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.”

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.

 

Money Bags Year 2020

I had met a girl, a long time back, in India. It was the year 2011. She had this ‘spiritual’ group. She said it was about Reiki. I had no idea that Reiki involved prayer groups. They had prayer circles all over the country, according to her, and her group in G’gaon, connected with one in Mumbai.

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These prayer warriors would be online and you could request them to say prayers for you or anyone or any situation you wanted prayers for. I had no idea who they worshipped. According to them, it was all Reiki! And I was left with that vague explanation.

What I learned, after asking around, Reiki wasn’t this. I attended a few of her group meetings but stopped when I found it didn’t mean anything; there was nothing to learn. No knowledge being imparted either. If all one had to do was sit in a circle on the carpet, offload something bothering you by speaking out, write whatever problem or anxiety you were burdened with, and crumple the paper and throw it in the bin placed in the center, and finally hold hands and meditate, I was fine with meditating and praying on my own! I dropped out of the group.

But, I kept up the social connection with her. We didn’t meet often except for visits on festival days. I don’t communicate with her anymore.

Here’s one email she’d sent me in 2011.

The year 2011 – is called as Money bags Year

In the Year 2011 July has

….5 Fridays,
….5 Saturdays
….5 Sundays.
And this happens once every 823 years.

This is called money bags.

This year we’re going to experience four unusual dates.

1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11

And that’s not all…

AMAZING ACTIVITY

Take the last two digits of the year in which you were born –
Now add it to the age you will be/are this year…….

The results will be 111 for everyone in the whole world.

This is the year of the Money!!!

Do you see any connection with money? And this was supposed to be sent to 8 people or face bad luck!

I didn’t realize, I had written about this Money Bags Year thingy in my journal! I happened to find it as I was rifling through some of my old notes, journals, and notebooks. I found it so silly that people would actually believe such things! Well, it certainly wasn’t a Money bags year for me that year, or any other year, for that matter! But I guess I can’t complain because I didn’t send it on to anyone else. I’m not an idiot!

So I said different things to different people in the group to see how they’d respond.

To those I said I never sent it to eight people, they would pull down the corners of their mouth, shrug their shoulders and say…

“Well, you should have! How can you say it’s BS if you didn’t send it?”

To those, I said I did, there would be a blank stare and another rejoinder with a shrug…

“I don’t know. Maybe you didn’t believe it!

How convenient 🙂

Anyway, since this was the first time I had got anything like this in the mail, it was a funny thing. And by the way, not even one of those who believed in this had any specific reason to support their belief. It’s funny how someone can believe that a year with a particular number of Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays could become a magnet for money.

The explanation is so much nonsense. And the group that was sharing it, and telling me to believe it, consisted of educated folk working in good positions in big companies. How could they be so silly! 

It’s so easy to verify these things, and yet, there are people blindly believing anything and everything without trying to verify it. 

As for me, I was having an out-of-money experience! That was the only (dis)connection I found to money… I had more pictures in the pockets of my wallet where the money used to be. And trust me, I found it easy to meet expenses, I found them everywhere I went.

Methinks, if they received this message with some mumbo jumbo, they’d have believed it too and sent it to 8 people!: “The safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket.”

I heard that even now there’s a similar one doing the rounds for May 2020! I’ve attached an excerpt from the article and you can read more about it. The link is below.

The 823 Years Myth

If you have an email or a social media account, chances are that you have come across a viral post that claims an upcoming month has a rare combination of weekdays. Share it, the message states, or beware of some bad luck.

A recent version goes something like this:

May 2020 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. This happens only once every 823 years. The Chinese call it “silver pockets full” or “money bags.”

The email is partially right. May 2020 does have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, and so does May 2848. But this is neither special nor unusual. You won’t need to wait for another 823 years to see this weekday combination to occur in the month of May. Just 6 more years, because in 2026, May also has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays.

A calendar month that contains 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays actually occurs nearly every year— October 2021, July 2022, and December 2023 all have the same weekday pattern. https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/823-years.html

And that’s a wrap for the day!

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

 

 

 

Those Were The Days

I received this poem from a friend, and I loved it! I liked the touch of humor. So I’m sharing it, and I hope it clicks with some of you.

 

Those Were The Days – ‘Old Girls’

I’m normally a social girl

I love to meet my mates

But lately with the virus here

We can’t go out the gates.

 

You see, we are the oldies now

We need to stay inside

If they haven’t seen us for a while

They’ll think we’ve upped and died.

 

They’ll never know the things we did

Before we got this old

There wasn’t any Facebook

So not everything was told.

 

We may seem sweet, old ladies

Who would never be uncouth

But we grew up in the 60’s –

If you only knew the truth!

 

There was sex, and drugs, and rock ‘n roll

The pill and miniskirts

 We smoked, we drank, we partied

And were quite outrageous flirts.

 

Then we settled down, got married

And turned into someone’s mum,

Somebody’s wife, then nana,

Who on earth did we become?

 

We didn’t mind the change of pace

Because our lives were full

But to bury us before we’re dead

Is like a red rag to a bull!

 

So here you find me stuck inside

For 4 weeks, maybe more

I finally found myself again

Then I had to close the door!

 

It didn’t really bother me

I’d while away the hour

I’d bake for all the family

But I’ve got no bloody flour!

 

Now Netflix is just wonderful

I like a gutsy thriller

I’m swooning over Idris

Or some random sexy killer.

 

At least I’ve got a stash of booze

For when I’m being idle

There’s wine, and whisky, even gin,

If I’m feeling suicidal!

 

So, let’s all drink to lockdown

To recovery and health

And hope this bloody virus

Doesn’t decimate our wealth.

 

We’ll all get through the crisis

And be back to join our mates

Just hoping I’m not far too wide

To fit through the flaming gates!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Minutes -tiny conversations

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The Two-Minute Wait

The twins were over eighteen months, and one-word or two-word conversations jerked along in English, Spanish, and Hindi. One day, Miraaya, the younger of the twins, wanted something, and she wanted it right now. She was getting impatient and I saw a tantrum coming up.

In an effort to stall it, I lifted my hand and patted the air gently and said, “Wait, wait,” and then, holding up two fingers, I continued, “Two minutes.” And I repeated that to make sure she got it.

“Two minutes?” she asked holding up two fingers.

“Yes, baby, please wait for two minutes,” I said emphasizing ‘wait.’

“Wait,” she echoed, patting the air gently the same way she had seen me do. I smiled in answer.

Whatever it was that had to get done, I forget what now, took longer than two minutes, but it didn’t bother me because Mia certainly wouldn’t know how long two minutes was. Well, that’s what I assumed.

The next morning, she woke up early and I went to her cot to greet her. She looked like a sleepy, disheveled cherub.

“Good morning, my little birdie. Morning, morning!” I said cheerily. She didn’t give the usual response. So I bent to hug her. 

“Wait, wait,” she said patting the air with her little hand, “two minutes?”

“Ok.” What now, I wondered highly amused. 

Then, laboriously, she hauled herself up and lifting her arms high demanded, “Dodi.”

She wanted me to carry her and used the Hindi word ‘godi’, pronouncing it her way. I lifted her out of the cot and put her down.

She took a leisurely walk around the house and came and stood in front of me.

“Morning, morning!” she smiled.

I had waited for more than two minutes! Was she telling me something?!

 

THE TWO-MINUTE ARGUMENT

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Amaara, the older twin can be quite assertive, most times, especially when she thinks she is right. Not one to give up without an argument or demonstration of some kind when vocabulary fails, she engaged me in an argument one day.

They were watching one of their TV shows and “The wheels of the bus” rhyme came up. She looked at it and knit her brows. The nanny had put on a different channel and the presentation wasn’t the same. The bus looked more like a van.

“Car,” she announced, pointing to the TV.

“Oh no, that’s a bus,” I said, deliberately baiting her.

“Car,” she insisted.

“Bus,” I stressed keeping a straight face, which was hard as suppressed laughter threatened to break free. She had taken the bait.

We bandied our opinions for a while until she lost her cool.

She drew her chubby little face closer to mine and in a loud voice and no-nonsense tone declared with finality, “Car!”

Unflinchingly, I brought my face close to hers and said firmly, but in a lower tone, “Bus!”

A staring match ensued. She was the first to turn away. Her little face showed confusion. She didn’t know how to react. She opted for diversion.

“Papa?” she asked.

“Office,” came my quick response.

“Mama?”

“At office, too.”

She repeated these questions a couple of times more. Then paused for a second or two. She had come to some conclusion. She leaned towards me again.

“Bus,” she said and smiled. I was surprised at how she resolved the whole thing. Small as she was, she acted like an adult!

I laughed and cuddled my little teddy bear.

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SLIP OF THE TONGUE AND GENTLE CORRECTION

We, the twins and I, were watching Gazoon, a cartoon featuring animals. It doesn’t have any dialogues or songs, so I had to do a running commentary and add tones, inflections, and drama to the whole show verbally. 

One evening, while the girls were having their dinner, Gazoon was on and I was going full swing with my narrative.

Hisssss...there comes the snake… he’s scary…oooh oh!”

“Scary…oooh,” and Miraaya brought up her clenched fists under her chin and faked a shiver!”

“Stomp…stomp…stomp…here comes the Elephant and there’s Cock-a-doodle-doo sitting on his head! Hahaha! So funny.”

“Cockadoo…doo, so funny,” they chorused and laughed.

“And what’s this? Someone’s coloring the clouds! Look, it’s a zebra…he’s painting the clouds.”

“Sky,” Miraaya quietly corrected me. She didn’t know what clouds were, she only knew ‘sky.’ So in her mind, I had made a mistake. I thought I’d show her clouds later and continued.

“Okay, sky,” I picked up from where I’d left off.

I looked at Miraaya, she seemed quite chuffed. I continued…

“Yes, and the giraffe is coloring the sky…” I got no further.

“Zebra,” Amaara quipped confidently. She knew she was right and her expression said it all. No scope for argument here.

“What?” I ask distracted. “Oh, yes, it is a zebra!” I laughed and they joined me.

I knew why I was laughing, I suspect they knew too! They’d won a point without any counter-arguments.

 

 

She Fell… We Laughed!

Mummy was all of 4’9” tall. That should be more like ‘short’ than tall, but for all her pint-size stature she packed a giant image and not once did I ever perceive her as short, as long as I was a kid.

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Mummy got tickled very easily. Even the silliest of jokes would get her in splits. And so it was only natural that any kind of goof-up, even someone tripping and falling or tumbling would make her laugh first and help later. She always helped, with tears rolling down her cheeks….well so what if they were squeezed out by laughter! So it only stands to reason that all of us kids also have the same foible. I wonder if foibles are contagious! Let’s not digress and get along with the tale.

To start at the beginning, this happened in Delhi. We were living in Moti Bagh. One day we decided to take the short-cut to the taxi stand. My elder brother and I were walking ahead and as we came to the rather wide and deep gutter, we jumped over it effortlessly, without interrupting our conversation. We had carried on the conversation and went through the motions of walking, jumping over the gutter without consciously paying attention to what we were doing or to our surroundings, for that matter.

A few yards later, I turned to look for Mummy and she was nowhere to be seen. In typical little girl fashion, I panicked. Where had she vanished? Kidnapped! The thought immediately sprang into my wildly adventurous mind.

“She was walking behind us,” I gasped as we ran back, looking left and right for any sight of her. I stopped to catch my breath. We were a yard or two short of the gutter. She was nowhere! Now my brother was beginning to worry.

“Let’s ask the taxi drivers he if they’ve seen her,” he said looking towards the taxi stand. “Maybe she’s already there.”

“But how could she be there when she was behind us and we’re not there yet?”

For a few seconds, we were totally flummoxed and couldn’t make head or tail of the situation we found ourselves in. We were just a couple of minutes away from approaching a traffic cop, when lo and behold, our mother rises up from under the earth it seemed!

There, before our eyes, getting up inside the gutter was our mother. We were dumbstruck and for a moment didn’t react beyond open-mouthed, wide-eyed bewilderment. Then we ran to her.

Thankfully, it wasn’t the rainy season and the gutter was dry! The relief and the sight of her emerging from the gutter had a huge comic effect, and I burst out laughing. Jasper, the good old soul that he is, stifled his mirth and stooped to give her a hand up.

“Mummy, what happened? I was so scared you’d been kidnapped!” I said.

She gave me a look that said, ‘Look at you… you don’t look scared let alone worried!’ She appeared more upset than hurt. I gathered she wasn’t injured. But why was she so angry? Was it us, my brother and I, because we walked on ahead? Were we in for a reprimanding lecture?

“Stupid tailor,” she grumbled.

“What? Why are you blaming the tailor? How did he make you fall in the gutter?” I said between giggles and short bursts of laughter.

“The idiot stitched my petticoat so narrow, I couldn’t span the width of the gutter. So when I jumped, my leg couldn’t reach the other side. And I told him to keep it wider than they normally do and to mark that instruction down in his book.”

To understand her complaint against the tailor, you need to know that she was wearing a saree. Now, a saree has a long skirt petticoat that is tied around the waist and reaches the ankles. The saree is a 5-meter long panel of material that is tucked into the petticoat, at the waist, to hold it up. The length of the material is wrapped around in a particular fashion. It was this petticoat that the tailor had stitched rather narrow. 

Thankfully, except for some minor bruises and scratches, she didn’t get hurt much.

I got the sermon. However, it wasn’t for what I had expected it to be about. It did not rankle either, but it did prompt me to retort that she laughed too whenever I fell. I didn’t mind it since I laughed too, harder than anyone else.

It’s hard to contain my laughter at times even now, and I feel that maybe later, when one is brushed and dusted, and no physical or egoistic injuries have been sustained, a little laughter is ok. 

Thinking back to this incident, I wondered why laughter gets triggered when it seems apparent one shouldn’t laugh in a particular situation. I recalled the Charlie Chaplain and Laurel and Hardy comedies we’d grown up watching. How we’d howl with laughter when someone fell or when they’d knock each other down. In a way, did it condition us to find comedy in such incidents?

So I googled it. And this is the scientific explanation I found. As it turns out, it isn’t about being mean or uncaring. It’s about “play frames” and incongruity. here’s an excerpt:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ask-the-brains-why-do-we-laugh/

EVERY HUMAN develops a sense of humor, and everyone’s taste is slightly different. But certain fundamental aspects of humor help explain why a misstep may elicit laughter.

The first requirement is the “play frame,” which puts a real-life event in a nonserious context and allows for an atypical psychological reaction. Play frames explain why most people will not find it comical if someone falls from a 10-story building and dies: in this instance, the falling person’s distress hinders the establishment of the nonserious context. But if a woman casually walking down the street trips and flails hopelessly as she stumbles to the ground, the play frame may be established, and an observer may find the event amusing.

Another crucial characteristic is incongruity, which can be seen in the improbable or inconsistent relation between the “punch line” and the “body” of a joke or experience. Falls are incongruent in the normal course of life in that they are unexpected. So despite our innate empathetic reaction—you poor fellow!—our incongruity instinct may be more powerful. Provided that the fall event establishes a play frame, mirth will likely ensue.

However, I still can’t explain why in some instances when I fall… slip, stumble… I find it funny and feel laughter rising up, and sometimes, I feel embarrassed, and yet, I feel laughter rising up! There’s a difference between the two waves of laughter, though.

Perhaps that is why, when #she #fell… #we #laughed. The incident brought in both the “play frame” and the incongruity.

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Forty-five Minutes Make An Hour

Being a grandma is great, but at times, it gives you flashbacks just when you’re trying to explain how important Mathematics is to your young grandkids!

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“Some advice: Keep the flame of curiosity and wonderment alive, even when studying for boring exams. That is the well from where we scientists draw our nourishment and energy. And also, learn the math. Math is the language of nature, so we have to learn this language.” ~Michio Kaku

As a child, growing up in Cochin (now known as Kochi), I was introduced to numbers in Lower KG and got to know them better in Upper KG. It wasn’t so bad. I didn’t mind them but I liked the alphabet better. Then came Class 1 or Grade 1, as it is called these days. Now I was introduced to single-digit addition sums! Cool! I had ten fingers to count on and it was fun though it would get tricky when the total ran beyond the digits I had on my hands! That’s when it got my goat!

If I found that exasperating, Class 2 taught me something more… double digit addition and single-digit subtraction and Multiplication Tables! We were introduced to number 1 & number 2 tables. I thought it was a breeze when I was on the 1 table. With the number 2 table, I struggled a bit but got the hang of it. It was easy while writing, “Simple, add two to the previous answer”, said my bro. Just when I thought I was a whiz at it, they started the oral test at the end of the term; we were quizzed in the oral tests in the class!

I thought the teachers were cruel. My mother thought I was being stupid because she feared I’d lose marks and my rank with my low arithmetic scores in the final examination.

 

So, after HW (homework), I’d have to revise arithmetic. This meant, my brother would go out to play an hour before I did. Not fair! The best part is, after a day or two, he felt bad about it too.

Study time was usually an hour for both of us, my brother and me, except when I had to revise Arithmetic. Then it would extend to an hour more.

We were never supervised. You see, we were Christian children and so my mother expected us to be “obedient and good.” Well, I must mention that we were obedient and good kids. I must also reiterate, we were just kids too, minus the adjectives!

There were days when math was too tough to tackle and the games the kids were playing outside a lot more fun. So the devil on my shoulder would start whispering in my ear… and hey presto! the hour would have only forty-five minutes.

 

Now, I didn’t know how to read the time on the clock beyond the hours because minutes and seconds confused me, but my brother could tell the time. So, I’d use all my kid sister wiles, emotional blackmail et al, and get him to put the clock ahead. Of course, I’d want it bucking ahead by a bigger margin but he warned me that it would be obvious.

It was all I could do to keep a straight face when mummy would re-set the time on the clock and grumble about it running ahead and rant at the poor quality of things.

All this was fun until I grew up and lost precious percentage on marks due to poor grades in Mathematics. If only I had put myself to it more seriously at the start; if only folks had been more patient with my Math problems; if only I hadn’t put the clock ahead. So many ifs and buts. So much regret.

I was good with my Math scores in the primary classes, then on, it became difficult and the Math teachers were extra strict, short on patience, and quick with punishments; even corporal punishments were permitted!

Although, I was never punished, I was scared to death when anyone got it. This made it not only difficult for me to learn the subject but it also served to heighten my hatred for it. I scraped through my exams but my low scores brought down my overall grades and percentage. Needless to say what it did to my rank! Mummy had been right.

From being a contender for the first three ranks in class, I was sliding down to the 7th or 8th, and then to the 10th. It didn’t matter that we had over forty children in the class, I had lost my position. Mummy was not at all happy and told me so in as many words. This was a big blow to my self-esteem as ranks mattered a lot in our day. Mummy would berate me and I would rather show my report card to Daddy than her.

If I kept myself going, it was only because of Daddy. I couldn’t drop Math. 

It was a compulsory subject up to grade 9. I could drop it in the next grade. For that, I had to pass this subject, or repeat the same class… no promotion to grade 10. He said my rank didn’t matter. What would matter was if I didn’t try. If I gave up. I assured him I wasn’t going to. Giving up wasn’t an option for me. Mathematics was never my subject anyway and I wanted to get rid of it even more now. That fueled my #determination!

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I studied #Mathematics, right up to the pre-secondary level (Class 9) when I had to pass Mathematics, i.e. Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry in a Board Exam! Well, I flunked in two and had to appear for Math again if I wanted to go ahead. Thankfully I got through. But I disliked the subject even more.

Then, I had reached the secondary classes and could select my subjects… three electives plus two compulsory languages. Mathematics was not one of my elected subjects. What a relief!

Needless to say, I still need my fingers to count beyond a certain number! Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But I am awful at math and anything technical. And that’s not funny but it’s ok!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Wonder Why…

I wonder how many like to write journals and how many also like to pick one up at random and read an entry written years back, perhaps. Well, I do. I like it because first of all, I don’t remember many of my thoughts or observations I made, maybe even a few months back, and reading old entries is often an enjoyable, at times enlightening, and often entertaining activity. But what I value most is the way I can track my growth through the years. The changes I’ve made. The ways I’ve adapted to the tough times; there were changes, many changes. If I’ve learned through my ups and downs… through my mistakes.

Here’s one 8-year-old entry which is a mixed bag of “wonder’ moments! 

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Sunday, July 31, 2011… This Sunday morning, I saw a middle-aged couple on their balcony. The man was sitting and reading the paper while his wife colored his hair. Their retriever was watching the whole process too. I wonder… would this man do the same for his wife? Color her hair while she sits and reads the paper in their balcony?

I observed the pigeons that live in the nooks of the apartment blocks all around us. They sure are lovey-dovey couples! But it’s the doves that symbolize love and peace, not the gawky pigeon. I wonder…

Why don’t I like Sundays and why do I look forward to Mondays? I’m not in a regular job, so why should weekdays or weekends make any difference to me. I #wonder…

My maid loves Hindi soaps. She goes all googly eyes and flapping ears if one is playing on the TV. I don’t care for them, at least most of them, yet, I switch on a particular soap. Now, why do I do that? I wonder…

Tell me to fill in a form, any form, and I get an anxiety attack! I’ve filled N number of forms; just two recently, but the stress stays. Now, why does that happen to me? I wonder…

I’m terrified of lizards… house lizards aka gecko. We have a lot of them in all sizes, crawling up and down the walls, overhead on the ceilings, hiding behind things and jumping out when startled, giving me a near heart attack! I don’t recall any frightening incident concerning them or any such thing. But I even get nightmares, at times, with lizards in them! Makes me wonder why…

I love to sing in the kitchen while I’m engrossed with cooking. One hears of bathroom singers but I wonder why no one mentions kitchen singers.

I rarely feel lonely when I’m alone. Most of my loneliest moments have been those when I had people around me. I wonder why…

I was with a group of teachers (women) recently, and they were all talking at the same time. It was a cacophony of voices and I wondered who was listening to whom and if anyone caught what was being said as strings of sentences flew across each other.

All of a sudden, one of them looked at ‘quiet’ me and said apologetically, “We’re teachers you know, we can’t stay quiet for long and neither can we sit still for long. It’s the bane of the job.”

To which I replied, “I’ve taught for over twenty-two years, I’ve never suffered the ‘bane of the job.’ I wonder why not.

I go out for meals alone, I shop alone, I travel alone, I live alone… but I can’t watch a movie alone in a cinema hall! I keep wondering why…

When people ask me what I do the whole day at home… I start to wonder…

I’ve been walking, religiously, for half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening. Is the lard gonna melt? Don’t even suggest that I walk longer. (My condition limits me to this time at present) Then I remember how it would take me 10-12 painful minutes to walk even 15-20 steps and by then I’d be drained and could do no more. I take heart at my progress and #wonder at God’s #goodness towards me.

There are moments when words seem inadequate, so I employ tears. I’m moved to tears with joy. I’m moved to tears by anger. I’m moved to tears by beautiful music, songs or poetry. I cry when someone I know cries. My eyes get wet reading sad stories and the tears flow when I laugh! Why do my tears have to speak when I’m pretty articulate? I wonder…

During the day, I rarely miss company but when evening falls, especially at evening tea, I would love to have good company. I wonder about these evening blues. 

I needed some passport snaps, which meant I’d have to go to the photographer; which also meant, I’d have to call a cab; which meant I’d be paying more for the cab than for ten copies of my PP pictures. On the advice of someone, I went to a small photography shop in the market near my place. It was called Light Of Life (LOL). Yes, they had that included, in parenthesis, on the signboard! My pics were clicked but they said I would get them in the evening. They also said I’d have to pay in advance, I did, and went home thrilled that I had saved money. 

I forgot about the pics by evening! When I went to pick up the pictures, the next day, the shop wasn’t there. Well, the structure was there, but the business wasn’t. They had shut down overnight and vamoosed! Well, LOL! I’m laughing out loud!! I wonder why… 

I used to have an elephant’s memory (that’s how a good memory is referred to) but now I just have its body and there’s nothing to wonder about that… I’m actually smiling, you know. I’ve finally found something I don’t have to wonder about today, and I can wrap up this piece and look forward to a great week!

 

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