Thursday, December 31, 2015

Diary 1 - leaving the kids home alone

I have taken vacations. My kids have always been a part of those trips. As babies they have slept peacefully enroute and gurgled happily to strangers in foreign lands. As toddlers they have walked away hand in hand with anyone who had candies on offer. As pre teens they have kept themselves occupied with diaries, sketch pads or cameras. In short they love to travel as well. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when this time they wanted to stay back. The reasons could be many - we were going to Kolkata and not some exotic land that was part of their 'to visit' list, Most of the trip would involve ailing, elderly relatives and the one place that held promise of joy with cousins was already struck out as 'been there, done that'.

"Are you both sure?", I asked one last time.

"Yes ma," they said in unison.

And so it was that I left my 16 year old daughter and 13 year old son for a ten day visit to Kolkata and Shantiniketan. They were not completely unsupervised. My maid stayed the nights and our dogs - all the time. That was safety enough for me. My husband seemed to think I was in charge of this decision and left me to think it through in whatever limited capacity he feels I possess.

The day before the trip :


"More like brunch, ma, we won't be getting up before whatever.."

"Okay brunch then.. any ideas of what you want me to cook?" I asked ticking breakfast off my list.

"Don't worry, we can make maggi, toast and eggs. Also we love milk and the corner store is open 24*7," said one while the other nodded consent.

"I will keep some frozen parathas just in case you feel like.." I said thanking almighty that Maggi was back in stores.


"What about dinner? Sangeetha will cook dog food and she will make the basics like rice, dal and some vegetable for you both. She will not know fancy stuff, so tell me and I can cook and freeze now,"

"It's just ten days ma, you make it sound like forever. We can survive on dal and rice. Food doesn't excite us,"

' I am sure' I thought feeling a little silly. 'Think of things that excite them and then forbid them from doing those' my instincts told me. 'Aaah so now I am being clever,'

"So what do you guys plan to do while home alone hmm?"

"Not like we can party, so just sleeping, watching movies on the laptops.."

"Hmm are you planning on calling friends over?"

"They are all travelling, well most of them are.."

"Well, rule number 1 is that you guys are not going to anyone's house and neither is anyone coming home. Okay?"


"It is just 10 days and it will pass, once I am back I will take you around,"

"Okay," they said and I walked away wondering if I had missed something.

I did take them shopping for supplies and for someone who said food doesn't excite us, they managed to buy two cart loads of junk. On the drive back home I went through the drill once again.

"Check on all the doors and windows at night. Switch on the lights after sun set, don't read in the dark, please, I don't like to think of you both in a dark house, it's so gloomy the way you just stay on and on without switching on the lights.."

 "We do switch on the lights ma, it's just that our eyes can see better than yours.. " they giggled at their joke.

"Not funny.."

"Walk the dogs and always have clean water in their bowls,"

"Will do," they said ripping a bag of chips from the rear seat.

"All the emergency numbers are stored, right?"

"Yes," they said giggling at some private joke.

"I will be in touch, ofcourse, keep your phones handy," I said not expecting a response but did catch the eye roll on the rear view mirror.

Day of travel :

We were packed and waiting at the front door for our pick up. The dogs were stressed about the suitcases and pranced about the house trying to decide which one of us was travelling and which one was responsible for their food now. They finally reached the correct conclusion and settled at my daughter's feet, vehemently licking her.

My husband hugged the kids and so did I. Mine lingered till they let go. The car honked and we were on our way. The kids waving in their night dresses, the dogs panting with tongues out and the winter blooms cheerful.

Then like a flash a thought struck me. I had in my best ability ensured that the stay here was as  safe as possible for my kids but what if our plane crashed? what then would happen to these two, alone in a country far away from everyone. My throat dried up and I knew it was too silly a thought to even share with my husband. I allowed it to tide over me and eventually pass.

An over active imagination is not very wholesome when you have kids.

Friday, December 18, 2015


Traveling to be with my cousins for 10 days. Will return with diaries of a wedding, a trip and time spent without my kids.

Happy holidays everyone. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Moms and teenage boys

Being a mother is not for the faint hearted. The journey is back breaking but let me assure you there are views to melt your heart after you have climbed the hills and crossed the mud. Even in between the cross roads you might catch a butterfly taking flight, if you have the eye for it.

But that is me being poetic, the real version in my house now is slamming of doors, seized gadgets, negotiated homework times and bedtimes, endless pep talks that leave me pepped and the children frozen. When they are not fighting with me they are fighting with each other and then there are the days when dad steps in the game and turns on the heat.

Officially at 13 I have internally declared my son to be a young man. He is hovering over manhood. On certain days he takes massive steps towards independence - both likeable and "flinchable" (I coined that word right now). He comes forward to carry the grocery for me or open doors and pull out the chair which I like, and with equal elan, on other days, he slams the door of his room on my face and stays in bed for hours at end breaking the family rules all at once - flinchable. It is a struggle for sanity and equilibrium. Puberty is a process and does not happen overnight. When I see him as the young man that he is physically, I have to remind myself to also see the child that is not completely gone yet. The two are so blended together, each taking an erratic dominant front that it leaves me confounded.

My husband doesn't understand naps, and associates them with laziness or the elderly.  If my son is in a moving car without distractions, he easily passes out asleep. On weekends, he sleeps till we are tired of him sleeping. I know that I should be worrying about this if he was 29 and living in my basement unemployed and sleeping all day but at 13, his body is telling him it needs more rest. On most days I don't remember this and I assume that the sleep is a reflection of his lack of ambition and end up feeling like the mom of the unemployed 29 year old.

He is a growing boy for sure. The fridge empties in the wink of an eye. He has his "I love.." foods but he is willing to grab anything that his hand can reach and then work his way down the shelves till even the salad dressing is empty. He can cause severe embarrassment in front of guests when I offer them goodies only to find empty packets and jars in the pantry. 

I've always been very open in our home and use the real words for sexual acts and body parts. It seems a long way from this incident and as a mother of a teenage boy I know that at some point, we come to a fork in the road. I can talk about emotions, feelings and respecting your partner. I can also hit on the staying safe parts. The how-to-actually-do-this-stuff questions go to his Dad. Really? They obviously go to his friends or youtube.

My son was one of those kindergartners who had to be carried to school. He thrived on hugs and kisses. Now he walks three steps ahead of us in public.He still freely comes up to me and gives me the odd hug. The difference of course is that he does it when no one is looking. Dads sometimes don't read the signs so well. Unlike other cool dads, his dad can't stay in the stands and watch his game. He is on the field shouting his head off - a source of incessant embarrassment.Parents, as a rule, should assume invisibility when their own teens are around.

He guards his space as furiously as his 16 year old sister. He might not demand it the way she does with a PMS sulk, and being careless and forgetful he might not remember to hide away his personal things beyond the eyes of his helicopter mom, but incidents of him busting me are more than I would like to admit. Previously it was fine to be arranging his things, looking through his books and bed. Now the same action rubs him the wrong way and hell breaks loose.

This is just the start, I am told. It is a long way ahead. The journey of hills and flowers, rains and butterflies is tedious and exhausting. I wish I had the map of Dora and could be as adventurous an explorer as her. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Raja Rani ki bakwaas kahani (An apology of a love story)

“Sorry, she is around. We are discussing some issues plus she wants me to sleep early and workout tomorrow. Can’t chat. Later.”

She felt it like a blow in her gut. Drained of all her energy that usually built up over the course of the day to finally find a release during this time when she had him to herself. The door slammed on all of that.

“Goodnight, sleep well” she messaged and creeped out of her toilet with the phone tucked in her bra. 

Stealthily she crawled on to her side of the bed and lay down no different from the creepy crawlies of the night she so hated. Her husband of 20 years slept peacefully, or so she assumed.

The misadventure had started on her last trip home. It had been a devastating trip on every account. She had rushed to India at the news of her brother’s death and in the month that she stayed there she met the man who had left her at the altar 21 years ago. She told herself that she was vulnerable and it was natural to find solace in a man who had courted her relentlessly for years and so she agreed to one lunch and then another and then a few more.

He said he realised, now, what a mistake he had made when he succumbed to family pressure and married a rich girl instead of her, and she believed. She felt good that he realised, that he found her attractive still to say this.

They chatted every opportunity they got, reliving the past and making the present selfishly messy. The future – did not occur to them. Love they called it. ‘Reconnected’, ‘meant to be together’ were the phrases used. It suited them well; it justified the mindlessness of it all. And then she went back to the country and to the man who had taken care of her broken dreams and helped her carve out a life for herself these past 20 years.

She came home like an empty shell. Her eye was always on the phone, every beep raising her heartbeat, every request for a picture making her change umpteen dresses and shades of lipstick. The selfies with the unnatural pouts filled the gallery of her phone and she slept less and less each night. The phone that never had a password now had one. It was a ticking bomb ready to explode on all that she called her own, three kids and a devoted husband.

Her day revolved around his messages. She waited like a dog waits for a bone thrown his way. Initially he was eager, he stayed awake till the wee hours to chat with her, but now all she got was a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes a day. Curbing her self-respect she asked him why. “Busy,” he said and she believed yet again. Her life though she had blissfully changed to fit him in. She was never busy for him.

When pouts didn’t work, she played mind games. She controlled her urge to message him and suffered withdrawal symptoms like an addict. If he still did not get in touch, she sent a causal joke hoping to sound breezy and yet get noticed. She changed her profile picture and put up a loaded status message. When he did take the bait she felt like she could eat again, breathe again.

“Rajja I still love you…”

“Say it again, just one more time...”

“I checked the tyre pressure in your car and got the tank full. Going now, your breakfast is on the kitchen table. See you in the evening,” the husband said from outside the toilet door.

“See you,” she said in a matter of fact voice her fingers flying over her phone’s keypad. It was the time she had him just to herself. She was lapping up the treat that had been thrown her way.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Special - you and I

In a room full of people speaking Russian, you are the only one who does not speak or understand that language. Some are loud and boisterous, some tensed and a few roaring with laughter. What do you do? They are looking at you, pointing towards you, asking you questions you don’t understand, making gestures that you feel incapable of comprehending as they vary across cultures. What do you do?

You look for visual cues, for a kind face, a smile, a quiet place to organise your thoughts. You try and seek the familiar amongst all that is otherwise.

Every day a special child is faced with such a situation socially. He is pushed out of his comfort zone into the unknown and just like you he hopes for a kind face, a smile and a hand that says,  ‘We can try together – you and I’. If you are willing to be that face and that hand for him, he can also teach you so much more than you ever thought possible.

Just by being around them and seeing them try so hard, it becomes difficult not to exceed your own limitations. I am a quiet person. I can address issues on mail, I can write stories and I can make posters about autism awareness, but when it comes to advocacy in the form of public presentations that involve talking in front of a crowd (read more than 3 people) I panic.  That’s usually when I think of all the special children I know. I am not thinking of just their needs, I am gaining confidence from them, from seeing them try to make sense of a world that does not function in a manner they can follow. I tell myself, “Just like them, I can do this” and I let the first words flow out of me. It is a gift to be working with special children and I feel lucky that I have the opportunity.

This post is dedicated to the special people who help us to look at the world humanely. They give another angle to the debate of  intolerance, they jump out of their boxes and pull us out of ours.