Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Balls and more...

The summer holidays are at their fag end. I am looking forward to the schools starting. It has been a long two months of sweltering heat, a rowdy boy, a passive-aggressive girl and almost no 'me-time'. 

I am sharing a scene that needed to be captured. Yesterday morning after breakfast, when the kids were being assigned their chores for the day and Max was waiting eagerly for his set of instructions, there broke out a fight between my kids. They do not need an excuse. A look from my son, can cause a wave of emotions in my daughter, all negative, mind you. The look is then retaliated by words, which are seen as blows and felt by my son with almost Tsunami like strength. There is now a motivation and a license to hit, he feels, and before I can say "S-T-O-P" a full blown battle is on. These battles have found a great cheerleader in Max now. Nothing out of the ordinary, what I so far described. But then it happened.. amidst the blows, Bond (now nine, to be ten this October) tells Toshali, "I will kick you where it hurts real bad!" ...

T: "And where do you think that is? Huh? Where?"
Bond: "Your balls, of course!"
T looks at him, looks at me and says: "You should talk to him, he doesn't know anything, he is so dumb, I just don't believe it!"
Me: "Mind your language when you talk to your sister. Also for your knowledge, girls don't have "balls" though that is not the correct word and should not be used."
Bond (incredulously): "What are you saying? Everybody has balls. Me, you, Baba, Didi, even Max. The most important part of the body is the balls, it is more important than the brain or the heart. Everybody has it."
T: "I am out of this place, and Ma dont laugh, it is not at all funny."

I don't know what came over me, but I could not stop myself from laughing, I knew that I had to explain to Bond the facts of life, and also tell him that saying the B-word out like that is not allowed. But for the moment all I could do was roll on the floor holding my tummy. Toshali was livid and Bond thought I was in some kind of pain, because he could not comprehend that what he had said in such earnest was remotely funny.

I gathered my wits and made him sit next to me.

Me (Starting again): "Girls dont have testicles, that is the word to be used, if you want to refer to balls."
Bond: "Of course they do, everybody has them, Max just has one, I even know what the Vet said. She said she will operate and bring out the other one."
Me: "Max is a male, so his organs are like yours. T is a female and her body parts are different."
Bond: " She has it Ma, just doesn't know where it is. She is dumb."
Me: "I am not dumb, if I had them, I would know exactly where they were in my body, but, just like I said before, females don't have them. We have something similar called ovaries and they are inside our bodies."
Bond: " You are just giving fancy names that I cannot pronounce. It is all the same. Didi's are inside? Ma, you know what, that is why she is so stupid, her balls are inside." Take her to a doctor, they need to bring it out."

I knew by then that Bond understood that he was wrong about the human anatomy, but he was enjoying irritating his sister and so continued. It might seem stretched out here, but all of this happened within a framework of 15 minutes or so. The fight continued and then lost steam and topics were changed and the day flowed on.

Maybe I should have taped this, to be used on a later date when either of them is being gutless about life issues. By then they would also know that 'Balls' has a literary meaning too. And in the literary sense women have as many balls as the men and yes, they are not covered up either.

T and Bond as in 2006

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What is the purpose?

S is going to China for a week. It is the start of the Eid holidays here in Muscat. Everything will remain closed for the week. This is a personal trip. He is going alone. These are facts simply stated. Another detail, S is my husband.

It is independence day today. The country celebrates its 66th year of independence. We are no longer ruled by others, we are free to make our own choices and be responsible for the consequences that arise from them. But even today, within the society to which you and I belong, the minds are enslaved to years of cognitive behaviour. A fact, as the above, still does not gel with society. "Official trip?" people ask. "No, personal," says S. "With a group? College friends?", they continue. "No, alone," replies he. A crooked smile follows, looks get directed towards me, waiting for an opinion, even an explanation perhaps. I give none. "Let me know if you want massage parlour numbers." say some with a suggestive laugh. S smiles. I do too. Women ask me how I allowed this. "How could you? He should have chosen some other place if you were not interested in China? The kids have their holidays as well. What do you think is the purpose of this trip?" I have nothing to satisfy their query and anything I say will only further contaminate the narrow alleyways of their mind or so I feel. I choose to remain quiet.

His parents, who are staying with us for the time, ask me everyday if I am staying back because of them. I say no. They quiz me individually on the places that he is going to visit, if he has friends there, what is the current weather condition in China. Normal questions any parent would have and I reply to these as best as I can. Then comes a stinging shot out of the blue from my mother-in-law. "You sleep very early, I have noticed. Much before my son goes to bed. Hope you are not pushing him away. Maybe he does not get what he needs from you and so...," My reactions would have made a series of 'never-before-seen' emoticons had they been captured on lens, but unfortunately there was just the two of us in the kitchen then. How much can a mother care about her son, the extent in this case was unbelievable. I could not let this one pass, this was not an acquaintance asking me questions to feed the society gossip. This was my mother-in-law telling me in so many words that her son was going on a solo trip to China because I did not give him as much sex, as she presumed, he would like. No way could I let this one pass. "Let us be direct here, are you saying S is going to China for sex? And if, for the sake of discussion, I assume that you are correct, then what would you want me to do?" She retreats and mellows. Says in a pacifying tone, "I don't know what is the purpose of this trip?" "Ask him," I say to which she says she is more comfortable talking to me than to him and a whole lot of other crap which basically does not mean anything.

I conveyed this conversation to S. I was upset by the lack of privacy I have in my own house. I felt violated. He said, "Why doesn't she talk to me directly?" But this and many other such questions had sown the seeds of guilt. So far S had been factual about the trip. Conversations had been on a need-to-know basis. But suddenly he was making plans to take me to Jordan for the next Eid, which falls during October this year. He was mailing me ticket receipts and hotel bookings. He was planting seeds of suspicion in my head and I hated the feeling. The trip that he had looked forward to was slowly getting soiled. The idea of such a trip, the romance of it, the freedom that it embodied was getting murky in my head. I fought against it, tried not to change my perspective. It was still a trip to China that he was taking alone. It had a purpose for him, which validated the cost and that was a good enough reason for me. I fought to keep it simple. I fought with myself to accept his need to be away from us on a holiday.

And today as I wished my friends on the occasion of our Independence Day, I realised the irony. How are we free, if even today we get pressured by negativity? Why should we celebrate the country's freedom when we are not free from stereotypes? I will drop S off to the airport tonight. I hope he enjoys himself to the core. I will also hope that people realise that everything need not have a purpose that fits. The actual and most important purpose is to be free to make a choice and live with it. Let us be free!

S and I as taken in December 2011

Monday, August 6, 2012

Growing up is never easy....

"All my friends think you look very young and cute, not your age at all!" said Toshali, in her now famous grumpy look. It was a regular post-school-hour afternoon and I was folding clothes. I turned and smiled. She shrugged and said, "You don't, I dunno why they say that? You have wrinkles around your eyes and laugh lines and quite a few of your hair has turned grey." My grin turned from happy to amused as I turned back to folding clothes.

You all must have gathered that I am speaking of my daughter who is a teenager now and conscious of every detail that she was just a few months back oblivious to. Topping her chart of annoyance is 'Moi'. It used to be her brother but now I reign supreme. "You behave like a teen Maa and that is why you are so popular!!" She was not done yet, I realised. Usually I just let her speak till she has said it all and then I say my part, if there is scope to say anything in my defense. Today I was stumped.

I sat down on the bed and looked at her. "What is it that has put you off?" I asked. "I don't like the fact that people think we are sisters. You must look your age Maa. The other mums all look their age." I seriously did not like the way this conversation was going. I explained to her that most of the 'other mums' that she was referring to had older children and hence were years older than me. She refused to listen. Turning her head away resentfully she said, "When we walk into a room together people want to talk to you, not me." My fuse started to tick. A dull throbbing ache starts at the back of my head and spreads willfully towards a full blown out migraine. There is a sense of helplessness. I know what she is feeling, I can empathise on one level. Yet I feel ill-equipped to cope with her.

The words that want to spring out of my mouth are reactive. They hang on the tip of my tongue begging to be let loose. She wants a fight, I will give her one, my reflex churns choppy signals to my brain. It takes immense will to keep a reign on my words. The migraine will go away, but the words once uttered will not return unscathed. I suddenly wish there were more clothes to fold. But the pile is done. All sorted, nothing left for me to do apart from facing her, talking to her and dealing with my fuse.

I tell her then of my adolescence, "I grew up in the presence of a woman whose beauty is admired even today. I grew up hearing people say, 'You have nothing of your mum's looks.' It must have hurt then. I was your age, my face was full of acne, I was not slim, neither fair compared to the friends I had. I had to smile. I have never confronted my mother about this. I don't remember holding a grudge against her, maybe I did sub consciously, but those times were different and parents were 'parents', not 'friends' with whom you could pick a fight." Toshali gets restless and I know it is time to change my track as it must sound 'preachy' to her. So I change gears and start again, "To begin with I am happy that you are honest and vocal about your feelings. I think that is praiseworthy." She looks stumped now. But she says that I am digressing from the subject and I allow myself a hint of a smile that promises ultimately to alleviate my migraine. So I let the smile linger.

I tell her that what she perceives as young is actually agelessness. It is a period in a woman's life when she is sure of herself, knows her strengths and accepts her weaknesses. When she has travelled equally, inwards than outwards. Her experiences glints from her eyes and smile through her lips. "What you call beauty is actually maturity, a face that is calm in its understanding of the world and poised in its knowledge.", I tell her also, "The only way to reach this ageless quality is to live life. Enrich yourself with as many experiences as possible. Even this talk that we are having today will reflect from your face tomorrow and give it a desirable quality." A part of me tells me she is too young to understand all this, and the other part says,"Try her." I speak as she continues to listen.

"I have to wait it out, you mean?", she finally asks. My smile widens. She did get the jist of it. "You can say wait it out, I would say live it, feel the joy, the pain, the love and the bitterness and one day when you are on your own, your face will be transformed. What is a face, but a mirror of your experiences!! What is it that holds a gaze and makes people want to talk to you... it is nothing but your willingness to talk back. I do look my age, it is age alone that transforms a precocious girl to an ageless woman." She smiles, plucks a grey hair from my temple and laughs. "You are old.", she says and winks as she leaves the room. Well well... what can I say? I let her have the last laugh.

My migraine didn't bother me. That was good enough for the day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brimming with...

I peep inwards
Doodle with  a child's crayon
Make pictures of times gone by
No oil, no canvas
No painter am I
Yet the pictures come out fine

I peep again
travel a few more years
lifting the sepia shrouds of
misty, foggy days
A conversation here
A little note there
A smile, a cuddle
Chuckles et al;
Soars my spirit today
As I lay on my bed
Parched today with a brimming past.

Memories revived,
I walk down the stairs
To my daily grind
Have to pack tiffins,
Ready breakfast.
Sudden flurry, a ball of fur
A forceful stop
A hug and banter
Endless licks and eyes! Those liquid pools..
There is someone
Today, with endless love
I am not alone
In the chores of a middle aged wife.
I am with Max

Yeah Balan, why didnt I have him before? But maybe this is the right time for me... :):)

I am drenched again
Max after his weekly shampoo
Filled to the brim
With a love
Unlike any other