stuff?

Vir: Mamma, do you know how to dance? 
Me: Yes. Why do you ask?
Vir: You know, you have to dance to get married.
Me: Really?
Vir: Ya, that's how you get married. 
Me: By dancing?
Vir: Yes, by dancing. That's how. And there's a princess who teaches you to dance if you don't know how to dance. 

Marriage is quite the theme of discussion these days. Here's another conversation:

Vijay (to me): Hey, we have to go that wedding this weekend, remember?
Vir: Is it my wedding?
Me: No, Vir. 
Vir: Why?
Me: Not yet. One day many years later, you'll find someone to marry and then it will be your wedding.
Vir: I will marry Tara.
Me: No Vir, she's your sister. You'll find someone else because sisters are different from wives.
Vir: Then I won't marry anyone. I'll just stay in Vatika City always. 

And another one:

Vir: Mamma, I miss Mamta didi (was the maid who worked with us when Vir was 2)
Me: Yes, Vir. I know that. (So do I!!)
Vir: Why did she have to go away? Did you fire her? (really need to start watching what I say in front of him)
Me: Umm (gulp). Yes, but she needed to go to her house anyway because she had to get married.
Vir: So why did she have to go away if she had to get married?
Me: Because sometimes when you get married, you need to go to a different house. 
Vir (from the bottom of his heart): Mamma, marriage is so unfair. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My conscientious student

It's so funny to think that my little not-even-two-year-old has been paying attention at school! She lay in bed last night just before she fell asleep babbling away like she always does when she started uttering some gibberishy thing followed by ha-ha-ha. Then again something something and ha-ha-ha. Then something something sugar ha-ha-ha. She was trying to sing Johnny Johnny to me! I have never sung this rhyme to her, so I figured she learnt it at school. Of course, Vijay and I were very excited and have made her repeat this so many times that she can now even say the no-papa part right on cue followed by a great big ha-ha-ha!

What will tomorrow bring? Maybe she'll tell me how the monsoon travels to India. I really never understood that lesson in Geography:-)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fitting the stereotypes

Before boys are born, they're made to drink a shot of the car-airplane-monster truck-anything on wheels potion. And before girls are born, they're made to drink a make-up and clothes potion. These are not just stereotypes. Looking at my kids, I'm almost certain this is what really happens.

Vir's undying passion for cars is no secret. Seriously, that boy scares me with how much he thinks about cars and how much he understands them already. Yesterday, he pulled out two pet cars for the day (he always has a one or two that go with him everywhere for a couple of days and are then put away safely while a couple of others get the honor for a while.) Anyway, the two dinky cars he pulled out were, as I saw them, completely different. One was a black and white police car with lights on top and some other embellishments. The other was a blue race car looking thing with a spoiler on the back. As always, he brought them to me to get me to read their names, typically written on the bottom of the Hotwheels ones. I couldn't believe it when I realized that different as they looked, they were both Dodge Chargers. Some part of his boy brain was able to figure out the similarities in the two cars despite all obvious differences and pull them out from his embarrassingly large collection of dinky cars to form a pair. Totally incomprehensible to me of course. I stared and stared at those cars after that to see if I could spot any similarities. None. At all. Of course, I was never given a shot of that magic potion before I was born. Maybe this is why boys don't understand the differences between mauve and lilac, or beige and taupe, or  jade and sap. Same as why I don't see the difference between a Dodge Charger and a non Dodge Charger.

The little woman in my house meanwhile is discovering that she loves all things girly. Ask her to show you her nail polish and she'll preen and show off without apology. It started when my sister in law painted hers and her cousin's nails to entertain them one day. They both came out of her room blowing lightly at their fingers as if they've been doing this forever. And today, she came running up to me urgently handing me my kajal and asking me to twist it open and apply it to her lips. All things that twist open must be lipstick of course! And she doesn't let a single opportunity to use creams and lotions and perfumes go by. She just has to see me opening my toiletry cabinet to come running up with her demands. She's always ready to show off her clothes and shoes and her pretty face to all willing admirers. Add a small purse to her ensemble and that's all she needs. My mom actually sent her a shiny little purse with two bottles of nail polish inside as a present to make her happy recently. Totally made the little show off's day!

Of course, we're not doing anything to consciously promote these stereotypes, but they're such fun to watch that we're not really discouraging them either. As if we could fight against the magic potions even if we wanted to!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tara Gogoi Goes to Preschool!

I know. She's not even two. You'd think from the way she's taking it though that she's been doing this forever and totally has it down. I signed her up for a two hour a day play school sort of thing near our house since I'm thinking of getting back to work and need her to get a little more used to being out and away from me. Knowing her though, I wasn't even worried that it's too soon. She's ready to be out and to meet more people and socialize. The limited pool of people she has to spread her magic within the house just doesn't cut it anymore. And sure enough, she just walked right into school and involved herself in everything that was going on despite the chaos and newness of it all. Yesterday, which was day one, I waited around near the office thinking I'll hear her crying any minute and will take her home since it might be too much to expect her to spend two hours there all at once. I waited two hours and the only time she cried was when I finally tried to take her home!

Back at home, Vir was extremely concerned that Tara now has to go to the big black hole called school and kept asking me if she was crying all the time at school. He can't comprehend that she really doesn't mind leaving me for a while.

I know she could throw me for a loop any minute (probably tomorrow since I've jinxed this by telling the internet all about it) and start screaming bloody murder at the sight of the school building, but for now I'm just so thankful that this has been so easy for her and for me. It's so great that she just handles things in her own little independent way and makes a place for herself wherever she goes. I hope she stays like this, and something tells me she will!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Parenting is tough

I had a particularly difficult day with Vir and vented about parenting on Facebook today. I was advised to write about it here instead. That got me thinking so here I am.

What's tough about parenting? Let's see if I can even begin to put this in words. Never having a totally peaceful night's sleep either because the kids wake you up or because you expect to be woken up even if you aren't or simply because some percent of your brain is thinking about the kids even when you're asleep. Never being able to switch off completely and do or think nothing because your brain is permanently wired to the kids and some part of it just won't let go even for a minute. Not knowing if the decisions you make all the time are right or wrong for them and knowing that right or wrong - it's all you. They depend on you and if you're screwing up, you're screwing with them. And then knowing that you're screwing up a lot. Not knowing how to handle the daily ups and downs and the big and small disasters and messes that naughty hands and curious minds just know how to create. Being too tired to clean more poop. Fishing out miscellaneous items from the poop pot. Feeding fussy eaters. Knowing that they are so vulnerable and trying to keep them safe and healthy. Worrying worrying worrying about their health and nutrition. Dealing with loud noises and tantrums while trying to maintain some amount of sanity and even panache as the parent and responsible adult in the room. Setting a good example - that's a particularly tough one! Looking at them while they sleep and feeling guilty about everything you're doing and everything you're not doing for them.

See what I mean? I can't even begin to put it in words...I've written so many things already and could go on. But what's stopping me (after all the ranting) is the thing that I find toughest of all and that's the guilt of complaining about them. Because literally above every other thing is the fact that they're my greatest love and for them, it's all okay. Many times over. Besides, they're just so unbelievably cute. What sort of person would I be to complain about those little hampers of adorableness who can make you smile on the most grey of days and make everything feel better with one snotty, slobbery, just-for-you kiss?

So let's just pretend I said nothing about any of this, okay? 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finally! A Tara post!

I really do let a lot of things go unrecorded with Tara just because I'm always running around these days and never have enough time for important things. She's growing up too fast, knows too much already, and is more and more fun everyday. It's true what they say about second kids - they just learn stuff themselves and you almost don't even know or realize how they're doing it. For example, even though she doesn't talk a lot yet, there's almost nothing you say to her that she doesn't understand. In English, Hindi, or Assamese. She follows instructions completely, even ones given in long sentences. Only if she's in the mood, of course! She does absolutely nothing she doesn't want to. And does absolutely everything she wants to. I feel like I'm at quite a loss with her sometimes because her mind is already so much stronger than mine. Vijay and I really have to develop a way to get across to her and be her parents! She'll teach us, I guess:-)

Anyway, although her spoken vocabulary is still limited, the two words she does know very well are "park" and "jhoola" or rather "dhoola." In Tara's world, the only reason anyone would get dressed and wear shoes is to go the park to sit on the dhoola. She's always ready to go downstairs and never ready to come back up, no matter how many hours she spends swinging away. The sadness with which she cries when she has to leave is true and heartfelt! And of course, without a well developed sense of time, she's ready, in fact begging to go downstairs at any time of day or she looks at you when you get her into her night suit and asks you very matter of fact if you'd like to go to the park. No? Dhoola? No? Really? Huh...then why am I changing? Sleep? Strange.

For now at least, Tara is all about the simple pleasures. The joy of peeling a label off a bottle, taking batteries out of a remote, pulling wipes out of a box, switching on light switches, switching off ma's TV from the main power point, dropping things from the balcony and watching them go down - that beats material happiness, don't you think? And when she's in the mood for something with more of an edge to it, there's always the race of a chase, to which I'm mostly the unwilling participant. I'm often seen chasing a hysterically giggling toddler with a diaper or a fresh pair of pyjamas in my hands. Or with arms outstretched for a bottle of liquid headed floor-wards or a katori or spoon headed off the balcony.

Never a dull day in this household! She's sleeping as I write this, but the madness starts very soon:-) 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Dear Vir,

After all the waiting and countdowns and dreaming about your birthday, you finally turned 4! I spent the eve of your birthday reliving the time that I was expecting you and the day that you were born. You really changed my life that day little one. I wonder if you'll ever realize how much you're responsible for shaping me. Almost as much as I am for shaping you, I guess.

You've had one hell of a year. Your third birthday was in nana nani's house when we were waiting to leave for the US. I remember your excitement about going there and your struggle to settle into everything new that was thrown at you when you arrived. I still have a video of you saying, in perfect Hindi, that you don't like America at all. That may have been the last sentence you spoke in Hindi by the way! The speed with which you picked up English is absolutely amazing. What is even funnier is that you refuse to go back to Hindi and just recently told your dad that he's Assam but you're English!

Just when you were settling into your new life and school, we were all thrown by your nani's illness and life changed very suddenly for you. I'm sorry that I had to leave you the way I did. But you really did me proud the way you handled yourself those two weeks without me. You were super then and also throughout the next few difficult months. We really did put you through a lot of changes for a not even 4 year old kiddo and again, you made us proud.

Anyway, you're back now in your beloved Vatika City. I won't lie to you - I'm really waiting for you to start school. A 4 year old boy can really tire his mom you know! When you're not making me scream in frustration at your antics though, you're really amazing me with how much you know, the way you think, the way you reason, and the way your argue your point of view. I think your ability to think things through also makes you very fair minded and generous. As much as a 4 year old can possibly be anyway:-) And what an amazing brother you're becoming. You really do love that little brat - she makes you happy and she adores you too. She copies your every move you know. We could really use that to our advantage, don't you think? Perhaps you could stop teaching her how to spit, scream, and make me mad?

Oh well, at least try!

I hope you have an amazing year ahead, my little superman. It's going to be a big one, especially since you're starting big school! So go forth and conquer and know that you make us happy every single day.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

So this is how it's going to be!

Me: Alright Vir, time to go to bed.
Vir: Noooooo. Nahiiii. 
Tara: (always the copycat) Nahiiiii.
Vir: Good job Tara. Say no to mamma. High five! You're my best friend and my girl!

(Big hugs all around while mamma tries to hide a smile.)