Friday, August 24, 2012

The 'Just Married, Please Excuse' Contest

I've been following Yashodhara Lal's blog for a long's been on the blog list on this page forever and sometimes I come to this page just to see if she has posted something new! When she has, I'm sure to get a smile, a chuckle, or a big all out laugh on the other side of that click and come away happy.

When she started writing about her upcoming book, I was so excited and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. She was gracious enough to respond to my shameless begging and send me a copy of it before it was out in the stores. No surprises - it was a great read. What I loved about the book was how real it was - not real as in sadness and hunger and sickness and global warming. Real as in relationships and faux pas and first dates and silly, loving husbands.

Which brings me to the reason for this post...Y has invited her readers to write about real, funny incidents that happened when they were just married. Why am I writing here? Because my incident is funny, alright!? But also because there's a really good *free* lunch to be had with her and her editor for the funniest stories. So, without any apologies for shameless attempt at getting a free lunch, here's my story that's only funny in hindsight:

My husband and I got married about 4 years after we met. Two of those years were spent battling the "how-will-you-settle-into-an-Assamese-family-they're-so-different-don't-you-know-but-you're-still-so-young-and gullible-and-how-about-a-nice-Punjabi-boy" battle. All warring factions laid down their arms eventually and Vijay and I had a wonderful wedding and reception where, of course, we hardly recognized about 60% of the guests. We didn't care though, so love struck and doe eyed were we. I couldn't wait to start my life with him - our own little apartment, done up slowly and lovingly with all the things that we (ahem - okay "I") liked, lazy afternoons spent reading and watching TV, late night spur of the moment coffee shop visits, impromptu hang outs with friends and all the other stuff that makes married life so inviting. (Its' 8 years and 2 children later and I can't even write this line without shaking my head and wondering what I was smoking at that time.) 

The extremely eventful first month of married life went by in some sort of blur and we settled into a little routine. We went to work, went shopping, ate out a lot, sometimes cleaned the house, argued a little, watched a lot of TV - all was hunky dory. Till one day, this peaceful easy feeling was given a hard knock when Vijay informed me that his bua and his much older cousin sister were visiting Delhi from Guwahati and he had invited them over for dinner. They were really looking forward to it - a home cooked meal would be great. 

What?! People from the in-laws that I haven't even really got to know yet? Scary people who will most likely judge my every move and pronounce me unworthy of their son because I had no clue how to put a meal on the table? How the hell was I to pull of a meal, a clean house, and a presentable me with coolness and aplomb? The first thing to do was to breathe and keep myself from throwing something heavy at Vijay. I had a lot of time to do that later. Now was the time to act - sign up for a cooking course, develop a serene and poised personality etc. Except, they were arriving the next day, how inconsiderate of them. I spent the next day in a total haze that consisted of frantic calls to my mom to ask what to cook and then exactly how to cook it and how much water to add and how much salt and how to get that damned pressure cooker to work. Also, what did she mean when she said 20 minutes in the cooker - did I have to start timing it from the moment I closed the lid? Vijay tried to help but failed miserably, having never taken a cooking course either. He redeemed himself with some amount of scrubbing and cleaning though. 

Heroically, miraculously even, we did manage to get the apartment to look presentable and have 4 different main course dishes and even some starters ready for our guests. Just before they were due to arrive, I was showered and fresh, Vijay was looking calm and happy as if he hadn't just spent 24 hours witnessing what married life with me was really going to be like, and the apartment was looking lovely. We had even managed fresh flowers in a jug! I was giving the living room one final appraising glance and was just about to pronounce it perfect when, suddenly, I sniffed...something wasn't right. I looked at Vijay - he was sniffing too. Where was the horrid smell coming from? Did someone forget to flush? But who? Panic rising because of extremely imminent arrival of my in-laws, I ran through the apartment opening every window I could find. But nothing would take that smell away - it just kept getting worse and worse. Eventually, we figured out that the smell was coming from the little drain pipe in the bathing area of one of the bathrooms...apparently, there was a design flaw in our building - the plumbing was connected in such a way that a blocked pipe anywhere down the tower's shaft affected all connections coming from that pipe. Of course, this flaw had to be discovered right this minute, when two elderly, clean, accomplished, and possibly very judgmental ladies were about to walk in for their first meal with their daughter in law. 

Perhaps one of the ladies might trip on their stairs, only a little, nothing serious, and not be able to make it after all? One could hope, right? Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on which side you're on), they didn't trip - they showed up just when the smell had established itself as a permanent guest in our apartment. Vijay and I put on our best smiles, I gracefully touched their feet and welcomed them to our home, and chit chatted about the weather pretending we weren't all at risk of suffocating. The poor ladies kept sneaking glances at each other and at their watches, trying their best not to faint on us. Somehow, we managed to get through that evening and see off two very happy to have escaped Assamese in laws. 

And the dinner? Let's just say there were a lot of leftovers that evening.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

3 going on 13

This is a question for mothers of teenage girls who might read this blog. How do you do it? Handle them, I mean? I'm asking because I think its happening to me sooner than I had imagined. Sooner by about 10 years. Let's examine this objectively. Below are some things I have heard about teenage girls:

1. They like to argue. Check.
2. They have strange and very sudden mood swings. Check.
3. They are always right. Check.
4. They DO NOT back down. Check.
5. They can make you want to gnaw your arm off in frustration. Check.
6. You just don't know where you stand with them sometimes. Check.
7. It's their way or the highway. Check.

Been there, doing that everyday.

See what I mean? It's all on the list and it's all checked.

Meanwhile, in a different room:
My little (shall we generously call her a pre-teen?) Tara smiles wickedly as she reads this and says, "you ain't seen nothin yet, peasants. Muhahaha."

Let me be fair and say it like it really is (of course I'm afraid that Tara will read this some day. Very, very afraid.) For the most part, as long as she is well fed, well rested, and being given a hundred percent of the love and attention currently available, she is a dream. She's sweet, gentle, funny, fun, playful, self sufficient, and happy. Problem is, all of the above is not always an option. Especially the love and attention part. There's an evil older sibling constantly taking some of that away. Some of it is his right, she concedes gracefully. She can't deny him that 1%. But the other 99% must be guarded and fought for every minute. Relentlessly. As suggested by Sun Tzu in The Art of War.

Evilness of older sibling is problem number one. Her own strong opinions are problem number two. Vijay used to accuse me of having too many opinions at one time. He finds it amazing, for example, that I have so much to say to the florist when I go to pick up a simple bunch of flowers. The type of flowers, type of ferns, which part of the stock the cello tape should be stuck to hold them together, how tightly the bunch should be put together, what height the cellophane wrapping should be at, the kind of cellophane it should be, the type of ribbon, how the ribbon should be cut, and so on. Men just don't understand. He, in complete contrast, has been known to go to a florist (only when forced at gunpoint), ask for a bunch of flowers, and proceed to check his messages while the florist has a field day with the flowers. His conversation goes something like this:

Bhaiya - thode flowers dedo.
Sir, kaunse?
200 rupaye main jo bhi mil jaaye
Sir, roses hain. Carnation hain. Gerbara hain.
Sab dedo - mix kar ke. Thoda pack kar dena.

I think it's safe to say Tara's opinion gene has come from me. She has a lot of them, on every topic, and she's not afraid to give them a good airing. Whether you agree with her at any given point or not will determine the status of your friendship with her at that point. She will frown, point, and announce that she's not your friend, or smile, point, and announce that you are her friend as the case may be. The fact that you may have been declared her best friend a few minutes ago does not, however, grant you any sort of immunity. You're just as likely as the next offender to be written up in her black book. The black book is a terrible place to be. Because then you need to identify what it is you did wrong and apologize for it. Without this crucial step, life will not be normal again. If you ever cross paths with her, please remember this piece of advice. It's like a wet paint sign you really should just believe.

Meanwhile, in a different room:
Tara frowns and says, "Main aapki friend nahin hoon. Aap gandi girl ho."

I just wonder at how this little girl can already have so many little complexities...strong and soft, sure of herself and needing approval, opinionated and earnest, assertive and insecure, angry and smiling, independent and needy, pushing you away and pulling you to her, all at the same time.

I had left the kids for about 10 days last month and gone away on the trip of a lifetime to Ladakh (that's another story for another time!) While I was away, Tara refused to talk to me...she was always busy when I would call and Vijay and my friends told me she was happy and there was no problem. She seemed happy and light and all indications were that she couldn't care less that I was away. When I got back, there were no theatrics. She was happy to see me, happy to get a present from me, and happy to give me a big hug and then go back to whatever she had been doing. About 2 weeks after I came back, before she fell asleep at night, in a moment when being vulnerable seemed alright, she told me, "Mamma, jab aap Nadakh chale jaate ho to main aapko bhot miss karti hoon. Phir aap kyun chale jaate ho? Mujhe bilkul achcha nahin lagta." Sigh.

All pre-teens can mess with your mind like this, I know. But are they all this lovable?

Meanwhile, in a different room:
Tara smiles shyly and says, "I love you three, mamma."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I'll say this again: Already?

Vir (jumping out of his school bus): Mamma, look what Aashna gave me today!
Me: Nice! A friendship band!
Vir: Yes. She's my friend and she's a girl.
Me: Did she give one to everyone in the class?
Vir: No, just to me. She even gave me a marble a few days ago.
Me (to myself, but I think in a teenage girl voice): Oooooh....a marble! She must really like you.
Me (to him, in a mom voice): That's nice, sweetie. Do you ever give her anything?
Vir: No. I don't even take anything to school. But, tomorrow, I have to take your phone number. Can you give it to me? I'll write it on a piece of paper and give it to her. So she can call me. 

Sure, kid. Will do.