Déjà vu

Every once in a while history repeats itself and takes us by surprise. Few days ago, my kid and I got into a fight, which led to her announcing that she will go camping by herself. It was equivalent of saying, she will leave the house and go away. It upset me tremendously, but drew a chuckle from my husband. Needless to say I was not amused by his reaction and demanded an explanation. He remembered this anecdote my parents told him about me….

Many years ago, when I was around the same age as my kid, I had an argument with my mother and grandmother. I am not sure, but it could be related to some serious issues such as having a slightly more desirable menu for lunch or enforcing television rights. Anyways as always, the women held their ground and were unwilling to negotiate. So in my anger, I threatened to leave home at that instance. Big words from a tiny human! I thought my loaded sentence would bring them to their knees. Instead, both my mother and grandmother guffawed . This was definitely not the reaction I expected. I was infuriated with this insult. I repeated the sentence, a little louder, slower and slightly more emphatically. My mother and grandmother decided to call my bluff and told me to go ahead.

I did not think I would have to act on my threat. But now it became a matter of pride. After all I was a person of my word. If my own family didn’t take me seriously, how could I expect Micki, Pinky, Ruku and the rest of the group to elect me as the leader of the gang. I was left with no choice. I grabbed my school bag (it was the only bag I had, and I had watched enough movies to know that every time you stage a walk out, you must always carry a bag). My mother and grandmother sniggered some more.

Main sach mein jaa rahi hoon” (I am really going to leave).

Haan haan, jaao; dhyaan se jaana” (Yes yes, go ahead; go carefully).

I stomped my foot and headed towards the door. I noticed the door was locked, I was short and the latch was high. Maybe I could wriggle out of this…

My mother noticed the same and probably thought like me. She unlocked the door for me and asked me to carry on. Dammit! There was no turning back now. I was in it too deep. So I walked down the long flight of stairs, wondering how this was not playing out as shown in those Bollywood movies. I swear, every one of those scenes had the family members running after the upset party, begging and pleading them to change their mind and stay back. What the hell was wrong here?

While I was contemplating my next steps, my grandmother and mother went to the balcony and noticed a waste collector, sorting out some trash. My grandmother called out to him and requested him to look out for a little girl, who was about to step out of the building and yell at her as loudly as possible. The man was extremely thrilled to be part of this wicked character building plan.

As I stepped out of my building, I saw this burly middle aged man looking in my direction and yelling at me at the top of his lungs, while my grandmother and mother watched from the balcony above.

“YEH CHHOTA BACCHA AKELE KYU GHOOM RAHA HAIN? BHAAGO YAHAN SE, CHUPCHAP GHAR JAO!!! (Why is this little kid roaming around on her own? Get back to your house right now!!!)”

I froze for 5 seconds, gulped some air and then turned around immediately. I ran back home, bawling inconsolably. All adults exchanged thumbs up. My mother and grandmother waited at the door with open arms. I let them know I had decided to stay.

Years passed, I never heard the end of it. I even questioned their parenting skills –

What if that man or someone else kidnapped me?

We were quite sure, you would not have reached too far or anyone would have bothered to kidnap you. Besides we were willing to take the risk!”.

Well, what can I say, I never ever tried leaving home again, even in jest.

Coming back to our fight in present times, after I made my husband tighten the window frames. I suggested my daughter camp out in our backyard by herself.

You can go camping in the backyard, just watch out for the deer poop and spiders“.

Wait a minute, there are spiders outside in the wild?

Yes.

And deer poop?

Yes.

Aren’t you scared a deer may take me away?

We are willing to take that risk!

Uhh, yeah.. no.. I changed my mind about camping. I ‘d rather stay home.”

Perfect.

Stage

Someone recently told me that all the women in my family had very strong personalities. That person meant the women on my maternal side. However, in this post I will talk about my paternal grandmother, my Thamma. She was Thamma to all my friends and also the other youngsters in my neighborhood.

Thamma was a powerful character. For the era she belonged to, she was way ahead of her times. She was a proud working woman, progressive, spoke couple of languages, a go-getter and someone who did as she pleased with a devil-may-care attitude. She was also exceptionally beautiful, with a natural flair for fashion. When she wore her sunglasses with her saree, she could give the current crop of stars a run for their money. She was not your typical sweet old grandma who molly-cuddled her kids/grandkids and fed them handmade snacks regularly. On the contrary, she never enjoyed house chores or cooking too much. Her interests lay in travel, socializing, enjoying good times with friends and family, pets and theater. In fact she was almost a part of a movie, but had to drop those plans, when she realized she was pregnant with my father and uncle. She had her flaws, but like I mentioned earlier, she didn’t care, she lived her life on her own terms. Like the time she adopted a pup from the streets, wrapped it in her coat while sitting on a bus and got her home and announced the newest member of the family. No questions, no discussion. Obviously, my grandfather was not too happy about this addition to the family, especially since he was not even consulted once. But that was how it was and he learnt to accept Tipsy. As graceful as she was, she was also a little patakha when she flared up. We were all a little scared of her temper. My dad and uncle till today swear by the punishments and often the whacks that came their way every time they acted up. There was a rule in their house, and that was, if a complaint came home regarding any of the boys to their mother, they would suffer the consequences. Having said that the rule to the outside world was – if you have a problem with my boys, you bring it to me and I will address it, if you lay a finger on my boys, you will suffer the consequences! Often because of her outbursts, my uncle and father would tease her and say it’s the Jat gene in her that reveals itself (She was half Bengali and half Haryanvi). That joke continues till today, whenever my daughter takes a passionate stand and doesn’t back down, resulting in her dad exclaiming its the famous gene expressing itself.

Coming back to Thamma; although the movie plans didn’t materialize, she did pursue theater in her spare time and the entire family supported her. She would participate in small plays and community events and my grandfather always encouraged her and cheered her on. Then one day the twins, who were still small kids, decided to grace with their presence and accompanied their father to watch their mother perform on stage. This is an anecdote that every member of my family is familiar with, because it had been recounted that many times by my grandmother. And it goes like this… in the scene, another actor had to yell at the main protagonist (Thamma) and after shedding some tears, she had to break into a monologue. Alas, the scene and her moment didn’t go as planned. You see, as soon as the first actor said his piece, my valiant father, who was probably five or six at that time, jumped out of his seat and started shouting back at the actor who dared to yell at his mother in front of her family. To his young mind, this slight was unbearable and the dutiful son needed to stand up for his mother. This egged his brother on, who decided two loud voices were better than one, to drive the point home. My poor grandfather scrambled and tried his best to get the situation under control. All this while Thamma had to show much restraint from reacting to the ruckus being created in the front row. She always ended the story by saying that night was a very embarrassing night and how her kids were not allowed to come and watch her plays for a very long time. Sometimes she would also emphasize rather dramatically to us that maybe she could have been a very famous actress and then glare at my father before all of us would burst out laughing. I know that although every time she narrated this story and accused my father for being so unruly, she was secretly thrilled at the idea that her little boy didn’t think twice before standing up to someone bigger or worry about the consequences, just for his mother. And that feeling of pride and joy trumped any small embarrassments of that day.

I realized that feeling too. My little one is a very rambunctious kid herself. Few weeks back, I participated in a cultural dance. I am not a trained dancer myself, although I do enjoy dancing. I got on the stage after a long time and a bunch of us amateurs performed. Unfortunately for us, there was a mix-up with the music and the wrong tape got played and a small chaos ensued. While most of us made few mistakes, mine appeared to be the most glaring and visible. I just stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity. I was mortified. At the same time, my boisterous little one was getting louder and more difficult to manage for my husband. She didn’t want to stay with the audience and wanted to dance on stage with her Mamma. Although the audience was polite, and my husband cheered and applauded, it was still such an embarrassing evening, far from what I had imagined. Until bedtime, when my little one came and gave me a tight hug and told me excitedly that I looked so beautiful, my dress looked amazing and she loved the way I danced on stage and it was such a great evening. She insisted that next time I take her along too. I was delighted and felt so proud as if I had climbed the Everest. Only children can make you feel like this. As I mentioned earlier, that feeling of pride and joy trumps all small embarrassments of the day.

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