Tiny Conversations… “Come here. I’m going to Touch you!”

This happened some 6-7 years ago. I lived in Chile then. I had to consult a physician about a mole that was growing on my leg, and it was also indicating inward growth – a kind of plantlike feeling where I felt it had a root.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

At the clinic:

Doc– Buenos Dias, señora!

“Buenos Dias, señor!”

Doc– Cual es el problema? (what is the problem?)

“No sé mucho español. ¿Puedo hablar en inglés? (I don’t know much Spanish. Can I speak in English?)

Doc– Si, Si. No problema. I know leetle, leetle Englich.

“That’s a relief. Thank you so much!”

So, I tell him what my concerns are about the mole on my thigh. He asks me some pertinent questions. Nods his head thoughtfully.

Doc– Ok, I will see it first.

Then he gets up and walks away from the his desk towards a curtained area in one corner of the room.

Doc– Come with me here, señora. You will remove your trouser and I am going to touch you here, in this place.

I almost burst out laughing. The immediate thought that ran through my head was…‘what if I were silly enough not to understand what he meant!’ I’d have gathered my handbag and vamoosed out of the room!

“Ok, señor,” I said instead and followed him into the curtained area.

Examination done. He agreed that there was a downward, rootlike growth. Diagnosis would depend on removing the mole surgically and sending it for biopsy. We walked out and sat at his desk. He had to decide on a date for the surgery. That done, I stood up and thanked him from the depths of my heart.

Doc– So señora, how you like my Englich?

“Awesome, señor doctor!” I said genuinely appreciative. “I am so happy to have found a doctor with whom I could communicate in English.”

Tiny Conversations – Jumping to conclusions

It was one of those gatherings – the ones where the local Indian origin diaspora collect to celebrate some Indian festival or someone’s b’day etc. So, it was one which I had to attend as the ‘family’ was invited. I had come up here to visit from Chile. It is taken for granted and understood by all and sundry that any visiting relation is also included in an invitation for the whole family. Not attending could be misconstrued to mean anything, definitely not in a good light, if the person was not laid down with an ailment or had a very good reason not to attend. This would be the second or third one I was attending so I was familiar with some faces and names that I could remember.

“Hello aunty!” said a young woman smiling brightly. (Indians call any known elderly person aunty or uncle, as the case may be, even though there’re no family ties.) I recognized her and thankfully remembered her name too. She was a motormouth and one that poked her nose into everyone’s business and gossiped too.

“Hello! How are you?”

“Good, good. Nice to see you again.”

“Nice to see you too. I guess one gets to meet more often at these gettogethers.”

“Didn’t you have these in Chile?”

“Well, not for the entire Indian community. We’d have one at Diwali and some other festivals too. But I’d go only if it was hosted by the employees of my son’s company for their families and some close friends. So, only the group of friends who visited each other, and the office crowd would attend, not the entire Indian crowd living there. Even then, I only attended a couple or so of these parties, not all.”

“Oh! Ok. Didn’t the parents of the others come?”

“No. There weren’t any parents around most of the time.”

“Then it must have been very boring. Ours here is nice. Everyone has company. So many seniors are here to keep you company.

“I think you got me wrong,” I laughed. “I didn’t skip these events because they were “boring” due the absence of “seniors” presence. In fact, I enjoyed them. I find it always more interesting to interact with the young ones. And my age group would be great if we had common interests. I don’t like domestic chatter when we should actually be having a ball!”

She looked at me a bit aghast. I could see the mills in her head churning – her eyes and expression couldn’t disguise it. She decided to change the topic.

“So, what do you do the whole day? You must be very, very busy looking after three grandkids the whole day. Especially baby-sitting the little ones! All our mothers are occupied doing that. They look after the kids and stay busy the whole day taking care of all their needs.”

“Oh no. I have quite a lot to occupy me. And that doesn’t include “looking after and taking care of all their needs.” I do things for them but it’s not a nanny kind of baby-sitting schedule that frees up time for the parents,” I laughed, “I let the parents do their share!”

“No? You don’t!” she exclaimed shocked.

“Well, I do engage with the kids as in play or if need be keep an eye on them when a parent is not around. I spend time with them singing, playing games, telling stories, and if it’s just us at home, I supervise meal time. I take the elder two for walks. I can’t give all my time to them on a daily basis. I need time for myself and the things I do.”

“Our mother’s love looking after the kids. They enjoy seeing to their every need. It gives us mothers a rest.” she said rather defensively.

“I’m sure they do. I do enjoy my time with mine, it’s just that I can’t be on call all the time. Most grandmoms, I guess, don’t mind looking after the grandkids 24×7, my own mom included! I applaud them.

“I have my own schedule and to-do list, you see,” I continued, “I just can’t fit in that kind of duty. In any case, I know I’d be awful in such a granny schedule. There are some things I’m loathe to do,” I explained my side of the situation. “Luckily, in Chile, we had a nanny 24×7 for the twins!”

“But, I can look after them, for short spells, and be a pretty interesting, funny granny who teaches as she plays,” I added.

She had a glassy stare and a fixed half smile.

“Oh, nice talking to you. Enjoy.” And she left in a hurry.

I did wonder about that. She seemed put off. Then I shifted my attention to doing what I like best when I’m in a room full of people – people-watching!

The next day, I got my answer to why the lady had hurried off all of a sudden. She had something very important to do… dispense information. I learned, from my son, that she had told all the ladies that I had called their mothers “NANNIES” because they looked after their grandkids- seeing to everything- feeding, eating, bathing, diaper changes, putting them to sleep, entertaining etc., etc.

“Did I?” I laughed. “That’s ridiculous! I never even remotely referred to anybody’s mother. I specifically pointed to myself. I just said I could not fit in the schedule of the nanny we had in Chile, in my daily agenda, because I had my own to-do list and if I did, I’d be an awful granny then, anyway. But I could be an awesome Granny, in short spells, which I am!”

I further explained to him, “There was no inference either because we were discussing ME and “baby-sitting. And I was addressing her assumption that I must be “very, very, busy looking after three grandkids the whole day.” In fact, I applauded their moms, including my own mother, in the group of grannies who liked to look after their grandkids’ “every” need.

Well, the lady sure had some inference, assumption issues or was it just a ‘sporting’ one of – JUMPING to conclusions?

Tiny Conversations – Imagine Wine, Jacuzzi, and…

A few months back, my son and DIL bought a house. The day they moved in, the twins were extremely excited. They called me and announced that they had “finally” moved lock, stock, and barrel, into their “new house.” Thereafter they promptly took me on a tour of the place with running commentary and expert comments. They did a great job I must say. Soon, the tour was done inside and outside the house too.

It was time to settle down and chat.

Amu: You know what, Dada, there’s a room just for you when you come here.

“Now, isn’t that simply fantastic! I will have to think about how to do it up.”

Mia: Mama’s already thought about that. She’s put up new curtains too.

“Well, then I’ll think about what should go on the walls and some other itty-bitty things.”

Amu: It’s going to be fun Dada. Aren’t you excited?

“Yes, I am. Super excited.”

Mia: But you know what Dada, just in case you’re wondering which of the two bedrooms we showed you was yours, the smaller room is yours. The bigger one is ours. You do know yours is the smaller one, right?

Two worried faces looked at me intently. They expected me to be disappointed. I decided to play along.

“Oh!” I said and pulled a long face.

Amu: (clearly moved) Dada, Dada, it’s just a wee bit smaller than ours, she said placatingly.

“Then it’s alright!” I laughed. “Anyway, it makes sense, you know. There are two of you and just one ME. You definitely have more stuff to put in. I was just teasing you. I’d be surprised if I had the bigger room”

They relaxed. And looked at each other in silent communication.

“We’re going to share the bathroom too!” they exclaimed, taking advantage of this moment. And giggles followed that revelation.

“I hope it’s big enough,” I said laughing.

Mia: Oh, Yes, Dada, the bathroom is big enough, but (she pauses) the WC is a bit low! How will you manage? Your back will hurt.

Amu: Maybe she can use mama-papa’s one.

Mia: Or the powder room… the WC there isn’t low!

As I listened and watched their expressions changing with each thought and possible solution, I realized how genuinely concerned they were about their Dada and her physical limitations in some areas.

“What would I do without you two ladoos to care for me! (Literally, ladoo is a sweetmeat). You think about everything to make me comfortable.”

Both: We love you Dada!

“Love you to smithereens too, my dolls.”

Amu: Do you know the master bedroom’s bathroom is BIG and has a jacuzzi too?

“Yes, I heard about that and saw it too on the tour you took me on around the house.”

Amu: Yes, but you don’t know something. (both the girls giggle).

“Now don’t laugh alone. Come on, tickle my funny bone too. I like a good laugh.”

Amu: Mama said she’d like to relax in the jacuzzi with a glass of wine.

“Oh boy! Now that’s a thought. I wouldn’t mind doing that myself!”

Both: But you can’t! Mama said only she and papa would be using that bathroom.

“Oh shoot! (sad face) and here I was dreaming about luxuriating in there with a glass of wine!”

Amu: Really?! But can’t you imagine it?

“Well, I already did and that’s why I thought it would be awesome.”

Amu: (thoughtfully) No Dada, just imagine a naked woman with a glass of wine in the jacuzzi! Ewww!!

Mia: It’s so silly, Dada, (she says between bouts of laughter.)

Amu: And so funny. Just imagine that Dada!

“Well, I could imagine that but I’d rather not, you know,” I manage to say as I laugh out loud. “Come on girls, ever heard of bathing suits aka swimsuits, bikinis. Imagine that kind of a woman.

Amu: But that is not so funny, Dada. Another burst of laughter.

Their laughter and mine punctuated and truncated our conversation about nude women, wine glasses, and jacuzzis.

Tiny Conversations – A Bad Choice

One evening, the twins, their mum and I were sitting out in the little park behind the house. The girls decided the bench we were on would be the school bus.

Amu: This is our school bus, and you are the bus driver, Dada! (they call me Dada)

“Oh no! I can’t drive your bus. The driver’s seat is uncomfortable and you know I have a bad back.”

Mia: You just have to sit. No walking. No standing.

“No. I don’t want to be the driver.”

Both: (Disappointed) OK! (They turn to their mother) Mama, you are the driver. (She accepts).

“Thank you,” I said, relieved. I walked across to the opposite side to a comfortable chair and lowered myself, leaned back and relaxed. I closed my eyes and breathed deep. I could doze off, I thought. It was so peaceful and relaxing. But, enroute to the school, the bus broke down.

Amu: Let’s get the mechanic!

She makes a dash…

… and stands in front of me. I keep my eyes shut.

Amu: Dada, come quick. The bus broke down.

“Why do you need me?”

Amu: You are the mechanic!

“What?!”

Amu: You didn’t want to be the driver so you are the mechanic.

“You never asked me if I wanted to be the mechanic,” I said haughtily.

Amu: But we did ask you to be the driver. You didn’t want to. So now, you are the mechanic.

“(Groan!) I didn’t know it was a choice between two jobs.”

Amu: But it was. We gave you the first choice! Now quick Dada. We’ll be late for school.

I haul myself off the chair. Walk reluctantly to the bus, dragging my feet as she goads me to move faster. I repair the bus, bending awkwardly, by changing an invisible punctured tire. I overdo the grumbling and groaning!

Mia: See, if you had chosen to become the bus driver you wouldn’t have to bend and push and pull. You would just have to sit. in. your. seat. We told you.

“Ok, Ok! Don’t rub it in. There, it’s all done. Now off you go.”

Amu checks to see if everything is alright. They get on the bus. I heave a sigh of relief. As they roll away, Mia shouts:

Dada, what does ‘rub it in’ mean? And she laughs heartily as their driver picks up speed and zooms off to school.

Tiny Conversations – Trollers Vs Tongs

There’s always something happening at mealtime it seems.

Myra: Can I have the trollers please?

“What’s that?”

Myra: That’s something that goes like…. (she moves her thumb and fingers together and apart).

I get it but pretend not to.

“What do you want to do with a troller?”

Myra: (impatiently) Pick up the hot dog and put it in the bun, Dadi!

“Oh, I couldn’t understand what it was. You mean tongs, right?

Myra: (Rolling her eyes) What’s that?

I hand her the tongs. “The smaller one is in the dish washer. You can use these kitchen tongs. I think it will do the job for you.”

Myra: Yes! That’s it… trollers, (she stressed the word with relief and a certain amount of triumph). She had imparted some knowledge to me.

She gave me a look that said… ‘hope you learn the right word.’

I had a good laugh behind her back!

Tiny Conversations – Does he miss me?

Some years ago, when Aly, the eldest of my grandkids was about two and a half years old, on a video call she asked me about her grandpa.

Aly – Dadi, do I have a grandpa?

“Yes, you do?”

Aly – Where is he then?

“He’s not here now,” I said, wondering if she had already learned that he had died long ago.

Aly – I know, she said, with wisdom beyond her years shining from her eyes.

“So you know he isn’t here with us, and you know why, yes?”

Aly – Yes, he is in heaven.

“Yes, sweetie. Your grandpa is in heaven.” I was relieved.

Aly – Does he know about me?

“I’m sure he does.”

Aly – Can he see me?

“I believe he can whenever he peeks through the clouds.”

Aly – (Beaming a bright smile) Does he love me?

“Oh, my dear, you cannot imagine how much he loves you. He adores you.”

Aly – (She’s glowing by now) Dadi, does he miss me?

I choked on my words as tears threatened to spill out and said, “Trust me sweetie, he misses you very, very much.”

Her little heart found a lot of comfort in that assurance. She flashed her angelic smile and settled into the couch more comfortably, content in the knowledge that her grandpa knew about her; loved her; missed her.

Sometimes it’s so much better to sugarcoat a bitter pill.

PS: Down the road, in the present time, she’s eleven and asked me about him and wanted me to tell her how he died, how I felt, and how her father and his brother took it.

This time, I didn’t sugarcoat the pill. She was ready to hear about pain and loss.

Tiny Conversations – Whodunnit?

Photo by Laura Garcia from Pexels

My twin granddaughters joined playschool when they moved to Canada, and their teacher was expecting. For a couple of months, they were unaware about this. But then, a few more enlightened girls were discussing their teacher’s “big tummy”. Our little ones soon learned that she was going to have a baby.

They were super excited! At that young age of innocence they were uninhibited and wanted to confirm the news… hear it from the horse’s mouth and they also had some other questions to ask. They didn’t only want to confirm what they had heard, they wanted to know who put the baby in and how it would come out of her tummy. Yes! I bet you are laughing now imagining how the conversation went.

Amu – Is there a baby inside there? (she points to the tummy).

Teacher – Yes, there is. (highly amused by their frank curiosity)

Mia – When will the baby come out?

Teacher – There are a couple of months more.

Twins together – OHHH! (Their brows were furrowed. There was a HOW knocking around).

Mia – How does it come out?

Stumped on how to answer this without going into unnecessary details, which they wouldn’t know nor understand, she said:

“Oh, you know, I’ll go to the hospital and the doctor will help the baby out.”

Amu – Will the doctor cut your tummy?

Teacher – (In order to avoid another “how” question if she replied in the negative, she opted to go with…) I don’t know. He might have to cut it.

Both – But that is horrible!

Amu – It’s going to hurt a lot and there will be a lot of blood!

Both the little girls seemed quite disturbed by this.

Teacher – Oh no! You need not worry about that. They will give me a medicine and I won’t feel a thing. No pain.

Both were relieved by this information and turned to leave. Just when the teacher thought the conversation was over, one of the twins had another question.

“Who put the baby in your tummy?

Should she answer that with, “the stork”? Indians didn’t use the stork story because it isn’t a bird everyone knew about. What everyone knew was GOD! And being who he was, he was bigger and stronger and more powerful than superman, especially in a kid’s mind. He could do anything, even the impossible. Scripture stories, in any religion, speak of these amazing feats. So it was the easiest way to explain it to very young kids.

Now the teacher was an Indo-Canadian and like all, or almost all, Indians answer this question she said:

God put it there!”

“Oh!” they said and off they ran to play with the other girls. I’m sure she was glad they didn’t think of another HOW question! How did God put it there?! That would need a lot more imagination to explain in a satisfactory way!!

I remember being told that God had dropped off my younger brother at the Army Hospital and my mother was there to pick him up! I swallowed that story hook, line, and sinker! Just in case you are wondering — even at the age of ten, I hadn’t noticed that my mom’s tummy had grown enormously! I was pretty naive or too tomboyish to have noticed such things. Besides, that was 1965 India. And that was the story all kids were told until they learned the truth… mostly from their friends, older kids, or when they were old enough to study it in their Science class.

The Original Blueprint – Part -1

Canada had never been on my list-of-places-to-visit! Though, I did advice a lot of youngsters, including my son, to move to Canada. But I never ever felt inclined to visit here, and living here was not even a possible thought.

Yet, here I am!

Destiny? God’s plan for my life? I guess it’s both. It’s the result of the original blueprint for my life. One that I altered in some places, and the others altered without my consent at some juncture.

I often wonder about my sojourns to two countries that never figured in my travel-hungry dreams and desires. Surprisingly, apart from Canada, USA also didn’t make it to my list! While my friends in college went on about the States I dreamed about countries in Europe. I didn’t realize my Europe dream and, of course, never went to the States. But I came close to it when I ‘lived’ in Chile! A place that wasn’t even on the periphery of my travel thoughts. Though, I must add here, I loved it. The city I lived in and the memories of my stay there are embedded in my heart.

But as I’ve learned, God’s plan for my life will go according to plan despite the detours I make from the path. I will, eventually, do, go, function according to the original plan – sooner or later.

Take my journey at this point in life – I’m in Canada! If I had not rejected an offer to travel to Ireland when I was nine years old; if my mother had not put her foot down (which encouraged me) on the offer of two wonderful Irish missionaries to adopt me, I would have been here decades ago!

The story that convinces me that it is God’s original plan starts in the latter half of the year 1963, in New Delhi.

My parents were members of an evangelical church. The congregation called themselves the ‘Brethren’. The church was in Connaught Place and was called Gospel Hall. It wasn’t a conventional church building. It was in a commercial area and was one of the shops/offices that had been rented for worship.

In those days, Christian missionaries abounded all over India, and we had a fair share of them in Delhi, and in our Gospel Hall as well. Among the ones at Gospel Hall was an Irish couple – John and Lily Walker. They had two sons, Johnston and Earnest.

My parents and the Walkers took to each other and they became friendly outside the fellowship-worshippers church circle. We’d have them over for lunch sometimes and they’d invite us over for a meal sometimes. I enjoyed the company of this missionary family, which I confess was not normal because, even at that young age, I didn’t care much for the many others whom my father had befriended when we were posted in Kerala, South India. They’d come over often and have lunch and tea with us. I recall a picnic or two. One at a beach and one on a house boat! I was younger then but I had a mind of my own. I liked and disliked my parents’ company according to my own judgments for what they were worth!

There were the Phoenixes, the Bones, the Taylors, the McGregors, to name a few.

But the Walkers were different. I played with their younger son, Earnest, who was a year and half older than me, I think. Johnston, the elder one was nice too. He would talk to me and joined his brother and I briefly sometimes.

Lily and John were jovial and easy-going and not the typical uptight Christian missionaries who judged everything we said or did and found it inappropriate according to their thinking. I usually made myself scarce when any of those kinds visited us. They didn’t understand our sense of humor, our cultural dos and don’ts, and they thought they had the God-given right to admonish me!

Well, I was the youngest kid in the family then, a bit spoiled by Daddy, and I couldn’t take that. So rather than ‘talk back’ I avoided them.

Anyway, to come back to the main part of the story. Lily and John had taken to me too. We, of course, were unaware of the extent to which they had fallen in love with me. They had already decided (before even consulting with my parents) that they wanted to adopt me! That was the reason why they began to spend more time with us. Even at Sunday School or at church, Lily would talk to me, sometimes sit beside me at church, and generally, give me a lot of attention. I loved it because it was free of judgement, criticism, and full of love, caring, and acceptance of my little personality as it was.

None of them, including the boys, ever tried to change or mold my natural self to suit them. I was accepted as I was. I was loved as I was.

We were brought up in an Indo-western environment with the western more pronounced than the Indian. Our etiquette, behavior, and environment at home was more western. So there wasn’t much that was different for me in their home, and I guess they didn’t find much to change in my behavior.

Well, finally their term in India was drawing to its end and they had to make their intention known to my parents. And they did. I was totally in the dark about how my fate was being decided between them.

While all this was going on, a severe case of jaundice laid me down. It was pretty bad because my parents hadn’t realized that it was more than an “ache in the side of my tummy” as I continued playing with the pain. No one noticed that the whites of my eyes had turned yellow until one day, Mummy did. The doctor was worried and hoped that it wasn’t worse than what he had diagnosed.

The result was that the Walkers postponed their return and extended their stay by three months. It took over two months for me to get better, but I was very weak and I had to be under medical supervision for a month more.

My father had put in his papers for an early retirement and wanted to go back to his hometown and get started on building our house. But as I couldn’t travel then, he asked for an extension on our accommodation for another month. So we were in Delhi while he went on ahead to get work started on the house.

Now, the Walkers who were apprised of the developments on our side, came home before Daddy left. As I lay in bed, I could hear them talk, but not clearly enough to get the whole conversation. I gathered bits and pieces and knew that it was something about me. I heard my name mentioned a lot. I heard the word travel. I heard the words “extend our stay.” I tried to put two and two together but couldn’t understand what was the big deal if I couldn’t travel. I presumed they were going to leave me back here with the Walkers and my mother and brother would go with my father to Punjab. I would be staying with these people and join them later when I could travel.

However, I soon learned who was planning to ‘extend’ their stay and why. It all came down to one person’s decision – Mine!

I heard footsteps coming towards my room and I perked up a bit. John and Lily came in and Lily sat on the bed and held my hand. They asked how I was and made some small conversation. Then they asked me if I liked their sons. Did I like their home and was I comfortable whenever I spent the day there. My answer was a big YES and a broad smile to all of these questions. Then came the last one.

“Would you like to come live with us?”

“Okay,” I quipped happily thinking I was right about what I had picked up from their conversation earlier. Then I added, “How long will I stay? The doctor said it could be longer than a month before I can travel.”

They realized I was not on the same page as them. And that my parents hadn’t broached the subject with me.

Gently, both of them told me how much they loved me and how Lily had fallen in love with me from the first day she saw me. How she wanted a daughter and she saw that daughter in me. How her sons also accepted me as a sister if I agreed to be a part of their family.

It was a bomb exploding in my head. I was just a little nine year old going on ten, by then! This was in the beginning of 1965. And I wasn’t strong enough mentally and physically and emotionally to deal with such a big question about the future of my life.

They realized it immediately after they had said what they had to say. To their credit, they very softly and lovingly told me I didn’t have to make my decision immediately. They could wait. But if I could give them some hope, even a 50-50 one about their chances of becoming my foster parents, they could extend their stay by even six months, if need be.

I loved my family. I couldn’t imagine loving someone else as my parents no matter how nice they were or how much I loved them too. No one could replace my Mummy and Daddy! Not even the very nice and loving Lily and John Walker.

“Will you take me with you to Ireland?”

‘Of course. You’ll be my daughter. Wouldn’t you like that?”

“Yes. But when will I see my parents?”

“You can write to them, talk to them over the phone. And you can come back to see them whenever you want. And they can come to see you too. We won’t keep you away from your family in India.”

“Have you spoken to my mummy and daddy? What did they say? Did my Daddy say yes? Did my Mummy say yes?”

The questions came pouring out. I still remember the dread I felt and the slight tremor of excitement at what this meant for me. I was scared to leave all that was familiar and that I loved behind and go with people I barely knew beyond a social relationship. Nevertheless, there was a bit of adventure and excitement at the thought of going on a long journey to another country and living a new life. One I could only imagine from movies and stories I had heard.

The thought that was troubling me was that if both of my parents had agreed to this, I would have to go. I thought I’d have no right to refuse if my parents had agreed. I wouldn’t see them for years maybe and neither my sisters and brother. It made my heart sink. And I was scared too. So far away from my parents whom I trusted and relied on. I had no notion of how I’d be able to bear that. Somewhere, was a flicker of hope that one of them had refused. Somewhere at the back of my mind, subconsciously, I was keeping that as my escape hatch.

I was waiting for their answer. My heart was pounding.

Lily looked at John.

“Your father said he had no objections if we let you keep in touch and allowed you to visit. But he said it all depended on your answer and not his. We could adopt you only if you agreed.” My heart leapt with joy. Daddy had given me the final decision. I wasn’t so scared now.

“And what did Mummy say?”

“She doesn’t want you to come with us. She flatly refused to let us adopt you.”

This made it easier for me to make my decision. Her flat refusal took the burden off me. Deciding to take such a big step, one that I couldn’t fully comprehend. To me it was just like an adventure. Like the ones I’d imagine and dream to come true. This gave me the escape route I was looking for and I made up my mind.

“No. I can’t go with you forever. I can come for a holiday but I want my Mummy and Daddy. My sisters and brother.”

“But your parents will still be your parents. Your sisters and brother will still be your siblings. Think about it. You’ll have bigger opportunities if you come with us. take your time to decide. Though not too long. We cannot extend our stay only to find you won’t be coming back with us. We have to get your travel arrangements done too.”

“Ok. Then please don’t extend your stay. I don’t think I can stay away from my family like this.”

They looked so sad. I felt bad and wondered if I should say yes. My mind was for it. But my heart wasn’t in it at all.

“I’m sure.” I said. “I can’t leave my family.”

Long story short. The Walkers left. Mummy and Lily kept in touch for two or three years via snail mail. We learned that they had migrated to Canada a year or so after they returned to Ireland. And that’s where the Canada connection comes in, in this story. If I had agreed to make them my foster parents, I would have been in Canada decades ago!

So, in the original blueprint, I was destined to come here. I never thought about it. I never hoped for it. It wasn’t an inviting place to even include in my dream list of holidays. But that was then.

This is a beautiful country. And one worth visiting and settling in, if that’s what you want.

But…

I had to go on a circuitous route, before I finally came here. I’ve lost so much in the detours I’ve made. Apart from the material things, I lost peace of mind, a sense of belonging, the company of age-old friends. It isn’t easy to adjust to new environs when you’re older. It isn’t easy to make new friends. It isn’t easy to leave the familiarity of social, cultural, and traditional aspects of one’s life. That being said… This senior isn’t doing too bad all things considered. Not quite there, yet, but getting there!

So how did Canada, the eventual destination, come about?

More about that in the next part.

To Be Continued….

Lockdown Home Schooling

It’s been some time since the lockdown, and homeschooling is on in our home as it is in homes across the globe. With a WFH schedule for the adults, schooling three kids with ages ranging from 10+ to 3+, it’s quite a challenge. Add to that some activities to keep them engaged, entertained, engrossed, and not 24×7 on the iPad or iPhone (10+ girl), or watching TV!

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5-yr-old M did a great job in this fill-in-the-blanks test! She did it in a jiffy too! Now, she’s keen to move on to the table of 3.

Then, of course, there’s the looming threat of a hangry’ outburst. They need food to chew on (perpetually) before they bite off each other’s heads! So I dash to the kitchen, my head in a swirl. Peanut butter sandwich…as I spread the butter I re-run a passage I was working on…editing… “that part needs a rewrite”… “What could be a better word for…” I switch channels and get back to the food one… ok, a ham and marmalade one too…and what did Z want? And these are only the in-betweens, there’s lunch beeping, “what’s for lunch?” in another corner of my head!

Keeping their hunger pangs down with this, that, or the other something light they can snack on between meals, without losing their appetite for a proper meal is a daily challenge. There are days when I’m just a breath away from climbing the walls. I let off steam by deep breathing and muttering mantras (I’m doing good. I’ve got it under control. I can do it. I’m patient…) under my breath so they can’t hear, and I do the best I can. 

We’re all trying to do the best we can! These little ones must find it even harder to adjust to being locked in, away from friends, and school with its activities and community. This thought helps me to rein in the frustration and sail on even keel even in choppy waters. But I have my human frailties and limitations too. So I need to accept and acknowledge my feelings of inadequacy that overcome me, at times, and the fatigue, both mental and physical.

I love having the kids around. I am closer to them and am a part of their life more than ever now. We share so much more… conversations, jokes, games, and camaraderie! And I do love doing their lessons with them and teaching them some new things too.

This brings me to the subject of this post… Math… the bane of my life 🙂

I’ve been getting 5 yr-old M to do single-digit addition sums and made a small step into single-digit subtraction. She’s learned her two tables and can max her revision tests: oral and written. Just the other day, I gave her a written test with blanks and she did very well: All correct answers!

As I watched her excited and loving her numbers; sums, tables, and tests, I thought of a 6-7-yr-old me and how I disliked arithmetic. And how tables tripped me up when I was quizzed in an oral test! As she rattled out her answers in her oral test, I compared it to the picture of me and my orals in the same two-three tables. It was funny and I found myself laughing. It was such a contrast in every way – the teachers (me Vs my mum), the students (me Vs M), and the love of the subject (me Vs M).

A foray into my journals threw up this short entry:

Two times Nine is…..umm…is…er…

I think I should add a few incidents with Mummy. Daddy’s been hogging all the space till now. Not that there’s much that transpired with her and me together…..I was always a Daddy’s girl…a tomboy. Anyway, Mummy was (as all mummies were in their homes) my teacher at home. Very bad really, for me, when it came to Arithmetic because she was short on patience and I was short on memory, especially when it came to multiplication Tables. By the end of an interminably long study hour, I’d manage to finally get through one Table and escape.

Oh yes! Escape it was. For my face, which would be burning with the tight slaps she’d land so precisely on my small cheeks, and the small palms that got whacked with a ruler, or my legs that got thwacked with a ladle or whatever was in her hands. Getting away was the greatest relief of the day.

Poor thing, she must have been relieved too! When I think back to the almost stupid way I’d stare at her, while I stumbled and hemmed and hawed my way through the same old Table day after day, my heart goes out to her…..any one would go crazy. So I had to find a method to remember my Multiplication Tables and avoid being slapped. And what a way I devised!!

I’d generally wait till she was in the kitchen instructing the cook and doing odds and ends. I would stand against the door jamb, in the pantry, and my elder brother would stand behind me hidden from her view. Then I’d very quickly and very loudly say the whole Table and hey, without a mistake! Jasper’s prompting got me a lot of praise and shorter study hours, till the day she decided to quiz me. My prompter failed me. Ah! It was back to the grind and a good slapathon and copious tears.

I couldn’t get why she got so impatient and exasperated. She, I guess, couldn’t understand why her bright daughter, good in all other subjects, cultural activities, sports, and discipline was so daft with numbers.

The slapping didn’t last long, though. I sobbed my heart out sitting on Daddy’s lap and convinced him that I was scared of her punishments and so I couldn’t remember anything. He must have spoken to her. She must have understood or found it a huge relief that she was off the hook if I didn’t fare well in the exam 🙂 Whatever, the punishment went back to a longer study hour or Time Out. Grounded. No playing outside with my friends or even my brother. I didn’t mind that because my brother and I found enough of recreation and fun things to do inside the house too.

My grandkids, four of them from 5-10-year-old, are good with numbers… brilliant, in fact! For some reason, that makes me happy!

PS: I still dislike Math! And I’m totally against slapping!

PPS: Just for the record:

1. Mummy was an awesome teacher in everything else. I’ve learned a lot from her. Her love of writing poems, rhymes instilled a love for words and writing. Her expertise in cooking. Her energy and spirit in tough times. Her resourcefulness. Her talent in singing (she sang alto), sewing, and embroidery. Her jovial nature and the laughter that always hovered behind her lips. Her helpful nature. There was so much I had to take away from her to build up my strengths. Her presence, in the house, meant a lot to me.

2. It was not considered as abuse, in India, in those days, to slap a kid and corporal punishment was allowed in schools too. And many kids, even girls, must have got a slap or two or three or more from their moms. Luckily, things have changed since our days.

 

Nanaji and the Dirty Fellas

A baby has a way of making a man out of his father and a boy out of his grandfather. ~Angie Papadakis

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We have specific names for our relatives, to make it clear how they’re related to each other and from which side of the family they belong. For instance, paternal grandparents are Dada (grandfather) and Dadi (grandmother). So the moment a child refers to someone as Dada or Dadi, everyone knows it’s the son’s child. And if Nana (grandpa) or Nani (grandma) are used, everyone knows it is the daughter’s child.

The same goes for other relations. They are easily recognized as paternal or maternal relatives by the terms used to address them. There is no confusion about any relationship, unlike the common terms uncle and aunt or grandma, grandpa, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, etc. Each of these relatives is referred to by different names that make it clear how they are related to you.

To come back to my father and a few memories of our kids’ interactions with him. When he became a Nana, my kids and my sister’s kids called him Nanaji. The ‘ji’ is suffixed as a sign of respect for elders. As a father, he was a strict disciplinarian and had grown more reserved with the passing years. Everyone was still in awe of this man, who though mellowed with age, yet held a commanding demeanor, and a sarcastic sense of humor. 

My two boys learned to talk rather early, so their interaction with Nanaji began early too. By this time, Daddy had already transitioned to the grandparent level courtesy my elder sister’s son.

Daddy would use all his sarcastic humor on the kids, who just loved it! They were quick to retort and he would have his laugh. They often got into little ‘kiddie’ fights with him, and when we’d hear, “Dirty fella, I’m not talking to you,” we knew we would witness a wonderful, funny incident soon.

The First Grandson: Forgive and forget

One day, Daddy had a falling out with my elder sister’s son Hemant (pet name – Chiku). Chiku was three and a half then.

“Go away, I’m not talking to you, dirty fella!” says Nanaji to the scowling boy. 

Both walk off in a huff to their rooms; the grey-haired one hiding a broad grin and the younger one certainly miffed.

A few minutes later, a chubby face peeked into Nanaji’s room. He was ignored. The second and third attempts to reconcile were also met with a royal ignore! The fourth time, he came with a bunch of grapes as a peace offering. Nanaji refused to accept it, closed his eyes, and appeared to have fallen asleep.

Chiku stood and stared at him for a while. Then he decided it was too much. Enough is enough! He plucked two grapes off the bunch. Kept the bowl on the bedside table. Daddy was observing all this through his eyes that were closed to slits. He did not expect Chiku’s next move and thought the little guy had decided to eat the grapes himself. But his grandson had other plans. Before Nanaji could say, “dirty fella,” he deftly stuffed them into Nanaji’s nostrils and scampered out like a grinning monkey!

Thankfully, the grapes weren’t far in and he could snort them out easily! Then, he was in splits. He laughed so much. I can’t say what the dirty fella had expected, but I’m sure he hadn’t seen this coming. He crept back, confirmed it was a truce, and stepped into the room.

A while later, we saw them sitting together and eating the rest of the grapes.

The Second Grandson: Dirty is not good

Daddy would sit in the back verandah or in the back lawn and write when the weather was cooler in summer or warmer and sunny in winter. On one such day, Nanaji had an encounter with another three-and-a-half-year-old Ranjit (pet name Tintin), the elder son of yours truly.

Nanaji was immersed in his study and writing while Tintin played with his toys. Nanaji had an old, in fact very old, Bible which he loved, and in which he had written many notes on pages specially inserted into the binding. It had a thick, hard leather cover that was faded, well-worn for use, and cracked in places. It was open and lying face down on a table beside him.

Tintin sauntered over and looked at it. Apparently, he didn’t like the look of it. He screwed up his face and asked what book it was. Nanaji answered him without interrupting his work or looking up. A few moments later, he needed to refer to something in the Book, and well, it wasn’t on the table! he looked around and what do you think he saw?

“You dirty fella, what are you doing?” he exclaimed and jumped out of his chair to rescue his precious Bible from a washing.

Tintin had carried off the heavy, thick Bible and dunked it into a tub full of water, that was kept for two small tortoises Nanaji had bought for him. He was just getting into the washing part when it was retrieved.

“What are you doing, you dirty fella? Why did you put it in the water?”

“It was dirty so I was washing it,” replied the “dirty fella” blissfully unaware of the damage he could have caused.

Nanaji found the explanation quite plausible, and though he was worried about the Bible, he couldn’t stop laughing.

Once again, this little escapade didn’t cause major damage. Except for some notes pages getting smudged with ink (he used fountain pens which had to be refilled with ink poured out from a bottle!), so a wet page meant the ink would smudge. And, of course, a loss of Daddy’s personal notes. Apart from this, the Bible was not irretrievably damaged. We just needed to dry it out. This took a long time given the volume of pages! Thankfully, we had a few sunny days!

This was one time when the grandson antics got me a bit worried. I knew how much that antique Bible meant to Daddy. Besides its worthiness in its antiquity, it had been his companion and guide for many years. I thought that this time, the ‘dirty fella’ and his mom would have to bear the brunt of some annoyance if not anger!

I shouldn’t have worried and trusted the Daddy I’ve known since I was a girl. 

Though some note pages and notes had gone, Daddy didn’t worry much about that. He could rewrite them. But after drying out, a few of the pages were a bit crinkled like an unironed shirt and the cover looked more thumped and weary than it did before!

The third Grandson: A Lesson in Etiquette

Nanaji got a lesson in etiquette and right practice from yet another of his dirty fellas when he came on a holiday to Rajasthan. This time, it was Vineet (pet name Viny), not quite three yet. He is my younger son.

The days passed off fast, and Nanaji and the boys had a rollicking time. Then, it was time to leave. Our little one was over-eager to help. He tried to push and tug bags to a waiting taxi. Everyone was mightily impressed by the offer of help, as all the bags were too big and too heavy for him to even budge a centimeter.

Yet, he was lending the proverbial helping hand. He’d place his little hand on a bag being carried or rolled out! He hung around Nanaji, who once again saw through all the show, and was waiting to get his last laugh before leaving.

All the bags were stowed in the trunk. Mum was in the taxi and it was time to say the G’byes. Nanaji got into the taxi, but he didn’t close the door. Instead, he kept making small talk with his “dirty fellas.” We tried to hurry him but he kept stalling. Finally, what he was waiting for happened. Afraid that it would be too late, Viny took the initiative to inform his Nanaji about Rajasthani customs.

“Nanaji,” he said seriously, “jab koi jaata hai na, woh kuch de kar jaata hai.” (Trans: Nanaji, when someone leaves, he gives something and goes.)

Nanaji was thrilled. He got his laughs. He dug into his pockets and handed both the boys some money. It was customary, in those days, for elderly relatives to give the kids some money before they left. Needless to describe the glee with which the cash was handed over to mother dear (me!) as Viny rattled off all that he would buy with it, including a car.

I didn’t spoil his joy by telling him that he would fall a bit short of cash for a car!

Just for the record, he was thinking of buying a real-life size car… LOL

So #grateful for the memories.

“Love is the greatest gift that one generation can leave another.”~Richard Garnett