The Case of the Missing Maamas

I am trying to feed Driti and she's dodging me as always.
"Driti, you know something?" I try to engage her. " When Sreeram Maama was small, he used to trouble kollu paati a lot"
"Really?" She's surprised somebody else also troubled the elders in the family.
"Yes. He always used to trouble Kollu paati. He never used to eat, and kollu paati used to run after him saying 'Saapadra, 'saapadra' and Sreeram Maama used to say, 'Naa sapada maaten po'"
Driti burst out laughing, gulping a few more spoons down. "Sreeram Maama was very naughty when he was a kid" I added.
"Like Vijay Maama?"
"No, Vijay Maama was very nice. He never troubled anybody. Even Roohi Maami?" Now I don't know about Roohi Maami, although I tend to believe that the answer was probably negative, but I erred on the side of caution - for myself ofcourse - so she doesn't draw from the actions of her predecessors. "No Driti, even Roohi Maami was very nice. She was not naughty"
"Then Arun Maama is also nice?"
"Yes. He is and he used to eat bananas everyday. That's why he's so strong and intelligent"
"Like me?"
"Yes. Take another bite now"
"Arun Maama, is Geeta Maami's husband? She also eats bananas?"
"Yes" I hope Geeta you do, if not, please start eating now.
"I have soooo many Maamas and Maamis?"
"Yes Driti. But there is no Siddu Maami?"
"No. Siddu Maami will come soon"
"She's in Makkayala Makkayala"
"Oh, you're talking about that Siddu Maama? No, even there, that Makkayala aunty is not your Maami. You can ask him when you meet"
"What is his mother's name?"
"No, she keeps calling me 'chellam?'"
"Oh ho.. you're confusing two Siddu Maamas.  You did not meet the Makkayala Siddu Maama,, you'll meet him in April when we go to visit him. The Nimmu Paati Siddu was in India"
"Yes. I like him. But if I have so many Maamas and Maamis, why are they not coming to meet me?"
Now I managed somehow - but you owe it to your niece. Why not?

And We're in Seattle

'It's bright and sunny appa. Don't know why everybody was scaring me that the whether is going to be wet wetter and a little more wet" I remember telling my father when we landed here. "Good. Hope it stays this way" he'd reacted. Two months in and it seemed routine. Bright sun, felt like we were back in Hyderabad. We spoke to Mom and Dad on a regular basis, so the only thing missing seemed mom's specialty idlis.
Yesterday, our friends said, "Welcome to Seattle" The blinds were down, so did the honors, pulled it up and played the whole dramatic scene. 

"Wow, it's so pleasant" Ady reacted. "Let's go out once the roads dry up a little" I said. 
"Sure, then let's wait for eight more months" our friends seemed to be waiting to make that statement. 

So looks like the magic spell that we brought with us from Hyderabad has finally worn off. We're now living in a tap. The bright side of it, it's only leaky and does not go full throttle. 

D looked out the window and started singing "Itsy bitsy spider". She's still singing. Eight more months babe, and we'll be right out the spout.  Till then, it's this

The Circle of Parenthood

I saw a movie today, and it got me thinking. Well, the movie as such is nothing great to write about - but I took something away from it.

Driti is a great kid - wonderful - just like Calvin. Yeah, you get the drift. Sometimes you just can't stop laughing at her antics, wonder at her thought process, process your own understanding - to see if you need to reassess the basics - and then sometimes, being on the receiving end, you just want to pull your hair apart and seek asylum in some place distant - like Switzerland, Italy or Machu Picchu. And then you check your budget  and you think you'd much rather go to a place closer and decide any place without kids could be a haven.

Right now,she's screaming her lungs out because her lego blocks won't stand and she's banging the bathroom door when I'm just about to sit down to write something. (Ok, too much information - but I still have a point). I get out, tell her that she needs to make the base strong. Her Dad is finally home - so I entrust the responsibility of the stronger base to the Engineer Dad to return to the post I originally intended to write about. 

So, my little Calvin - ok, to preserve her identity, I'll refer to her as Driti. She makes every moment dramatic. Every day is a day filled with surprises - loud noise, screaming fits and endless laughter. 

Driti hates sleeping. She feels its a waste of time and we're taking away precious play and prank time. If you ask her to sit quietly without talking in the bus, offering her that coveted chocolate - you're sapping all her energy out.  She hates sitting on the potty for Gods' sake - so the bus is a stretch. But I still offer her a carrot (not the real one - she says she wants to stay weak, and doesn't need vegetables. Another story, for a later time) for pretending to be a well behaved child. Not her natural personality - the quite kid - but she'll do it. And I battle between the guilty feeling of not letting her be herself and a half hour of a boring bus ride. I choose the half hour of a well behaved kid  - so I don't have to run around in the bus, stroller in one hand, her bag in the other, and my bag on my back. The moment the bus stops and we get down, she makes me run. She makes me run behind her at the playground - because - well she likes running. She'll make a mess (and she'll admit she's making a mess) - because- she likes making a mess. She breaks stuff - because she wants to see what's inside. She wants electronic stuff, because grown ups use it.The moment I look at her sternly, she'll stick her tongue out making that annoying face that I decide to ground her. I'll go ahead and send her to her room and she'll yell and scream and I'll get her out after she counts to a 100. She'll get the point for the day, and I'll cross my fingers and pray that the neighbors don't complain. (2 complaints in 2 months is too much). 

And then again, when she sleeps - suddenly everything is so quiet. Everything is so silent - I can hear myself breathing. It's so... so.... unnatural. I just don't like it anymore. I feel like waking her up and listening to her talk, I miss her asking all those questions  they're mostly just one question, followed by a zillion 'whys'. But I still miss them.

In the morning, when she wakes up, comes running to me, hugs me and says - "Mamma, you know - I want to tell you a secret", I comply and lend her my ear. She whispers " I love you". That's when I decide, although I have a long tiring day ahead - the next morning is worth waiting for, and at midday - I wait for her to fall asleep. Guess that's the circle of parenthood.

I want to get married!

Ring the bell yet?

OK. So it's been a little more than a week here.. and surprise...surprise... looks like I am surviving.
First things first, need to, have to, - get that driving license. Yes, I know, the Indian license is valid for a few months, but I drove like a motorcyclist in India. Not like a motorcyclist driving a motorcycle - but a motorcyclist driving a car. Any nook, any gap in the road, I'd squeeze my vehicle in. And I never, ever got pulled up. Mostly because if the Traffic Police 'uncle' got a sad smile or knew that I had a toddler in the back seat, he never bothered to stop me.  And not once was I caught speeding - well not that I ever had a chance there, not even that I would ever have taken that chance. Going beyond 40 km/h is a sin, and our Dad taught us well.Not here. Here, I need to be in my best behavior. Alright, the best learnt behavior. On the contrary I could get a ticket for driving too slow.. too slow! My Schumacher speed is 60kmph.

So I opted for the bus. Driti's school starts in September, but with one week - just the two of us, we decided it was time for some day care or pre-schooling activity. She was the person to ask for it. Wow! I do have baby sitting skills! I take her in the bus now and get her back - also in the bus.

The first day in the bus again, was an experience. Did you know the driver does not stop the bus, till you ring the bell. I learnt it the hard way. The driver of our bus stopped about 5 blocks from the bus stop I was to get down. And here I was telling him that he did not stop where he had to stop. "You didn't pull' he said. "Pull what?' I was on the brink of pulling my hair. "The bell, the bell", he said gesturing towards it. Ok. I should pull the bell. So Dri and I walked back to her school trying not to jump any signals. The pedestrian has the right of way. But only when they cross it legally. You just can't look left and right and cross!! :O So we stuck to the rules. Am so glad Driti knows Red is stop, orange is wait and green is go. She tells me, just when I notice there's a great spa around the corner.

So far, so good. We're still sane, and we're going to school and we're learning.

Of Garfield, Suckers and the 'right side'

"Driti, we're going to Seattle! Yaaay!!" "Yaaay, Mamma! Is that where Papa loves me till?"
(For those new, Driti's measures of our love for her - Me - till the Sun, her dad - till Seattle (since he kept traveling there frequently from India),  Grandma - till Alwal and her love for us - well me - is to the moon and back. She loves the moon, so she was ok trading the sun with me).
"Yes Driti, we're going there"
She was very excited that we were moving - well we created it. It was much better to have her look forward to something, rather than have her miss something that she's going to leave behind. We tried to recollect our experiences as 3 year olds- turns out we remember nothing - so we decided it was ok, to paint this picture for the present so we don't have a cranky kid on a 28 hour flight.

We arrived in Seattle, with pickles and photos of family and friends. We figured that these would probably be the most important things we would miss. But we were wrong. We missed Padma .and Pramila the most. Padma- my house maid and Pramila - my cook. And as soon as we rented the car, Ady started missing Purushottam, our car cleaner.

Life's changed drastically. Apart from laboring to the core, and playing the cook, maid, baby sitter - ok - 'the homemaker', we were in for quite a few 'small changes'

As soon as we landed - on 3rd of this month - we were given an apartment to stay in, till our stuff from India reached us. But the apartment was really awesome. Completely furnished- electronics, furniture, linen. Yes - we were ready to move in.
My husband wanted to postpone my cooking as much as possible - so 'we' decided,  to go have a good dinner. Tomorrow was unavoidable - we had to go to the grocery store. We weren't exactly going to be able to afford eating out everyday on forex money, if we were planning to live here long term.

On the way to a Mexican Restaurant -( I was already nostalgic and wanted to eat something spicy although my threshold for spicy food is to the extent of Haldiram's samosa)  we heard somebody scream at us- "Go back to India you freaks!". My worst fears from the sub conscious were coming true. My life flashed before my eyes. Mum, I am sorry for telling you your dal was not as tasty as Paati's. Appa, I am sorry I didn't tell you my math marks in 4th class.... I was just going to turn to Ady and repent for the long list of things I'd done, when I saw him smile and wave at the 'miscreant'.  Who the hell was this guy, and why on earth was my husband waving at him?

It was Henry!!!! Our beloved friend from India, who had relocated back to the US a couple of months ago. Was I glad to see him and the family. Driti immediately jumped into their car from the driver's window, stepping over Henry to hug Sidonie, Henry and Mikaela's daughter. It was a reunion of sorts round the corner. Driti ditched us to go with her friends - as expected.
We had a 'large dinner' that lasted 3 days. (Yes we 'boxed' it).

With help from our friends - on the west and the east side of Seattle - we finally had a stocked kitchen. Now I had no excuse. I HAD TO COOK.

Well, turns out - I hadn't forgotten cooking, although Pramila, Ma and Amma had pampered all of us and spoilt us silly. However, the first dish I cooked - Potato and Onion Curry - alerted the smoke detector. Now, that I've lived the event, I can act as if I knew it was the smoke detector and that I non chalantly, switched the fan on, to disperse the smoke off and resumed my job. But I'd be lying. As soon as the alarm went off, I freaked, expecting the sprinkler to go off any moment. I quickly switched the gas off, picked Driti and rushed out of the house, expecting the house to be flooded. But I guess the detector realized my anxiety in cleaning up after, so it stopped whining.

The best part of this incident however - Driti soon got interested in knowing the ingredients of what I cooked (well maybe she's smart enough to figure she'll have to do the cooking soon, considering her mother's panic attack) - Potato, Onion and garfield - well she loves the cat, and doesn't really care if garlic is different from Garfield.

Soon I learnt - ok Mikaela, Suraj and Ady helped me figure how to use the gadgets - the dishwasher, the oven and the washer. Did you know the door needs to be completely closed for the washer to wash clothes? In India, I used to peep in to see if there's any mischief that the detergent was up to with the machine.

While it's scary and you never know which alarm would go off when -( the previous occupant had set the alarm for 4:00 AM and with all the jet lag - the alarm seemed to have no snooze button at all!), I'm slowly getting the hang of it. It's not that bad, being self sufficient. I can do with learning to read the map, refer to directions based on the earth's axis, rather than the simple old left and right. I just hope I am on the 'right' side of the road and am not 'left' stranded with a ticket.

I also wouldn't mind not reacting like a mad mother, when somebody at the store asks if they could give a 'sucker' to my daughter only to realize sheepishly later, that she was referring to the beloved 'lollipop'!

It's learning all over again - and baby, bring it on!

Becoming Wise - Reluctantly

This year was supposed to be the end of the world. So technically there was every possibility that we wouldn’t have had the 20th of February and I was banking on this little glimmer of hope. I did not want this day – this year. I’ve cherished and welcomed this day almost every year of my life, but this year, I’d rather wait for the Mayan prediction to come true a wee bit early. I did not want to turn thirty. Thirty is too big a number for me. I could do without it. So I was hoping the apocalyptic prediction would come true before we reached the middle of the first quarter. I was disappointed. Yes, I know I know, I am not a person who believes in prophecies and auguries, but what did I have to lose? I had specifically instructed my husband that I did not want to acknowledge the day. That it would be just another day and we should be as gloomy as we are on every Monday, since the ‘happening’ weekend has just passed us by. I could’ve as well blown the trumpet in a deaf man’s ear. “Not happening. You’re finally growing up. You’re going to join the club of the ‘been there done that’” he said, his chest all puffed up. Was he really very proud of being known as a 30+ North Indian male? Could he? Or was it because there was no way out? “We are going to celebrate in style, with vintage wine…” At this point I broke into tears. “Vintage... that’s what… I’m going to be called” I lamented between my sobs. “No silly”, reassured the scared husband. “You’re going to be counted as wise” “You’re not helping” I cried louder. “Ok... no... That’s not what I meant. People will start to take you seriously now. And now, you are actually going to enjoy life, because you don’t have to worry about your finances, you don’t have to think about retirement. You’re at the right age, where you’re meant to enjoy and live life without fears” He was, as he was trying to speak a language I might understand. And he was pretty close. “Ok... what about we celebrate in a very small way?” “Yes. Only those who care” I said, mentally calculating who I wanted to know I turned 30. “Just Ma, Pa, you and the little one”. This was a safe crowd, just my parents, daughter and the husband. I left for work in between being gloomy and disappointed that the Armageddon let me down to being ‘wise and vintage’. I was glad I had changed jobs only a couple of months ago, and the colleagues singing me the song, weren’t sure how old I was. I don’t ‘look thirty’ (I am sure), so it didn’t really matter humoring their good wishes. Just before I was packing my electronic box that they call laptop, I got a call from husband dearest. “Hey, I’m waiting down. You’re done for the day right?” “Ady, I told you, no surprises. I don’t want to celebrate….” “Can you please pause? It is not a surprise” I paused. “We decided we’d go for dinner with Ma and Pa right? They eat early” That was true. “Ok. Am coming down” I yielded.
Now, I am not good at topography and I admit it, but the route Ady was taking was diagonally opposite. There WAS going to be a surprise. 5 years of marriage and 8 years of knowing each other and he still has the audacity to disregard my demand! I was fuming. Maybe some of the years did have an impact, or the smoke coming out of my ears were really irritating his nose, ‘cause he quickly added “No. No more people. I swear. I’m just taking you to collect your new dress”. Ok... so he knew what would cheer me. “My dress?” “Yes. I ordered for a party gown, the one that you really liked.” Now, I have never openly ogled at gowns. There was no way he’d known of my longing for an evening gown unless, he had just bought it as a happy coincidence. Whatever it was, this was not the time to complain. I was looking forward to it. It was well worth the wait. I looooooved the dress. I loved everything about it. The feel, the color, the texture the work – it was amazing. And it also had my husband’s endorsement. I couldn’t have been more touched. He somehow knew what I wanted. I quickly changed into my dress. He had even bought matching jewelry.
He led me by hand me to the roof top restaurant in the same building and as soon as we reached the terrace, he winked at the waiter. I heard my father speaking. “She’s been a treasured child. We’re very proud of the person she has become….” He was speaking from the projector screen. Tears rolled down my eyes. This time, tears of joy. I was amazed to actually hear my father speak about me. He has never done that. Well, I haven’t asked him to especially give me feedback per se…. but this was something which was so new, so… Bollywood! Then Mom flashed on the screen, and Ady spoke “She is the smartest and most intelligent woman I’ve ever known”. I looked at him and tugged at his shirt. I noticed that my valentine’s gift to him had finally arrived. He was looking quite the handsome guy I had fallen in love with not so long ago. I noticed how he’d rolled the sleeves upside down, the way I liked it. I gave him the tightest hug ever. Even our two year old made some noises to express her appreciation. Ady hugged me back and whispered. “Now are you ready for the surprise?” He winked again, this time at me and waved somebody in; my parents and my little princess. It couldn’t have been a better evening. It couldn’t have been a better day to turn old. It couldn’t have been a better day to be wise. I will still treasure that yellow stain on my new gown – it will always remind me of my toddler’s soup mishap on my thirtieth. It will remind me of the day I was no longer ‘some twenty-year old’.