Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pavanputra Hanuman ki Jai

I write this on the morning of the verdict on Ayodhya. The streets in Mumbai are eeriely deserted. When I went to drop off the brat this morning to school, there was no traffic jam and there was but a thin trickle of students coming into school. I woke up to smses from friends saying they werent taking a chance, and they would not be sending their children in.
I almost put my head into my hands and wept. In 1992, I was living alone with my mother in bank staff quarters at Dindoshi Malad East. One of the worst affected zones by the communal riots that broke out after the demolition of the Babri Masjid by the kar sevaks. I remember spending days huddled in terror at home wondering whether it was safe to leave the house. I remember our Hindu Maharashtrian neighbours going down and removing my mother's name from the list of residents on the ground floor. She, a practising Christian, went by her married name. A Muslim name. I remember our neighbours telling us that they would hide us if the mobs came for us.I remember walking with my hands up in the air, when I happened to reach late, past the curfew deadline, all the way from the station to home, and army men, asking my id card and cracking crude jokes over my then Muslim surname. I also remember a gentleman from the forces, a superior of those cracking the jokes, insisting I get into the army jeep and dropping me safe, sound and untouched to my doorstep. I had not realised the danger, I, a teenaged girl, was in.
Today, it is over a decade since the riots that plagued the city. I am a married woman. I am married to a wonderful man who happens to be a staunch Hindu. Who married me because he loved me and my lack of  being from the suitable religion didnt stop him. My son is a mongrel from all three religions, his maternal grandmother a Catholic, his maternal grandfather a Muslim, his father a Rajput Hindu. And I have sent him into school today. Because I dont want to give into the fear. Because I would like to hope that sanity will prevail. That we have matured as a nation to go beyond the petty politics of religion and community and embrace each other as human beings first. Because I would like to put my foot down and say, enough is enough. I dont want to be living my life in the shadow of communal violence. I dont want my son to know that such ugliness exists in the world. I may be living with blinkers on, but I would like to think there are more out there like me, who will will this fear to go away. I will also go out to work today. As will my husband. I will go for a shoot. Go for an interview. I want to believe that life will be normal, as it should be.
The brat plays Hanuman in the Ram Lila we are enacting for Navratri. He has been mugging up his dialogues since the last couple of days. He has watched Ramayan, the animated series and Hanuman, the animated movies too. He is proud to play Hanuman. He says Hanuman is strong, and kind and valiant.
Hold my hand, and stand with me. Tell me we as a nation are not going to stand for mindless violence anymore. Give me strength and give me hope.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bam Bam Bhole

The society we live in had a programme to celebrate the ongoing Ganapati festival on Saturday. As far as programmes go this was very simple. A drawing competition for the kids, with the theme "Ganesha". A talent show, which had the children of the society performing to various songs, with the youngest performer a two year old with mike fright. And then there was a skit, in which the brat was to be Shiv. The father of Ganesh. The skit was pretty simple as far as skits go. The brat and a girl, playing Parvati were to sit on Mt Kailash, which were two chairs, plastic and red, if you must know. Kartik and Ganesh would squabble about who is bigger and finally Ganesh manages to brown nose both parents by just circling them, while poor Kartikeya goes off on his peacok to circumnavigate the universe. The brat was Shiv. He started off dissing his role by declaiming he would not go nangu in front of everyone. "Dey will laffatme!"
A compromise was arrived at and he would wear a kurta pyjama with an animal print scarf artfully tied around the waist. The moon and the trishul was created with mamma's long forgotten artistic skills put to work with cardboard and foil and golden wrapping paper. The locks and Gangaji were dispensed with, there being no guarantee that the brat would keep them all on his head, after all this is a child I can never get to keep a cap on his head in broiling heat. A rubber snake was hired and wrapped around his neck, and he was draped with every rudraksha mala his grandmother had painstakingly collected. The forehead third eye and symbol made and some eyeliner applied to emphasise his eyes, he was lined up with the rest of his troupe behind the stage in readiness for his cue to go on stage. But would he wait? Nope. he spotted a couple of his pintsizes sitting in the audience and made a dash for them to scare them silly with his snake, an action that saw some of the elderly and faint hearted in the audience vacate the premises in a hurry, leaving a trail of surprised scattered folk in their wake.

When he was finally cajoled to come backstage and wait his cue to go up, he decided to liven up the proceedings by getting into a scrap with the kid who played Ganapati by pulling on his trunk. By the time the ensemble had got onto stage, they were panting for breath and Shivji collapsed on his chair with exhaustion. The dialogues were said. Kartikeya loud and clear. Ganesh muffled through the trunk. Parvati with the hesitation that comes from nervousness. And the poor Peacock and Mouse hung around waiting for their moments of action. Shivji had approximately four dialogues. At the end of his first dialogue he was to go into dhyan. He rapid fired his dialogue off, despite all my misgivings of him not remembering what he needed to say and scrunched up his face into a squashed tomato with concentration. So much that he needed to be kicked in order to say his next dialogue.

I dont know about the rest of the audience, but judging from the response this skit got, it was quite a hit, if hooting laughter is indicative of audience reaction. Today the brat has trotted off to school dressed as Pinocchio with fake nose made from mamma's skin coloured sock stuffed with cotton, about which pappa had many rude things to say, sniggeringly. I hope he says his dialogues well enough today, mamma isnt around to kick him on the shin for a cue.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The working mom guilt strikes...

For years I have been firmly on the other side of the fence. I've been a mom fully dedicated to being around the brat full time. Them helicopter moms? Yup, that was me. I confused my rotor blades with a halo. I looked at other working moms in sheer, fang dripping envy. They had it all according to me. They had their kids, their careers, their homes and I was stuck being a school gate mom. Not that I have anything against school gate moms, let me hasten to add, Ive done the job for the past so many years and continue to do so with no second thoughts.

Occasionally I would whine until some poor friend's ears fell off about how frustrated I felt, and how my life had passed me by, and how people younger than me, and much less talented than me had reached senior positions, and so on so forth. Oh dont ask, I was on a full on self pity poor me trip. I would go to office of course, but worked between brat drop off and pick up times.

Until recently. I have been snowed down by truckloads of work that needs me to go out, meet people and have unpredictable timings due to shoots and such like. It is work I've done before and work I am damn good at. Plus work I enjoy, assignments I can pick and choose, and I dont need to report into any office. But I am, for all practical purposes, a full time working mom now.

So it happened on the first day I had a meeting and an interview with a youngster who was being pegged as an upcoming something in a different field. Everything was set up at 11 am, me, the photographer, the lights everything. At 11.15am I called her. Her phone rang and rang and rang, and finally she answered sounding groggy. Oh I forgot. I overslept. Ive just got up with your call. I'll just be there in a couple of hours. If I could have killed her I would. In a couple of hours I needed to be outside school to pick up the child. She landed up two and a half hours late. I did my task. And left quickly. Because I had to make it to school in time.

The other day, I had a shoot in Bandra. It was a timining that clashed with the brat's pick up time. The father was deputed to pick him up and take him to the office where he could overdose on Lays and Kurkure until I finally reached to take him home. I reached back by 8.30pm. The child was dropping with exhaustion. It was heartbreaking for me. Was it worth it, I wondered, to have the child out of home from 8 am in the morning to 8 pm in the night. I hugged him and watched his tired eyes doze off in the car as we drove home and felt my heart shatter into a thousand pieces.

Today I have a meeting again. I've tried to schedule it in such a way that I can be back on time to pick him up. If I'm late, the spouse will pick him up. I'm putting the guilt away to a deep dark place where it want bother me anymore. I was a latchkey kid. I travelled distances from Bandra to Goregaon on my own in public transport when I was barely a couple of years older than the brat. I survived. Its time the brat grew up a bit too, and realised Mamma is not always going to be around.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Of School Projects to be completed....

The worst part about being a parent is just when you think you're done with school and irksome projects, bang comes your kid in school and a deluge of project work that has your tongue hanging out in shock because, damn, you did your own projects in school, the parents never even knew what you were supposed to send in. And there is no way the projects that these children get could ever be done by themselves without efficient parental supervision. Therefore, when the brat comes home skipping and jumping, with a note in the diary which tells me that said project as specified in the workbook needs to submitted by a specified date, mamma starts hyperventilating.

No, it is not lack of creativity. It is lack of will and motivation. In the distant past, when mamma was in pigtails and short skirts, she was what was known as a 'creative' child. She would be summoned to decorate classrooms and blackboards for special events in school. She had the mandate to make decorative flowers from crepe papers which looked uncannily like roses, minus the fragrance, she would be called on to create scaled down models of Greek arenas and windmills and science projects and such like. And she enjoyed doing so. The brat, unfortunately, has nary a creative bone in his body. That is not his genetic inheritance from mamma for sure.

Therefore mamma is the one in charge of getting the projects ready and in submitable shape. The past week has mamma running between shoots and interviews every single day. Therefore a weighing scale to be made has been languishing in the To Do list for a while now.

Thus it came to pass that the brat came back home with a face as dark as thunderclouds."Mamma," he spat out, in venom steeped tones, "I godda Zero in my projekt becos yu din do it. Wai yu din make my waving skail?"

Mamma's heart sank like the corpse with the millstone tied to it and tossed into stormy waters. Yes, mamma is also the queen of bad metaphors.

She ran out shrieking into the stores to get the requirements for said neglected and much deferred project. Two plastic plates. Cord. A wooden ruler. And set about making the damn weighing scale. The brat sat back, hands behind his head, and feet crossed like the nawab he undoubtedly was in a previous birth.

"Did you do it poperly?" he asked with scathing glance once it was done. He lifted it in manner of quality control inspector and looked at it minutely, "Mamma, dis waving skail is leaning to one side."

Mamma resisted the urge to smite him one on his insolent mouth, consoled herself by giving him the raised eyebrow and stern glance treatment and put said weighing scale into his bag, and roundly cursed the damn system roundly for putting parents through such torture. And got back to her needlework box to work on the Pinocchio costume that the brat has to wear to school for dress up day on Monday.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The new clinging vine

Mamma, thanks to sudden influx of lots of new assignments, has been typing her fingers off morning to afternoon every single day, with only tea and lunch breaks. Even so, the backlog seems to be piled up higher than the pile of dino dung Laura Dern bravely stuck her hand into in Jurassic Park 1. Therefore mom was desperate to grab more hours at her work computer than the regular. Seeing as Daadi has been conveniently home these past couple of days, mamma decided that the brat could be deposited post school in the care of his grandmother and she could make a dash back to the office, which is thankfully five minutes away from school and home as the crow flies.

The first day mamma decided to do this, the brat hyperventilated, he broke into copious tears and loud sobs. He fell to the ground clutching mamma's feet in Hindi film style begging me to stay while mamma tried hard to wriggle her ankles out of his possession and nearly twisted said ankles in the process. Finally mamma gave up and stayed home, (mamma isa softie like that), at which point, like a seasoned professional artiste, the tears miraculously dried up like the water supply in Mumbai suburbs and he pulled out all his action figures, spread out his army on my bedspread and got into war gaming mode.

And ignored mamma's presence as was his norm till he needed nourishment or help with a stubborn button when nature called. Loudly.

The next day, mamma attempted the same thing. The brat threw the same rolling on the floor tantrums as the previous day. mamma was wiser. She freed her legs and set out back to the office. Within two minutes of entering the premises she got a call, "When yure coming back?"

Mamma sternly told him to occupy himself with toys or studies.

After another 15 minutes she got a second call which was more to the point. "Mamma, I is feeling very boreding. What I'll do?"

"Take your books and study," said Mamma, secure in the knowledge that this would never come to pass even if the archangels will be blowing the trumpets from the four corners of the earth. And placed the receiver down.

The infernal instrument buzzed again. The child was on the line again, guilt tripping mamma enough to send her into therapy. "Why you leaved me tuday? I is feeling very sadly."

Mamma told him about how her teachers would shout at her if she didnt finish her homework.

He did not buy the spiel and got down to basics. "So den. Wat u'll get fer me?"

Monday, September 06, 2010

Is a mamma's job done? Ever?

The brat is becoming an independent boy. And much as it pleases mamma and gives her enough and more time to file her nails and throw more food into her gullet, it also saddens her a wee bit.
He now sleeps in the other room with his grandmother. Changes his clothes on his own, eats on his own, and even does most of his homework on his own.
Mamma is wringing her hands like a black and white movie distressed damsel at being rendered redundant and being handed her papers, metaphorically speaking.
On Saturday, Mamma was taking her afternoon nap, which is generally classified under donot wake up unless a bomb has landed on the building, richter level 7 earthquake in progress or aliens have taken over the earth, when the brat sauntered into the room, with great show of bravery shook mamma awake.
"Wha? What? What?" said Mamma in increasingly shrill pitch, being jerked out of the land of nod is not a pleasant feeling altogether when this one hour of weekend afternoon nap is what one looks forward to all through the week.
The brat shoved a plate under her nose containing two slices of bread with some indeterminate gluey unguent placed between the slices.
'What? What? What?" Mamma said again, her questions not being answered.
"I made a samwich," said the brat with a shy self conscious smile, which generally precedes the recounting of any act for which he knows he will lauded in loud tones and smothered with kisses. Which he will then proceed to wipe off with the back of his palm.
Mamma proceeded to behave true to type and declaimed in loud tones about how proud she was of him, and smothered him with kisses sloppy enough to guarantee her rebirth into the canine species.
He mopped himself and and offered mamma a bite. He had layered cheese spread and butter. And was biting happily from a sandwich he would have summarily rejected had mamma placed it in front of him.
Mamma was happy, a bittersweet kind of happiness. The brat now didnt need mamma to make him a sandwich. He could forage in the kitchen and fix himself a meal. Mamma now was officially retired from her job.
Then he piped up, "Mamma, you will feed me the samwich?"
Ah, a mamma's job is never done.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Happy Janmasthami to you

The brat is named after him, the naughtiest God in the Hindu Pantheon. Krishna. The child who endeared himself to all of Gokul, who grew up as a cowherd but was in reality a prince, destined for nobility. Who performed miracles and showed his mother the universe in his mouth?

I adore the concept of seeing divinity in a child, in his mischief, in his pranks...I should have known, shouldnt I, when I decided to name the brat after Krishna that I would be in for a roller coaster ride. I wouldnt have a gentle, obedient, docile child who would sit peacefully in a corner of the house and do his colouring and eat his greens. No way, sirreee. He became true to his moniker, a child who would have the entire household dancing to his tune. I'm just waiting for his youth, when I'm sure I'm going to see the girls line up to complain about his fickleness.

The brat had a holiday from school today and has accompanied me to the office, where he is currently employing all the stock of office erasers to build up towers. He has scooted up and down the stairs that lead to the dark dank loft I and my computer have been exiled to approximately one million times, to keep me updated on the discipline problems with all my staff, exhorting me to do the wild witch of the west act on them. The office looks like a hurricane has paid a visit. Ah well, it has. And I wouldnt have it any other way.

Happy Janmashtami to you to. And to the Krishnas in your life!