Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Travelling Circus on Day 9 and 10 in New York with Satarupa

For the NY leg of our trip we decided to dispense with a mobile because a basic connection would have cost us a 100 dollars, and what did people do a decade ago when they travelled without cellphones? They survived. So we made a few calls to family from our hotel to tell them we had got to NY alright, and stepped out lightly every day, unencumbered (except for the great big luggage train of a travelling circus that comprised Mia’s things.). Our satisfaction at having gone back to Nature was somewhat tempered on the day we had to meet Satarupa, my friend who was nice enough to take a 3-hour bus ride from Baltimore and stay at a hostel in Manhattan, just to meet us.

The plan was simple enough, as thrashed out over the hotel phone and email. We would meet outside the Staten Island Ferry terminal at 12. By 12-10, we were looking hopefully at anyone Indian-like and female-looking. By 12-15 we were muttering darkly about our lack of a phone; and what madness it was to step out of the hotel without one. By 12-20, Jeet had jogged off to the terminal in search of a payphone, while Mia and I continued to man our posts in hope of contact. Not surprisingly at 12-21, Satarupa walked up to the terminal, looking around for us. Mia and I yelled to catch her attention, frightening a few passers-by. At 12-23, after a quick hug and a formal introduction between Mia and Satarupa, I jogged off to retrieve my husband from the depths of the enormous Staten Island ferry terminal. I jogged back 10 minutes later, not having found him. Jeet returned after a further 10 minutes, having stood in a long line for the public phone, which I supposedly could not have missed.

Turns out, after being dropped off by the bus a few minutes later than scheduled, Satarupa had passed us at just the moment we must have both bent over Mia; like a scene in a bad, slapstick comedy. She’d missed us completely and circled the terminal before coming back to where I saw her eventually.

I have no idea how anyone met anybody else at pre-determined times and places before mobile phones allowed us to check every movement. “Where are you now?” …“Look up, I can see you walking towards me.” “Where are you, I can’t see you?” “Put the phone away and Look UP you idiot!”. Suffice it to say, we’ve completely lost the ability now.

Now that we were all present and accounted for, we finally lined up for and boarded the enormous ferry, along with a sort of United Nations of tourists. It was a beautiful day, and Satarupa offered to keep Mia entertained while we went out on deck to watch the Manhattan skyline and (in her words) "Liberty Mashima” slip by. I had always wondered at the yellowness of the flame, but it was all made clear to me when the fire in the lady’s torch seemed to burn hotly in the distance.

After we were disgorged back onto the mainland we returned to our bench and tried to put away an ENTIRE pizza among the three of us. It did not end well, with all of us feeling bloated and awful, and 1/5th of the pizza dropped shamefacedly in a bin. I still can’t look at a pizza without feeling an awful burp welling up inside of me.

We walked to Wall Street and tried to get a picture with the NYSE bull. Some tourists were taking saucy pictures with the (extremely well-endowed) bull’s nether regions, others were hoisting themselves up onto the bull by the horns in a shocking display of would-be vandalism. We asked Satarupa to take a quick, very far-away picture of us waving near the stomach of the bull, (the only unmolested part of the poor boy’s anatomy) and we escaped, not wishing to be around when one of his extremities snapped off with a resounding crack.

We headed on to see the breathtakingly beautiful new World Trade Centre, looking like a sharp slice of sky plunging into the clouds. We watched the sombre visitors to the memorial at Ground Zero, the many grim policemen and their sniffer dogs for a while, before directing our feet in the direction of Times Square.

Times Square, again, was something I’d seen a zillion times in movies or newspapers. That did not prepare me for how mind-boggling the sight was. And it wasn’t even night, but a gently fading twilight. This was Capitalism in all its flashy, larger-than-life glory. Satarupa and I sat on the red steps amidst the flashing neon screens and milling crowds and chatted for a while, while Mia (who has a passion for climbing steps) was escorted up and down and up the stairs by her long-suffering father.

We couldn’t come away without visiting Toys R Us, though none of us were really in the mood for it. I could see it must’ve been a magical place for older children; but after a quick purchase of an “Abby-abby” (angry bird) beanie cushion for Mia; and a fleeting look at the enormous Ferris wheel within the store, we gladly made our way back to the quiet, darkened sanctuary of our hotel room.

Monday, August 26, 2013

After many months of restraint, a crib post about rape in India.

We vent and we vent and we vent, but it’s just so much hot air blowing in the wind. The more we talk about the rapes, the more ludicrous the “theories” get, and the more I find myself raging on people’s FB statuses with long-winded comments. I realized, to make myself feel better, I should write down most of what I feel about this issue and let it join all the innumerable other blog posts, articles, tweets, and status messages about rape in India swirling about the worldwide web.
First of all, we Indians need to divorce sex from rape. Very often I see that people can’t see much of a difference, which is where all the talk about whether SHE was drunk (the lady molested by a huge mob and videotaped after she walked out of a pub), what SHE was wearing, what SHE was doing, what her character was like (our honourable Chief Minister’s comment that the victim was a prostitute) arises. Rape is rape. No woman invites rape because it is, to make an understatement, mentally and physically acutely PAINFUL.
Let’s cut through all the “was she a good girl?” bullshit by taking a woman on the extreme end of our moral spectrum. A rape of a prostitute is still rape, because it has happened without her consent. It doesn’t matter whether she was walking down a lonely street at the time, in an advanced state of inebriation, and in revealing clothes. If a woman is attacked and raped, no amount of harping on why she was there and how she looked at her aggressors before the attack can change that fact.
A normal man might desire her, a disgusting man might approach her for negotiations, but it’s only a man who is not quite right that will think of raping her. Can you see the difference here?
I have seen a lot of ranting about how porn and the casting couch and a culture of trophy wives all cause rape. The irony is these writers are falling into the same trap as the extremely conservative, by confusing sex (even the most unsavoury kind) with rape. I don’t deny that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society that objectifies and commodifies women in this way, and its woman-hating nature is expressed in its most extreme form as rape. But I don’t see a direct connection: because in my mind, one is still the selling of sex for money (gross as that is) and the other is rape.

Others (in so many words) seek to vilify men for desiring women in the first place, to which I say can we please stop running around like headless chickens and FOCUS.

Secondly, most people (shockingly—so many women I’ve spoken to!) confuse a lapse of judgement (a woman getting into a car with three male acquaintances, for example) with ‘getting what was coming to her’. “What could she expect?” they say, and dismiss the rape off-hand. Are we then saying that all men are potential rapists who are only waiting to be presented with an opportunity by careless women? Is that how low our opinion is of our male relatives, friends and colleagues? And are we saying that a woman is equally if not more culpable in her violation, if she doesn’t cringe and look over her shoulder whenever she is around men?
Which of us pass the test? Have we not all been out past ten pm? Yes, on many, many occasions; often without male bodyguards to “protect our virtue.” Have we not worn provocative clothes? Of course! Since anything a woman wears is provocative to a rapist because he’s not looking at what the woman is wearing. It is seriously time our police stopped asking the question. The idea that a gang of five; who have the criminal intent and savagery to rape a woman after tying up her male companion, and then make her clean up the crime scene; would have walked away if she was wearing a sari is preposterous. I don’t even know how people can believe this.
Many women, in fact, are so sure they will be subjected to an agnipariksha if they come forward, that they decide against further torture for something as unlikely as justice. Women I know have whispered behind their hands to me, doubting the motives of rape victims saying,” why would she announce such a shameful thing to the world? She must want money and publicity!” The result of which you can see n the most recent Mumbai rape case, where it has emerged that the same group of men have raped before and had thought this one would go unreported as well. Perhaps if the previous rape victims had not feared social stigma and come forward, our brave photojournalist would have been briskly going about her work today, finishing up on the assignment that took her to the godforsaken scene of the crime.

So, you’re saying, you talk big, but what are you actually DOING to change this culture?
Admittedly not much. Jeet and I tried to start a petition to make self-defense classes compulsory for girls in schools – no one signed up, I wonder what the problem was.  I argue with whoever expresses the aforementioned opinions to me. However awkward the conversation is. If I have a son, I will not teach him that sex is bad, desire is bad and thereby repress it in such a way that it suddenly expresses itself in a horribly deviant way.
Of course, no parent wants a libertine for offspring but the former must learn to acknowledge that normal young people will have sexual feelings. If Indian parents carry on like having a girlfriend/boyfriend is a crime, they will continue to confuse romance, sex, and rape in the minds of India’s sons.

I have a daughter however, and I’m not going to lie, until I see this shift happen – I will advise her to throw away all her fundamental rights as an Indian citizen and cower at home, protected first by her father and then by her husband; because society doesn't really care about her.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 2: Diya, Shaun and Covent Garden

Day 2:
Diya, my friend from University, and her diminutive husband Shaun, took a train to London from Sheffield to attend the races at Ascot and visit the perambulating Basu family (us). We agreed to meet at the British Museum at the sensible hour of 12 PM, because we were getting over our long journey, and Mia was still very under the weather from her cold.
We reached at 12-30, anticipating a lot of tsk-ing about Indian Standard Time, only to hear Shaun had fallen ill and that they would be delayed.
One doesn’t wait around with a toddler straining at the leash. (Purely a figure of speech; though I got over my horror at the idea of child leashes once Mia developed the habit of dashing off the moment you let go of her. Walk a mile in a parent’s shoes, and all the things that shocked you seem sensible very soon.)
So we decided to begin our tour of the sprawling British museum sans our friends. The Pompeii exhibit was the reason why Diya and Shaun had proposed meeting here in the first place, so we headed there first. Tickets were sold out till 4 PM, so we decided to explore the rest of their extensive collection instead. To quote an Englishman I spoke to there, “Everything that we stole from the rest of the world.”
This was a week before the MoMA episode, so we innocently believed we had Mia’s vote for this course of action.
We ended up quickly rolling a loudly wailing stroller from one hushed, venerable room to another, as though the target was to have been in every room rather than concentrate on the artefacts. Luckily, photography was allowed here; and Jeet took enough pictures for me to pore over at length back in Bangalore and consider myself satisfied that I really had been to the British Museum.
Shaun and Diya arrived when we were in the gift shop, by which time Mia had given up on us and gone to sleep. We quickly decided to head to a pub to have a pub lunch (and perhaps some tea for Poor Shaun). In quick succession we rolled a sleeping Mia through one door of The Lolloping Lion, then The Prancing pony, The Sleepy Hunter, The Ugly Duckling and the Frolicsome Ferret and out the other as all the tables were taken. We finally found a cafĂ© run by a battalion of Russian-accented bodybuilders. We decided we would let Diya do the ordering because we didn’t speak Russian-English or Bodybuilder.
Lunch of excellent lasagne and coffee done, Shaun went off to keep his date with the museum while the rest of us struck out towards Covent Garden. I have rarely encountered a more charming spot; with its bazaarish ambiance and the relatively inexpensive little curios. This time we brought away a stubby, disgruntled-looking Queen Victoria about the size of my thumb. (Yes, yes ‘Anglophile’, etc…point me to such an adorable little Tipu Sultan or Aurangzeb who looks like he had a bad fish for lunch, and I‘ll be glad to add to my collection.)  
We located the Tintin shop, and took such a while deciding between the Tintin figurine in a space suit and Tintin and Snowy looking amazedly at an enormous mushroom that Mia decided to hurry us up by trying to grab all the bow-bows (figurines of Snowy) she could see. “She’s not very well and it’s nearly naptime…” I explained as I restrained my flailing offspring. The butch lady at the counter raised her eyebrows in a ‘I-really-don’t-give-a-crap, if-she-breaks-it-you-bought-it’ look. Tintin with the mushroom thingy it was then and out we hurried, where Mia reverted to patient tourist baby mode (albeit a slightly snotty one). 
Even though we’d had a full meal about five minutes ago, Diya announced we should go to one of her favourite places in Covent Garden, a place frequented by the British since Arthurian times, praised by Shakespeare in Corialanus, and Jane Austen in Emma. The Masala Zone. Though I sneer at most Indians who land on foreign shores only to frenetically ask around for the nearest dal-chawal joint (We were approached by two such individuals outside the Staten Island Ferry in New York, looking decidedly malnourished); We had a good chinwag over the excellent chaat platter and masala chai; and all four of us licked our spoons clean. Mia did such a thorough job with her spoon that I worried about erosion.

Unfortunately Diya and Shaun had to catch a train soon after; so after a few hurried pictures together and hugs we made our way back to the lovely home of our hosts – tired but happy.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Day 9: The Museum of Modern Art in New York

Day 9, MoMA, New York.

Jeet had visited the MoMA when he’d gone to New York the previous year. He averred that I must see it since I’ve always been a sucker for museums (I spent two days at the Salarjung in Hyderabad; dragging a very helpful but flagging Maya from room to room.). It would solve the problem of the incessant drizzle; and we figured since Mia was fighting fit and phlegm-free at last; she would be more receptive to culture and intellectual nourishment than she was at the British Museum a week earlier.

Hope springs eternal in a parent’s breast.

After having gawked at the Fifth Avenue shops (the buildings and the entire avenue apparently designed for extremely fashionable giants), and Rockefeller Centre, we started looking for Moma. We asked a few cops who said they didn’t know. A big guy with tattoos stood on a street corner selling souvenirs. We asked him where it was, and just as he shook his head regretfully that he didn’t know; an artistic-looking guy with a mane of white hair, who was hurrying past, stopped and said, “it’s on the corner of 5th and 12th”, and pointed back in the direction we’d come from.

We retraced our steps and stood dithering on an inside street. A Jeffrey-Archer-type gentleman in a suit and briefcase stopped and asked us, “Do you need directions? Can I help you?”

I could’ve hugged him. How nice can people get? I stop and give directions only if people ask me. I would never dream of actually asking people who look mildly confused if they need help! For all he knew those were our natural expressions. (To be honest, that IS mine on most mornings. Jeet and Mia look fairly together at all times. But the Nice Guy couldn’t know that.)

MoMA was really crowded, but the layout (possibly because it was much smaller than the British Museum) was easier to negotiate. We started at the top, and I spent a thrilling 5 minutes gaping at Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

We quickly agreed that since Jeet had seen it all before, he would look after Mia and I could browse the walls in peace.

We had not accounted for the fact that our daughter had decided she would not have another museum inflicted on her without a fight.

Left to myself I happily pottered from one wall to another. I noticed an incredibly huge bouncer-type person striding purposefully towards somebody out of my line of vision. “Poor wretch” I smirked to myself as I turned towards a beautiful Cezanne.

“You can’t keep the stroller there! You have to take it with you!” I peered around a painting, and  saw that my husband had given in to Mia’s pleas and let her trot about the floor while they waited for me, leaving the stroller next to a row of seats. Once the scary man had moved on, I went over and agreed to roll the empty stroller around with me like a crazy bag lady looking for a dumpster. Jeet followed Mia around at a swift trot as she hippety-hopped through the rooms.

It was an admirable arrangement while we looked at the paintings. When we tried to stuff her back into the stroller for the installation art exhibits; she simply stood up and tried to walk around with the stroller strapped to her back;  like a cute, pink-green-and-brown tortoise.

So she skipped through the teetering art exhibits; and my already fraying nerves stretched taut at the thought of a pile of crap (I’m sorry, that would be “installation art” – spell-check isn’t as good as it used to be), valued at a sum equal to the GDP of a small third-world nation, crashing to the floor after Mia hippety-hopped too close to it.

We must’ve set some kind of Guinness Book Record getting through each floor (of course we couldn’t simply leave!). We would cry “Done!” and dash to the elevator with a sigh of relief before Mia could touch anything.

On the last floor, (the ground floor, since we were working our way down.) I was finally beginning to relax. Just as we entered a room of photography exhibits, a huge guy with the neck and shoulders of the NYSE bull raised his black-suited arm and beckoned towards us. Visions of exhibits collapsing like dominoes behind us as we proceeded -- unaware and smiling-- from room to room, flashed through my mind.

“Save yourselves!” I hissed to Jeet. “Make sure Mia gets her driving license before her 20th birthday.” I squared my shoulders and walked purposefully up to him. I peered up at the ebony mountain in what I hoped was an innocently enquiring fashion. A mother would do anything to protect her young, even if they are wanton hippety-hoppers.

“I was just saying ‘Hi,’” he explained, gesturing again. “A LOT of people seem to misinterpret it when I do it.”
“Oh haha, imagine that…” I laughed weakly.
“See? Your daughter gets it.”
I turned to see Mia give us a cheery wave, looking for all the world like her mother didn’t just have a brush with Gitmo for destruction of American property.

I called them over and the big man coo-ed and clucked over Mia like a big, fat hen.
“Bye, bye” he crooked his fingers in the same gesture. Mia waved back. “See? SHE can tell I’m waving.”
“I guess she’s the only one without a guilty conscience,” I said, and we sped off.

Jeet and I agreed we’d shown Mia enough museums for the time being. She can visit the next one once she gets her driver’s license.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Of Ka-kaas, bow-bows, miaow-maows and Phishees.

Day 6: London Zoo

We decided to take a cab to the London Zoo because it was steadily drizzling, and none of us felt up to our usual gymnastics on elevators and escalators with the stroller in tow. Besides, we wanted to remind ourselves of how the city above-ground looked like, because really, the bowels of the earth look very similar whichever country you go to. (It’s black and whizzes past.)

We were quite thrilled at how bad the traffic was (just like home!); and were further rewarded by glimpses of a lot of places we might’ve visited had we enough time.

Once we got there, I asked the lovely lady in a headscarf at the counter if the animals come out in the rain. She didn’t make any false promises but told us a lot of them had shelters you could see into. Well. That just had to be good enough for us. We consulted the map and decided to go into the aquarium first. I wondered aloud to Jeet if Mia would have fun, if she would connect the images of animals that she saw every day in her books with the real thing. Perhaps we shall roll an uncomprehending toddler from enclosure to enclosure, and eventually beat a hasty retreat after she gets fed up and cranky like she did at the museums. (Horrifying descriptions of which are coming up soon.)

“PHISHEEEE!!!” the words reverberated off the walls of the aquarium. “Phishy, phishy, phisheeee!” Several fish ceased operations and looked over their shoulders at the racket. I saw a distinct expression of alarm on a passing squid. There were about 30,000 different types of underwater animals and Mia greeted each individually.

The aquarium was a resounding hit; so we looked forward to how the petting zoo would be received. I had no intention of letting Mia touch any of the animals. (Little Mr. Snot-Boy had done enough to sabotage our trip, I didn’t need pig-induced allergies to aggravate matters.) Fortunately, she seemed to share my opinion; and examined the enormous, hairy pigs rooting around in their enclosure with a dispassionate eye. “Bow-bow.” She declared dismissively.

The goats were disappointing bow-bows too. The camels were, in her opinion, amusing bow-bows.

She firmly disagreed with me when I said the lovely Sumatran tigers were miaow-maows. “Bow-BOW!” she corrected me loudly. (We were not in the petting zoo anymore, in case you were worrying.)

Coming from the land of tigers, and thus an automatic tiger-expert; I struck up a knowledgeable conversation with the zoo-keeper in charge of the big cats. “Excuse me, do these tigers come from India?”
“No, these are Sumatran tigers, they’re smaller and more orange.”
Yes, exactly, I nodded sagely. “The tigers I see in India are much larger, and less orange. Well, I don’t exactly see any walking around you know…just national parks and places.”
She was the fresh-faced, blue-eyed kind of animal expert you always see on the discovery channel. I felt the need to impress. “So,” I narrowed my eyes shrewdly, “do you conduct any breeding programs?”
She enthusiastically explained the various programs they have undertaken. “But.” She continued, “we put them in different enclosures except when our female comes in season because they’re essentially solitary animals. Our male feels the need to keep trying, and our female gets very irritated.”
“Ah,” I said faintly, an appropriate response eluding me. I wondered whether the tigers enjoyed being gossiped about in this fashion, and hurried on to visit the aviary.

A cry of “ka-kaa”, “ka-kaa” would erupt from the stroller whenever we spotted a bird. Mia looked around the moist tropical domes with rapt attention, as ka-kaas danced across our path or flapped overhead.

Further on, the pygmy hippopotamus looked depressed as it inched along. I could empathize. Everyone peering at it and laughing about how fat and funny-looking it was. Mia looked confused and a little upset, like she didn’t know which of her four categories to slot it in. She had the same reaction for the gorilla, who was so human-looking that she probably wondered why the hairy guy was sitting in a tree, eating leaves.

We had had some trouble finding the gorilla enclosure, though we seemed to pass endless monkeys. (Finally some miaow-miaows in a sea of bow-bows, according to our young biologist.) We approached a group of young men in the khaki zoo uniform, who were standing around talking. “Could you please tell us how to get to the gorilla?” we asked desperately. One guy slapped another on the back, “Here he is!” he grinned.

“I mean the one in a cage.”

“This one just escaped!” Twinkling green eyes and a sense of humour. I resolved to be a zoo-whatsit in my next life. However, armed with directions (“It’s right there! You can't miss it...”) we had to satisfy ourselves with a much hairier specimen -- our last call before putting the zoo behind us to visit an old, old friend who lived in London.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Travels with Jeet and Mia -- III

Our recent travels, in no chronological order.

Day 1

The trip started off pretty badly with our neighbour’s snot-nosed boy coming over to wish Mia goodbye before we set off the next day. Very neighbourly and all, but when my daughter developed a veritable river of phlegm and an accompanying inability to sleep on the 10-hour flight to Heathrow airport; I could cheerfully have punched his mother for being so irresponsible.

We were jet-lagged, and run ragged from worry and Mia’s fretting; but we cheered up enough to admire the picture-perfect houses and spotlessly clean streets as we headed out from Heathrow in a cab. “Where are you from?” the friendly driver had asked me, as he helped us with our luggage. “Bangalore” I told him. “And that is in…?” "India." 

“India! Yes.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Travels with Jeet and Mia - II

Our recent travels, in no particular order.

Day 8

On our second day in New York, we were in the midst of doing the must-do things that tourists must do in New York. We had armed ourselves with an enormous red umbrella with the words Hotel Vetiver emblazoned across it, which was not embarrassing at all. I carried it because Jeet was in charge of carrying the stroller; baby et al; up and down steep, slippery and never-ending steps on the subways, and coaxing it to behave even on the flawless pavements we walked on those two weeks. In the wrong hands, the stroller often had a habit of planting both wheels in opposite directions, and obtusely refusing to budge, or at least in the direction intended. So I would shoulder the heavy baby bag, which I packed every morning with every conceivable thing Mia could need in the course of our perambulations – thermometer—check, 2 litres of water—check, eardrops and long abandoned teething ring, just in case she needed it atop the Empire State Building -- check and check. Later, after lugging this impossible bag around for about a week, I decided we would just have to be daredevils and lighten it by almost half its weight. The curious crick in my neck vanished. The umbrella, due to the drizzly weather in New York, stayed.
On Day 8, we had executed our daily, complicated manoeuvre of: First person swipe metro card, open emergency door for stroller, quick! push Mia through, (while the door alarm wailed), slam the door, second person swipe card, check if we had left anything behind the gates; and board our train. This was Mia’s moment of glory. She would sit in her stroller and smile and wave at the nearest fellow passenger, and persist until her target cracked a little smile. Often in our miles and miles of travel by the underground train in both London and New York, we would find the people seated opposite us first glance in her direction, then smile, then wave. If they guffawed I would quickly check to see what she was up to, and more often than not found her skirt over her head; her ultimate party trick.
Once we got off at our station, I turned to a passer-by to ask which exit to take for the Empire State Building. “Here, I’ll show you” another person going past offered. He took the detour to the lift for our convenience, and while we rode up he said, “I was born in Brooklyn, and I’m 53 years old now, but I’ve never gone to the top of the Empire State Building yet.”
He pointed it out to us in the pouring rain. We waved our thanks and I told him, “You really should go!” and off we went at a brisk trot, the spokes of the enormous umbrella poking every New Yorker within available distance.
I don’t know if it was because of the umbrella, but we totally missed the Empire State Building. After walking what seemed like a really long while we looked up.
“Oh good, it’s stopped raining!”
“Er…where did the building go?”
So I rolled up my umbrella, and leant on it thoughtfully; Jeet took off his glasses and wiped them in a contemplative manner, Mia affected her haughtiest expression and sucked on a finger ruminatively. We were distinguished visitors from overseas enjoying the New York sidewalk, not three clueless tourists who’d managed to lose the Empire State Building.
A middle-aged guy went jogging past. “Excuse me, my good man” I called out in my fruitiest voice. “Mayhaps you know where the Empire State building is?”
He looked at us like we were crazy.
He pointed back to a spot in the sky a 100 yards behind us. “It’s right there! You can’t miss it!”
“Apparently one can,” I gently corrected him. ”WE just did.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Travels with Mia and Jeet.

An account of our recent travels, in no particular order.
Day 5
Back to London
The day we came back to London, we were locked out because it was the middle of the week and unlike us, some people had work! While Jeet jogged off to get the key from our host at work; Mia and I settled down to wait in the picturesque park just around the corner from their house in Chelsea.

At least I thought we would settle down in the park, a heartwarming tableau of a mother smiling serenely down at a peaceful, cooing baby in her stroller, surrounded by the flowers and sylvan green of the park. Aah, passers-by would think; how sacred and good the bond of mother and child! How peaceful it would be to just sit and watch them awhile...

 What transpires is always vastly different from the ideal. Mia set up a clamour that she wanted out of the stroller right then -- she had some sarcastic pigeons who needed to be taught a lesson. After some hurried negotiations, we agreed that she could chase them but only until the gravel path after which she would turn back. Sadly one and a half year olds are notoriously untrustworthy, and broke her word (“Baudeyee”) immediately.

The next 45 minutes was a regrettable loop of her running too far afield, and me, torn between our luggage near the entrance and my pigeon-chasing offspring, trying to catch up with her while keeping my eye on our suitcases. I wonder if onlookers who hadn’t noticed the bags thought it curious that I ran while I looked over my shoulder. If they did they made no comment, thinking it to be a sensitive issue. The moment I would catch up to Mia, and carry her back to the stroller she would let out a yell much like a factory siren announcing the call to work. Shattering the calm of the wet, weekday afternoon and shocking the other babes and mothers who, much to my envy, sat tranquilly feeding the birds or just concentrating on looking angelic. I could almost sense the other babies chortling about us behind their dimpled fists, (“Savages!”) as I trudged back with a yodelling Mia under my arm. However the moment she was back in the seat the pigeons would strut by her stroller in a most patronising manner; which would begin the whole cycle again. So I gave her, for the first time in her life, quite a LOT of chocolate and pigeons ceased to have the same power over her.
“ Cochleat” was the word of the week.

Jeet came back in 45 minutes; and everyone in that park drew a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Testing the waters

I had a satisfying conversation after a very long time with some people. I was so happy with the conversation in fact, that it set me thinking about everything that is wrong about MOST conversations I have (That’s me—the good things remind me of the bad things), and I realized that these conversation were less than satisfactory for any of many reasons.
No 1 on my hate list are people who can’t stop talking. Even when they stop to draw breath or shovel some food in their mouths, they’re planning what to say next, and will respond to your attempts at speech with a glassy stare. There are one or two people I’m particularly thinking of as I write this, pathological talkers who, to make matters worse, have nothing much to say.
No 2 on my hate list are people who make an effort to meet you only to stay bent over their phones while you talk to the top of their heads. If you reprimand them, they say something like “No more coffee for me, thanks!” and go back to their phones.

Pet peeve 3 are people who consider a conversation more like a swordfight than an amiable exchange of ideas. The thrust-parry-thrust of the verbal duel is so tiring in fact, that after a while you opt to retire very, very hurt; rather than dream up further insulting things to say to the person. Before the next encounter of course, you stock up on as much ammunition as possible; but oddly the insults fizzle out when you finally get to deliver them. “No, YOU”RE stupider!” or are so shockingly venomous that you regret it the moment they cross your lips. “Well I may be fat, but at least my mother loves me…sorry sorry SORRRYYYYYYY!”

I’m sure there are more, but I don’t really want to become like pet peeve No 1.