Birthday parties and all that jazz

So the boy was run over (again) a few days ago. Not by another child, as he usually is, but by a mommy this time. Can’t blame her. She had trouble carrying her own weight and that of her toddler as she ran about in a game at a birthday party trying to win points for him. So what was my son doing in her way, one might ask? Why couldn’t I just look out for him? These things happen all the time, right?

Was she sorry? At least she didn’t say so.

I don’t understand kiddie birthday parties these days.  Little girls are dressed like Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra and throw the same attitude. Little boys look like rap stars, their collars all fluffed up and hair rearranged asymmetrically. At a recent birthday party, one had  Batman carved on his skull as his new haircut. Another had the Ghajini cut. There was Bollywood music (nothing wrong with that), but do two year olds really have to listen to Sheila ki jawani if you can help it?  And the music levels would put any night club to shame. Is this decibel okay, I asked. Someone shrugged. Strangely no one was complaining. The parents seemed to be having as much fun as the kids.

One 3-year old girl put up a stellar performance of  Munni Badnaam hui that would make Malaika Arora blush, and I was confused whether I should congratulate her (this could be the beginning of a great career in Bollywood) or have a word with her parents. I then realised I should stay mum, considering the enemies I have already made for voicing my opinion.

On the counter for the toddlers was coke, chips, pizza and burgers.  Arguably, this was a fast-forward generation suitably fortified by fast food. Me and mine felt like aliens.

At another birthday party, a magician performed more pelvic thrusts than tricks (on more Bollywood), and pulled out baby mice and pigeons from his hat  (PETA, are you listening?) while the children clapped. They clapped some more when he pretended to milk little boys (who happily volunteered) from under their shirts and fill imaginary water from their taps (go figure!) into his magic glasses, which he then drank (gross!). Everyone laughed. I shuddered.

Clearly, I have had a child in the wrong era.  I vented this out to one of the sane mommies I know, and she said, “Grin and bear it. This is just the beginning.”

I am in a village now, trying  to recover. Sorry for the break.

Simple pleasures in a mallified era

Some time last week, I was doing my writing at the desk by the window and Re was rearranging his toys in the cupboard while flirting with his shadow as the evening sun came streaming in,  when I suddenly heard a rrrrrring which almost sounded like the ice-cream man of yore. Sure that it was some sort of drilling somewhere, and yet hopeful that it wasn’t, I leaned out the window.

There he was, a chakku-chhuriwala, on his fancy cycle, sharpening knives with a deep fervour, and sending off those musical notes, as he pedalled away. In this day and age, I never thought I could show this to Re, what with corner shops being gobbled up and malls being the order of the day.  An actual knife sharpener!

I was thrilled! He was entranced. It was a first.

Today’s children have been born in an era of excesses. Of over-consumerism, over-stimulation, over-knowhow and over-technology. It isn’t their fault, they didn’t choose it. But it might be easy to slip into the glitz and they would never know what life is like elsewhere. Wherever that is.

Which is why I am grateful to the old and rather crumbling building that I live in. To me, the chakku churiwala and the bhajiwala and the kurmura wala and the khaari wala who come to my doorstep are like detox. For me and Re. The OPU is very clear he doesn’t want to be a part of this circus, he is unabashedly a mall-rat.

Don’t get me wrong. Malls are convenient, at least when you have a child. They have aisles, they have trolleys, they have air-conditioning. Some days, when I run out of ideas, I wheel him around in a trolley in the mall. It’s a visual buffet for him and a  stock-up-on-the-essentials-and-the-utterly-useless for me.

But there is something about our daily date with our door-step sabziwala.Every morning as he unloads his basket, Re gives him a high-five and proceeds to play with the array of aubergines,  cucumbers and spring onions and is rewarded a carrot. Nadia, my feline first-born stealthily makes off with a tomato right under the bhajiwala’s nose and earns a spank from me. It’s bonding of a different kind.

Visual buffet for the eyes

Taking the bully by the horns

 I am in a bit of a dilemma. Roughly 10 months ago, the boy was un-insulated from the comfort of his home and his stroller and introduced to the big bad world in the form of play-dates, restaurant visits, the mall, walkabouts in the buildings, and the rest.

I reckon he is a nice boy. Perhaps I didn’t have much to do with it, but it has just turned out that way. Neither does the OPU (other parental unit) for that matter, who spent most of his childhood fighting for his place. Being the third born, he figured being a bad boy was the only way to get noticed. Until he met me, of course.

It’s different with Re. Being born in a house with two cats, he has had a sibling advantage from the word go despite not having any. He has learnt to be compassionate towards animals — not just ours, but even those outside our universe. He has learnt to apply the same logic to people on twos, both little and large. So it shatters me when another boy walks into my house, pushes him, pushes the cat, or worse, pulls its tail or whiskers. Or sometimes, when Re is walking about in the park, doing his thing, and another kid just walks up and pushes him. Or he is putting his musical instruments back in class and another child just walks through him, tripping him. I fear that he may be too nice.

The first time it happened, I was shocked. The mommy-in-charge (MIC) told me this is normal, and that her boy had also been pushed and shoved when he was Re’s age, and that he will also do unto others what has been done unto him, so the law of the universe balances it out. It has been a good eight months since we had that conversation, but I don’t see Re indulging in any form of aggression with littler ones. So, a part of me is really happy that I will not have to be the mommy apologising after her child. The other part is hurt that my child is hurting.

Another play-date repeatedly did the same, and when things didn’t get any better and when I got nothing more from the MIC except, “I wonder why he behaves like this?” or, “He is always so good, wonder what’s happened to him today?”, I did what I thought was right. I starting avoiding her and the boy.

Re is confused. His response to such situations is to act slightly annoyed, and to want the object of irritation to disappear. My dilemma is: should I let his innocence and goodness be and just hope that other kids will learn to behave better? It hurts me to see him hurt, but at the same time, I am left wondering at what point should I tell him that a tooth for a tooth, a shove for a shove is how the world works. When will it be imperative for him to ‘be a man’?

 It bothers me that mothers all around pretend that children will be children and that aggression and bad behaviour is normal, and just shrug their shoulders, pretending all is good, when it is so not. Perhaps some of them are not around all the time to see what’s happening and are dependent on day-cares and nannies. I have seen that perhaps one in ten mothers will truly take it upon her to explain to the child and demonstrate to him or her why it is wrong. Perhaps my decision to be a full-time mom has led to my microscopic observation of such things, else I wouldn’t know any better and Re would learn how to fight his battles anyway.

I discussed this with the OPU and his take on the whole thing seems rather simplistic, but fair and sensible. Any act of aggression that does not result in a larger good should be deemed bad. According to him, violence or aggression if used against someone equal or above is ok, if it results in a larger good for the victim. So for instance, shoving an older brat per se is bad. But shoving a brat who is pulling a cat’s tail is not. But shoving anyone younger or weaker than you is never ok.

I am now wondering how to explain this to a 17 month old. Perhaps I won’t have to. I think I will leave the ‘how to be a man’ bit to the OPU, as I still haven’t fully understood the male dynamics despite writing a column about men for years.

You win some, you lose some.

Caught at the red light


view from the back


I never get caught by traffic cops. I guess I have that look of she-who-means-business. I also guess being a south Indian who speaks fluent Marathi (the local language) has its advantages. The husband however thinks my fangs are visible to one and all and why would they want to mess with me?

I must admit that I have been, not so long ago, frequently guilty of cutting red lights, speeding on flyovers, or taking no-entries on lazy afternoons.  Patience is not one of my virtues, so I won’t say much. The few times that I was caught, I have used my journalistic voice to say, “I was rushing to meet Dhoni or Tendulkar (or whoever is the flavour of the season) for an interview, and I have just ten minutes to get there, so I know I was speeding, but my job is at stake.”

They usually buy it. You can do anything under the guise of cricket in this country.

If everything failed, there was the press card.

Things are different now. I am constantly aware of Re sitting smugly in his car-seat, being a spectator to everything while I am driving, so for one, I have learnt to camoflage cuss words (not so well,  I am afraid), not speed too much, and avoid cutting lights. I still take no-entries, blaming it on the baby (He has done potty, I need a loo, quick!)

So recently when my friend Aseema was caught breaking a signal and stopping a good two minutes after a cop asked her to stop, it was dejavu for me. We were carpooling to our kids’ weekly music class and it was her turn that day and I was seated at the back with the kids (hers and mine).

Now, sitting at the back is strangely disempowering in such situations, especially when the person in front has already admitted to making a mistake. Drat! I thought, there goes my defence. A part of me wanted to jump in and spin one of my famous Dhoni tales, a part of me wanted to tell the cop that it wasn’t my fault, that I had astigmatism, a part of me wanted to say the kids were hungry and we had to rush home, a part of me wanted to not stop and just drive off.

But then I figured. The little ones (hers and mine) were not that little any more. Perhaps it was time for them to be passing judgement, learning how to negotiate power, thinking this is the way things are done, and perhaps repeating it years later.

I did nothing. I said nothing. It is the quietest I have been in a long time. She surrendered her license. He gave her a receipt. Off we went. I slept with a clear conscience. At least I had not set a bad example for Re, I thought, and felt happy.