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Tape Recorder times

Our world of toys has a new energy and long hours: Lego bricks. What they transform to from being an empty assortment of grooves, protrusions, wires and protrusions is beyond fantastic. There is a logical reason for this new found passion. But that for another time.

For now, recounting an evening with the little miss.

That evening we were building a tape recorder. Me, the little miss and a silly heap of bricks. It seemed like an easy project to finish before dinner.  But it turned out otherwise. It took us a few sittings.  We would build and stare at what’s emerging and shake our heads. Half in disgrace of what was emerging and the other half in disquiet.

Midway through I wondered why it took such a long time. To my mind, we had cracked far more complex contraptions with far less effort. Most times with a hurried yank, a precise stare and an impromptu smile. This time, we had furrowed brows and murky frowns. We weren’t getting anywhere for a long time. We were done finally with a dash of colour at the top.  It was almost like we had climbed an impossible mountain.

Why did it take us so long? In hindsight, the answer was staring at my face from the time that we set out to build.  The answer was clearly on her face. (And I could see it only when I replayed it in my memory). For a confused stare had descended upon her when we chose to build a tape recorder. It became apparent to me later, that the tape recorder was a fancy science fiction gadget, that she had never ever experienced.

The closest she had come to experiencing one was to see it at her grandma’s place. One that still manages to spout songs from the radio but the cassette deck refuses to open.

The magic of the cassette deck opening, the ‘clunk’ of the loading and the physical pressure that would take to switch on the play button to get deft songs playing out of defined speakers were an integral part of my growing up years. Not to forget the twaddle of wires that we had to roll out if ever we wanted to set up speakers in another room.  These of course are as ancient as the  Pharaohs of the Nile to her modern day mind that is more used to deft devices and intangible play. When much of music is in the air and music streams in like monsoon rain from unseen clouds, the world has indeed moved on.

The next day evening, she had a few questions for me and we sat down to talk a bit about my ‘tape recorder times’! Of how it was in the ‘good old days’. And for everything that I explained to her, I had to give her a modern day equivalent for her to connect to. Native toys and some of the games we used to play and the people we played with. Of my schools. Of my friends. Of my brother. Of my dad. Of my mom.

The moment we came to my mom, she jumped, ‘Ah that’s my paati (grandma)’. ‘You just called her your mom’. And for some reason, her eyes filled even as a nervous laughter leapt through the evening rain. I don’t know why my eyes filled to the brim in great speed too.

To think that the absent tape recorder caused this memory shower threw a sigh into the air. As the rain pelted its singular rhythm on the window,  I reached out for a hot coffee, humming ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

A peek into the future

“How about taking your daughter to KidZania and having a good time?”, the good folks at Blogadda asked.  Now, several friends had spoken about the place as a vibrant vivacious fun place for kids. God bless their good souls. If anyone gives me an opportunity to try and bring a smile to the little miss, well they grab a piece of my heart. ‘Yes’, I said and they arranged it all. Seeking to experience the place first hand and see what the world was coming to.

Some search later, the facts seemed to hold promise. To say the least. A Mexican entrepreneur Xavier Lopez Ancona ( & a former managing director of a Private Equity business with GE) wove this idea from nothing and its mushrooming into a sought after, profitable global franchise held allure. Currently, the only Indian franchise is the one at Mumbai’s R City Mall at Ghatkopar. The perpetual dusk setting within, the sculpted roads & stores, the services are all supposed to be similar in every franchise around the world to exacting detail. Including the fuselage of a plane that juts out of the building!

The place is a city in itself. With immigration counters and stamping etc to enter. The immigration folks being cheerful and helpful was a dead give away that this after all is a make believe world that we were entering. Everything else is real. In fact, a tad too eerily real. Real clean sculpted pavements, real products and services that go out on a limb to recreate life as it exists outside, with a charter and a bill a of rights drawn up by children. Suave marketing, methinks, but its a story well told.

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From health services, fire service ( the sirens of the ambulance and a fire engine that do the rounds at a periodic interval can capture attention with a snap of a finger), their own supermarket, a cop station, a radio station, replicas of factories that make stuff from soft drink to cereals etc etc, the place packs a punch. Plus of course, to complete the milieu, KidZania has its own ‘currency’ and a bank (with adult tellers) to boot. A ‘fully functional economy’ of sorts!

Speaking of the economy, the place reeks of real life brands, which must vary from country to country and speaks of hardcore commerce. For example, when the kids play courier delivery folks, they work for DHL. Radio City when they work as a Radio Jockey. Hyundai for the cars. Camlin. Coca Cola, Nerolac. Yes Bank. etc etc. They are all there. Soaking up the kids and their attention. Consumerist reality is everyday reality for all ofus in the real world and that is an unmistakable part of the business model of KidZania

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The idea is simple. Kids from the age of 4 to 14 choose to do various jobs ( from being firemen, dabbawallas, doctors on call etc are paid in Kidzos the local currency, and then dispense it on artistic pursuits like drawing greeting cards, pottery lessons, or simply spending it on food and fun.  Or they can save up the money, deposit in the bank within and use it again in the next visit. Its quite a load of fun for the children. For they get to play multiple roles and for parents get to have a voyeuristic peep into the future. The little miss enjoyed playing a fireman, and going about the fire engine with its loud bells and screaming sirens. She played doctor. And then a super market assistant. She would come back with a wad of currency from each of these places and dutifully hand it over to the missus.

Me and the missus walked about soaking up the place.

We watched kids run around as courier delivery folks. They queued up to clean tall buildings. To paint walls. Of course it was part of play. Never since Tom Sawyer was there this enthusiasm in painting, I must say! There are adult instructors for each activity, who hold court handing over the necessary costume and setting up the boundary conditions and instructions for the kids to play their part. An education, it surely provides kids with with.  One way of adding perspective is to soak into different jobs. To empathise with people is to ‘step into someone else s shoe’, as the cliched expression goes. Kids get to be adults and play different roles. Each activity lasts approximately 20 minutes and no kid I could see had a shortage of excitement there.

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Play is an integral part of learning. Especially so in children. The little miss had such a whale of a time doing all that she got to do. She told us after successfully ‘putting out a fire’, that fire can be ‘dangerous’, with a roll of her eyes. The setting for some tremendous learning to happen is endearing and complete.

On second thoughts, it is near complete.

It is near complete for it is a replication of adult real life as it stands today, it comes a tad too close in making a linear extension of the present day life into the future and overlaying a materialistic mindset on impressionable minds.  That’s at least the feeling I was left with all through. Particularly so, when a tall kid who was playing the role of a courier boy brushed past us, pushing his trolley in infinite hurry. He turned for a minute to give us another look and then went his way with his darting lunges as his Kidzo notes awaited him. In the fully functional economy of KidZania, kids could learn more about adult life than perhaps adults themselves would care to acknowledge. Running around to ‘make money’ and then ‘spend’ it on ‘artistically creating greeting cards’, ‘Pottery lessons’ etc is part of our story. Now, that’s why it struck me as a linear extension of the present into the future.

It is a scary future, where money will continue to have currency over our thoughts and ‘finding meaning’ in life is a distant and dead thought. Perhaps it is a practical and the most likely future as well. The hours at KidZania prepares kids for this kind of a future. Helping them experience reality in safe circumstances, teaching them options and choices for a material world. On how it perhaps would be and what all they would need to do to get ahead. Parents who have this as the most secure future for their children, will simply adore the place.

For those of you parents who imagine a different future, where a life of purpose and meaning without a wad of currency notes dictating what our kids should end up doing, KidZania is quite an experience. For the parents that is. Atleast, it was for me. For it gives a well calibrated peak into the future and nudged me to seek and exercise the right choices now, for an alternate narrative to take root in the little miss’s mind. Possibilities abound. The changing nature of creative work, the fundamental changes that technology has brought to us, the importance of conversation, relating to one another and building relationships, the joy and curiosity in discovery. A heap of such things struck me as possible. Building these into the little miss’s choice set and creating a base of enduring interest there, is work cut out for me.  In the times we live in, its not child’s play.

At KidZania, you could retire to the luxurious parents lounge there(sponsored by Urban Ladder) , (where the kids aren’t allowed) or plough into some cheese Pizza and masticate these thoughts. For you have the time. The staff at the place are friendly to a fault and have an endearing demenour that helps kids gravitate to them like iron fillings to a magnet, leaving you with nothing much to do. Unless of course, you would want to capture every inch of your kid’s experience, every smile, wince, whine, laugh on every possible device – mobile phones, digital cameras, tablets and the like. If you belong to the latter category, you can run behind the fire engine and chase the ambulance like Paparazzi, clicking pictures and recording videos of kids, getting to be adults. To an uncharitable eye it can appear to be an elaborate fancy dress pageant with some high tech props in tow, but to some parents it is a priceless experience.

The entry fee is steep but perhaps it is worth the experience. It is a good place to check out. It sure will get your kid excited (especially so, if he/she has a friend along) and by natural consequence, get you smiling. If you are someone like me, it perhaps will get you to think hard about how incomplete the loud voices for leaving a good planet behind for our children are.  A pretty planet is pointless, if we don’t work the right perspectives into kids who will inherit it.

Growth pangs

We sit in the balcony. Me, the missus and the little miss. I stare aimlessly into the sky and swishing the humid air around. She sits with a mild frown. A frown that announces her irritated wondering on why her mother is insistent on her finishing an odd part of a silly thing called ‘idly’. It is part of our routine. The acrobatics and drama that are required to feed her.

The missus’s unwavering resolve to feed her an extra piece of food than the previous time, whenever that was, stays on course. A morsel of rice more. Two pieces of ‘bhindi fry’. A silly portion of a small idly. Whatever. It just had to be more than the record before. Progress is painstakingly slow as you can imagine. Nevertheless, there is a score that is kept meticulously in her mind. A challenge that the missus has worked on with zeal. Like a cricket statistician who will announce in the middle of a dry game, ‘this is the first time two runs have been scored off the third ball, bowled by Mr.X, when the Sun is out and two pieces of cloud dot the sky’. Or something like that.

Today, the little miss is more than the handful that she is usually. With a couple of playful pirrouettes that permeate joy in their silly incoherence she tells the missus, ( in an exacting tone and intonation that I get spoken to several times), ‘Have some patience please’. She then pirrouettes one more time and smiles. That naughty smile that emerges from the corner of her lips give away the fact that it is a calculated strike. Our silence signals to her that her mission is accomplished.

The stunned silence is only interrupted by a muffled chuckle that I would have typed ‘ROTFL’ were I online! The silence returns. Sometimes the future arrives without telling. We always noticed the daughter imitate one of us. A small sigh here. Or a comment there. But this is impeccable.

It announces a few things. That she has a sense of humour. That she is awesome cool in soaking up something and redeploying it someplace else with a telling ease. A few more thoughts flow. It takes a minute more for me to accommodate the thought that she is growing. That she is changing. Change happens in small packages. And then these small packages coalesce like an irreverent assortment of patches of cloud that announce a coming together by thunder and rain! It puts me in a tetchy frame of mind. Growth pangs, if you will.

Like the other day.

We were busy shaping a very pliant assortment of play dough with all our might. Me and the little miss. As the play dough took shapes that an adult would describe as a useless lump of waste material, her imagination flew into another sphere. I tried clambering on to her flight, tossing pressing worries aside and co-navigating vast alleys of her imagination. After about two hours of intense work with the play dough, we had a few more lumps to show. And that was that. But to her, it was the world. Of particular interest to her was a sad red lump of what was intended to be a car. In a matter of minutes her tiny fingers messed around with it for some more time. Before she announced “Appa, look at the boat”.

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The deformed tyres of the erstwhile car, she announced,  were herself and me.  With seamless ease she belted a story.  “Once upon a time there was a boat”. Immaculate imitation of how I read her, her bedtime stories. I was, in more ways than one, listening to my own voice with the sing song intonation and all that. My ears perked waiting for the next few lines. By then, her mission stood accomplished. ‘That is the end of the story’.

That was two-three weeks ago.

Today, with the threat of the idly safely dispatched, we sit down and say goodbye to the moon. That too is part of our routine. She waves and says, ‘Goodbye moon’ as is our wont. Over the last three years and so many months.

Today, for the first time, she says, ‘Appa I dont like the moon. He is not waving back.’ Its a subtle shift. Or rather a significant subtle shift. That a response is sought from the likes of the moon and a disappointment pervades in the absence of a response.

I stare into the moon and its unblinking radiance, becoming ever so present to how fleeting time is.  Change is inevitable. It signals progress. Growth is good. The slipping of time, like sand through the fingers, causes pangs.

Crowing about the breeze

The expansive inviting air that the sea and sand bring is frequently marred by interruptions of commerce of the ‘wants and desires’ fame. Commerce that comes in the form of the ice cream seller who peddles the rosy syrupy ladles of crushed ice and the photographer chap who has the charming nerve to tell me that my camera is no good and that his camera is best suited for Juhu! We walk. Actually, we run. Me and the missus. Chasing the daughter. It must have been very funny to look at from a distance.

Imagine this. An ice cream seller, and a couple of professional photographers on a beach are chasing a couple, trying to sell them wares and skills. The couple themselves look completely haggled and freshly hassled, as they run to keep pace with their daughter. Leading them is their daughter. Running in myriad random directions that could give new meaning to what random is. With tender legs landing on shifting beach sand, a cackle for no reason and a cry at the drop of a hat. She is chasing crows today.

Ahead of the daughter are a bunch of crows. A murder of crows, if you will. The crows are in a playful mood today. They have wings that could take them to the end of the beach. But they make inept use of them today, as they respond to the daughters chase by hoping a few feet and then, a few more feet.

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It must have been quite a sight. The ice cream seller chasing two overgrown couple, who are chasing a daughter at her playful best, who is chasing crows!

Today I sit by the table lamp and recall all of this happening as I read the story of the crow to the daughter. The crows were at their most playful bit.

The ice-cream seller and the photographer were the first bogeys in that silly Sunday beach train to disengage. Fairer weather beckoned the ice-cream seller in the form of a couple behind an umbrella, who certainly were talking about the policies of the International Monetary Fund & the antecedents of global warming. In some time, the photographers and their pleas for a picture in return for an exorbitant sum of money, vanished perhaps realising the futility of the chase.

It fills me with warmth and oodles of delight to recall that day.

The daughter’s relentless energy kept the crows on their toes. Or maybe it was the other way round. After what seemed like three hundred and thirty nine years, the crows had enough of this nonsense and just took off on a whim. The daughter clapped and cheered. She after all had driven the crows off the beach. Mommy-daddy slopped on to the sand. Like a marathoner who used the last ounce of his energy to cross the finish line and collapse.

And that was that. A morning at the beach. That fills us to the brim with happiness and brings a smile on my face every time we think of that time or just happen to look at snaps from there.

There are other mornings that have seen us take trips to the mall and such other places that thrive with throbbing consumers. Buying labels to super size smaller persona. Indulgences that gladden the senses,  careening past truck sized egos and slick people. These stay remarkably distant in the memory while the soul searches for many such lost morning and the wallet sheds silent tears.

In contrast, the mornings that stay are the ones when we randomly went shooting the breeze and lunging at crows, with commerce making futile attempts to reach our pockets. Or the time when we spent curled up with a book or drawing pencil sketches on the magic slate. I wonder if its just me, or that is the way with the world.

Heres to a happy week people.  Do shoot the breeze and stay friendly to crows. They give you new wings even while they are on their toes.

Family Picture

Children are magic. Their laughter surreptitiously dispels vacuity. Bland walls become vivid. And in their being themselves, they do so much more to the average adult than an average adult can ever realise. Except when there are poignant magical moments of reflection. One such is when this is getting penned.

There are many things that get the daughter excited these days. Topping the list, is helping her draw and imagine stuff on something that was called “Magic Slate” in my wonder years. Much coveted those days. Perhaps more coveted, now. 

Two diametrically opposite sketches bring her untold joy. One is that of the ‘cat’, made by drawing a set of circles. And another, a pencil diagram that represents our family.  The realisation that ‘diametrically opposite’ is a neat pun, came much after it jumped off the keyboard. So, unintended. 

A set of fat circles is all it takes for a cat to jumps to life.  One for the head. A much larger one for the body. A couple more for the eyes. A couple of triangles make the ear and then I pause for a poignant moment for her to shout out “SMILE”, to begin sketching the mouth, of course with the smile. Its a great fun till the time she asks for the repeat of the picture for the 267th time, which is when it gets a tad boring.



The pencil thin family picture is an all time favourite that I can go on far beyond the 267th time.  So can she. The ‘pencil thin’ holds substantial allure for all of us. Me, the missus and the daughter. 

For me and the missus, ‘pencil thin’ it is a perpetually moving target. Moving farther and further away, not only from spheres of possibility but almost also from allure! I have been telling people “Not being pencil thin is OK. “Pencil think” is worrisome”, I say often. With an emphasis on the first half of the sentence! 

There is no part in that pencil image that resembles us. Those of you that pause and point to my fast balding head, well, you guys are smart, knowledgeable and very sharp. And bloody cruel! 

But what gives me hope and lightens the soul in proportions that can mildly be described as ‘epic’ is this: the daughter doesn’t care.  Every time the family makes an appearance on the magic slate, there is incessant clapping and the occasional roll-on-the-floor laughter. I roll on the floor laughing too. At times, I wonder why she laughs like that.  But these days, I nip these thoughts in the mind even as they appear. 

This is a golden age. She is two years and a few months. Every dear friend, acquaintance, passerby and the dhobi have told me in no uncertain terms, repeatedly, that this time defines ‘time of life’!  Of course, I have taken this seriously. Or at least, tried to. 

Occasionally, my thoughts dart to wonder where our leaner selves went. Consumed by an inexplicably unbeatable combination of inviting diets, salubrious slumber and accouterments that many of you know only too well. Life’s experiences get us to bloat! While the bloating in the body is obvious, what happens in the mind is a bit of magical treachery! 

It hurts going down that road. 

Am turning right back there in this post, to turn the spotlight on an already bright area: reckless vivid imagination in a kids mind. That rich uncorrupted pure terrain, which imagines well and implicitly, trusts everything that is offered, without judgement. 

And these days when the daughter laughs at the picture, I laugh too. Sometimes at the end of it all, I feel lighter.  At times I wonder how wonder it would be if all the laughter helps dissolve some fast growing fat.  Only to realise quickly, that it does dissolve some silly accumulations in the mind.   

Renewal Time!


A brand new year has come our way. Yet again. Like it always does. Here is another opportunity to seek renewal of promises made and conversations had. With others and ourselves too.  ourselves too. 

Here is a wish. Actually here are a bunch of wishes for you. For me. And for the rest of the world. A set of disparate wishes that perhaps form an incoherent bouquet of sorts. Delivered with love, which is its only redemption. Perhaps!

Here is a wish for moments stolen from the frenzy of daily living to pause and ponder. At the marvel of creation and the simple joys of life and living too. 

A wish to keep reality of the large world firmly in our midst even as detest even the slightest seconds that we are disconnected, from the internet that is!  

A wish to stay healthy in the mind & body, with a resolute belief that ‘things have a way of working out’. A wish in tow for good sleep. Good habits. And great choices! 

For patience with our fellow people. For acceptance. For passion, consistent effort and zealous work to strive for progress.  

I look at my daughter and the words flow on to the screen with greater ease. 

A fervent wish for each of us to be filled with curiosity about what’s possible. A child like laughter. Togetherness. And a devout hope for a better future. 

And then, to look around and pass these, better wishes and some cheer, at the first available excuse to our children. And their children. Year after year. 

For now though, its Happy New Year 2014. Heres wishing you the best! 

Brimming Over

It’s been a while. For a variety of things. 
 
The Mumbai skyline is grey. Odd for a March morning. But it is. Or atleast, so it seems. The breakfast has been missed a few times sunk in aimless walks and sullen stares into the sky. So have dinners. The snacks haven’t been missed. Infact, they have more than compensated. 
 
I think of the last time I spoke to her.  It is a long while ago.  I pick up the phone and dial. The phone rings. Rings. And rings again.  I hang up. A message pops on the phone, ‘We just spoke 28 minutes ago!  All fine here. Let me know if urgent. Will call later’. 
 
I sigh. Get on to do other things.  For a long time, I shuffle in bed with protracted motions of a drunken caterpillar. Sleep hits me in fits. 
 
Early in the morning, I run.  The feet pound the pavement waking up irritated dogs and the odd tea seller.  My thoughts are with her. Would she have woken up by now? I wonder. Maybe she is shifting in bed. Would she even think of me, I wonder. 
 
My run isn’t going too well. It is taking me forever to complete a small distance. I don’t mind. I hurry home. Pick up the phone and send out two text messages. ‘Hope everything is ok’. 
 
The silence that comes back as a reply reminds me that this time of day is called ‘wee hours of the morning’. I stretch. And as I lift my head my eyes catch her photograph on the side table. Those eyes. Those keen eyes reeking mischief and a boundless love speak to me. The eyes that lift my mood and warm my heart. 
 
I look into the phone. No messages yet. 
 
In a short while I assemble all the assorted paraphernalia a modern work day holds and head out lugging the laptop bag.  It is still early for the world to hit the road. The RJs blabber in the background. I realise I am immune to any pain like their blabber when my thoughts are about the pretty little thing in my life. I reach office quickly. I park. 
 
I look into the phone. No messages yet. 
 
As I stow the sunglasses in the glove compartment, my fingers find something that I haven’t seen in a while: Her hairclip.  A broken hairclip from the past. The hairclip that used to sit on her head and hold her hair pretty. I sigh. The hairclip nestles in my palm for a brief while. The RJ is saying something inconsequential in the background. As usual.  
 
I sit there in the car park.  The hairclip nestling in my palm. It catches the security guards attention.  To see me park, stay inside the car and stare emptily into the sky with a hairclip in hand. ‘All ok sir?’ he asks. I smile. And nod. 
 
I look into the phone. No messages yet. Silence rings louder than the loudest ringtone in town. 
 
I amble to my desk. The janitors are still at work. I open the laptop and voila, the blank dark screen has her finger prints. Eight in all. For some reason, some weeks ago, she saw me working intently on some inane mail, came over and planted eight fingers on the screen. Keeping her thumbs to herself. 
 
I sigh. I look into the phone. No response yet. 
 
I dial. 
 
The missus picks up the phone. “WHAT?” She asks. I mean, it isn’t this bad, usually. But today it seems like Princess Diana shouting at the stalking Paparazzi! 
 
“How is she?” is all I can muster. 
“She is fine. She is fine. She is fine. She is fast asleep now. She was awake the whole night and she’s just slept an hour back. Don’t keep calling. Ok?”
I am silent. 
 
She calms down. I realise am talking to a sleep deprived lady.  And a wife too.  
 
“Are you at office already? Its just 7.30” she says. 
 
I am silent. 
 
“Get on with work” she says. ”And don’t behave like a smitten teenager ok? Your daughter is just fine. And she isn’t thinking about you”. 
 
“Smitten teenager?” I ask. But the missus is long gone. That was an insult. I think. But I couldn’t care less.
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The next couple of weeks, my days go by slowly. Thinking of her. The missus and the daughter are away.  With my parents.   I spend my time preserving her fingerprints on the laptop monitor and nestling the broken hair clip for company.  
Work helps. For there are a ton to things to finish. I have to earn the bread. 
 
I speak to them on the phone now and then. I am often told that she is fine. That she goes around showing my picture and shouting ‘papa papa’. The heart twitches more whenever I hear that.
 
After what seems like the time Sachin Tendulkar has been playing cricket, finally it is time for them to head back home.  
 
I hurry to the airport. On that day, if there was an “Eagerest beaver” award, amongst all the eager beavers awaiting people landing in the airports of the world, I would have won it. Hands down. 
 
In some time, I spot her. She sees me. Doesn’t say a word. I extend my hand. She still clings on to the missus. I extend my hands again. 
 
She keeps looking at me. Tears well up in her eyes.  Not a sound escapes her lips. Her sixteen month old cheeks witness a torrential downpour of tears. No crying. Not a sound escapes. No wailing. Just tears. I don’t know how to handle this. 
 
In some time, she clings to me. 
 
I look at the missus. Who smiles. I want to tell her, that the ‘smitten teenager’ comment was inappropriate. ‘Lost lover’ would work with me. I think. 
 
But today, nothing matters. The missus hands me her handkerchief.  It catches the first tear that overflows my eye that has been filled to the brim. 
This post was first published on www.parentous.com

Waking Up

‘She wakes up by about 9.30’, I explain.  Slowly. Clearly. I am explaining why a 9.00 AM meeting on a Saturday morning doesn’t work with me. 
 
He appears flabbergasted. I don’t know if it is because she wakes up only by 9.30 or if it’s because I quote that as a reason.  
 
His darting next question makes his reason clear. ‘But 9.30 is late! Back home, we never let kids sleep after 7.30’. I nod. He comes from a different country and a very different culture.  ‘Some things are non-negotiable’. 
 
He says. He is bent on holding court on the topic. I want to move on to other topics. Like his country’s GDP. Or rainfall. Or the correlation between sale of tractors, cloud formation and sex ratio. Whatever.  Something. Anything else would work. 
 
Not allowing a toddler to sleep is preposterous stuff to my mind.  
 
‘I don’t know about you’, I interrupt, ‘but I think it is a privilege to lull a daughter to sleep every night and be the first one she sees, when she wakes up the next day morning. I get that privilege only on the weekend. Some weekends.’ 
 
I think I was rather stern. For he only nods in response.  Slowly. He understands now, that some stuff indeed is non-negotiable. I think. ‘How about 2.00 PM’ he asks.  I nod.  That was two days ago. 
 
It’s Saturday morning now. 
 
I am waiting for her to wake up. She opens her eyes by a quarter of a wedge and then closes it back in a jiffy. Sleep envelopes her. All over again.  This has been on for a few minutes now. Perhaps aware of my presence today. Or so I would like to think.  
 
‘Allow her to sleep’. I whisper to the missus. And stroke her head. ‘Carefree sleep will elude her soon’ I say within me. ‘Let her sleep’ I say slowly. 
 
For, she soon will wake up to the world.  Time will fly past us with a speed that could best be described s mind numbing! Old Tamil movies used to have a kaleidoscope based design as an indelible part to signify transition of time or geography. A flurry of waves. A whirl of whorls. Like the ones that I see on her pretty dress.  And then, the heroine would be a fine young lady. In a jiffy. 
 
 
Kids grow. They trot to school. Go to piano lessons. Learn taekwondo. Do gymnastics. Learn Carnatic Music.. Throw in Bharatnatyam, Boolean algebra, English Grammar and a never ending list of To-dos that can cause the shiniest of stars pale in comparison. 
 
A large part of me just revolts at the idea that she may have to go through something like this.  A small part of me stays quiet. The silence of that small part bothers me. For, at the same age modern day kids do all of the above and more, my only aim in life was to bite into a raw mango. Stolen raw mangoes. But that’s a story often told. And told so fancifully too.  By so many people. 
 
Enough said, when she grows into school, sleep could well remain elusive.
 
The ever so cute school girl trotting to school will mean having to get up early and run! Before you know there will be friends on the phone and cramming for the exam.  Or maybe staying up preparing for a performance. Maybe, an early morning run. 
 
Perhaps she will relish it all. Maybe she will have a set of friends who will speak through the night arguing a point or giggling away on a joke that cannot muster a public mention.  Maybe it will be ideas that will keep her awake.  . 
 
In the midst of all that, carefree sleep can be elusive. The summer Sun breaks through the windows this Saturday morning. I continue stroking her head. She is fast asleep now. I want it to stay that way for some time. This Saturday morning.  
 
Someday she will begin to understand what they say in the newspapers and perhaps wonder what sort of brain wasting disease possesses newsmakers and news editors. Or maybe she will dive into it with all with gusto and be one herself.  Perhaps she will end up asking uncomfortable questions which would get all kinds of answers. Her choices will lead her from one road to another.  Those by themselves can keep a sane person awake for two lifetimes. 
 
You see, in no time will she be a young lady.  The many forks in the road and the challenge that career and life choices offers will perhaps possess her for a while.  Perhaps she would work with ideas to change the state of a parlous part of the world. Or just focus on dealing with an impervious neighbourhood and its contrivances.  Maybe she shuns all of that and settles to earn a livelihood with a bank loan in tandem! 
 
All said, the goals that she sets for herself and the terms she chooses to engage with the world will define a lifestyle.  In that melee, sleep can stay easily outmaneuvered.  
 
The fledgling grip of relationships. Of joy. Disappointments.  There will be a yearning and a search to figure out what is real and what is true and if there is a distinct there.  People will go from meaning ‘everything’ to ‘nothing’ and back to ‘everything’ again. Different people. Same people. And when it is time to make her own family, sleep could well be a distant intruder.  With such joy and verve.  
 
I raise my head to catch a glimpse of the missus sitting across from where I sit. Those sleepless eyes and tired hands tell powerful stories that words can’t capture adequately. Life as the lady of the house deserves far more than the mere mentions that it gets, I think.   Perhaps she will be as graceful and as lovely a lady as her mother. Or perhaps, just perhaps, she will fight the system and get women their place under the sun.  Of course, sleep could well seem as distant as the sky seems from the sea with either of those choices. 
 
I hope she travels the world.  Inhales the clear air of the mountains, soaks in the green paddy fields of river fed plains and gets roasted in desert sands.  Merging into countries and cultures and be far more than just another tourist statistic in a marketer’s presentation. Celebrating the differences and joyfully acknowledging the similarities. 
 
And oh yes, perhaps she will take to running. Or play some sport. Fill her lungs with air. And give every pore in her body a reason to breathe with unbounded joy. Maybe the world will look all pleasant or the mountains just too invitingly daunting that sleep will remain low on the priority list.  
 
For good or bad, sleep will stay elusive. So, I want her to sleep as long as she wants to, this Saturday morning. 
 
I continue stroking her. Her eyes flutter. And in some time she wakes up. Looks at me. And smiles. I could trade everything I have for that smile. I have seldom been more certain of a statement than that. 
 
He calls me at 1.00 PM to remind me of the meeting at 2.00 PM. ‘Of course’, I say. 
 
We meet.  2.00 PM.  At a coffee shop. Close to home. We discuss our business. In about two hours time, we close.  He looks at me and as we are signing off, says, ‘It’s good to wake her up early. She will have nothing like a rude wake-up call when she needs to get on with life’.  He says with a matter of fact tone. He means well. I can tell. 
 
I look away from him. Into the glass door and the bustling road on the other side. People move about in frenzy. Some seem like zombies. Some others passionately walk up and down.
 
I smile at him. We shake hands. I tell him, ‘I am not sure about the wake up calls. But I sincerely hope she will always wake up to her calling’. He looks at me. And smiles. 
 
In some time, he bows. It is his tradition. I bow too. Some of his traditions are nice. I bow once more. 
This post is a replug of my post published at www.parentous.com

Twiddling Thumbs

She has a basket full of toys. Dolls. Lego blocks. Trinkets.  Press-Me-I-Make-Noise stuff. Windup toys. Etc. Some of them are broken. Some of them have been used many times over. Some trampled and deformed permanently.  Yet others, preferred. But all of them share the single basket. 
 
Like today, we often guide her to the basket to interest her to play. She takes to them for a brief while. Plays with a few. Tosses away a few. Largely leaves the majority alone. And then, perches at the vantage point of her most favourite toy.  
I mean, she climbs onto my shoulder. 
 
‘COMMM’ she says. 
 
‘Come’.  It means. It is said so very nicely. 
 
Her ‘Come’ (pronounced as COMMM) roughly translates to “start walking”. “Crawling”. Whatever.  It means, as they say in English movies, ‘MOVE’! It doesn’t matter what I am doing. Working on the laptop. Cleaning shoes.  Reading a book. Having food. 
 
If she says, ‘Come’, I bloody well drop everything else and move. I am only more than happy to do that. That however is beside the point. 
 
Sometimes we step out for a walk & carry session. She looks into the sky and beckons the Sun, and the moon and waves at the stars. At other times we roll on the grass or she slides down with a zing or just about manages to balance on the swing.    
 
When you drive around town or walk the Powai promenade, if at all you spot a bulging balding man, fill his cheeks with air or walk on all fours and carry a young cute toddler on his shoulders across the streets, stop and say hello. It could well be me.  
 
At other times, when work saps my sinews silly or if it is an odd hour of the day, we stay home. Doing similarly exciting and exacting stuff!  The unsaid expectation is for me to come up with games that will occupy an ever so energetic mind.  
 
Her most favourite game however is devoid of any crazy showmanship. It has the following procedures.
•Stick the left thumb up. 
•Take a pen and with four markings, make a face. 
•Do the same to the outstretched thumb of hers.
•She looks at my thumb and calls her name out. I look at her thumb and call my name out. So in a quick jiffy, her thumb transforms to ‘Papa’ and my thumb morphs to ‘Baby’!  
 
The thumbs dance. They kiss. They chase. They tumble. They hold each other well. That is the game. In-between insane cackles and hysterical laughter that you could only think laughing gas had the power to produce. 
 
I call it Twiddle Thumbs. 
 
Yes. That’s that. That is the game.  I am astounded beyond belief at a new mind operates and is easily excited by such a simple thing.  But that’s the way it is and it does rather well too. 
 
The other day, we stay up late. Sitting and chatting. Me & the missus. The daughter is fast asleep. We look into the moon and the stars that she was beckoning some time back.  It’s rare that we get to chat up at all these days. 
 
“What do you think we will leave behind for her?” asks the missus. This is like a scud missile that came from nowhere. 
 
The coffee that I am sipping sputters out of my lips as I laugh. ‘You mean, something like a legacy?’, I ask. I haven’t thought about it. I have been engrossed in the joy of the present, that the future seems beyond outer space.  Perpetually arraigned to the wilderness that is beyond imagination, requiring a laborious labyrinth of years to get there.  
 
The reality of the years just swishing by quickly often strike me hard. Not thinking about the future is my way of dealing with it. 
 
There is a slight tension in the air. After the missus has popped the legacy question. I think humour will defuse it. ‘I have nothing to declare I say. Except my writing’. I say.  Remembering the famous Oscar Wilde remark to a customs official:  ‘There is nothing for me to declare except my genius’ 
 
The missus jumps on it. “Writing?” She asks.   Muted in the intonation of that singe word questions is this: “You-write-a-clutch-of- incoherent-blogs-not-Nobel-Prize-winning-epistles”.  
 
Silence moves from a punctuation mark to become the mainstay of the conversation.  “I don’t know”. I say. 
 
Frankly I don’t. I nurture no desires of chasing pots of gold, packets of money and the ominous luxuries that the world offers. My desire revolves around the daughter learning to choose well when the choices present themselves every moment in life. If that happens, I would be a happy man. But ‘legacy’ I would leave her with, I haven’t the faintest clue. 
 
I sip the last remains of the filter coffee.  
 
“I don’t know what I’ll leave behind for her”, I begin. “But I can tell you, if at all I get to old age I hope to clutch with dear life a ton of memories. Of spending time with her. Of being present. And of course playing Twiddle Thumbs endlessly”. 
 
The missus laughs. She thinks it’s a good answer.  I am all chuffed.  It’s not often that my answers pass muster as ‘reasonable’ with her. But beyond that, the answer seems to have answered some other unasked questions in my own mind as well. 
 
In sometime we hit bed. 
 
I realise that today, me and the daughter have played Twiddle Thumbs for an incredibly long period of time. And she sleeps like a log. I watch her sleep. It is then that the missus spots it: She is holding her playing thumb with her other palm. Almost as if caressing a baby.  
 
The eyes that I drew on her thumb stick out and stare at me.  And from the safety of her palm, those eyes seem to implore me to leave behind nothing but a bounty of memories. 
My thumb twitches. I am barely conscious as my thumb kisser her thumb 
 
There is peace in the world. 
 
This is a replug from my post for Parentous.com

 

Stress Busters

“You mean the yellow ones with the smiley?” I ask. Half open-mouthed. “Do they work?” Mildly surprised that what sounded like a global endemic was sought to be ended with a TV news anchor’s sound bite. Or so it seems. The simple solution befuddles me. Imagine asking Sachin Tendulkar what the secret of his success was, and he saying ‘Brinjal. Two in the morning and one at night’. Or something like that.
 
“Yes. I carry them to meetings”, he says. I stay silent. For a long time. Long enough till it’s about time to get going.
 
‘Oh’. I say. That’s all I can muster. You see, he is a successful bloke. The cars. The houses. The degrees. The titles. The gadgets. All hang well on him and his belt clip. The fact that this idea didn’t strike me even as a remote solution, disturbs me no end. “Sounds like an idea to try”. I tell him.
 
That evening, I buy one of those yellow smiley stress balls.
 
I carry it in a bag and leave it on the dining table rushing in for a shower and change. I am looking forward to the evening with my daughter. She soon will be all over me, I think. Thoughts of our conversation around the Napoleanesqe at the workplaces disappear within minutes of stepping home.
 
For her toys are strewn all over home.
 
“Pappaaa”. She says. And runs in.
 
Our games begin.
 
The elephant game where she becomes the mahout and I the elephant. That is a tough game requiring me to balance her, my weight and call out like an elephant with one hand doubling both as a leg of the elephant and its trunk. We can play the game till the end of time or till my knees hurt. Whichever is earlier.
 
The ball game, where I become the ball picker. The building blocks game, where the building blocks are to broken up with an ease that would have done a US drone proud, while I keep building them. And a few other variants of other games. She is cackling away.
 
And then, her eyes rest on the stress ball. She lets go of a charming smile. The next I know, she is at ease with the yellow stress ball is in her hands.
 
She finds it infinitely fascinating that a smile can be perpetual. Or that it can return to the position after all the twitching that can be done. That smile coming back on the ball’s face livens her up no end.
 
I am immersed in her joy. The stress ball in the hands of the little wonder is doing a world to my stress levels! I smile and close my eyes for a bit. To take everything with a measure of curiosity & joy and to remember that no joy is small and no discovery is tiny etches a silly smile on my face.
 
The phone rings.
 
Someone calls. It’s from work. Something to be done. Someone needs to be spoken to. I speak. Sort things out. And hang up soon. Pleasantly.
 
I see the little wonder is more fixated on something. She has her back towards me. I presume it’s the stress ball. She has moved a couple of yards away from me.
 
The quiet fortitude of her single-minded focus unsettles me. She surely is upto something. I think. I shout out. She turns. And sports a genial smile. A smile that could launch a zillion ships. I melt. I clap my hands to excite her.
 
Half relieved. And half guilty that I had imagined she was upto mischief. Here she was as pretty as pretty can get, working up the stress ball. I have to be more positive, I tell myself.
 
In a fleeting moment of boundless joy she laughs out loud and claps her little hands that are still clutching the stress ball.  And as she is closing her mouth, I see a tiny shred of yellow saying hello to her alimentary canal. My eyes dart a little and find the stress ball in her hand, sports a crater. Bitten off and chewed silly.
 
I leap across the room. If only there was a video recording of this dive across the living room. Alas. If only that were possible, Jonty Rhodes will be an ordinary man and the video would have gone viral. For even as I land with a thud on the tiled floor, my outstretched finger reaches inside her mouth.
 
With the mastery of a special services commando unit that pulls out a hostage from the clutches of bad guys, the fingers pull out yellow rubber that was part of a nice stress ball till a while ago! Just as it is being dispatched with such seamless ease into the inner recesses of a tiny body.
 
 
She smiles. I heave a huge sigh of relief. I smile too.
 
In a bit, I call up my friend. ‘Do you need another stress ball but with a crater on top’, I ask. We laugh. I narrate the story. “Pass it to me, he says. It reminds me of someone with a crater up there”. He says. We laugh again.
 
“I don’t need no stress ball”. I tell him. “Come home sometime. Anything to do with stress gets chewed away”!
 
This is a replug from my post for www.parentous.com