Little Nothings

Its a crisp fall afternoon. A chai beckons. I need to rest my eyes and stretch my legs. “Lets go pick some books!” I call out to my kids and we set out in light jackets and masks; my older one lagging behind, counting the number of steps ( a new habit ) and my younger one skipping and singing ahead of me. I ask one to slow down and the other to speed up. We eventually get there, the library at the end of our street; we find our curb side pickup bundle. There is a few moments of excitement to know what is in store and what new books they will get to read tonight. I am excited too, catching glimpses of the books I am looking forward to as well. And soon we are heading back.

“Anna, look at that tree. All red now” chimes my little one. We pause, admiring the shimmering red and orange leaves in the equinox sun. And soon it’s a game to spot all trees that have started preparing for the frosts and chilly days ahead. Some busy squirrels cross our paths. Some acorns are picked and stuffed into their pajama pockets. Their pace is trundling by the time we spot a neighbor’s pear tree full of half gnawed at fruits. I am growing impatient now “hurry along, I have work to do” I say. “Amma that was 1256 steps” says my older one jubilantly. I humpf distracted.

We get home and I head to make my chai. I grate in extra ginger already dreaming of the stinging taste I will get to sip in a bit. My husband is still on his call, pacing back and forth as he talks to customers laughing making jokes; It comes naturally to him, I quip in my head, he is a great PR person – I reaffirm one of my many realizations in this shelter-in.

We are making do ok, I guess; the thought crosses my mind, as I watch the tea leaves simmer. From unknown grief to caution and some risks for sanity, we have accepted and embraced the daily sweet nothings of life now. Never forgetting to be grateful and thankful in the process. I sigh, knowing it isn’t over – wishing well for everyone in our immediate midst, as I strain my tea filling the cup.

“Lets do the evening nap this weekend amma” comes a request from my little one, tugging at my thighs. I shake out of my reverie. I lift him up and get showered with kisses and clutching hugs. “shhh Its our little secret” I tell him. I look forward to the one hour of cuddles from him, as he naps and I read a book, a new routine formed for weekend afternoons now.

I smile and sip my tea, walking back to my nook at the corner of the dining table, zoning back to work. Another day of little nothings will soon come to an end, but I couldn’t have asked for anything better at this moment!

Of beaches and monsoons

Opposite the Miramar beach in Panjim, Goa is a hanuman temple. I would surprise my mother every time I readily agree to visit the temple every Thursday and Saturday, sometimes even reminding her to; because it gave me the chance to dip my feet in the unending waters and watch the gorgeous sunset of miramar. To date it is one of my favorite beaches, that I visited every summer for 4 years in the early 2000s.

Amma is not a beach person. So I remember one Saturday morning, when Appa and I set off to visit one beach after another to the south of miramar.We started with donna Paula, Majorda, Colva, ate some puliodharai Amma had packed for us for lunch and proceeded to Angola and ended at Palolem. Alas! I have no pictures of that little sojourn we took meandering through the narrow streets of Goa on a bright sunny day and take a dip every now and then at some of the beaches which were rather secluded and wonderful.

Those aren’t my only memories of Goa. I remember the hilly terrains of Panjim, the way the city swelled and bursted to life in the monsoon months, the shops that closed for afternoon siesta, the beautiful white church** I spent a lot of time walking the stairs around and the strange 3 storied quarters we lived it, which was right in front of Wendell Rodrick’s house ( well probably one of his houses ). And if that was not enough, I finally learnt swimming, prepared for my GRE and took my driving license in Panjim.

I had no friends there. And yet I loved my stints in the quietude of that lovely city with its heritage architecture, cautious buzz, marveling at the Portuguese names and listening to sing song Konkani that made no sense. Little did I realize then, that’s the closest I was ever getting in adult life to relaxing summers, not one but for three years I spent two whole months, enjoying the rains and sipping endless teas and taking walks.

The memories came flooding back, as I finished reading “Bombay Balchao” last night. Set in Cavel, Bombay the book warmed my heart and also broke it many times. It shattered stereotypes and also reinforced them with equal gusto. But all in all it told about the beauty of relationships formed in a community. Communities we are all privy of growing up in back home. Of streets and neighbors, knowing too much, helping too much, being there and also not knowing when not to be.

I felt the book helped me come a full circle. As the 18 year old in Goa with no friends, I have often imagined how I’d be if I had a brethren there to share my love for the place and I felt like a wallflower throughout the book as the protagonists in Bombay Balchao came to life. And when that was coupled with the bustle of Bombay in the 70s, it was a real treat!!

I remember Amol Palekar and Tina Munim in Baton Baton Mein, where she plays a girl from Cavel; they croon to “Suniye, Kahiye”… along marine drive and Rosie Perreira speaks in bollywood exaggerated “men” and “re”.. It is one of the movies I best enjoyed as a teenager and Again I watched it while listening to the pitter patter of incessant monsoons in the heart of Wonderful Panjim!

** Trivia : It is the same church in the SRK-Ash movie Josh

Earth day

It was another normal morning in covid-19 lockdown. My son spent a good part of his morning on a zoom call with his teacher and classmates and continued after, to do his short assignments online. Today is earth day and his assignments included videos on how we can protect our planet. He also drew and colored a picture of planets having a party to celebrate earth and one of him as the stick figure turning on/off a switch to save electricity 🙂

But when he asked me before plunging into this work ” Amma, so what is earth day?” , I only managed a pathetic “Its like earth’s birthday?!” which triggered the picture of the party btw ( eye-roll at myself ).

Google is celebrating the bee, and tells me it’s the 50th anniversary of celebrating life on earth, especially the tiniest beings. I feel a gentle uncomfortable chuckle as I read it. “How about invisible organisms?” I wonder. I shake that thought away as I get drawn into the cutesy animation that google has going on bees, jumping from one flower to another. So life goes on, yes? Or we try! 🙂

I will be lying if I said I am not loving the everyday walks and hikes we have been doing as a family, in the light of nothing else to do; No classes to scurry to. No unwanted shopping trips. No kid birthday parties to crib attending watching my phone for the most part. We actually explored and realized there are hiking trails literally in our backyard (end of the street) that’s so much fun to do with kids. We have gotten better at spotting little animals and birds, checking our bodies for ticks afterwards. Doing a lot more with nature than I ever thought I would, at least in 2020.

It reminded me of short stories of Ruskin Bond, especially one about the panther he encounters on his daily walks in the forest. The book is probably the ‘jungle omnibus’.

( I always pick up a Ruskin Bond at Indian airports. It’s an old habit. My favorite flight read )

Well! he goes on to describe the apathy the panther expresses noticing him for the first time and how the chattering monkeys go into deafening silence. A suspenseful pause on what is going to happen next; and the big cat just walks away disinterested, recognizing him as the frequent jungle walker, may be one of them. Even the reader will heave a sigh of relief at his wonderful writing.

I go back to attending to my slack messages and checklists for the day, closing google page from distracting me further. But something about the panther story tickles my senses. Is that how all this will unfold I wonder? When the Elephant in the room will be a distant memory we will be reading in blogposts like this? For now we are all watching and waiting in our own ways, bated breath and all….

The affair that never was

There is a certain unfathomable mystery that surrounds stories of adultery, especially when a woman is the one committing it. The stories may be given a cutesy treatment like in “sleepless in Seattle” or a rather ominous one like in “fatal attraction”.

But then there are others inbetween where we, or rather I have been on the edge about how to empathize with the protagonist. With Rose from Titanic, while i fully bought into her irrational romance with Jack in my teens; I often wondered in my 20s, if she would have eventually missed her glamorous lifestyle when a few children and grind of the low income class life of that era set into her life? And then there was Francesca from “Bridges of madison county”, played wonderfully by Meryl Strep, who i cheered on and even wished with my heart pounding hard in the final scene, hoping she would rush out of the car to leave with Robert.

With the stories aplenty, it the characters in grey that have intrigued me the most. Helen of Troy knew the repercussions of her actions but boldly chose her heart. In recent times, Rumi played by Tapasee Pannu in Manmarziyaan was so perfectly etched in every shade of gray, it was very satisfying to watch her unfold, in all her confusions and vulnerabilities. Robbie describes her as a “pathaka” and she sure is one.

But there is one character – Kitty of Somersaut Mogehm’s “The painted Veil” who is written in a way, that the age and phase of the reader’s life will change your view of her situation.

In a jist, —–Kitty is the brash pretty girl, a high class socialite who rejects many worthy rich men and eventually to be married before her sister, says yes to the next man who proposes to her, a quiet and odd Walter, who is nothing like the men she has dated before. She sticks to the marriage just to “settle down” and to a great extent even detests Walter for his many oddities. Soon into her marriage she starts an affair with Charlie a superior to Walter, that goes on happily for nearly 2 years without Walter’s knowledge or so she believes.

Her flippancy and arrogance is not downplayed in the book and because we are often given the formula of “stick to the nice guy” moral, one is often made to wonder why would she make these foolish decisions, when here was a man who dotes on her and willing to provide for her in every way!

But soon the book turns darker. When Walter finds out about the affair, in his odd way, he doesnt react nor questions. He simply gives Kitty an ultimatum to join him on a journey to a disease stricken part of the world where he as a bacteriologist has a mission to do. Kitty makes a last attempt to avoid divorce and the social ignominy of it, by pleading Charlie to start a life with her; and no surprises there Charlie refuses to leave his wife and children for her.

Rest of the book is about Walter and Kitty in China and how she struggles to come into terms with how her life has turned upside down. The author uses the passage of time to portray remorse and forgiveness. But I loved how he is also careful not to flip Kitty’s character upside down. She eventually hates Walter a little less and even starts enjoying his company as a friend; she broods her decisions, but like in real life, these are not enough for a woman to get a personality switch and fall for the good guy. There is a semblance of acceptance and the more I read into how Walter handled the situation with a slow and dedicated punishment of himself that eventually leads to his death and suicide, it is true that even he had his shades of grey with the exterior decorum.

But Kitty stays the same till the end; Her frivolousness gets the better of her. She stands to lose much like many other heroines, who doesn’t come around.  She is punished as the woman for committing adultery and also by the author for not falling for the “good” guy.

The moral aspects aside, Kitty’s character bothered me a lot every time I have read and re-read the book. While it is not easy to empathize with her, she doesn’t make it easy to sympathize either. But over time, I have fully come to understand why she couldn’t fall for the nice guy, just because she is expected to!

So, last friday amidst lots of glamour and jazz, our wonderful hosts and friends threw a grand “the great gatsby” theme party. The highlight was a role play in a murder mystery game and the final acts to find the murderer. 

It is 1920s, the height of prohibition and a clandestine high society party is underway. Felix is the powerful man, who owns the jazz club, with profitable deals and contacts. His wife is Edith, the romantic by heart, but living in an unhappy marriage; she needs the money to support herself and her parents and tolerates Felix’s unfaithfulness with dignity. She is in love with Edgar, the sweet talker, the broadway show director, who is standing to get sponsorship from Felix for his next production. They share many interests together that she probably never did with Felix. She is torn between her irrational love for Edgar and holding her marriage for supporting her life.

Well ! I played Edith and there were numerous other characters who flow into the party and create the gossips and stories to move forward. There are clues and altercations; a tell tale attorney, which all adds up to the end of act-1 when Felix is murdered, moments after an argument between Fleix and Edgar regarding the affair with Edith.

Act-2 opens to investigations and Edgar is the prime suspect. Edith hopes he is not implicated. She has learnt from Felix’s attorney and manager that she is the one who inherits all of Felix’s estates. She is hoping to make that trip with Edgar, that he had promised her and she can give him the money for his show. She shuts every voice that tells her that Edgar may not be who he is portraying to be. And then at the questioning chair, Edgar names Edith as the one he suspects. He denies questions of affair with her and in a cold blooded way names her as the suspect.

A shocked Edith is heart-broken and angry. She struggles to express herself as bereaving her husband’s death, in the light of realizing the heart-break of her unfounded romance.  Her fears about Edgar are unraveling to be true and she knows she has to act fast to save herself. She being the calm and sarcastic, thwarts the questions thrown at her coldly. She holds her dignity as the wife of Felix and refuses to acknowledge Edgar as anyone but a good friend. In retrospect, if i were a real actor, Edith with a mix of anger and sadness ( eyes welled, not teary ), looks at Edgar and names him the suspect. A look that probably makes Edgar so guilty that he has to look away. She says she knows him well enough by now to know that he is capable of this act, but in her vulnerability fails to convince the judging crowd on why it is so.

And this little flaw in her to not let go of her love, leads to her being wrongly implicated as the murderer and Edgar walks free. In a strange way she still hopes, Edgar had committed the crime out of passion and is even willing to forgive if she gets some indication that he had been truthful all along. And Edith for being the foolish woman in love, the unfaithful, finds herself at the losing end once again like many protagonists.

I definitely didnt play the role to the T. But I enjoyed playing Edith so much. I loved all the depths in her emotions and how it drove the story. How do you express sadness for a husband you only had a marriage of convenience, but never really loved; And knowing you had been mostly played along by the lover who never was!

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I had to put it down in writing before the aura of the night faded. Before I let go of being Edith and going back to the grind. It only seemed fair, she deserved a little writing to preserve the wonderful memories.

Mornings

There is a brief moment of absolute tranquility to my mornings these days. Its right after I workout and just before I delve into the kitchen. I beam at my watch with the exercise ring closed in the wee hours of the morning, usually before the sun has even begun to rise. I beam, breathe, wipe away sweat relived yet energetic; I have exactly 60 minutes before we are all packed and I am heading out the door.

And soon after I switch to fixing lunch for all of us. We have a rhythm now ( routine is too dull a word ). In the words of my little one who says it a sing-song dramatic way “wake up…. brush… bath… eat breakfast….” he goes no like that for 7 days over and over like hamster’s wheel. You get the drift!

But I have started to find a strange solace to my mornings. Now that I begin them with a workout I am wee bit more excited to wake up to get that me-time, before the rush of the morning engulfs me. But the pattern with cooking and packing has become equally therapeutic.

I bring out the lunch boxes from the dishwasher, the lunch bags from the closet. I run over the do-not-forget list written in chalk that briefs what each of us must have. My older one takes 3 snacks, my younger one, still in day care, only one and I require a blue ice in my bag. I recall what the kids had asked me for lunch, the previous night and make mental notes of what to get to first. Then I stare at the fridge to figure what else can I use to cook, whats almost ready to rot and what must be packed and finished asap. There is a gentle softness in this banality, that is probably enhanced by the silence of the morning. Its like a din running thru my mind. I feel afloat and in my sweaty self I feel humbled!

As I am closing the last lunch bag or juggling with the final few details before all the boxes are ready on the counter; I am now used to hearing the soft footsteps of amma slowly making her way downstairs. She pauses for a brief moment before heading to the kitchen to pray to our ganesha, seated at the entrance of our house. These days she braces herself for the morning chill and comes wrapped in sweater, scarf and warm socks and moves slowly to make tea. She asks me every single day “you will have tea, right?”.. It is more of a rhetoric question and I always mull “hmm”.

As I get to the dishwasher, N walks in from his outdoor run, ready to wake the kids and get them on the morning ablutions wagon. I drink my tea making small talk with appa and amma, as N calls out what the kids want for breakfast. And the next few moments are a blur; breakfast for all of us ( its all eggs ) and my mug of coffee, kids tumbling down for breakfast, my parents pitching in to get it all moving. And in 5 min I have had my bath and in a scurry of snuggles and goodbye kisses I have headed out the door. Just like that!

Filial musings

Have you seen a maggie ketchup bottle from the late 80s? It looked like a stouter cousin of the present day ‘hot&sweet’ bottle with the signature yellow cap. It also had a little rubber pop on the inside. Not to make this post about ketchup bottles; but a reused one just like that was big part of my childhood like no other thing.

Like most kids are wont to be, I too had many years of terrible immunity and stories of sickness. And anytime I’d sneeze a little harder than usual, my mother would make her concoction of boiled water and a plethora of homeopathy globules to make a white colored mixture in that very same yellow lid bottle. It was her strange belief, like many others, that once I had this medicine from this very bottle my sickness would vanish asap.

And with that first memory is how I began my journey with a parent who has deep set anxieties and fears that has shaped and reshaped almost all of my memories of her and with her.

As years rolled by, the yellow lid bottle went to oblivion, to be replaced with other such albatrosses, not just material things but emotional too. But in my memories ( and unfortunately I tend to carry too many ), that yellow bottle marks the beginning of everything i didn’t understand about my mother. In childhood years I was mostly afraid of her, in teenage I was mostly annoyed and following that it has been tending to indifference.

As i look back and analyze my mother ( which i often end up doing ), I have come to realize that fear and anxiety drove and still drives all of her actions. Anxiety for the safety of a girl-child made her wish for years on end that she was blessed with a boy instead. Her anxieties are so strong that it prevents her from realizing the import of her actions. I nursed the belief that my mother hated me, for many years as a child because of her open confession of this very wish in many subtle and non-subtle ways, to date.

Not all fears have been bad, however. Her anxiety about health and old age led her to adopt yoga and clean eating. She takes it to the T and doesn’t make any exceptions to her rules, which is even inspirational I must admit.

All of her other anxieties have extrapolated over years and culminated to a point where she cannot look beyond her little world, she has painstakingly created for herself; beyond her many rules, virtues and fears, she can only see as necessary, around them she has cocooned herself comfortably.

I spent a good part of last many years, during their visits to the country I now call my home or when i visit theirs, stupidly arguing my view points and willing to drag her out to see the world without the anxiety. I probably felt as the immature adult I had a better chance of getting thru to her than i had as a rebellious teenager. But I have realized that I have made my mistakes in doing so. I have acted at many times in ways that were hurtful, arrogant and impatient. And she being someone who holds her virtues and beliefs above everything else, it has done irreparable damage. I can say with conviction that from now on forever, we can be amiable but never close.

I have finally come to understand that a parent can love you to the moon, but it is also possible that they will never accept or forgive you, and many times even discount you for who you are as an individual. My mother loved, provided and protected me like no other. But she has struggled to come to terms with why her only child turned out to be someone not from her book of expectations. Unfortunately, I couldn’t follow the book and she wasn’t willing to make a few exceptions either. And neither of us is able to understand why the other can’t come around. Hence we are at this deadlock of no return. This quote about his mother from Jerry Pinto’s Em and the big hoom, comes to mind – “I wanted to understand her predicament because I was her son and I loved her with a helpless corroded love.”

And the baggage of filial-expectation-breaker I no longer wish to carry, I have realized I should stop trying to understand and correct, as well. For my sake and hers, its time we all moved on and started fresh. And since I am  beyond the point to broach this with her, I am hoping I can do this from my end, as a start. To not judge and emote for every incident based on a negative feeling from the past. To shed it all and see her anew. To ignore and not encourage what I find unfair but remember to appreciate a nice gesture. To be able to laugh at absurdities and pick my battles without open arguments but in actions.

Because life is too short, honestly to while away in vicious cycles of the past. My mother and I won’t see eye to eye on almost anything, I have no qualms or doubts about that. We have nothing in common except each other. And since i have made peace with what I always wanted to ( “flee from home” ), I should as well stop fixing my Utopian idea of it as well! And its time to give it a new beginning…….

the Void

The first book of Murakami I read probably 10 years back was the “wind up bird chronicles”. It was a bizarre ride! Now that I look back, after reading few more of his other books over the years, wasn’t unusual at all.

It is hard to say that he is an all-time favorite author, because I pick his books only when I am sailing in calmer waters after turbulent storms ( its a metaphor, clarifying just in case ). His motifs, if you have read his books, often center wistful protagonists, who have lost or are about to lose something significant; they have surreal encounters of parallel worlds, they dive in lots of classical and jazz melodies, some incomplete sexual encounters and eventually it all comes trickling down; And more often than not, the ending is abrupt, leaving you in the same void the beginning of the book was.

As I get older, I am probably digging deeper into his writing and finding meanings and warming up even more to the weird worlds that are similar and different from the ones we inhabit. But that void, we are all creating and filling constantly, is ever present and to me it seems like thats the only thing Murkami is trying hard to make us see with all his rehashed novels. Or rather that is my take away from his writing!

It is ok if you don’t get it or want to nor ever will; As a 15 year old, I wondered what  depth is it that my father found in Gulam ali gazals. The cassettes had filled his car and now in reminiscence, the lyrics spoke of a loss and the songs stemmed from that void.

Because if you see, we are all always losing something or trying to, some of us more than others, and we are constantly striving to fill up that space. Shedding something for a better something or learning to pick up after a known or unexpected loss.

So here I am, in a space I can’t put in a compartment; my mother used to call it “aala kanda samudram”. She would be almost embarrassed at my over-enthusiasm. As a child and teenager, I had so little control over my excitement when surrounded with family and friends I loved; I made up for all the hours spent playing alone with imaginary friends, by totally pandering at a house filled with kids and older cousins. It was like I was on espresso shots the entire time, to fill the voids.

But a few years into adulthood, I learnt to contain it and accept the voids and in many ways even embrace it. But i sporadically fall back; I ramble, I express too many thoughts about favorite topics without a filter or jump topics and it sucks me into that space where I knew I was embarrassing my parents, but I didn’t have control. While I dont do it in person anymore; my online persona resurrects every now and then. Hopefully not a case in point, because blogposts are spaces to ramble, may be? 🙂

And just like that everytime I realize, i have said or expressed more than my share, which is not so often, I must admit; I retreat. I pick a Murakami. The idiosyncrasies of his protagonist’s experiences start making sense and make mine look less trivial. I slowly spin the cocoon and weave a safety net for my expressions and experiences and thus hack away at the void that needs no filling.

Weddings – the long and short of it

When you are a single child in a nuclear family, a lot of things are different and some you don’t realise until much later in life. The foremost thing is, you are in the company of adults way more than other kids around you. And that also means you are privy to a lot of adult conversations much earlier on.

Now don’t quote me here, because i clearly have no idea what it means to grow up with a sibling; and in my head, I imagine my parents might have likely said “D, go play with your sister” instead of letting me sit with the uncles and aunts, on all those balmy evenings in the backyard, when anecdotes and yesteryear stories would pour to lots of laughter, way into the night. It was by being a wallflower to many such wonderful conversations that I learnt about my utilitarian grand uncle who was a freedom fighter, of my aunt who had had enough of cops inquiring and declared her husband missing, my mama who blasted a man asking for directions at the tajamahal for being a guide; and of exactly many such absurd tales of yonder, i still quote and laugh with my parents, recalling them.

The stories flowed even when we didn’t have guests. And by the time I was in my early teens, i had heard and reheard, so much about my parents lives, it was comforting and discomfiting. Because now you start having opinions and they would prefer that you don’t.

Of one such is the tale of their wedding, which was dubbed “Paara-kalyanam” ( rock-wedding) in the family circles. I remember my mother saying it with a tinge of regret, but as the years rolled, it gave way to pride. To explain what it meant — my parents were married in Kanyakumari ( hence the paara meaning rock literally ). But it was added to figuratively mean “of no value”, jocularly.

Their wedding was expected to be a grandiose event, with every ritual followed to the T. And hence relatives had flown in all the way from America, entire families with kids ( In the 70s, i am sure this was a bigger deal ), to watch it unfold. But thanks to my dad, who had floored his father-in-law with his principles of keeping it simple; the wedding had been a very short affair, lasting about an hour and my mother didn’t even get to wear the ‘madisaar’ ( traditional 9 yard saree ). Since their handful of black and white pictures dont give away much, that even as i type this, I imagine everyone perched on a Rock in the sweltering heat, wondering why they had taken a 24 hour flight for something that lasted an hour! Or atleast that’s how the story was retold to me.

It was a source of inspiration for me, I must admit and I often declared to nobody in particular that I would only agree to a register marriage ( because kids must always one-up their parents , right? ), if I ever married that is. Well, life had other plans ( you can read about it here) and to put it lightly – I realised, I wasnt as verbose as my dad when it came to convincing the partner’s parents and didn’t belong to the right gender, when it came to having strong opinions that were readily heard. And hence it was a grand affair nonetheless; as if an antidote to my parents’.

My inlaws had planned and executed the wedding completely on their own, yet keeping in mind how to make every event well represented, so that the bride and groom’s sides were equally happy to participate; and it had turned out to the scale of something my side of the family had never witnessed before ( almost 2000 people, live streaming TVs, 4 days of grand feasts ). And just like that the “paara-kalyanam” had retreated into oblivion. My dad, being the eternal optimist, I may never really find out if he felt he was cornered to betray his “keeping it simple” principle!

These tales and events had come flooding back to me, over the last few weeks, when I was forced to close my twitter feeds for days, to stay away from celebrity wedding news, that had overwhelmed me and disinterested me to no end. Not that I care what they do with their money, I was just recoiled into the hard realization that, the more India opened up to accepting cultures and religions to blend into nuptials, the grander the weddings have gotten. My own wedding being a case in point. Or probably, just my ignorance that this has been steadily happening forever! And also may be, because, I had not given up the Utopian idea of that “alaipayuthe” style “register marriage”, in the presence of parents.

As we almost near the 11 year mark, and nearly 13 years of knowing each other; my MIL still quips and tears up at the same time, remembering it as the first day her son held my hand during the “love-but-mostly-arranged” wedding. My reactions have changed over the years from eye-roll to awkward smiles to now scheming if I should add those perfect oxymoron lines as the ending, if and when I narrate our tales to my kids!!

Places, people and everything thereof

A good ten years back, right after our wedding, N and I spent a few days in Chennai; hopping from one restaurant to another. I always had some anecdotes to tell him at every place. But somehow, the “corn florentine” at Eden fell flat and mainland china had taken forever to bring our order. Finally when we got a breather at besi beach, he had quipped that the only experience he was going to get at the end of this was a tummy ache.

Those days my parents lived in the building right next to amma-naana by the boat club road. And one late afternoon, I braved to cross that notorious junction by myself and walked to Anokhi. I was doing it completely wrong i realised. I was trying to resurrect my memories of Chennai with N in it, but there was no place for him there really. It was just me. I soaked it all in, one last time and left a piece of me behind in that sweltering city that gave me lots of good times in my four year stint.

That is the thing about places. Its a time capsule. a parallel universe if you may, of people who inhabit it during that time and whoosh just like that the magic cant be recreated.

Because that is how I am sure we will remember our recent vacation to Greece too. How four families, who have been friends for nearly 11 years now, made a laboriously planned vacation happen, with 7 kids nevertheless. Of not only loving each other’s company, but accepting our idiosyncrasies too. Because, if not for the latter, the world would be devoid of intimacies!

In a few years I am sure the little moments will outlive the absolute scenic beauty of our trip that the pictures will tell. They come wrapped in unexpected ways. In the relief I felt knowing, A had a nearly unending supply of theplas I could depend on to feed my kids when I wanted. When someone else could wander away with my little one, in his tantrums while I catch my senses. Of finally mastering the cycle-floating in the swimming pool, thanks to A who taught it to me like a song. The smirk i wear recalling how G is always hungry even after a full meal! How the word “laundry” had turned into a comedy or errors we are sure to retell for years..Of chuckling in the irony of after months of mind-numbing planning and we had to scramble a last minute plan due to ferry-boat-worker strikes on the very same day as our booking ! Of how N revised greece history books, even on the flight back.. And in the unbridled laughter we shared shopping till 2 am in the labyrinths of Mykonos.

And definitely many more that have little to do with Greece but more with comradeship that gets harder to find as we get older. I am but glad, we made that little mark in a time and space, that can span atleast another generation, when our little ones will recall how their parents braved a long journey to celebrate the bonds they have made. Because what good are places without people, and what good are we without friends to call our own!

The stories the pictures don’t tell

Today evening I watched that crimson sunset from our tiny balcony; the perfect orange sun descending in a rush to the depths of the blue sea. It almost brought tears to my eyes. I was so rapt in the moment that a toddler in tow and the five year old asking one question after another, didn’t seem to distract me.

And just like that as the sun vanished, I snapped to reality. We made the restroom breaks and we were off to find a fruit platter to soothe their tummies before the hunger crankiness sets in!

The moments of getting lost in the beauty of this place and finally getting a minute to soak it in have been far removed and in-between. And I have been reminded umpteen times less by my own volition and more by my surroundings that this land or rather the Cyclades are not forgiving of kids being kids.

It comes in gentle incessant reminders at stores to watch them, or someone telling us that kids have a separate pool away from the unwritten “quiet” zone of the bigger pool. Or at the icecream place, where we were asked to take paper cups to-go and not sit there, since ceramics weren’t safe with the kids.

Mind you the positives are aplenty too! The food is fantastic. I can’t think of one bad experience so far. The little coffee and breakfast place in Santorini run by the sweetest lady who made wonderful omelettes and was extremely patient as our children rearranged all her decor. And the weather, is a tease. The equilibrium is so unfair, because of how consistent it is!

But in all, it is already hard to term a vacation with little children “relaxing” and when it is further taxed with having to ask them to “keep it down” because their presence and voices and antics are detrimental to the reputation of this destination, it can wear you down pretty fast.

I say this because not all parents want to camp or make annual Disney trips. It should be conducive or atleast accepting that kids live in the same world as adults. And a toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the road shouldn’t make the parent want to cry in ignominy.

My boys have been amazing. They have complained so little and rarely with all the time zone changes, early wakings, packing repacking, bus, ferry, train and hours of walking. But still they have born the brunt of the pressure we have felt at many times that their discipline has failed to match the expectation of this place!

As i hear their gentle snores next to me while they are getting a much needed rest from a long day in the sun, I make a mental note to make tomorrow easier for them and for me. That helping them live in an adult’s world of embracing boredom is important. And so is learning to accept their ubiquity and varied personalities !!