Monday, February 28, 2011

And this is how we celebrate a birthday party....

 With some mock fighting...
 With genuine tashan
 Being all smarmy and chocolate pie when hauled up for it
 And then being best friends all over again
 Being all gallant and gentlemanly...
 And finally swiping off all the balloons from the walls to prick with toothpricks resulting in permanent migraines for mamma.
(In Parul's words, this post is protected by Suraksha Nazar Kavach as bought from Teleshopping network)

What happened when mamma took off over the weekend

And so mamma took off to the distant climes of Lavasa over the weekend, ostensibly to follow the women rallyists who were driving down from Mumbai to Lavasa to celebrate International Women's Day (A little in advance albeit), and as also to satiate mamma's curiousity about the hilltown under construction, rumoured to be as pretty as a postcard and almost like a mini Switzerland transported to the Sahyadris (which it is, almost, but more on that in another post).

The brat was left behind in the very meticulous care of daadi and the not so meticulous care of pappa. This was the first time ever that mamma has, in seven and a half years of the brat being in existence, stayed away from him for a night and a complete day at a stretch and mommy guilt kept striking occasionally.

The brat also had his annual dance performance of his dance class company and mamma was going to miss it. More cause for mommy guilt to take up permanent residency in mindspace. When mamma left early in the morning, the brat was snoring his baby snores contentedly, so she pecked his cheek gently and went off. Unfortunately a misadventure with a medu vada sambar at the Expressway Food court led to immediate food poisoning and she spent most of her first impressions of Lavasa heaving into whichever nearest basin or plant holder seemed available. A quick trip to the Apollo Hospital located in the vicinity and she was back right as rain, and decided to call the critter, but realised he would have left for his dance performance. She called later in the night, on daadi's phone and was treated to a rhapsody on how wonderfully the brat had danced. Mamma teared up a bit in pride and regret that she had missed it but looked at the sparkling lights on the lakefront promenade and was soothed a bit. The phone was duly passed on to the brat, who was immensely curious about the hotel mamma was put up at. "Mamma, you gotta beeeg wall TV?" Like there are no wall TVs at home. But the hotel wall TV is something else in his books. Yes, I replied. "You gotta swimming pool?" No, I replied. "You gotta fridge fulloff juice and choclits and cashews and pappa's beer and small boddles?" No, I replied. "Dere's a beeeg buffet fer dinner wid lods of chikken mutton fees?" I replied, no, yet again. He lost complete interest in my holiday, and any lingering regrets at not accompanying me disappeared. "Okay, bye."

The next day on the way back, Mamma's phone was ringing multiple times. "Yes brat," she replied. "Ger fer me a Beyblade. Metal Fusion. Dark Wolf. Because I wuz a good boy an I dint trouble daadi." That deserved rewarding surely, mamma agreed and hunted down a Beyblade Metal Fusion Dark Wolf in the little bylanes of Goregaon station market where she had been dropped, lugging her travel bag with her. Finally, she found the one she wanted, paid a price she knew was double the actual cost, these being China wares and therefore no fixed price, and found herself an auto to get home. She entered the building and saw the brat hunched around the Beyblade stadium with his cronies. "Brat," she called out in joy, he looked up and came bounding to her. "You got my Beybladet?" She handed it over, hugged and kissed him, he squirmed out of her embrace, wiped the kiss on his cheek with the back of his palm, and bounded towards his friends bearing the new Beyblade aloft.

Mamma picked her bag and trudged home, feeling a little bereft that there was no further joy demonstrated upon her return. Daadi assured her that the brat had been exemplarily well behaved and hadn't shown her the T of trouble, nor had he seemed to miss her. The brat, mamma blinked back the pricking tears forming at the back of her eyes, had truly grown up. Mamma was not needed anymore. Mamma was torn between feeling proud about having raised a non clingy child and bereft at not being needed.

The brat then returned from playing down. And threw himself into mamma's lap. And hugged her tight. "Don go again. Okay." Ah well. Even big boys can miss their mammas I guess.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

After Spiritual Parenting, it is now Spiritual Pregnancy

As every mother and expectant mother would agree, pregnancy is the one time in our lives when we truly begin to understand and experience our own little miracles. From the sight of the pulsating foetus in our womb during the ultrasound examinations, to the growing roundness of our bellies telling us that new life is burgeoning within to the kicks and hiccups the baby has within the confines of our uterus making us acutely aware that we are hosting new life.

A new book titled Spiritual Pregnancy, from the author of the best seller Spiritual Parenting, Gopika Kapoor talks about just how spiritual an experience pregnancy can be.

The author shares her learning from her own journey as a mother of twins and the spiritual insights that guided her. Her pragmatic and reassuring voice not only tells you how to deal with surprise pregnancies, crazy hormones, overbearing relatives and tired sex lives, but also gives great advice on baby showers, alternative birthing methods, post-baby body image, and how to stay energized and positive through it all.

For all those pregnant, or planning a baby, this sounds like an interesting read.

Of a mom who deserts her only child on the weekend

So this weekend mamma is off on something that she has never done before, and the daadi and the pappa have kindly consented to take charge of the brat for the couple of days that she will be out of town.

The brat has been duly informed that his mater will be unavailable to regulate his movements and mamma honestly thought that he would throw the metaphorical cap in the air, like the inmate of some incarceration unit released into fresh air and sunlight.

Instead, the brat has been moping around like a toad who lost his tongue reflex. "Don go mamma," he whines while mamma tries to get out the cement he got into his hair after a cement throwing session down in the compound the previous evening, which seems to have solidified in the night despite all her attempts to brush it out. "Don go," he whines, flinging both arms around mamma's legs, eyes glistening with tears, lips quivering with sobs.

Mamma hushes him and assures him that he can play down till longer hours with mamma not around to scream about him getting himself back home on the double. About no one yelling at him to brush his teeth at bedtime, nor anyone sitting with him and taking him cruelly through many worksheets of Present continuous tense and three digit multiplication.

At night he crawled into bed with mamma, and clung on for dear life. "Mamma don go. Mamma take me wid you."

Mamma realised that for the past seven and a half years she had not spent a single night away from the child and decided that, no matter how earnest the pleas, she would stay away for the night as planned. It was time the brat learnt that mamma was dispensable.

The next morning she caught the brat shoving in his Beyblades, a couple of pyjamas and some tshirts into a duffel bag. "What are you doing brat?"

He looked up, embarassed to be caught. "I is packing. I'm comin wid you.I is nod staying behind widaoud you.Is boring to be Saturday Sunday widaoud you."


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Of the boy who forgot his dialogue

The brat had his culminating activity yesterday at school. Now what is the culminating activity, you might wonder, gentle reader, and a very valid question that is too.
The culminating activity at the brat's school is a performance and presentation event which has the kids put up a skit and performance based on the topics they have learnt during the semester, it is basically meant to recap all the topics learnt and the parents are meant to attend and applaud violently.
And so the brat was assigned the job of describing posters on Health and Hygiene and Air Pollution and as was to be expected he was running himself into dogged little circles mixing up the two very separate spiels he had to rote off for each.
Ergo, with a couple of days to go before the big day, mamma earnestly requested the teacher to shorten the paragraphs to something that wasn't quite so much of long, unending sentences with 'difficult' words and convuluted construction. The teacher took one look at his abashed face and jotted down shortened versions of both paras which mamma proceeded to reel off to him morning, evening and night. By the end of two days of repeating it ad nauseum to him till I dreamt of Air Pollution charts flying down from the sky and attacking me, he had finally got it down pat. Mamma was proud of him, and despatched him in civilian raiments, comprising striped footer jersey and dark denims for the momentous occasion.
Then came the moment, the swarm of parents moved slowly down the narrow corridor listening patiently to the children posted on either side explaining the charts and posters that had so obviously NOT been made by them and were rather the result of arduous hours of afterschool waiting back by the class teachers. All the kids were spit polished and rattled off their lines perfectly. We moved expectantly to the brat. He looked at all the faces towering over him and gulped. And then gulped again. And looked at me, and looked at his class teacher. We both prompted him. He began bravely, stuttered through one sentence, trailed off in the second and completely shut down by the third, pointed to the wrong charts with the wrong dialogue, and then finally gave up all efforts at saying it right and just grinned cheekily at everyone, saying, "Is all written here, read it!"
He got away by getting his cheeks pulled and getting chucked under his chin, and getting his hair ruffled. None of the others who did their bits perfectly got anything apart from applause and well done.

Mamma asked him later, "What happened, brat, you knew your dialogues, why did you not say them correctly?"
He looked at her with his most bechara expression, lips quivering with fear, "I god frightened. Eveybody wuz looking at me." Mamma couldn't help but pull his cheeks and ruffle his hair herself. The ticking off was reserved for another time.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Would you be able to live in a 11 by 11 room?

The first time I read this book by Emma Donoghue, Room, I speed read it. It is the kind of book that can be speed read. Also, it is the kind of gripping that compels one to speed read through it with a kind of twisting in the gut feel that overwhelms you for the five year old protagonist.
To get the summary out of the way first. Jack is a five year old boy who has always lived in a 11 by 11 room, he has never seen the outside, his only exposure to the world outside is through the television which is on constantly in the Room he shares with his mother. Who we are told is pretty and scared. She has good reason to be. She has been kidnapped and held hostage against her will in a lead and steel encased backyard shelf with a special electronic door code by a man Jack only knows as Old Nick. The story is about how Jack and his mother make a plan to escape Old Nick, how they succeed in their plan and the most painful part of the story, their reintegration back into regular society. For Jack's Mom, a world she is familiar with, a world she has grown up in, until that fateful day when she got pushed into a truck and kidnapped. For Jack though the integration into a world he has never known is much more complex, because he must deal with many more people than just his mother and old Nick. An a vaster, infinite sense of space, compared with the cramped confines of the 11 by 11 room.
When Jack emerges from his incarceration, it suddenly does hit us as readers that this is a malnourished child, a child deprived of sunlight, ergo, with stunted growth. A child who has long hair and skin pale from being indoors for his entire life, and eyes that cannot take the brightness of sunlight, nor skin that can bear being exposed to sunlight. Jack's only references to the world he has now been thrust into is the world of Dora and television he has been exposed to in his entire life in captivity. Not only this, he has spatial perception and other developmental issues having been deprived of social contact through his formative years. Much like the wolf children of myth of legend, the Mowglis and the Tarzans, Jack is a child who has been out in the wilderness, and must retrain himself to adapt to a world which is familiar yet unknown.
The child, his precociousness compounded by the fact that he has grown up with a single adult, is astonishingly adult like in his sense of logic. The characters are built with empathy, the voice of the protagonist, is amazingly adult like and the personification of all the objects in 'Room' create an intimacy with the claustrophobic environment the boy and his mother lived in before their escape. Thankfully, the narrator does not detail any abuse, and the repeated rapes of the mother are implied by creaks of the bedsprings, rather than viewed by the child. While parts of this novel might seem improbable, we do have the real life case of Josef Fritzl to know that truth can inspire fiction.
At the end of the day, this isn't a story about captivity and confinement, and rape and all its horrors. This is the story of a mother's love for her son, and her determination to get them out of the helpless situation they are in. The mother is not perfect, but one has to admire how she has protected her child from her captor, and how she has created a semblance of a scheduled life even in captivity for a child to have a routine to look forward to.
The voice of Jack, who is the narrator of this tale, which does seem older than his age at first, haunts you. And as a mother of a young brat, as I hugged my son to sleep at night, I prayed a little prayer for the untold Jacks in the world today.

Monday, February 14, 2011

About my best friend in Canada

The brat and I sat the other evening flipping through the atlas.

"Mamma," he asked. "Were iz Canada?"

I turned the pages to North America and pointed out requested country, delighted that the child was showing some interest and showed him the national flag, and how it represented the maple leaf, and how Canada has French and English speaking people and how the Toronto TV tower is (was?) the tallest in the world. And how Sikhs from India are probably the densest ethnic minority there.

He listened gravely, and nodded.

"Who's our jaan ka pehchaan ka in Canada?"

"No one actually," I replied. Plenty of family friends and aquaintances are in Canada but no one the brat really knew.

"In my summer holeedayz I'm going to gotu Canada. For entire vacation."

Err, okay, I replied, but where will you stay?

He looked unperturbed. "I have my fren dere. My bes fren. Justin Bieber. I will stay at his house. You don worry Mamma."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

So, its me again.

And probably by now you are at the point where you might barf if you
hear me say the words 'Tiger Mom" and "Amy Chua" in a single sentence
again, so I will just leave you with this link, and keep the barf bags

The new Math champion

In deference to Amy Chua, I must admit that I began kicking serious
brat butt when I realised that he was having a problem doing simple
addition and subtraction and was unable to count mentally.

Translated this meant I was tying him to his chair, not allowing him
to pee when he needed, and yelling like a banshee over his head. Err.
No. That was what I would have liked to do. Instead, I was insidiously
pushing worksheets at him, making him rote his tables at any free time
he had.

Ergo, mornings in the Manral household went something like this,
"Brat, tell me your seven times table."

And the brat, while seated on the throne, would rattle off the said
table and conclude, "Mamma, I finished."

"Yes, I know you finished."

"Bud I finished."

"Yes, you finished. Now tell me the eight table."

"Arey, Mamma," the brat would say, exasperation high in his voice, "I
finished potty."


And during his bath, "3 + 5, cmon fast, count in your head."

And he would reply, "8" and add in confusion, "Now I forgod which hand
I pud soap on."

Consequently, the other day, he came home with around 20
multiplication problems, all correct, marked with a star, a smiley and
excellent on his worksheet. Mamma hyperventilated. She twirled around,
she danced a clicking feet dance. She smothered him with sloppy kisses
which he promptly wiped off with the back of his hands, saying "Yuck

"See brat," Mamma said, "The more you practise, the better you become."

The brat listened his face on serious mode.

That night, after dinner and Beyblade Metal Fusion which is his dinner
entertainment, and probably the one programme he gets to watch in a
day, he trotted off to his room, with serious intent writ large on his
face. Mamma trotted off behind him. He took out his Math worksheet
book and began solving pages on pages of the sums he could tackle. The
clock ticked. It reached 10.30 pm. Mamma's eyes were shutting down,
she pleaded with him to stop. "Only two pages more," he begged. Mamma
pinched herself to check if she was hallucinating. She lay down on his
bed and drifted off into sleep. She woke up with a start sometime
later to find the brat still hard at work. "Enough brat," she pleaded.
"Go to sleep now."

"Arey," he looked confused. "But you only tole me to take Maths
seriously. I am taking it very seriously. See! I'm not laffing."

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Birthday party at a playzone

Yesterday, the brat was invited to a birthday party in the playzone of Inorbit mall. As any parent who has been within a 100 meters of these infernal zones knows, these are the zones where it is mandatory to enter with ear muffs and having downed a couple of tequilas and wearing sensible shoes like the ones made for top athletes to participate in Olympic level track and field events given that you will be spending the evening running at track speed through the maze of whirring, screeching, singing games, your eardrums minutes away from handing in their printed on plain paper resignations, trying to locate the spawn of your womb who was, just a second ago, just next to you while you replied to some message or some tweet and has now, inexplicably disappeared into the crowd.
I have, to be honest dear reader, not taken the brat to the playzone at any mall for well over a couple of years now. There was a phase when we went every single day, but those were the days when he didnt have any playmates in the building we lived in and yearned for the company of other kids and was happiest pummelling some other similar sized critter in the play pen. Ever since we moved to this complex, and he found hordes of critters ready to pummel and be pummelled in his own compound, the fascination with the playzone diminished. And add to it, honestly, my migraines cant deal very well with playzones, they start acting up, it begins with a sudden tight band around the head, then one eye begins throbbing and before I know it, the entire right half of my head is a throbbing, aching, shooting pain factory churning out more grief than I am willing to take without downing medication.
Apart from the physical discomfort of the playzone for me (Of course, the brat is most thrilled to be scooting around trying out various shoot and kill games and flying aeroplanes), it is the concept of it that worries me. Anyway, when this invitation came for a party in the playzone I accepted with much trepidation, steeled my nerves with many shots of caffeine, which made me jittery enough to be laughing for no reason other than that I found a reflection funny. Surely, folks were looking at me asking and wondering whether to report me to the authorities and have my kid placed in foster care. We reached early, the hosts had still not landed (am I the only person left on the planet who believes in reaching at the precise time mentioned on the invite?), stray children were running from game to game, the noise levels were surely not within permissible limits and could definitely lead to an increase in the sales of hearing aids.
The child, dapper in jeans and leatherite jacket, despite my protestations that Mumbai's summer was on us, was already darting from game to game, rolling on the floor tantrumming about wanting more credit on his card than I was prepared to give, considering that he would be playing the infernal games on unlimited credit for the next three hours once the party began. My calves began aching with the totally unsuitable to chasing kid around mallzone kitten heels I had slipped my feet into in the morning through force of habit. A brainwave struck me like a bolt of lightning and I despatch him happily into the jungle gym, then put my feet up and sipped a cappuchino at a table in a desperate bid to calm my nerves.
The hosts arrived, the child was extracted from the inner recesses of the jungle gym, tagged and given his card which had unlimited credit for a specific period of time. As you can well imagine dear reader, it was like letting the bulls out at Pampalona. After a little bit of teetering around, my feet completely gave up the ghost, and I grabbed a strategic point near the exit to ensure that the child did not exit the playzone without me noticing. And smacked self on the head for not thinking of this wondrous solution earlier. When I was finally called in for the cake cutting, I was confronted by a biker kid who claimed to be mine own offspring, with his hair gelled, spiked up and resplendent in neon hair colour, a snaking Ed Hardyish tattoo. I almost demanded to check his person for identification marks before claiming him as mine own. The cake was cut, the pizza eaten, the return gift taken into custody and we said our goodbyes and marched off home. The child opened the wrapped return gift, twas a toy basket, lay down on the bed and was asleep within a couple of minutes, the exhausted to the bone, mouth open wide and snoring kind of asleep that lets errant insects inspect your adenoids.
This morning he woke up fresh as a chirping bird, on his own, without the effective sprinkling of water as is generally deployed to get him up and awake.
"Mamma," he chirped as I set his mug of milk down before him. "Can we go to d playzone again tuday?"

Friday, February 04, 2011

Of being watchdog to pintsizes

The other day, due to some quirk of fate and infernal bad timing, I ended up being the only responsible adult down in the compound supervising a tribe of around 15 sweating running hellions who were playing the scariest game ever, aka, hide and seek. Ergo, I would be minding my own business, walking around at the speed of elephant, replaying all the fattening things I had consumed through the day and berating myself for having ladled out that extra bit which was totally unnecessary and totally avoidable.
Suddenly I realised the noise levels of 15 children squealing at the top of their voices was nowhere to be heard and there were no chest highs zooming past me every alternate second making me trip on my laces. I looked around in concern. Silence and calm greeted me. I yelled out names of the children in rapid succession, the silence continued. Palpitations began in earnest. I ran the length and breadth of the premises which comprises three completed towers, huge compound and parking and two towers under construction. I yelled to the best of my yelling ability which in medieval times could have found occupation as town crier. The older kids gathered that I was in some distress and joined forces yelling with me.
We went into the dank underconstruction parking area where some faint distant voices could be heard piping up and figured the critters were all there, hiding from whoever the unfortunate was who was the den. They were all summarily hauled up, lifted by their ears and deposited on lighted surface of the ground. And soundly yelled at by yours truly for having ventured into a construction zone, with building debris falling down, open iron rods lying around not to mention a very scary open septic tank which was spot bang in the middle of it all. Not to mention that it was way past sunset and the area was beyond dark. I did a swift head count, all the critters were in attendance. They were frogmarched back to our premises and informed that should they dare step beyond the boundaries, they would be drawn and quartered.
That night the brat came home, a little smirk on his face. I narrowed my eyes and looked at the smirk and realised that he was quite chuffed with something and I would need to pry it out of him.
"So, brat," I began gently, "You seem to be in a happy mood today."
He grinned widely, exposing all his teeth growing back at unequal lengths. "Today all my frens felt very sadly fer me."
Why is it, I asked. There was no need to feel any sympathy towards him, in my view, a little lack of sympathy would do him good.
"Everyone telled me, yer mudder is so strick. So sad fer you. Dey was all feeling very sad fer me becoss I have a strick mudder."
Err. And why is that? What made them conclude that I am strick mother, I asked, hoping to get to the bottom of this common consensus.
"Because you dint shaoud laoudly, but still eveybody got scaredof you."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

All hail the Karate brat

The Manral household has been in a stage of upheaval for the past few days. At any given point you can hear short swift cries of indeterminate origin causing me to rush out in horror expecting something of calamitious proportions to have occurred only to find the brat standing in martial art pose in front of the mirror, glaring in evil manner at his reflection like he was Bruce Lee incarnate facing evil whiskery mouched number with bad teeth and horrible dubbed voice.

And then he will administer two random rotating kicks to said mirror while I scream my protests in volumes so loud that surely someone will report me for child abuse to the authorities.

"What is this brat?" I will ask, when I have managed to get him to a decent distance away from the mirror to ensure he doesn't crack either said mirror or his foot, "I thought you were going to do your drawing?"

He raises an eyebrow and casts a look at me that has me quail. "Drawing is for gurlz. I am a karate champiyun. I do karate."

I retreat to a safe distance in the event that he decides to demonstrate the skills learnt in two lessons on poor hapless me.

"I will get a blackbelt and fight wid everybody."

I took it on myself to explain to him that karate was a sport, and he could use the techniques for self defence when assaulted by other bullies in the park but that he wasn't supposed to be the aggressor.

"Okay, I will nod start fighting. But if someone starts fighting wid me, I will do karate and break their bones."

The bloodthirsty vocabulary scared me. I wondered if I had done the right thing and whether I could go back to school the next day and demand my money back, and put the child in more gentle pursuits like art and craft.

"An when I get my black belt, you will be so proud of me, mamma..." he asked his eyes crinkling up as he looked at me and all thoughts of cancelling karate promptly disappeared in a foundation garment hook threatening chest swell of maternal pride.

Yes, of course, I will be proud of you, I replied in all earnestness. He quickly demonstrated what seemed to be a ferocious flying kick at an invisible opponent. "And then I will go for he competition in the ring and I will be the champion, and I will get a trophy."

I pleaded with him to take his karate one class at a time.

"When I grow up can I be a karate champion forever?" Well, that is a choice you have to take, I said. "But can I do karate with my Ben 10 costume. Dis white shirt and pant is very boreding."