Make Pudding, Make Merry!

Christmas is a time for familial bonding, love and cheer. It is a true celebration of all that we hold dear. It is also a time when we ought to reflect on all the great things we are blessed with and be deeply grateful.

I remember so vividly, when I was younger, my mum would have the gardener bring out the real-life Christmas Tree we had growing in our garden, plant it into a large, beautiful pot, and have it occupy pride of place in an alcove of our living room.

This was followed by the our joint ritual of tree-decoration. It was a fun project that we undertook together, each year. And the process of the tree’s ornamentation itself, symbolised to me, the true spirit and meaning of the festival. It brought us closer together. It made our bond even stronger. The fact that we ended up with a beautifully embellished Christmas Tree was the bonus. The real fun and festivity was in the act of doing-up the tree.

I must confess that some of this bonhomie and spirit of togetherness has been lost in recent years. I see a growing number of parents and children ‘celebrating’ Christmas yes, though the method has changed. It seems to have become more about being out-and-about, at fairs, festivals and carnivals where one shops, eats, and makes merry. And while that is a perfectly legitimate way of spending the holiday, it does tend to miss out on a personal essence.

My hope and prayer this Christmas then is for parents and children to return to a more innocent time. To do some activities at home, together. It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate tree. You could play some games together. Make a New Year Card with the family. Or better still, make Pudding!

Merry Christmas & lots of love!

The Parent TRAP!

Just the other night, Anuja and I went out on a date! It was a good six months since we’d been out at night sans our baby Krisha. As we ordered our drinks and sat down (in peace), it was the strangest sensation. Not having to run after Krisha, or feed her, or walk her, or pacify her, or socialize her. We were on a date, with NOTHING TO DO!

Its not mystery what happened next… We talked mostly about our daughter! And that is what happens with most new/first time parents I reckon. Because we have had our child relatively late (at least compared to our friends), we would always wonder, be bored, be alarmed even, when they’d just go on and on and on about their respective kids. Its as if there was no other facet to their lives, nothing else they could speak of. And now, we’re pretty much sailing the same choppy waters! Poetic justice? Naah…

Because that’s the thing about parenting. All the while Pishu (Krisha’s pet name) awake, one wishes she’d sleep (not for any other reason except needing a break, physically and mentally). But the moment she knocks off, we miss her and wish she’d wake up! Its such a contradictory feeling.

Anuja and I have screamed hoarse in the past year about not getting enough alone time, enough ‘adult’ time, enough ‘self’ time. Truth be told. This is more out of the innate human instinct to crib. If we really asked ourselves seriously, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We wouldn’t trade our daughter for anything on the PLANET!

In fact, if anything, having Krisha I feel has brought us closer. We’re a happy, merry threesome now. We do everything together. Shopping, playing, reading, listening to music. We try not to baby-talk and I suspect that’s the reason she’s already picked up many words that seem to be beyond her age. She is perceptive, naughty, delightful, intelligent, inquisitive, strong-headed. And I think all of this comes from the fact that if not us both, at least one of us, especially Anuja, is with her every waking moment. We don’t believe in maids, don’t have one, don’t intend to.

Why? Because we’re just loving being in the proverbial ‘parent trap’! ūüôā

A Bond Enforced

The ‘joint family’ system in India has been the norm for a very very long time. There are absolute believers and there are staunch naysayers. Be that as it may, fact remains, despite many young couples moving from their native-towns to the metros and settling by themselves, often times making them DINKS (Double Income No Kids, to use some technical jargon); most of India still persists with the joint family system. For my non-Indian readership, let me quickly explain. This is when after a couple is married, the new bride moves to the husband’s home, which in turn in his parents’ home, to live together with his family and him.

Now traditionally, this presents endless possibilities of conflict, at the same time, also offers opportunities to shared living that can be extremely advantageous as well. Until recently, ‘joint family’ typically meant multiple families living together. So lets say an 80 year old patriarch, his two brothers, and several families in their respective family trees down the line, would cohabit.

Now though, this definition has evolved. Even if it is JUST the couple living with the man’s parents, it is considered a ‘joint’ set-up. But I am not here to share my views on the good or bad about this system itself. I want to simply state that I have been wildly lucky in one crucial aspect of this entire living structure – the rather controversial¬†saas-bahu (daughter-in-law, mother-in-law) dynamic. In my observation, the best case scenario (in most cases) is that both individuals make certain compromises and coexist in superficial harmony for the sake of the greater familial good. The worst cases, don’t even ask. Fighting, bickering, arguments, fall outs, and smack in the middle of this tug-of-war, the husband/son.

I must have done something right in my previous life, some good karma I gathered along the way, that has resulted in a no-friction situation in my home. And it is in equal measure, thanks to the temperaments of both parties. My mum has been anything but the archetypal mother-in-law. She has no ‘demands’, is chilled out, and easygoing. She is also quite laid back. No rules of “only wear sarees and salwar kameezes” here! In fact, my wife and my mother share ‘shorts’, which may not seem like a big deal but you’ll have to take my word for it. Especially in the¬†marwari¬†(the rather conservative community to which I belong), it is a BIG deal. Similarly, my wife, is miles away from the stereotypical¬†bahu. No demands either, easy going, chilled out. This effectively puts an end to any possibility of conflict. And that, I can’t stress enough, is one of the most liberating situations to be in, within a joint family set-up. Each evening, when I return from whatever meeting or class that I’ve been taking, I invariably find the two of them lounging on our floor, sipping some wine together, as jazz softly builds the mood for relaxation in the background!

Seeing them, I only wish that more mother and daughter-in-law duos were this way, and did not have to enact, a bond, enforced!

Kinship!

My brother Vinayak was born after much heartache and prayer. My mum had many medical complications but she soldiered on and finally, nine years after your’s truly, arrived a tiny, pink lump in the shape of Vinayak. The younger, more well known brother of Kartik (quite true to our mythological pasts where Ganesh, aka Vinayak, was indeed the much revered and known God rather than his older brother Lord Kartik). Joking aside, I FINALLY had a much-yearned sibling.¬† My very-Marwari¬†family was now blessed with TWO Golden-Egg laying Geese, the perfect¬†family! (perhaps they had counted their chickens a tad prematurely, though that’s another matter altogether!)

The¬†huge age difference though established a less sibling-like, and more parental status quo between him and I. As the years went by and I was at Hindu College in Delhi, Vinayak’s stint at my own alma mater Doon, was almost entirely my responsibility. There too, Vinayak, who by now had grown into an astute young man, figured out JUST how to take advantage of the relationships I’d built at school with masters and other staff. The simple fact, my younger brother was way, way cooler than I could have dreamed of being!

Why am I going on and on about this? Simply to demonstrate that as brothers and sisters, we feel an unconditional love for our siblings, quite unlike any other. Him and I may not speak regularly, both busy with our respective lives; mine here in Jaipur Teaching & Writing, Vinayak in New York at the cusp of finishing is MBA – but none of that matters. Despite being a near-decade older, I am ‘happy to be bullied’. And I suspect this is the case with most siblings.

I love Vinayak no matter what, and will continue to do so. And I want to leave you with a little piece that I wrote, one I often share with my Writing Students to demonstrate writing a short passage on the sibling-prompt, that sums up not just mine, I’m certain, the emotions of many siblings.¬† As they say in the biz – ‘inspired by true events’.. This one’s for you my darling brother.. You brat, I love you to death.. Enjoy!

‘Kinship’

Deep in deliberation as I struggled to find words to my thoughts, desperately trying to finish the last chapter of a book I was writing for a jewelry-client, my computer pings to inform me of an incoming email. My concentration rudely shattered, I awaken from my editorial-slumber and open the incoming communication. It reads frantically… ‚ÄúPlease please can you write this 500 word essay.. I’ve written down all the important points.. Have to submit it in class in 2 hours… I know you are busy.. but please please.. thanks.. I owe you big time!‚ÄĚ Somewhat irritated, and rather reluctantly, I open a fresh document on Microsoft word and start banging at the computer keys, shifting tracks diametrically from writing elaborate verse on fine jewelry, to a hard-factual paper on a business case-study. I carefully scrutinize each point from the reference email and knit an essay around the staccato, individual inputs, weaving them into a wholesome story. An hour hence, I send off the write-up in the reply to the ‘urgent’ email. I’ve lost my chain of thought in reference to my earlier work. And now, my 3 month old baby is up, wailing, and swinging her arms wildly for prompt attention. My original client calls. I’ve lost the business. But that’s what we do for our brothers!