Friday 30 April 2010

Surely I should carpool?

I have been driving for 9 years now. 6 years in India and 3 years in the US. Initially, I found it difficult to drive in America. I was used to the kind of defensive, survival-of-the-fittest skill we are used to practising in India, while behind the wheel of a car. The fact that everything (or mostly everything) on the road could be predictable, orderly and rule-based was not only astonishing, but also unnerving. For many days, I would instinctively slow down while approaching a traffic light. My driving instructor, who guided me for three classes, would get irritated and ask me what on earth I thought I was doing? It seemed absurd to explain that in India, I would fully expect someone to come hurtling at me for some other direction at an intersection and so I was just being cautious.
Never mind. I got used to this new strange style of locomotion. I even began to like it. Driving became a pleasure due to it's ease and simplicity. In India too, I had revelled in driving my little cars, not because it was fun, but because I derived a grim satisfaction from navigating our crazy traffic, and coming out alive.
For 2 years in the Bay Area, I was the designated dropper-off at Ads' preschool. The first school he went to, was just 4.5 miles from home. It took me exactly 15 minutes to get there. I don't remember ever having been caught in traffic, or some other bottleneck, and having to re-route, or arriving late at the school. 
Now that I am once again designated dropper-off for Ads, the situation is, as you can imagine, more than slightly different. For starters, we have to take an unscenic byway - the picturesque (not!) village of Bhangel. My car executes what can only be described as a cacophonic motorised twist in between a crazy concoction of motorbikes, cycles, cars, trucks, buses, and random vehicles precariously carrying long steel rods and sheets of glass. 10 minutes of sheer torture later, we emerge, hopefully un-scratched, into the relative peace of the New Dadri Road, as it is called, a nice smooth road marred only by the undisciplined driving. It's after coming to Delhi that I realized that as long as drivers aren't educated on road discipline, as long as any fool can buy himself a driver's license, it matters little whether our roads are good, and whether we have the requisite number of 4 or 8-lane expressways and flyovers; traffic will always be chaotic, and let's not blame our oversized population which forms but a small part of this problem.
Anyway, back to the school route. The Dadri Road is interesting in that the exits from this high-speed road have been constructed in such a way that they are the default choice - if you aren't careful in moving to the left side of the road well in advance, you will find yourself pushed into one of the exits and taking an unintentional U-turn! Having escaped from this particular pitfall, we take a right to take us to Sec 49 where it appears that the entire population of one UP village has congregated right in front of the driveway to Kothari International School. There seems to be a market or something in progress, every single day. Tractors, concrete mixers, rickshaws, jostle for space with Skoda Octavias, Honda Citys and other cars of lesser vintage; pushing past this jam takes nerves of steel and a certain recklessness which I happily seem to possess. Needless to say, constant pressure on the horn and a few choice Punjabi swear words will also help!
The contrast between a swank "international" school, complete with swimming pool and lawn tennis ground, and the milling crowd of villagers, farmers and constructions workers just outside this school, is so typical of India. Just like the unintentionally ironic billboard near my apartment, advertising one of the many "global" schools, perched above a whole line of asbestos-roofed huts, where not a single kid would be attending even a Government school. I wonder which outdoor advertising company dreamed up such a location for their board???
I wish I could say that this situation is unique to the NCR region. Sadly, it is a mirror image of what is happening with minor variations in all our metros, and every other small town in India. So I fully expect many more driving (mis?)adventures as I continue to play household chauffeur. The bright side (yes, there is one!) -- I have my fill of several FM radio stations and am staying current with all the latest Bollywood numbers! 

Saturday 24 April 2010

It's spring

Not here in Delhi, of course. Here, it's just plain boiling.
But in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, and Mountain View and Cupertino, pretty flowers will be in bloom everywhere. California poppies, pansies, forget-me-nots, cow parsnips and scarlet pimpernels will nod their heads in the breeze (yes, even someone as horticulturally-challenged as me knows the name of a few flowers, if only not to appear like a complete ignoramus in front of Ads). The weather will be fantastic (as it always is), I will drag S and kids along on hikes to see wildflowers, we will see pitifully few wildflowers and then we'll realize that the city is chock-full of them and we need have ventured no farther than our own doorstep. Ads will have spring break and as Memorial Day draws near, I will gleefully start planning our trips for the year.
I miss the Bay Area. I miss it with a sickening ache that is not just painful but also astonishing. I have moved cities 12 times, no less, in living memory. In three decades, I have never ever longed to be back in the place which I had just left. I may have missed old friends but I have never missed the sights, sounds and smells of a particular place.
Why am I surprised, though? The Bay Area is such a fantastic place that anybody would miss it. Especially if they had taken the idiotic decision of moving back to Delhi just as summer was rubbing its palms gleefully and getting down to business.
I know my brains are getting a little addled by all this heat. It isn't like me to complain about minor annoyances. Over the years, I have consciously metamorphosed into an optimist. But the heat, the's getting me down and sapping me of all my energy. I never thought I'd think this, but honestly the prospect of heading back to Chennai in May (MAY!) is almost appetising :(
No, I don't hate Noida or Delhi. I'm happy we came back. I see Ads has adjusted well and that is such a relief. I know, in time, I will begin, let me rephrase that............I am determined to like living in Delhi.
It's just the darn heat, you know!!! Can you blame me for missing California? :)

Thursday 15 April 2010

Some fun ways of spending hot summer days

Cleaning the verandah with lots of water; pillow fights; and playing dress up!

If I haven't said much about Y lately,

it's not as though there's nothing to say; but my kids are at that stage where Ads says a lot of weird/funny/silly things and those tend to stick with me. Y is still very much a do-er and chronicling her activities takes more effort. She communicates whatever she needs to, reasonably well, through gestures and the limited number of words at her disposal. She is nowhere as verbal as Ads was at the same age (17 months) - probably all her energy goes in running, kicking, shouting and generally being the tomboy of the house. 
So what has Y been upto? She has been growing taller. She seems to have put on some weight after coming to Delhi. I haven't actually measured her but it definitely looks like she is "healthier". She loves to dance. She loves to dress up. She loves to sit down with me when I am massaging cream on my face, and mimic my actions. She has lost most of her stranger anxiety. She loves to be involved in Ads' games, whether or not she understands what is happening. She loves to go down to the playground every evening and never wants to come back home (her brother, on the other hand, is ready to get back inside the house after a mere half-hour of play!) Her favourite seat is on her brother's lap, facing him. Whether on a chair at home or in the car, that's where she loves to be.
She is a vibrant bundle of energy. And oh my, the tantrums already when she doesn't get what she wants!!! I'm pretty sure the terrible twos have started already.

Monday 12 April 2010

"Amma I don't like you at all...

But I love you soooo much!"
My son says this several times a day, to me, to his father, and to his sister. When my mother was here, he  used to include her also in this cute expression.
Where do they come up with these things??

Sunday 11 April 2010

Ad-lib #4

Ads has developed a disease of smelling his fingers. And what's more, I hear a running commentary on what he is smelling. He also quite unnecessarily asks me whether he can do it, after he has done it! Some examples:
I washed my hands and smelt my hand. Can I do it?
I touched Y's face and smelt my hand. Can I do it?
I touched my feet and smelt my hand. Can I do it?
I digged (dug) my nose and smelt my hand. Can I do it?
...............and several more unsavoury instances of having touched other parts of his body and thereafter smelt his hands :(
Both Ads and Y have also developed the habit of hitting themselves. It's a big game with them. One starts by banging his/her head with his/her hand and shouting "Adi!!" (Hit). The other follows suit and each one hits himself or herself, the whole macabre game accompanied by much laughing, mostly at my annoyed expression I suppose.

A random incident

The school allowed me to escort Ads right into his classroom for the first 2 days. On Day 3, the security guy standing at the entrance to the Primary Block accosted me and asked me to leave Ads right there. I said he was a new student. The security guy said "Theek hai, magar kal se aap ise yahin par chhod dena". Okie-dokey, I said. 
The next day, we reach the Primary Block and I say my goodbyes to Ads. He trots off and stands next to the guard. He looks up at him, looks down again, and hesitantly reaches out his hand. It takes the guard a second to figure out what's happening. He takes Ads' hand in his, somewhat bemusedly. Most of the other kids just walk in confidently and I suppose he's rarely ever had to take some kid by the hand and escort them to class.
That instant, when Ads placed his hand in the guard's, trusting him to take him to a safe haven, has been captured as a precious image to be stored forever in my memory. Unexpected tears pricked my eyes and I was glad I was wearing my sunglasses. I don't know why that moment should have moved me so much, but then all the emotions associated with parenthood are a great mystery.
The older I get and the more experiences I have with my children, the more I understand some of the choices and decisions that my parents made, and the things they said and the feelings they felt.

Monday 5 April 2010

A new beginning in a new school

Butterflies in my stomach. That sinking feeling of wanting to throw up. A dull heavy ache in my heart. These are the uncomfortable sensations I have been carrying around inside me for the last week. All because, come the 5th of April, Ads starts a new school year in a new unfamiliar school. 
I visited the school twice to purchase the regulation uniforms and books. I labelled his backpack, read the circulars several times and kept hammering into Ads' head that his new session was approaching. In the midst of all the hectic unpacking, purchasing and "settling in', I also found the time to sufficiently agitate myself, wondering how Ads would handle the new environment and how I could ease the whole transition process. 
Silly me forgot that a) This is Ads' third school in two years and therefore he should be able to handle the pressure of a new environment b) He is not a 3-year old any more c) Children are far more resilient than we give them credit for, and definitely more so than paranoid mothers think.
It turned out that I had tied myself into knots for...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! The sense of relief is overwhelming. He woke up this morning, proudly wore his new uniform and marched off to school with me and S. His class teacher seems nice. He only needed to stay for two and a half hours today and for the next two weeks (they increase the school day to four hours after two weeks) and when I went to pick him up, he was happy and well-fed, having gulped down some rice and a glass of milk. His class teacher told me he is a very "good" and "obedient" child.
I suppose mothers have to keep reminding themselves that their children have grown up!   
Here are some snapshots of the little fella in his uniform and in his classroom.