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Uhm… what?

Moms, have you seen this one? If you’re like me, you’ve probably learnt to tune out whatever nonsense your kid insists on watching on YouTube. I usually just ensure she’s watching something kid-friendly and then block out the rest. But recently, the words of this rhyme filtered past my defences while the daughter was having her half-hour of YouTube time on the tablet (i.e. kid nirvana). Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Five strict mommies jumping on the bed? Uhm… what?

YouTube nursery rhymes are, of course, for most part, the absolute dregs. I’ve written on this in depth in the past, and won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say, the channels that advertise most aggressively, and therefore are most likely to be clicked by your YouTube video-surfing toddler, are the absolute worst. It’s like they set aside all their resources for the pimping and keep nothing at all for the actual content.

But, even by those low standards, this one is… uhm… strange. So you have five mommies jumping on the bed. There appears to be no cause to call them strict mommies — if anything, they seem to be all about letting their hair down and par-taying — but, apparently, strict they are. You have a grinning kid who calls the doc each time one of the mommies falls off the bed and bumps her head (you get the feeling she’s enjoying this role-reversal a little too much). At this point, you start to wonder… are these moms drunk and on a bender? ‘Cos lil monkeys falling off and bumping their heads… kinda understandable. Mommies, strict or otherwise, with such poor physical coordination? One too many bottles of wine would seem the most likely explanation for both the jumping and the falling (is that why they don’t seem strict too? Alcohol tends to do that). As an aside, who is this wonderfully available doc in these rhymes who picks up each time the mommy/kid calls with the exact same complaint? I must find me one of those.

But I digress.

Now, this is important — watch closely to see what happens after each mom has bumped her head. That’s right — she goes back to her regularly scheduled housework, like a good, chastened homemaker mommy. Her head hurts like a bitch (bump plus hangover… ouch), and she’s learnt her lesson. No more silly shenanigans for her! She’s going to stick to nice safe, ladylike activities like cooking and ironing and cleaning.

And that’s when it hits you. This video isn’t really strange at all. It might look like a silly, badly-animated nursery rhyme for kids, but it’s really a finger-wagging cautionary tale for mommies not to stray too far from the kitchen. No more mommies jumping on the bed! Except, presumably, with Daddy (oh c’mon, I know you were thinking that too). But only, of course, once she’s served him a nice hot dinner.

There. Aren’t all you good, strict mommies glad I brought this important video to your attention? (There are multiple versions for you to watch, in case you feel the message hasn’t hit home strongly enough with just the one). Now, please excuse me. I do believe there’s some housework I need to go finish.

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Kadais (Part 4): That sinking feeling

There’s this tiny food stall on a by lane of R.A. Puram, off C.P. Ramaswamy Road, that sells noodles and biriyani and the like. I’ve never paid it much attention until recently, when my brother pointed out its signboard to me. It said: ‘Titanic Fast Food’.

Given that the fact that the stall is about the size of the cardboard box my refrigerator came in, that title is a tad incongruous. Ironic, even. But, I told my brother, good for the guy. He might be small, but he dreams big. Real big. He might be a roadside vendor, but his aspirations are palatial. Nothing wrong with the owner of a cardboard box wanting to be a Titan, you know? It’s praiseworthy. Motivational, almost. I was almost giving myself goosebumps at this point. Then my brother told me to look at the sign again.

Here, I even remembered to take a picture for once, so you can see it too:

20160317_094916

 

See that, on the left side of the signboard? Right beside the picture of the chicken rice? Yes, that’s an image of the Titanic. The ship. And yes, it’s sinking. Like, tilted-at-45-degrees-and-heading-for-the-ocean-floor sinking. If this were the movie, it would be the point at which Rose is on the raft and Jack is freezing his skinny butt off in the water and Leo fangirls everywhere are shedding copious tears.

Not, you’d admit, the most appetising image. Not particularly motivational either. Because now we’ve gone from Titanic Fast Food, the grand, imposing, colossal seller of roadside biriyani, to Titanic Fast Food, the roadside seller of biriyani who is doomed to sink without a trace.

I found myself coming back to that question I ask so often in this Kadais series of blogs: What was he thinking?? Why would you want to equate your business with catastrophe? Why would you want to give your customers a sinking feeling before they even begin to eat?

I mean, I’d understand if he’d used a picture of the Titanic as it was when it first sailed… majestic, a feat of human ingenuity and engineering. Yes, it did eventually sink, but it was pretty awesomesauce to start with. But why, why would you want to show it mid-tragedy, semi-sunk?

Unlike all those previous times, I’ve got nothing. Zilch. I have no explanations of the possible thought process behind the name. Except for one thing — he did get my attention. I may not ever actually eat his waterlogged biriyani, but I certainly won’t forget this roadside vendor who, apparently, adds a dash of disaster to dinner.

May his (food) cart go on and on…

 

 

 

 

 

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How to (not) use band-aids, toddler-style

1. Demand band-aid for non-existent boo-boo. The operative word here is ‘non-existent’. The vociferousness with which a toddler demands a band-aid is inversely proportional to the actual need for the band-aid. Tiny bumps, barely-there scratches, invisible ant bites… and your toddler will clutch at the (supposedly) injured limb and pitifully ask for her Dora/Hello-Kitty/Princess band-aid. “I need it amma!” she’ll cry, “please, please, please!”

Of course, you give in because you can’t take the whining, and because these band-aids are just a more expensive version of stickers at the end of the day. At least  she uses the band-aids just one at a time; with stickers, an entire entire sheet is dispensed with in 4.3 seconds flat.

So you put on the band-aid, and there is peace and quiet as the child admires it and declares she is much, much better. You may even receive a hug for being such a wonderful ‘band-aid doctor’, and if your kid’s into Doc McStuffins, a rendition of the ‘I feel better’ song. She’s happy, you’re feeling pretty pleased and all iz well… for about 5 seconds. Then your toddler will…

2.  Demand to have the band-aid removed. Why? Why, if you love these band-aids so much, do you need to get them off so fast? Wouldn’t you want your pretty Hello Kitty band-aid to stay on for longer? You whined and whined for 15 minutes to have it put on, and now you can’t keep in on longer than 5 secs? What is the point?

So, anyway, you give in again, because this is not a battle worth fighting. This is a band-aid she didn’t even need in the first place, so why bother arguing about how long she should keep it on? Of all the random, un-winnable arguments one gets into with a strong willed toddler during the course of the day, this falls under the ‘whatever- I don’t care’ category. Yes, the stupid Princess band-aids were expensive, but, you know, whatever.

Then, of course, your toddler will…

3.  Want it off but be scared of it hurting. The worst part of this stage is the realisation of how pointless the entire exercise was. Let’s do a brief review: you’re taking off the band-aid of a child who didn’t need it in the first place, but got it on after nagging you to death for it, only to want to take it off 5 seconds later. Only, now she doesn’t want to take it off. Well, she wants to take it off, but she’s scared on taking it off, so she doesn’t want you to take it off. If you catch my drift.

So you remind your toddler of how you took it off just the other day, and of how you were so good at it because you’re the best band-aid doctor ever! It won’t hurt at all, you promise, it’ll be over in seconds. She says nooooo! So you get impatient and say, fine keep it on. To which she says, nooooo! So you finally take matters in your own hands and ruthlessly rip it off. Ouch! That wasn’t so bad, was it? Only 20 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

Now let’s fast forward ahead to a day or two later when your toddler will….

4. Refuse to put on the band-aid when it’s actually needed: So your baby has fallen and hurt her knee pretty bad. Or she needed a blood test and has sobbed her way through the whole procedure. You remember how much she loves her Hello Kitty/Dora/Princess band-aid and offer it to her as an incentive to stop crying. As a way to make her happy. Anything to bring a smile on her face. And yay! For once, the darned cartoon character band-aids are actually needed! They’re going to serve a purpose beyond cluttering the house and lying about here and there.

Caught up in the moment, you forget two important things. A) Your child does not like to put the band-aid over an actual injury. Those she likes to leave open, so she can pick at them and make them bleed B) You’ve forgotten what will transpire once you actually get it on.

5 a. Return to Step 2You’ve gotten the band-aid on at actual injury!!! Score one for the Mommy team! Hurray! Or, you know, not. Because we now go straight back to No. 2, bypassing the joy and 5 seconds of peace and quiet at the end of Step 1 altogether. Because your toddler wants the band-aid to be removed. Now.

But it’s worse this time. Because she actually kinda needs it. You want her to keep it on for a bit. This is not an argument that falls into the ‘whatever, suit yourself’ category. You make deals. You offer incentives to keep it on. You remind her you’re the band-aid doctor.

Of course, two minutes later, you cave and agree to take it off. Only… she doesn’t want you to take it off. But she also does. And this time it actually hurts her for real when you do. And she cries and cries and looks pitiful.

5 b. Return to Step 1: So after all that drama surrounding removing the band-aid, you’d think they’d be off the favourites list, right? Wrong. Because the next time she sees Princess/Hello Kitty/Dora band-aids anywhere in the house or the store, she will demand that you put it on for her,  on the invisible boo-boo on her elbow, right now. Because: “I really need it, amma! Please, please, please!”

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Five things that happen when you go out without your toddler

1. You re-discover the joy of walking in long, adult-sized strides without having a pint-sized person’s pace slowing you down every step of the way. And you can actually stop and look at whatever you want to! Clothes! Interesting people! Books! You even get to look at yourself in the occasional mirror and realise to your horror that you forgot completely to comb your hair before you left home.

2. You can walk past toy-stores or shelves filled with colourful trinkets or candy without dread striking your heart and without having to engage in a passionate, 15 minute argument with a three year old as to the merits of the fluorescent pink toy camel she really, really wants. Of course, you end up hovering around the store indecisively anyway, torn between wanting to pick up a little something for the kid, and not wanting to add any more to the already enormous pile of junk in your home…

3. You can walk down the street without having to stop to point out and discuss in depth the double-decker buses, cute pets, pretty flowers, and irregularly shaped reflections and shadows you pass along the way. Unfortunately, you find yourself noticing them anyway and longing to point them out to someone.

4. You can unthinkingly jab lift buttons without having to worry about a little person having a meltdown and yelling, “Nooooo! Meeee! I want to press!” You can also actually make the choice of whether you want to take the lift or the stairs, and do either in complete zoned out silence without having to make eye contact or conversation with another person for a change.

5. You come home and get the world’s most wonderful welcome from a little person who makes you feel like the centre of their universe. Perfect ending to the perfect outing! Though maybe you should have picked up that pink camel for her after all…

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The tree that remembers

Note: This piece of fiction was inspired by marsowords’ hauntingly beautiful entry for the three’s weekly photo challenge: ‘The oddly scenic threesome.

He used to live there, in the house under that tree. The tree would flower in the spring, blooms blazing bright red and orange under the California sun. There’d be a carpet in the colours of autumn on the ground and the sun would glint gold between the leaves above.

We sat there, on that carpet, many an afternoon. It felt like we were the only people alive. Even then there was an uncanny silence surrounding us. The green orchards, fruit and busy workers that were just miles distant seemed a world away, and that dusty road never saw any traffic. Just barren land all around, and this one, single spot of colour, bathed in the light of life.

When he was gone, the light went away. I go there every week to his house, and keep it perfectly clean, as though he’s just away on a trip and will be back home any day soon. I go there every week, but I can’t stop the life seeping out of it.

The flowers don’t bloom any more, the branches have curled up as though in sorrow. Even the light doesn’t glint golden; everything is grey and brown, just as it is all around. The ground is dry and burnt, no carpet to soften it, just spiny seeds.

All that remains are the memories that linger in the air, haunting that tree and that house like so many spirits of the dead. Now I go there not to exult in the present but to drift into the past, a past that was golden and warm. I exist like that tree, alive but bereft of life, warped by the past and uncaring of the future.

***

This was written for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes over on Daily Post.

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Mosquito net mayhem

I’ve never really been one for mosquito nets for beds. I’ve always found them to be more of a bother than anything. But recently, the mosquito situation in Chennai, particularly the part of the city I live in, got really, really bad. The evenings were all-out war, with the mosquitoes launching coordinated attacks, and coming at you five at a time in continuous waves. Kill one lot with some Samurai mosquito bat wielding, and another would swoop in from five different angles. The bat was constantly crackling, the ground was littered with a morbid assortment of mosquito fragments, and the air was redolent with the smell of… yuck… burnt mosquito. Sitting up late into the night was impossible, unless you had three or four pairs of hands to simultaneously murder mosquitoes coming at you like bomber pilots from all directions and still do whatever it is you wanted to do… even if was just holding a remote and pointing it at the TV.

The worst, of course, was once you went to bed. Laying still in the dark, you were a soft target, especially if you were stupid enough to actually try and sleep. The fan would be going at what felt like supersonic speed but that made absolutely no difference. The entire night was spent scratching and swatting and tossing and turning. And if you actually did manage to fall asleep for a few seconds, you awoke to find multiple mosquitoes feasting on you. They were like diners who’d stuffed themselves beyond caring at an all-you-can-eat buffet… they couldn’t even be bothered to move when you swatted, and you’re left with a gross smear of your own blood on your hands and a very dead (but I suspect sublimely happy… “what a way to go!”) mosquito. In the mornings, our bed sheet looked like it was part of a murder scene (which, in a way it was), covered in blood stains.

After a few completely sleepless nights, I gave in and ordered the latest in mosquito nets for our bed. These weren’t like the old ones I remember seeing in my grandparents’ house as a kid, which needed to be tied to the window grills at the four corners to suspend it over the bed. This clever contraption folds and unfolds like the top of a convertible. When open, the net is stretched over a semicircular array of slim, almost flimsy rods, and the base rods perch along the edge of the mattress. I don’t know why they don’t use firmer rods… that would have probably made this whole post unnecessary (see below). I suspect it’s more for ease of transport and storage. This way, the delivery guy came carrying our 6 ft X 7 ft monstrosity with ease, with it neatly folded over and covered in plastic, looking for all the world like a bendy pipe. And once we ‘re done with it, we can store it away like that too.

Yes, something like this. But bigger. And unwieldier.

Our initial experience with our convertible mosquito net, or the mosquito tent as my toddler calls it, was blissful. For the first time in days, we actually slept through the night and our bed sheet had nary a squished mosquito on it in the morning. We were like mosquito net televangalists, singing its praises to whomever would listen, thrusting the phone number on them and telling them to order now! I loved everything about it, including the little strips of lace the aesthetically-minded net maker had pasted on. I loved the ‘ivory’ colour I’d chosen over ‘baby pink’ (the only two options). It was, I thought ecstatically, positively beautiful. But then… the honeymoon period ended and cracks started appearing in the relationship.

First of all, we realised that there’s really no graceful way of opening this wide, wobbling structure once it’s been set up. It’s okay if you lift it just a foot or so and scramble in or out. But lift any further, even by mistake, and the entire thing goes flooomph! and crashes open entirely, beaning whoever is still lying down in bed right on the head. That someone is, unfortunately, usually the husband, since I’m the one who gets up in the night to tend to the fussy toddler sleeping in the crib next to us. But there wasn’t too much damage done, on the whole; the bendy rods are really light, so he’d just mutter and grumble and go back to sleep.

The next step, though, is even trickier — pulling the darn thing down again, in the dark, while half asleep, all by yourself. Keep in mind that it is 6 ft wide, and as wobbly as a house of cards. It’s fine when the husband and I pull it closed together when we first go to bed, smiling at each other smugly like a cutesy couple in a mattress commercial. Doing it with a just-fallen-asleep two year old next to you and the husband snoring on the other side at 3 a.m. is a whole different story. What usually happens is that I tug and tug with increasing desperation, and the whole thing comes up increasingly crooked and sways alarmingly like a 6 x 7 ft ivory-lace jelly this way and that. Then, one base rod invariably falls off the edge of the bed, and then, yes, flooomph! on the husband’s head or face…

Things were especially bad recently because our little girl has been sick and that has meant more middle of the night wake up calls than ever. Last night was the worst ever, where she managed to clock in three rounds of fussing. And each time the net got worse and worse. It floomphed this way and that. It got tangled on this end and that. When it finally fell off on my husband’s side for the third time, he cursed, kicked it soundly off the bed, and went back to sleep. I sat on the bed for a moment, feeling bereft. The super tent-net lay on the floor at a pathetic angle, and I didn’t have the energy to pull it up in all its unwieldy glory. But… but… would I be able to sleep without it?

As it turned out, the mosquitoes were sleeping on the job last night, and I was in fact able to doze off without the net. Tonight, however, is a different story and we need it again. As I sit here writing, I see it has been resurrected by the husband. For now, all is quiet. Baby is asleep in her crib, husband under the jelly-net. I’ll crawl into bed carefully, but all bets are off for the rest of the night. Will peace reign, or will there be floomphing? Only time will tell.

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Feel the burn

Recently, my younger brother was doing what he does best — annoying the heck out of me. He first learnt how to do it when he — and I’m not kidding — was around a year old, and he’s never let up. Anyway, I responded in the same way I have for the last 22 years; I hit him. Or threw a cushion at him. Or both. To which he had this to say, while rubbing his arm: “Man, you’ve gotten really strong.”

That was kinda gratifying, since I always prided myself on my arm-wrestling skills and such when I was a kid. But as I grew older, I got less and less strong, since I got lazier and lazier about working out (don’t judge me). So what’s my secret now, you ask? It isn’t one of those fad diets or one of those cool new workout places in the city. Nope. My secret is as old as the ages: motherhood.

I’m serious. Moms with young children may not always look it, but they’re as strong as most dedicated gym bunny. The reason? We’re weightlifting, all day, everyday. We start at a low weight, like any good instructor at the gym would tell you to — two or three or four kgs, whatever your bundle (dumbell?) of joy weighed when she was born. And then we work our way up rapidly over the course of the next year and a half, lifting six, eight, ten kgs effortlessly. We lift them in and out of their cots, off the floor, into the car, out of the shopping cart. We walk them and rock them and swing them to sleep. We carry them up the stairs, down the escalator. We juggle them while simultaneously working our biceps/triceps/whatchamacallits by carrying assorted bags, pots, pans and cookers, laptops, books and files, etc. in the other hand. And we lift almost double the weight when we tussle with them and/or drag them kicking and screaming from the toy shop/friend’s house/other random public location mid-tantrum.

Can even the most devoted gym enthusiast boast of that sort of consistent weight training through the day? I think not. If women bulked up easily, most moms would have bulging biceps to rival any pro-athlete. And while most of us don’t have the time or energy to sculpt those abs, our core is strengthened like you wouldn’t believe.

So the next time you mess with a young mom, think twice. She may look kinda soft and cushion-y but she’s packing some serious muscle underneath 🙂

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Make some noise

A recent comment on my ‘Please shut the door’ post got me thinking about Indians and noise, and how we just love annoying sounds.

It’s not just that we don’t value silence – the idea of a quiet zone near a hospital, for instance, is laughable here, as is the idea of being fined for honking too loud (the first thing you’re taught in an Indian driving school is how to out-honk the other guy). I’m not even talking about the fact that we like our music, movies and celebrations loud and colourful, or that we enjoy shouting over our family members’ voices at the dinner table — those aren’t necessarily bad things.

No, what I realised is that we really, really like to surround ourselves with the most annoying and repetitive noises in the world. Like, for instance, Nandini madam and her bi-lingual nagging in lifts all over the city (and country). I don’t think this lady would have a job in any other country in the world, because their lifts don’t remind you over and over again to do what you know you have to do anyway. Then you have those incredibly irritating reverse-tunes in cars. You know, those tinny tunes that destroy any vestige of melody or soul in everything from Jana Gana Mana to the Wedding March to Jingle Bells, and repeat over and over again for as long as the car is in reverse? Apparently, that’s the only way people around you can know your car is moving backwards. Strange how people figure this out all by themselves in the rest of the world, no?

Don’t even get me started on toys. Indian toys have got to be amongst the noisiest and most intrusive in the world. (Ok, Chinese toys do give them a run for their money. My daughter was obsessed with a giant orange snail that sang Chinese songs determinedly off tune, and flashed blue and red disco lights, accompanied by a background score that would make Bappi-da jealous, for months. My sanity hung by a thread). Items in my toddler’s toy box that assault my senses daily:

1) A white and florescent green chicken that plays ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’, ‘sung’ — and I use this word in the loosest sense possible — at the top of its voice by a child with the brashest, brattiest style of singing, devoid of any subtlety or modulation. Think of your neighbourhood vegetable hawker. Now reduce his age to around 8 years. Now have him sing ‘Twinkle…’ Yeah.

2) A keyboard that sings ‘Polly Put the Kettle On’ — and other equally incongruous nursery rhymes — in the tones of totally demented cows, sheep, frogs et al.

Even religion isn’t spared. One of the serial noise offenders in our residential areas are those mobile-religious-song-stations. Or whatever they’re called. You know, the ones that blare pre-recorded Sai or Krishna or <insert godly entity> bhajans as they go round and round your locality. Now, I mean no offense to anyone, don’t want to hurt any religious sentiments, etc. But why are the singers always off-key? And why is the singer’s off-keyness always directly proportional to the volume at which the song is played? Why do they always choose to sing at the highest possible register? And why, why do they have to play the same song over and over again? If the point is for god to sit up and take notice, you’d think they’d take a little more care about how the song was put together (I would think that this is the sort of thing that gets you struck by lightening).

I used to think that the problem is that we’re too noise tolerant — you know, we’re just surrounded by so much sound all the time from the time we’re born, whether it’s hawkers or TVs or cellphones or garrulous families or car horns, that we’re desensitised to loudness. Noise just doesn’t bother us anymore. it’s part of the very fabric of our society. Like corruption.

But now I’m starting to wonder if it’s something deeper. There  has to be a reason why silly, unnecessary noise-technology thrives here and doesn’t exist anywhere else. I think we actually like this stuff. We like making unnecessary noise when we reverse (I refuse to call it music. It’s even an insult to call it musaic). We like our lifts to talk at the top of their voices. We like our toys to blare discordantly. Why? You got me there. Maybe we need every waking moment to filled with noise, otherwise we feel lost. Disoriented. Maybe we just like to annoy the heck out of each other (I’m leaning towards this one). Or maybe we just like to have yet another reason to complain (see above).

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June 2, 2013 · 1:30 pm

Telling time the hard way – Kumar Standard Time (KST)

I’ve realised something. It’s incredibly liberating when all the clocks in your house tell the same time. And the right time, at that.

I don’t know if anyone in your family does this, but my father has always insisted on setting the main wall clocks in the house 10 or 15 or 20 minutes ahead, so that the Kumar household existed in its own imaginary time zone. Let’s call it Kumar Standard Time (KST). He once had the clocks turned a full half an hour ahead, but i think the family rebelled and he compromised by making them ‘just’ 25 minutes fast instead.

The theory is, apparently, that making clocks faster will ensure that family members (read: the women) are on time for outings/events. It’s never worked. Thirty something years later, my mom and I are still always late. How could it work when you’re perfectly aware that the clock is how-so-ever-many minutes ahead? All that happens is that you’re constantly back-calculating and having to do complicated mental maths when you’re in a tearing hurry. “Oh gosh, I need to be there by 6.25 so I need to leave by 6.05 ‘Real Time’, which means 6.30 ‘Our Time’…” It’s even worse when you realise that the time adjustment wasn’t particularly precise to start with, and ‘Our Time’ or KST isn’t 25 minutes ahead of ‘Real Time’ as originally thought, but more in the region of 22 or 23 minutes (6.05 p.m. minus 23 minutes = ?).

Then there’s the added confusion caused by the Forgotten Ones. Those are the scattered alarm clocks and kitchen clocks, etc. which were not notified of the time change, and still steadfastly continue to broadcast ‘Real Time’. Not to mention the Losing Time Conundrum, when a clock gets tired of telling time, and randomly drops five or ten minutes here or there without so much as a by-your-leave. In both cases, you think you have 25 minutes to get ready because you think the clock is on KST, but actually you’re already late. See? Disaster.

So, finally, after all these years, my mother put her foot down. No more fast clocks. No more ‘Our Time’ vs. ‘Real Time’. No more maths sums while telling time. She climbed on a chair, pulled down the wall clocks, asked me what time my cellphone showed, and changed the time. One after another. No fuss, no drama. It was all over in 10 minutes. Just like that, a new era had been ushered into the Kumar household.

And I have to say it’s been absolutely wonderful. I catch myself looking at the drawing room clock tensely, thinking, “It’s 6.17, so I have to subtract 25 minutes, so it’s… Oh wait. It is just 6.17.” I see the grease-covered old kitchen clock and think, ‘Add 25 minutes for KST so it’s… Oh wait. There is no KST.” And then I relax and let out the breath I’d been unconsciously holding. The time is what it is. ‘Real Time’, IST. Whatever you call it.

Of course, there are some times when I miss the Artificial Time Buffer. That feeling when you’ve overslept and see the clock and panic, and then realise that you still have 10 minutes to get dressed and shoot out the door since the clock is actually ahead. But the weakness passes and  I’m strong again. No more KST. I live in Real Time now.

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Hi God! What’s happenin’?

My 16 month old daughter likes to hang out at the family pooja area. When I say hang out, I mean it quite literally. I’m not talking about her piously putting her hands together and saying ‘namnam’ (as she was taught to by her proud grandma). That was so two months ago. Now, she chills out with the old Raja Ravi Varma prints (many of which belonged to my grandfather, and some to his father before him) and chats with them. She says ‘Hi aunty’ and ‘Hi uncle’, and so as to not be age-ist and leave out the more youthful deities, she also adds ‘Hi anna‘ and ‘Hi akka‘.

At first, we were all a little unsure as to how to react. It seemed wrong, somehow, that she didn’t realise that these aunties and uncles and annas and akkas were different from those she saw otherwise, the people she met everyday or saw in newspapers and magazines (she’s quite the little reader, and goes through the paper and any magazines lying around end to end, greeting all the men and women and children in the photos and ads politely). I tried saying, “No kanna, this is not aunty and uncle, it’s umachi. Say ‘umachi namnam’.” After several prompts, she did, but you could tell her heart wasn’t in it. It was a going-through-the-motions kinda namnam, and then she went right back to saying ‘hi’, stopping just short of high-fiving the pictures (she did wave, though). I let it go then. I realised that, hey, this is why we give God anthropomorphic forms, right? To make Him more accessible to us? So if my baby likes to hang out with Lakshmi Devi, Lord Shiva et al, gazing at them interestedly for several minutes, and blowing them kisses, well, more power to her. Maybe it’s the beginning of a deep, lifelong love of religion. Or of vintage Ravi Varma paintings. Who knows.

Still, this morning, when she applied her new-found knowledge of parts of the human body to the deities, and said ‘Knee!’ after regarding a picture of Lord Ganesha thoughtfully for some time, it was a little disconcerting. By the time she’d worked her way down to the feet and toes, I’d gotten used to it. Trying to pull the paintings down and give them ‘huggies’, though, that’s still a no-no.

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