Thursday, September 30, 2010

Aai Aai Ya Karoon Main Kya

Heellllppp...Month 20 is here and there is no sign of the Curse of E-I-E-I-O being lifted (the bub's fascination for Old McDonald and his farm remember). Sukoo Sukoo help us please?

Since I last wrote we made a blink and you missed us tour to Melbourne (where Arhaan and me contracted the mother of all gastro bugs, ha ha eat that Western standards of hygeine are different than desi) and I tried to steal an election but just could not. I did get to watch Inception so not all was lost (other than body fluids and essential salts)

So we enter Month Twenty. Not that he was ever the Hai Meri Mummy tied to my dupatta strings type but every day brings brand new emotional independence, making it ever so difficult to manage the tightrope of allowing him to make (up his own mind) and not break (his bones).

Dear Arhaan,

Some vignettes from the month past .

One afternoon I returned from changing your pamper and disposing of the unmentionables to find that you have disappeared.

I hunted high and low,

no ends to the lengths i went to ,

to find you again (hee hee, remember A-Ha)

and you were still nowhere to be found. Discovering the sliding door to the balcony open (the balcony is grilled in but still) I stepped out heart in mouth and you were there sitting on a couch looking out contemplatively. Sit, you gesture to me and point out to the birds. “Birds, Mamaji?” To your credit you were not hanging from the grill or tearing out the plants. It was a beautiful moment and I sat down beside you and watched you as you looked out to the sky. I promised you then that you will always be my Friend Numero One and I will try my best to hear you out and encourage you in your pursuits. But at the same time I had to remind myself that sadly as far as your friend circle is concerned my mandate is to be just your Parent and not aspire to be your BFF. So considering that I am your mom and these are the things moms have to do ( that is making sure their toddlers continue to have teeth and grow their bones), after a respectable period of five minutes I read you the riot act and marched you back into the flat.

After the What Goes In Has to come Out and How! Trip that Melbourne was we had a two day break in Bangkok ostensibly to give you and me some rest before we got on another flight, but for all purposes so I could watch some movies while your father minded you. (I am hoping moms with toddlers and no help will say aye! we hear you sister at this stage) But as I stood in the queue for tickets and saw what was on offer (compared with what we all could do together as a family) I stepped out of the line and joined the Baba and Bub. And at that very moment you dozed off and your father and me just looked at each other and whispered MASSAGES.

I asked for a foot massage and told the therapist to continue with it for as long as the toddler sleeps (kind of a reverse Thakur, Basanti, Jai-Veeru episode no? Jab Tak Uski Neend Chaleygee Basanti Terey Haath Chaleyngay) And for two hours that is what happened!! I sipped on iced tea and read Murakami “what I talk about when I talk about running" as someone pressed on my feet (damn that sounds blasphemous!) and you dozed in your stroller(I dont whether it was the good karma of my ‘ sacrifice’ or the combination of indoor waterfall and aromatherapy oils that soothed and lulled him into taking an unscheduled mid-evening nap). Not that Murakami needs a thumbs up from me, but the book is good stuff and makes one prioritize and have REAL dreams. At that moment life seemed good with endless possibilities of how one can combine baby, and ambitions and decadence, so I looked up from my book and told Gman that one day I want to run from Athens to Marathon , lets see What Dreams May Come eh.

At one stage you did wake up and as I cowered behind my book you stared into an aquarium just above your head. It had no fish with just the water filter on. After a couple of minutes you turned around to see this long tank of really small fish (that they use for a foot spa) besides you. Three thousand eyes stared back at you. Outside the window the rain streamed down onto a flood of pedestrians. I am betting that for all purposes you murmured to yourself Damn You Leonardo DiCaprio, get me out of this dream already before going back to sleep again.

Happy twenty months sweetheart!!


Your Mom

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Zindagi ek safar hai suhana Yahan kal kya ho kisne jaana

I think it was Jay Leno who some time after 9/11 looked into the camera one evening and gave a mock warning to the audience Warning! I am about to Make a Joke. Such was the sombre mood, any TV personality had to think twice before venturing into the dangerous territory of 'All right then normal transmission is about to resume'. I am going through something similar as I begin to write my Pakistan diary. It will be very difficult for me to write something along the lines of hey my life was all ha ha hee hee about a period that coincided with a difficult time not only for me, but also for the year so far for Pakistan. However I feel that this will be pretty churlish behaviour on the part of Arhaan and me, as we did have a fantastic adventure in Pakistan and there were ' moments in time points in space' when I felt that I was finally home. See we all have a choice about how we want to be defined and how we view different stages in our lives, and I want this month to be marked as a time when Arhaan and me ' grew' emotionally.

Let me explain. The drive from Rawalpindi to Peshawar was very difficult. One for I knew what awaited me in Peshawar was a new chapter in the life of my loved ones and I was still trying to make sense of it and find closure. And the other that my drive to the city took me through a very tragic tapestry. As the skies rained on us I looked out into the greys and browns of a river in flood and a motorway that was now housing a tent village of people displaced from their homes. I think its cruel when you see human beings trying to make a semblance of home under bedraggled tarpaulin. Already they had the expression of So This Is What Our Life Will be From Now On, as a steady flow of cars passed them by, some looking at them with obvious pity, some trying not to make eye contact out of respect, and some in-betweens like me who were still trying to find answers. But amongst all this, they were tending to their animals and children who were trying to run into the traffic, there were visitors popping in and out of each tent, all the while as their hosts kept one eye on their villages across the road. And then after witnessing all this misery one drives into Peshawar and its inevitable that you will make comparisons with another time in your life. So I fret and I fume about why it has to be so and how will people make sense of their city, and will the city's young Have A Childhood. And my car turns into a lane and I see little kids jumping into a fountain, splashing their friends, squealing with mischief. And one of them turns around and looks me into the eye and mocks me out of my pity fest. Remember that scene out of Dil Chahta Hai towards the end when Aamir's character is brooding his way down Bombay's streets and he passes his old collage and the apparition of a younger him turns to him as to say What Gives? Aisee Kiya Tension. I think that was me, at that moment, and that little kid just shrugged and probably thought to himself. Madam, while you are there in a self pity mode worrying about my life, here I am, actually living life to the fullest.

And I think this is my life now. This is the moment When I stopped Worrying and Started Living Pakistan.

Arhaan loved his time there and the people and the places loved him back. Yes, the mission statement behind my trip was that he gets a chance no matter how brief, to live my childhood. But that was not to be. After all I didnt have a swing in the back yard for my exclusive entertainment. When I didnt want to eat my dal chawal I was told to go sit in the verandah, no one fussed over me with cookies and ice cream and told me this is calcium too. My mother had never ' appointed' the big, better, beautiful TV for cartoons and kiddie programming and asked the Others to watch their news elsewhere. For me the Front Lawn was a place you kept off, and if you were to ever walk across you took off your shoes lest you 'killed the grass'. Of course for the Boy Wonder it was a place where he could summon an army of the chowkidar's kids and any visiting cousins to play football with him and the proud grandmother rather than reading him a riot act just marveled over his instep kick. I also realised that if I had raised Arhaan in a crackhouse or that place with people of ill-repute I would not have been ticked off that much as I am in raising him in --oh the horror- a flat. Anyways the kid blossomed, bullied and was bullied in turn, and just bull dozed himself into toddlerhood.

For me it was a time of hanging out with friends and family but also moments when I could connect with self and have the important conversations that one has to. It was Ramadan and I have always liked that time post-the witching hour when it is not yet dawn, you know everyone is safe and sound in bed, and you can switch off worrying about them. I would go out to the back lawn and appropriate Arhaan's swing and just breath into the gardenia scented air (yes it will not be the kiyari of tube roses come summers in Harley Street for me any more, the new floral theme to Rawalpindi Days is gardenias now, thankyou). Swing back and forth, look up into the sky, let your mind go blank and thank the Old Man/Woman up there for all that is good and bad in your life. And at some stage remember that this place was built on a graveyard and what shadow is it that moves in the guava tree so you slowly move back into the house. Every night. Same time same place.

And it will not be Ramadan in Pakistan if I did not share a nugget about the mullah on the loudspeaker every morning pre-fajr azaan. Our local mosque's love affair with all things filmy continues, I think I have written before about how after a particular strong rant and rave sermon about the Evil Eastern Neighbour, he sang a naat in the tune of Choli Kay Peechey. This time it was a more sombre sign-off prayer of Hamara Aaney Wala Kal Guzrey/Beetey Kal Sey Behter Hau (where kal is both past and future an interesting twist on it as he prays for a better tomorrow) . And Im racking my brain whether this is from an advertisement? A politician's speech? A filmy dialogue. If there is anyone out there reading and interested in popular culture, a heads up please.

So that is Pakistan and my holiday there for you. Bittersweet. And the humour lives on. Whether intentional or not. It is out there. I can still smile.
Whether it is as a sweetheart of a simple guard gives directions to a cousin and me. Aap Yahan Sey Seedha chaley, Gate Khud Ba Khud Aajaye Ga.
or the Oh My God moment as my mother all flustered cautions me to make an effort and find the dates for the iftar tray for a driver.
No no the dates must be there otherwise they will think we are not Muslim.

My weight and impending old age continues to be the ice breaker. And in this way I am happy that it cuts across class and age and gender in such a divided country. The daughter of a former maid came in and said " Neela Bibi aap kitni healthy hogayee hain". ..and after five minutes "and skin bhee kafee kharab hai and baal hair all white white. I later found out that she wanted me to keep her on to help with Arhaan. But I decided I wanted to continue with my philosophy of positive body image. My sister was more polite and told me there has to be an end to my Behenji look, I guess when a sister tells you to look less sisterly, you better sit up and listen. So there I was in the middle of Operation Denting Painting and Arhaan runs into the salon while Im sitting with all this gook in my hair. He decides to try his luck with other women who were easier on the eye, Mama? Mama? he asks one Young Fun Fearless Female after another (all this while while Im screaming Arhaan, Im Right Here) and one haughty female had to tell him No Im Not Your Mother shattering his Lets Get a Yummy Mummy project to smithereens.

And now a Shradhanjali to the days gone by. So my mother can take out her tissues and have a little weeping session (speaking of tissues Arhaan did me proud and would ask for a tissue or a napkin all patrician every time he would finish a meal. He also wanted to eat with a fork, excellent table manners I have to say. I dont know where he gets it from for I feed him with my hands, and in Dhaka he usually uses the glass door leading to the balcony to wipe his hands on).

Arhaan was very adamant that it was his granny and him in the painting
Swing the Shoes
Pliss to admire the way how the Boy Wonder maneuvers his way into the Pros from the Street
No more " Bagged it! I have the Best Chair in the House".
Bye bye birdies on the ledge.

No more newspaper sessions in the verandah and ignoring the Boy in Pyjamas.

and this one is for Gman who once said I imagine Aaloo Samosas. Please to note Exhibit A.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

saagar kinarey dil yeh pukare

well there was no need to warble Tu Jo Nahi as everyone who is significant and someone for me was right there in Koh Samui (that is except my mom, whoops! hello Mama!!)

Koh Samui was lovely, it was actually the holiday I wanted when I was a kid, to be at the beach, your fav cousins just a room away so there could be non stop running in and out of each other's rooms. Racing to the swimming pool and beach and promising your mother that the corn on the cob will not ruin your appetite. There was also good weather and hotel staff who were GENUINELY fond of you saving the toddler the nicer beach ball and sand toys.

For Arhaan the resort was his Graceland, that is if the infamous Bubbles of my nightmares does get addicted to prescription drugs and chooses to go to that playground in the sky. Imagine waking up in the morning and seeing this out of your balcony:

Mummmyyyyyyy jee...Bubblesji ka avtar and hamarvah sheher maa.

and one day at a decrepit beach shack he came across someone hiding from the crazy fans and maddening crowds:

Aah celebrity sightings dont get better than this!!

The holiday was nice for the grownups as well. Gman overdosed on massages. My sister and me gave him good competition for what it was worth. Borrowing from Chacha Churchill we had massages on the beaches, we had massages on the hotel grounds, we had some massages in the street (shops), and we looked across at the the hills housing the Six Senses Hideaway and sighed one day a spa holiday there too. We did not fight/have massages in France though.

We were at the Imperial Boathouse on the Choeng Mon beach which is pretty useful when you are looking for a place which is glam enough so your pre-kid " koee tau standard hona chahiye" life doesnt just remain a distant memory but not so highbrow that you live in mortal fear of the kid thrashing the place and you never getting a room in the Royal Kingdom of Thailand ever.

The good thing about this break was that everyone took a chill pill and by everyone I mean me as my family just wants to relax and call for room service when it comes to holidays. I, however, am very fond of the Excel sheet and list of activities, and We are Having Fun, Arent We? kind of holiday. Khair, this time Maa Retire Hoti Hai as Jaya Bachchan would put it, and I put my feet up and just gestured to the therapist on the left to start with the foot massage.

The days just became a dreamy haze of waking up to the sound of the fountains turned on, the birds chirping, and Arhaan piping Cake Cake Cake (alas complex carbohydrates just caught up with him ). The languid afternoons of just the swish of a broom gathering up the fallen frangipani, the rustle of a page turning from the pool side lounger, and Arhaan squeaking Cake? Cake? Cake?. Beautiful sunsets, the gentle roar of the sea, the tinkling of glassware and somewhere a little boy whispering Cake? into his pillow.

And then there was Bangkok where we tried to boost the local economy by much shopping and eating on my part and not getting off the carousel for Arhaan. I finally found an oil burner I could love. And we tried to pawn off Arhaan but he just followed us back home.

(Post-Arhaan anything that enters mi casa has to include copper, brass, bronze. Crystal, ceramic et al need not apply.)

But amongst all the lights, action, drama of the city there were also walks in the Queen Sirikit Park, of pointing out the turtles and the catfish in the pond to Arhaan. Sharing a slice of my life when my Happily Ever After was yet to come, and there was just the dream of a little boy who would breathe into the same frangipani air as me stretching out his hand into the musical fountain.

Gman says he enjoyed the holiday very much too.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

panchvan mausam piyar ka

(Part 2 Month 19 Letter)
...and its your lovely personality and positive energy that has kept me together.
This month the Vocabulary Bunny brought you the use of the gerund -ing which you quickly employed to the use of terms such as


Let it not be said you didnt ask nicely before you pinched your mom.

(Hat and Parrot Not Mine. Toddler Free To Go to Good Home)

It was also interesting to note the light bulb moment when you figured out not everyone understands Pushto...I guess the next couple of years will be a good exercise to witness how the human mind makes sense of the world. My own little Intro to Human Psychology 101. Suffice to say you switch between Urdu and English depending on your audience. Not very complicated stuff but you can tell your new friends to sit down, play, go on the swings, and hand you the phone.

Not very proud moments...that you can operate youtube on your own as in you can replay that darned Old McDonald Farm clip. And prank call your dad on skype.

Now You See Me

Now You Dont

So the bags are packed, we leave for Dhaka tomorrow. Next notes from our days in Thailand and Pakistan.