Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai Tu Kahe To Maein Bataa Doon

Did i really write about mosquitoe last weeks? Mosquitoes? Seriously?

The mortification...of being knocked down in the middle of the street, and the requiem of words past including an ode to the bane of Nimrod’s life. This beats the time I had argued for us to go easy on the mosquito as its not that it has some other purpose in life, koee alternative livelihoods scheme bhee nahee.

So the countdown to Year One begins. And as mothers, very well meaning mothers before me have wondered, where oh where did where did time go?. Kuch ishq kiya and sadly bahut kum kaam kiya. So I escape you sweet child while you dream and retreat to my cloister of words, and the keyboard and the dim light of the screen. I potter around the house, this past year you gave me the gift of peace and slumber when my head hit the pillow but somehow as we approach your birthday I feel my body breaking free of the skeins of sleep. It has been a beautiful year I admit, of wonder and laughter, of comradeship in spaces I never imagined. And there have been days of tears and frustration and what my sister labels the Bad Farent Fairy visiting us. And than the personal and political overlapped, but you precious waded through those pools as well, and I am hoping will not hold it against me. And now we have Wilco to share, these past three days have been good as we have found our groove you humming away as I play with words (Thankyou Parul, remember Mama Ka Top pehna chahiye? We have now the case of Mama Ka Laptop chahiye... so he is pounding away at the keyboard of a spare laptop furiously trying to figure out why it doesn’t sing out to him as mine does. Yes yes hamarey waqt may we only had a spoon and a piece of string to play with but if we are to bequest a shittier world to you Arhaan let me make some things nicer for you).

Kiran had tagged me to write some honest stuff about ourselves and I am thinking about taking it up as a First Birthday present for you. OK, confession time. For all my talk about tolerance and pacifism, I leave your dad all flustered with my cajoling him to go out in the balcony and scream at the noisy people in the street, Im really trying to build a solid reputation as the Crazy Woman who Lives Upstairs so no one disturbs your sleep precious. I fantasize about vats of hot oil that will go splish splosh over the railing, sigh. And though I am my own competitor( Im constantly in a race to better my record) what impressed me about your dad was how he was nonchalant even when he lost a game. People can live like this as well, kamaal hai.

I was always one for the underdog but I hate Susan Boyle. I cry every time the little boy in the detergent ad straightens up his school tie to prove a point to judgmental old man . Kahan Kahan Sey Aajate hain, but cant warm up to someone who did clearly move places.

My favourite part of the day is when we picnic in front of the TV lunch time. Partners in crime we go through each other’s lunch plates , you polish off what looks good on mine, I am satiated with a mishmash of baby hugs, kichdi and gulab jamans.

My excitement when you plonked down to watch Sesame Street, and my alarm at the desi pronunciation on the street. I bow my head in shame, how duplicitous of me to be get you messed up with the currency of accents and accumulating social capital.

And some years from now when you look at your birthday party pics (which is over the weekend) you will look back at me and whisper You threw this carnival? And I will sigh and tell you about all my well meaning intentions, and how your father teased me that I was being very Bachchan. Do masti magic all year long and when it comes to inviting people groan about a sick parent, (the state of health of my country in my case). So dear dear mothers stop fighting it, you may protest and declare that it will be just baby and baba, but come the First Birthday there will be two hundred balloons in your living room waiting to be blown up.

To be continued.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Namak Ishq Ka

In the past week after having been subjected to one mozzy bite too many...and all the King (Mosquito) horses (coils and sprays) failing on us, we took to killing the flying pests in the classic Nana Patekar style. Yesterday I contemplated on the icky mystery of a bloodied corpse on my hand on and off(clearly the winged pests had been feasting and so) but the absence of any evidence on our bodies (particularly Arhaan as for obvious reasons all mosquitoes make a bee line to the sweetest soul amongst us).
To which Gman replied "Im sure the mosquito must have muttered Saar, mey namak aap ka khata hoon par khoon kisi aur ka". ..I have eaten your salt, so how can I feast on your blood. Hmm!it sounded much funnier in my mind.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

chal chal chal mere saathi, o mere haathi

so I finally get to answer the question I raised earlier in this travel diary series elephants and babies mix? They do and they should but after the parents realise the "gravity of the situation". You will soon find out.

We leave Delhi for Jaipur...We (though the operational word should be I) had been keenly going through TripAdvisor and travelogues by blog-dosts and had a very strict itinerary prepared for the weekend... at this stage all of us have our own "vision" regarding the days ahead. For me Jaipur was the Magical Land of Anokhi, I imagined kindly craftspeople taking me by my hand and declaring Here Is A True Patron of the Arts, come Gracious Lady we have been saving this secret stash just for you. Gman hoped that having a baby nicknamed Bubbles would merit for something when it came to paying for services in the Raj of Maharaja "Bubbles" Bhawani Singh . Nada! And our Bubbles waited with bated breath for the elephant ride we had been promising him. But in the end it is the Driver's Dream Trip that is supreme. There will be a lot of Mamoo Ki dukan so its best that you mentally prepare yourself for that.

Take us to Lakshmi Mishtian Bhandar, driverji
Hain? Where Is That? No such Place.
No such place? I give him directions right up to it's pavement. (Jiyo Google Map).
No No too much traffic, no parking, he replies. I will take you to a much fine place.
and that is how we find ourselves at Surabhi (which has on display testimonials by such fine food critics as Dimple Kapadia ji. Arey Madam, if you have to share testimonials tell us about your hair products). There is also a turban museum on the premises if you are so inclined but sadly no turbans to be sold. Jootis yes. As I was saying misplaced priorities are not limited to choice of gourmands.

Later we ask him to stop at the Jal Mahal so we can go take a look.
Arey, yeh tau vaisey frame hai. Kuch andar nahee jaaney ka nahee. (Its just a brick skeleton. There is nothing inside).
I wanted to borrow from Pran in Zanjeer as a retort
dekho biraadar. Sher Khan ne shaadii nahee kee to kyaa huaa, lekin baaraateN bahut dekheeN haiN"
Well driverji I might not have read up on Jaipur's history but I do watch a lot of films. Im pretty sure they have shot a song inside one of these Jal Mahals. And the fact that we could see people walking up and down the parapet showed that his pants were on fire as we spoke.

Driverji was not impressed with my Anokhi shopping excursion. Sooti kapra, he turned up his nose in disdain. Calm down calm down Gman keeps on reminding me driverji has to get us to the airport in time for the flight count to ten before tearing into him.

Early morning we find ourselves on elephant back at the foothills of the majestic Amer Fort. And realize that child services will soon be on to us as Gman holds Arhaan clasped to his chest. Arhaan's sling lies forgotten in the car and the elephant ride is longer than we thought. the baby keeps looking around with great interest. He might not realise the gravity of the situation but alas! his foolish parents know very well about gravity and what happens to little boys who come tumbling down the hill. One white knuckled elephant ride later, the parents dismount from the elephant and Gman now channeling a bit of Jinnah to Mountbatten gasps "thank God! I have brought you back alive".

The Amer Fort and the structures inside are beautiful as you can see.

Mr Pigeons says to Ms Pigeon "Dont Move for How color coordinated are we?"

Pathetic attempt to frame a touristy shot.

Later in the City Palace we are reminded of how clueless we are when it comes to parenting. A group of people descend on us wanting to click Arhaan's pics. Now we have no delusions of Arhaan being the stuff of celluloid dreams, we love him and he is "qabool surat " and there are no flights of fantasies there. So what does one do when random tourists start posing with him. Gman thinking its a baby snatching scam was firm that he is not taken out of the stroller. Arhaan "photo is my motto" just dimpled away in the cameras, Im pretty relaxed about putting up his pics on my blog, buree nazar waley tera moon kala and all, but this particular incident had us a a bit confused, and we have decided to be a bit sterner in future. Which is also pretty sad. A sad sad day when you become paranoid about any interest in your baby.

Arhaan's fan Group
and Memories of the Hand That Rocks the Cradle (now Stroller)

We spent the afternoon at Rambagh where our calling out (in a very loud voice I must say) to our Bubbles fell on deaf ears, sigh.

Our Bubbles is now clearly mortified with our attempt to milk the Bubbles connection for what its worth.

Arhaan does not experience a moment of "self doubt" when it comes to comparing his buggy to the royal buggies. Clearly "we are not impressed".

We leave Jaipur with memories of a number of characters quintessential Jaipur who will appear on this blog (and considerable stash that will grace the house!!).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shehron Mein Se Shehar Suna Tha And Bambai Sey Aaya Mera Dost

actually aaya nahee gaya dost (to Delhi and Mumbai neƩ Bambai) but that came after a brief Singapore Sling.

What plans I had for Singapore..that i would research the "built anthropology" of the city. About how ethnicity defines class defines space. But what did I do in the end? Lounged around in the balcony of our host's apartment reading and looking out at the rain and miles and miles of green, I did nip out one afternoon to Orchard Road and Dempsey but mostly it was just a lot of (and I emphasize a LOT of) good food and chilling out (though its kind of an oxymoron as it was very very humid). Arhaan got exposed to his first big big TV and Cbeebies and the father went to sleep sometime after breakfast the day we landed until it was time for him to catch his flight back to Dhaka. One evening we guiltily thought of expanding his mental horizons (arhaan's not Gman!) and decided to take arhaan to the night safari. Well, half an hour into our excursion I remembered what someone had told me in school about preferring the harsh cold of winters over sultry summers (One can layer up in winters, even go around with a blanket wrapped around you. In summers ek hud tak uttar saktey hain ..there is a limit to which you can strip). Well Arhaan very soon sang dheerey dheerey a very slow pace...hud sey guzar jaana..was to cross that limit. And we had a very glum baby who wasnt that keen to view animals. Add to that some loser types who refused to turn off their videocams and using the flash function and the guide who would have to admonish them after every ten minutes (note to the authorities why dont they just impound the cameras as we get on the tram) and sadly we were ready to run back to our Room with a View in Arcadia Road.

Badey badey shehro may aisee chothee chothee baatey... aur badey badey bag hotey hain. Cant tell you for how long I wanted to say that!!!

The next day Gman left for Dhaka and Arhaan and me continued with our watch TV read books program, sloth and sloth in training that we are. After a day and a half of that we were on our plane to Delhi. The plane journey was uneventful, Arhaan had lucked out as we had been seated next to a toddler with a laptop that had The Night Garden playing on a loop. "Yoonhi kat jaayega safar" he babbled. Our landing was pretty scary as we touched ground only to take off immediately, something about Air Traffic not getting our request for landing. Add to that a colour blind driver picking us up (Im wearing an orange turban when I couldnt spot him or his sign..30 minutes of hit and miss to discover him wearing a SHOCKING PINK turban holding a scrap of paper sigh!). We were staying in a B&B establishment that promised a homely atmosphere (Note to self: Always ask Who's Home? And Who Is Not)
anyways it was a crazy rush of attending a wedding, and shielding Arhaan from the Punjab Dey Puttar Tantrums (Arhaan does have flashbacks and there are days when he emulates the Mummmyyyy Ballloooon Chahi-da head banging).

We do scrub up well I must say

Onwards ho! Mumbai and Casa Sharma-Ramanathan. Many before me (and in words more eloquent than mine ) have expressed their admiration for the lovely couple and their beautiful beautiful abode. What can I add to that but the fact that even though I had promised Arhaan all the city's cultural and spiritual sights in the end I decided to take a page out of Ganesha's "navigated the whole world" book and parked myself at the Mother-to-be's feet never leaving the Bandra suburb. Except for a maid who channels Meena Kumari there is not a cloud to blight that sight or whatever the phrase is. Lucky lucky Parul. And there was no need to go meet the world as my world and all the cool bloggers came over to see me. Yipeee!
A note of thanks to The Little Diva's Mimi who took this pic of The Women in Black Collective

Parul has written about our milan here and from her description of it and my words here perhaps my days there read like a Seinfeld episode.. a show about nothing at all as they profess but soo sooo great in execution. Those days were kinda like that. I left her house really refreshed, the "old noggin give a few splutters and recharge the batteries" as she writes elsewhere.

My reel life real life parallel continued as we returned to Delhi and caught up with the Mad Momma one evening. Gman by now was back in town for work and a weekend getaway we had planned. Arhaan is happier that we have ditched the "homely atmosphere" of our earlier Delhi Darshan to something more to his fancy, read thoda sheher ki bijlian. If I referred to Seinfeld before, the evening with Mad Momma was like a re-run of all your fav episodes from a much loved sitcom. Note to her trolls: everything she blogs about and you jest as un-real does actually happen. I guess that is what I mean when I refer to rerun. On an earlier visit I discovered that she does actually encounter rude kids on an evening excursion with Brat's pram (She has shifted blogs so sadly I cannot link to the actual posts) which was very much like The One with Brat in The Pram and the Obnoxious Kid. This time I was reminded of The One Where Random Bloggers Drop In as both Unmana and me turned up at her place at the same. I got to see her beautiful tree (from The One with The Tree and Handmade Ornaments) , there was a mini-jam session as some rocker types came over to crash at her place (from The One with All the Guitar Playing) there was a lot of good food, gup shup and an evening out with our men and babies. The Brat and Bean are each other's best friends as the pic below will tell.

Next stop Jaipur.

Arhaan decides to pull a rocker act...The One Where The Brat and Bratlet (The Bean) Really Are The Bestest of Siblings...and Where The Brat Walks Alone.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Raat yuun dil main terii khoyii hu'ii yaad aayi ... Jaise beemaar ko be-vajha qaraar aa jaay

It happens. No matter how jaded you are with the whole "Give Peace a Chance" thing. Especially as it is coming from quarters such as the (recently jingoistic) Times of India and the unfortunately named Jang Publications. Plus its difficult to stomach the Big B all shahtoosed and asking for kite flying and tappa jam sessions days after he mentioned his admiration for Messrs Modi and co. Chalo, to each his own as they say, its a free country and it is up to him whom he chooses to fawn over. So frankly even though though I thought that nothing nothing could make a dent in my cynicism but something did get by my world weary attitude and made me all mushy. I do not know whether it was the whole cheesiness about the promo (It involves dumb charades on the Indo-Pak border for a caller request radio show) or the trip down memory lane it brought about. For if I am not wrong, it is not that I grew up in years where we were all puppiyan jhappian with Indians but even then they seemed like simpler times, happier times. My younger cousin reminds me (though I have no recollection) that our generation of cousins-siblings did a little jig of joy for Indira Gandhi's birthday celebrations and we all did cry when she was assassinated. And the song by request reference reminded me of winter mornings, dressing up for school and hovering around our grand mother's Grundig radio as it played a similar show. Our tastes were dictated by the preferences of the letter writers, and our sense of humor piqued by all the Buntys, Bubblys writing from obscure places. I was telling Gman how in my lifetime Ive gone through the "write to radio show to play your fav song" , followed by "call in for your song" (and be subjected to the hello hello ...please turn off your radio while you speak to us...please talk to my younger sister, niece, neighbour...helloo beta conversation), later we had MTV Most Wanted and the hoping and praying that VJ Nonie played something we liked. Now its Youtube and we can never be out of our fav songs.

He by the way realised how old he was when he blurted

"Haan plane may chain nahee hotee na(there is no emergency brake cord to pull in a plane) as he watched Madhavan's character fluster about in 3i

Anyways going back to regular programming about my travelogue ...not that anyone is clamoring for the next installment , why doesnt anyone delurk? well as Rancho would have said "You keep on blogging...comments jhak maar kar ke apne aap peeche bhagee gai, comments are sure to follow". all i need is a bit of excellence in execution right?

So after spending one evening in Dhaka it was off to Sydney where Gman had work and I continued with my bhabhi ji who likes to shop and sightsee avatar. It was 42 degrees by the way so I stayed indoors and would go out evenings the first couple of days. Met with some old girl friends, one had had a baby and it was kind of surreal to be discussing "calming strategies" rather than thesis deadlines. We both have our share of bouts with the big bad blues and were paranoid about the days after bub . The fact that we have survived (or actually our kids have survived us) was a cause to celebrate.

We were staying in the city and Sydney had been my gaon (village) before Melbourne poached us, so I took Arhaan around the sights (not that he is at the age alas when he can appreciate it)...he is fast becoming the garden gnome from Amelie as I snap him posed with assorted "icons".

Opera Shopera Im going to sleep
He continues to behave in museums so he has not been cramping my style, touch wood ...khair who knows how long this phase lasts.

Kiya broad brush strokes eh ?

After Sydney it was my turn to "perform" as I spoke at a conference in Brisbane. Actually it turned out more of a writer's workshop which is really really nice as everyone has read your work and gives decent feedback and frankly has an idea where you are coming from rather than it turning out a Pakistan Studies 101 type presentation where someone will ask you the ubiquitous question How can Benazir Bhutto Be a Prime Minister When your Lot clearly Hates Women. (Not that I hate going to conferences, please please keep inviting me!!)

Kind of a swan song before I retire to my life of diapers and steamed apples. I think I have already posted about my Oprahish A-ha moment there earlier. In Brisbane we stayed in the lovely lovely Stamford, and had the yummiest breakfasts along the river. See it does pay to study.
Arhaan behaved and didnt annoy anyone at the river front brasserie or I guess he has figured out that good behaviour-equates hash browns and cheese and bagels with people drooling all over me-bad behaviour means steamed apples ploughed down my throat in a high chair. So a lovely lovely time was had and Gman and me had our usual good weather versus a place with culture debate. What do you think? should one be in a place with really decent weather but life seems like an endless vacation and your kid only gets to know holiday maker types or should you be in a place with really (and I mean REALLY) crappy weather but with all the Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham the humour the pathos that life brings? Of course not bearing in mind the occasional arson et knifing attacks Im reading about.

Next stop Singapore and Indeeeyaa!!

Keep reading.

Mischief on the horizon and

the beach bum

They say if I wait long enough there is going to be a spray of water.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

musafir hoon yaaro!

I have to admit that I have been very lazy about posting my travel notes regarding One Baby Four Countries Four Weeks. What if Marco Polo had been half hearted regarding his travelogue “The place is all right, though no one knows what American chop suey is”
or Ibne Batuta had written “Yaar I just didn’t get a decent exchange rate”. 
And perhaps just perhaps there might be a new mother out there wondering whether there is life after bub? Whether babies are allowed on planes? And do babies and elephants mix? Read onnn..

Our story begins with an early morning flight to Qatar. The baby checks out the accompanying travellers and air crew and is very disappointed with whats on offer. No Scope to Terrorize he tells himself and decides to doze off in the bassinet. He just loves playing with our mind. Gman and me look at each other with undisguised glee at our reprieve , our head reeling with giddiness . I exclaim In flight Entertainment and scroll the screen for options.
Sleep Sleep sleep suggests Gman.
I pull the card of We Never Do Anything Together and select Julie and Julia.

I have no idea whether it was a good movie or not. But after what seems like ages I was watching a movie uninterrupted and it seemed like the bestest movie ever. There were no grubby hands pulling the remote off me, pressing random buttons to place parental locks and locking the parent in question from accessing anything. Yup, it has happened to us.

I loved the movie, and promised myself to start baking, growing and chopping my own vegetables and wearing pearls to the dinner table. During the movie I did random spot checks on Gman to see whether he was following the movie. He was snoring true to form . I am now a grudging convert to osmosis as he appears to have absorbed the movie plot and is scoring well on impromptu quizzes on the movie.

My first impression of Doha was that it reminded me a lot of Karachi. Something about common built construction and migrant laborers bringing in a similarity of sensibilities. And a lot sun and sand. What will stay with me about Doha is the Museum of Islamic Arts (which I admit does sound like an oxymoron at first reading).

The good Emir has decided to put his money where his "Islam is Beauty" mouth is and gifted the public with a pretty interesting collection. I suspect he has gone through his own palaces and decided to conduct some spring cleaning . But well there are worse things one can do to free up some cupboard space eh. The inclusion of some of the items displayed might leave you puzzled. Why have all  things bling for Islamic Art in India. Granted the stones were from India, but these are 20th century designs set in place by Cartier? But as I soon discovered it is a difficult task to multi task. One cant complain about putting in jewels and be wiping off drool at the same time,as I slobbered all over the displays.
Mad angles. The museum at night..

window cleaner nightmare at the museum of islamic art

Preedy bird doesnt poop on your sofa.

Loads of bling.

There was also this wonderful wonderful farewell dinner at a restaurant in the trendy souk area. We were given our selection of courses on being seated; and as it is when there are 10 mains on offer, Gman and me did our whispering and serious bargaining making solemn promises to share if the salad greens look greener on the other side and/or the roast more glistening. There has been a sad side-effect of Arhaan’s love affair with fish. Considering it was the only meat we still partook (yes partook is a word!) his friendship with fish (fish are friends not food ****) has hit us bad. Kind of cruel to amuse him with the restaurant aquarium and then amuse our palette with the same friend fifteen minutes later. Anyways going back to the dinner, we soon discover that our dinner contains all ten mains. We start out by good natured back slapping Good call, Excellent farewell dinner. But soon discover that our hosts are literally killing us with kindness, neykee ki maar and all that. A couple of mains down we are virtually diving over our plates begging the restaurant staff for no more. The wait staff is nothing if not determined and will have none of our tears. They parry and thrust and plop another serve on our plate. Gman coughs out “Its just like being at a wedding, itna kiya tuqallaf”. Fifteen minutes down and Im crying for my mother, I want to go home, hellllppp Im drowing in food. And the smiling waiter goes “Al-Chinese frrieed rice still al-remaining ahlan wahsahlan”.

The highlight of the evening (besides Death by Food) was free head and shoulder massages, I dont understand the connection, but it was free, there are magic fingers at work on my scalp and I dont want to ask any questions. Note to Idiot Guy sharing our table, Did you have to grill Magic Fingers while she was working on my shoulders? About Philippines? About her divorce? About life in Doha. Grrr, for every response to your stupid question she had to take her hands off my shoulder and would lose her train of thought. that was really upsetting. Some people just dont have any manners. I hope he had a rotten massage as well.

And then for dessert and tea, coffee they took us to the roof top. Beautiful, beautiful view of the city skyline.
A smiling young woman introduced us to the local coffee, and the ‘code of conduct’ to let the server know whether you had had enough. For holding out the cup for someone to take it away will not work. You shake your coffee cup from side to side to say no to a second helping. Though the coffee is a fairly light concoction with loads of cardamom which means you can have seconds and thirds. Smiling coffee server continues with her p.r spiel for the local coffee and tells us where can buy some for ourselves. We ask her how she likes her coffee. “I cant stand this coffee. I drink tea”. Uh oh.

As Gman was busy with his workshop, it being really warm during the day, and Arhaan for some inexplicable reason deciding that he would sleep till noon; I would stay indoors most days, venturing out to the souk come evenings. Where I discovered Pakistani falcons at the bird section, come meet your Pakistani cousins I tell Arhaan. And then quickly retreat when I

discover they sew their eyes shut. Yara, Pakistanis have it bad under detention anywhere they may be lately.

qaid may hai bulbul sorry falcon

I did visit the museum three times and have memorized each exhibit. One day we went to a local mall (shopping is a spectator sport and we are pretty sporty people) where we discovered an indoor gondola ride

and the ceiling of the mall painted to reflect the Florence sky at different times of the day. It takes all kinds I guess. I promptly clicked pics of Arhaan and me in the gondola so I can tell him at some time in the future. Arhaan, do you remember when I took you to Venice?

Part 2 to follow.