Monday, September 29, 2008


There is a story my mother-in-law has often told me. About BigGeek when he was 3 years old so. They lived in Iran then and BigGeek would play with the kids in the neighborhood. One of the kids belonged to a baggage loader and one day, BigGeek went to this kid’s house and ate some ice-cream. When my mother in law came to know about it, she was not happy. The loader’s family was not rich and ice-cream was a luxury. So that BigGeek did not attempt imposing on the family in the future, she decided to teach him a lesson. “Don’t you get ice cream in our home?” she asked him. “Is what I give you not enough? Do you want more ice-cream? Here, eat this.” She said plonking a huge brick of ice cream in front of BigGeek. The 3-year old, either did not get his mother’s sarcasm or got it but ignored it, in the end, however, he calmly proceeded to finish the ice-cream. One huge 1-liter brick. I have often laughed at the story – my mother-in-law has many such incidents to retell, but yesterday I almost sought solace in it. This post is going to be long. Consider yourself duly warned.

So yesterday, the day was going in a pretty routine fashion, when Chip came holding a bag of caramels (a part of the anniversary gift we got from a dear friend). “I want to eat some candy.” He said. “No, Chip, no candy, not now. It’s time for a nap.” I replied. That was enough to send Chip into a nuclear meltdown. He stomped and whined and cried. I ignored and restated my position. A few minutes later a quieter version of Chip came up to me. “Can I pee in my pants?” he asked me, defiantly. He was pushing my buttons. “Go ahead. You know where you are supposed to pee, I am not going to tell you.” I was exasperated. A few minutes later, Chip came back, with a hop in his step, wearing a fresh pair of pants. I was aghast. Thinking he was just fooling, BigGeek went to his room and found his old pants and undies, soaking wet, carefully placed in his hamper. Chip was summoned and sent to his room with a good sounding. “Think about what you have done.” Chip was whining and crying. But BigGeek shut the door to his room and told him to come back out when he was ready to apologize and behave himself.

A few minutes later, the crying turned to a request. “I want to go do poo-poo.” BigGeek, thinking it was just a ruse to get out of the room, told him to stay put and do it on the carpet. “You peed in your pants, you can poop on the carpet.” But the whine grew and a minute later, BigGeek thought Chip really did want to go. So he opened the door and told Chip, he could go to the bathroom, but had to return to his room after he was done. Chip went to the bathroom and sat and five seconds later, ran back to his room, declaring he was going to poop on the carpet. We were convinced, he was pushing our buttons, he really did not want to poop, but had just wanted to get out of his room. BigGeek turned his back and we went about doing our chores when few minutes later, Chip proclaimed cheerfully. “I am do-ne. I am do-ne.” I could not believe it. Chip had actually pooped on the carpet. I had never seen such defiance from him before. Never. At this point, I totally lost it. I smacked his bottom and told him I refused to clean his bum and the mess. I was not going to take him to India to attend his uncle’s wedding. He was to stay home while his father and I went by ourselves. At that, he started howling. We let him cry for 20 minutes. He said he was sorry that he had pooped on the carpet, but I would not budge. He said he felt like throwing up – he was crying so much – but I still would not let him step out of the room (the door was open) BigGeek cleaned the mess while I fumed. I told Chip he was to go to bed. His father and I would decide in the meanwhile what was to be done about him. Chip cried himself to sleep. It was hard for BigGeek and me to be so hard on him, but he had to learn his lesson, we thought.

An hour later, he woke up and behaved like everything was just peachy. Like nothing happened. I have him his milk and his snack and told him that he would be allowed to go with us only if he managed to behave and not throw tantrums. One more tantrum and he would have to stay back. “V-mawshi will come and give you food, but otherwise you are on your own. You can eat all the candy you want. You can watch all the TV you want” I told him. He agreed to behave himself and I thought, this was it, when an hour later he came downstairs and told me he had eaten some homeopathy pills and he was sorry and he would not do it again. I sniffed his mouth, sure enough it smelled of homeopathic pills. I went upstairs and asked BigGeek if he knew what Chip had done. BigGeek replied yes and that he had talked to Chip about it and Chip had asked BigGeek not to tell me. BigGeek had told him, that he would not tell, but Chip HAD to ‘fess up to me. Which is why Chip came down and told me what he had done and had apologized. I had enough of this. I took some blank sugar pills and told him he could eat all this “medicine” and when he was done, I would take him to the hospital and let the doctors deal with him. He started crying again, but in a few minutes started picking the sugar pills, enjoying the “candy”. I had reached the end of my tethers. I sat down Chip and told him this was it. I had enough of him. I was going to tell the recycling guys to take him and bring me a “nicer Chip.” Chip went awfully quiet. “Am I trash?” he finally asked. I looked with a lump in my throat at BigGeek and saw tears in his eyes. Three years of father hood and I had never once seen BigGeek’s eyes misting like this over Chip. “No, Chip, you are not trash, but you certainly behave like it sometimes.” I said quietly. He was still mulling over it. “Well, if you put me out and when the trash people come, I’ll ask them, am I trash? They will say, no, you are not trash, you are Chip and they won’t take me. I am not trash, I am Chip.”

Chip must have seen the color drain from my face, as I crept towards BigGeek and buried my face in his shirt. I totally broke down at that. I was heartbroken, exhausted, exasperated even defeated, yet there was a small pride in this mother’s heart. He had stood up to me and reasoned with me, calmly. Chip walked to me and gave me a kiss and said “I will be a good boy, ok? No tantrums. I won’t pee in my pants and poop on the carpet. OK?” “Well you better be” I said composing myself, “because if you are not well-behaved, you are staying home and not attending your uncle’s wedding. Also, until then, you are off candy and off your favorite movies as a punishment for your behavior. You are grounded, dude.” He nodded and BigGeek pulled him in his lap and I gave him a kiss. This will be a day to remember and I hope we reach a stage when we can laugh over it and tell Chip’s kids this story the way BigGeek’s mother tells his story. And yeah, I hope it’s a stage, this defiance. I need some new strategies to deal with it. I am woefully unprepared. I thought teenage is still a decade away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

In this rather expansive book, Phillipa Gregory recounts the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Don’t let that faze you. The narrator of the book is Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister and the king’s mistress. Its through her point of view, we get a rich glimpse of the power games at play in the 16th century English court. Almost like an inside scoop. The story of Anne Boleyn is very well known, so there is really no suspense, in terms of plot, because we all know how the story ends. Yet, Gregory manages to keep us on the edge of our seats. How did it happen? Who did it? The realpolitik of the court, the games to win the king’s favor, the spies, the wars, the diplomacy and the lack thereof and most of all the ambition spin the characters – Mary and Ann Boleyn, their brother George, the King and Queen Katherine, the courtiers, the bishops, the knights even the lowly chambermaids into a dizzying, enthralling tale.

What worked for me
The flow. The novel flows effortlessly. And is very well researched. Only if they had taught history like this in schools! The novel is also extensive in scope and while I winced at the 600+ pages before I started to read, I slowly realized that it couldn’t really be edited to something significantly smaller without sacrificing its pace. I liked the pace of the book. It starts with an execution (actually two) and ends with one. I fall for full-circle-themes like that.

From what seems a fairly routine and innocuous incident (well at least in the 16th century) of Mary Boleyn catching the King’s eye and becoming his mistress, the story unfurls the unbridled ambitions of the Boleyn family, who will literally play the field with their daughters, right under Queen Katherine’s nose. The queen’s quiet dignity and anguished struggle in response to the King’s whims and the Boleyn girls, her political acumen and astuteness, her defiance, all come alive with the character Gregory crafts. The characters are all multi-dimensional. Even the gentle, sweet Mary Boleyn has a dark side to her. And the King, who seems to get what he wants, all the time- well, he is the King after all- has a tragic side to him.

I discovered the etymology of “courtship” and “courting” while reading the book. I discovered the customs and traditions of day to day living in the 16th century England. What did people eat? How did they dress? How did women give birth? And how were they branded witches? I enjoyed the ride immensely and at the end of it was left feeling sorry for every character in the book and thanking my stars for having been born in the 20th century.

What did not work for me
Some language was too modern. Although Gregory, thankfully stays away from the 16th century English and writes her dialogues in faux-old English to set the tone, sometimes, the phrases seem too modern. What also did not work for me, were the gratuitous passages of intimate relations. Between Mary and the King, Anne and the King, Mary and her husband. Too much detail to the point it felt like reading a Harlequin romance novel.

Hot or Drop
Definitely Hot. I can’t really compare it to other historical fiction novels – the only other piece of historical fiction I have read is in Marathi called “Swami” and I read it almost 15 years ago. But I enjoyed this very intriguing book and I highly recommend it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Seventh Step

I don’t remember what I did before I met you. The days are sort of blurry. I went to school, I worked, I partied like there is no tomorrow on the weekends, but I cannot quite remember any specific details. It is all in black and white. Sort of.

You and I were married twice. To each other. Once in the US, a couple of months later in India. It was not planned so. I always had wanted a small wedding. I did not even really want a Vedic ceremony. So many of its rituals seem to have lost their context. I would have been happy signing the register and celebrating it with close family and friends, but you believed in the sanctity and purity of fire and wanted us to be married the Vedic way for that, if not anything else. And I decided not to press my point. Did it really matter how we were married? A grueling six hour ceremony, many saree changes and many untranslated chants? So be it.

But I must have wished really hard for a small ceremony. Because, soon after our engagement as my full-of-lawyers family began to enquire into where the marriage would be registered, it became apparent that it would be easier to just get it done here before we left for India. We went to the county court and got our license. I came back home and looked up a Justice of Peace and booked her for Sept.20. at 9:30 a.m. I wore turquoise Dharmavaram, the only saree I had with me. You wore a business suit. And thus we were married. No rings exchanged because, the wedding bands were already ordered for in India. The two of us and three friends as witnesses. A lot of our friends did not even know this, since it was so sudden. A close friend brought a chocolate cake to celebrate and the “reception” was held at a place dear to our hearts - a Starbucks shop - over slices of rich chocolate cake and lattes.

The funny part of our wedding was this. Our friends had decided to throw us a bachelor/bachelorette bash the next day (which was a Saturday). This had been planned for many weeks and a big junta was invited. So imagine the surprise (and I suspect the letdown) most of our friends had when we announced that we had been married by the justice of peace, the day before.

It will be six years tomorrow since that early autumn day in a county court. I look upon that day and see it as a day when we loved each other the least. For, even though our love changed and took on many different avatars, it never ceased to grow. While most husbands and wives go out for dinner or a movie on their anniversaries, or plan a trip to the beach or the mountains, we celebrated our anniversary last year at the cardiac recovery unit. You had a stent put in your heart that very same morning. The irony of that day never ceases to stun me.

But as we step into our seventh year, I hope the worst is behind us. And while I have wanted diamonds or flowers or gadgets on our anniversary before, I ask for nothing more than your health and companionship and our unity.

Happy Anniversary, love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Encounters of the Virtual Kind

The sunny Raysh and cheeky Preethi have claimed me as their BFF. Oh! Wait. Actually not Preethi. She has given this cute card to Chip, not me. Bah! What does the kid know? Huh?

The best part of blogging is the camaraderie I share with many of you. I have always envied the menfolk for the easy companionship they are able to share with their friends. No pettiness, no back biting. Well at least most of the time. And I have been lucky to have found such a circle of friends through this blog. You know who you are and this award goes to you! Thank you for your lovely friendship!

Monday, September 15, 2008


Before the movie
DotThoughts: So who wants to see Wall-E?
BigGeek: I want to!
Chip ignoring everybody.
DotThoughts: Nobody wants to watch Wall-E? OK, Baba and I are going to the theater ourselves. OK, Baba?
Chip: No, I want to watch Wall-E too!

During the movie – the first 20 minutes
Chip: I want some more popcorn.
DotThoughts: Aren’t you watching the movie?
Chip: I am! Look, that’s a trash truck.

An hour into the movie
Chip: You are just “sharing” the soda, right? You are not finishing it?
DotThoughts: Watch the movie, will you?. See what Eva is doing. What is she doing?

After the move, standing in checkout line at the grocery store.
Chip spots a book with Wall-E on it cover.
Chip: I know who that is.
DotThoughs: Who is that? What is his name?
Chip: Umm.. Umm..
DotThoughts: Dude, we just saw the movie.
Chip: Yes! I liked popcorn and soda. You shared soda with me, right?

Tickets – $25
Popcorn - $7.50
Soda - $5.50
First movie theater experience - Priceless

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Test

More than a quarter of a century ago, in a smallish classroom sat a girl of about five. She sat on the last bench, next to this plump, pasty faced girl who was her best friend for the sole reason they both liked blue and bonded over this essential aspect of their lives. Two months later, the friendship fell through because the pasty faced girl declared her favorite color to be green which was unacceptable. Green? Please. But for the first quarter of the year they were swore to be best friends forever.

So, on this particular day, the girls were writing a test. Community Living. The girl always though the subject really made no sense. The textbook told to use water carefully but there was never enough water to go around, so wastage was not really an issue. The book told her to eat pulses, but she ate them already and liked them.

The girl really had no idea what the test was all about. It was the first test she had ever given and had no clue what one was supposed to do. As the bell sounded, the teacher started handing out the question paper glancing at her watch. The teacher was reputed to be really nasty. She had once hurled a wooden blackboard duster at a student when she had lost her temper. Thankfully the duster had missed the student’s head, instead hitting the white-washed wall behind him.

The girl got her paper and started to read the first question. “Cross out the wrong words.” She read. Whatever that meant. The words made no sense. How was she to determine the wrong words? She thought about it for a long time. When the teacher walked past her bench, she timidly asked what the question meant. The teacher glared at her and told her to stop talking during an exam and to just write her answers. The girl thought some more. Again when the teacher walked past her, she repeated the question. “I don’t know.” replied the teacher brusquely and then threatened a rap on her knuckles if she asked again. Once the teacher’s back had turned, the girl turned to her best friend who sat besides her. “What does cross out the wrong words mean?” she whispered in desperation. Her best friend was smarter than her. “I think it means you just strike out the words you don’t like.” She whispered back. Words she didn’t like? How was she to determine that? It was getting complicated by the minute.

She chewed the back of her pencil wondering which words she didn’t like. She liked them all. What was there to not like about these words? She could read them all, even if they made no sense. But she had to pick and cross out the wrong words. She peeped at what her best friend was doing. The friend seemed to know which words she didn’t like. She was crossing some, leaving others out. The girl, had to decide fast. But she was so peeved with all this test business. She decided she did not like a single word from the test paper. Hell, she didn’t even like the test. Her chewed out pencil leapt into action and she unfalteringly crossed out every word in the test paper. Every damn, single word. And then she sat with a smug smile on her face. That would teach them, she thought to herself, realizing she mostly meant the nasty teacher who was glancing at her watch.

Her best friend peered at what the girl had done and looked at her own paper realizing that the girl had crossed out more words than she had. The friend panicked. The girl was going to get better marks because she crossed out more words. In a hurry she started placing neat ‘X’ marks on every word, but the teacher was already collecting the papers and before she could finish, the papers were all collected and bundled up.

Epilogue: The girl scored a zero on the test. The best friend scored 1- She miraculously had got one of the “cross out the wrong words question” correct.

And now here is a quiz question. Can you tell who was the girl and who was the best friend? Correct answer will be awarded $5*.

*Terms and Conditions apply. The award will be given to correct answers by respondents aged 500 or older. Valid only in the continental 48 states. Neighbors, blog-pals, family and friends will be excluded from the award.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Toy Blender

There was a tale my grandfather told me when I was very young. About my father. My father was a model child. Very low maintenance. This particular memory that my grandfather often told me while putting me down for a nap in the afternoon was how my father never broke a teacup as a small child. When guests came over, my father would take their empty teacups back to the kitchen. Very slowly. Very carefully. Never dropping a cup. My father would sing lullabies and pat my uncle (his younger brother by three years) down for naps when the said brother was a toddler. He would by vegetables on his way home from school with the few paise my grandmother gave him to buy treats from the school canteen. The joke in the family is that my dad was already 50 when he was born.

Some times I see my father in Chip. For all the tantrums and drama surrounding him, there is this very mature side to him that peeks out now and then. Take this past weekend. I had promised Chip he would get a toy blender (something he had been wanting for a while) if he went to his new class at his pre-school without a whimper. He managed 3 whine free days and so the promise had to be made good. On Friday evening, I picked him from the school and we drove to a toy store. We looked for a toy blender, but there were none. So he settled on an iron instead. Now the iron was much, much cheaper than the toy blender, so in a fit of generosity, I told him to pick something else too. “No.” he said shaking his head. I insisted. Do you want a Spiderman action figure? Another thing he had once asked for. “No” he said. “A baking set?” “No.” “Puzzles?” “We bought one toy. That’s enough for today. I don’t want any more toys. I like my iron.” He said hugging his exact iron replica. He never really demands things. He demands to “do” things but not demand I buy stuff for him. He will ask for something, but he is usually satisfied when I tell him it’s too expensive or that we will wait for a special occasion to buy it. Of course, this could the hubris of a naive toddler’s parent. In a year, I will be writing about His Chipness incessant demands to “buy” stuff. Until then I am smiling.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bag Grab

I love handbags and shoes. Women like me simply have to. There is this theory which states that- “In a closed fashion system, as the mass and volume of an entity falls away from a store mannequin or a runway model, the entity’s attraction to shoes and handbags tends to infinity.” Hello, Fendi. The past long weekend found us in the city of cities, New York.

You know, there is this thing about New York. Well, actually there are a lot of things about New York and in New York and of New York and about New York, but the one that always strikes me is how the New York Woman dresses. Have you seen those little articles in fashion magazines? Wise words from fashionistas that tell you to “match it” or “clash it” (whatever that means). The ones that tell you to unabashedly pair a gold belt with a purple shirtdress and wear nude shoes and acrylic bangles? Or to wear white when one is not supposed to, or wear full skirts with chunky sweaters and a hat. The New York Woman wears it all. Thankfully, not all at the same time. And yet, somehow, manages to look so stylish. Crazy, but stylish.

On that background, I look too much of a suburban mom. I live my life in the rainbow shades of polos, henleys, oxfords and chinos. And I only have myself to blame. A few weeks ago I went to get my hair cut, determined to have a stylish angled bob, but when the scissors hit the hair, I chickened. “Make it a mommy bob.” I told the stylist. Mommy bob? “You know I want to look chic, but mommy chic.” In the end, I got my angled bob, but I have to tell people it’s angled and more importantly chic. My friends admire the angled bobs on other’s heads while I stand right beside them, tapping my foot, pointing to my own do.

I do not, unlike the writers of fashion magazines would like me to, own any gold belts or a purple shirtdresses or acrylic bangles. And the white capri I bought so enthusiastically at the beginning of this summer has salsa stains from when Chip had overturned a bowl of taco-salad bought from a drive-through fast food place. So obviously, having learnt something from that stainful experience, I have avowed not to wear white until Chip goes to college. I cannot wear full skirts and chunky sweaters with a hat. BigGeek will laugh until his eyes pop out and ask me without batting an eyelid if this is what I plan to wear when I take Chip out to trick or treat this Halloween, cautiously avoiding the sensitive issue of my abundant behind.

Determined to be somewhat chic, I decided to get a new handbag. And shoes if I could find them. Over the years I have come to realize, that a handbag or a nice pair of shoes can be the answer to most pressing dilemmas and deepest questions. Life, after all is so much like a handbag. Leave it open and a lipstick is bound to fall out of it sooner or later. In an earnest quest, then, my friend and I walked and walked. Ok, it was only 10 blocks, but it seemed like a long journey. Felt like 20 blocks, if you ask me. At last, we reached the corner of Broadway St. and Canal St. where touts from forgotten African countries tried to sell us luxe knock-offs. Coach? Gucci? Fendi? We were in heaven. I bought two and at that instant, my suburban persona underwent a dramatic transformation. New York Chic was upon me. I was New York Chic and New York chic was me.

Who was I kidding? Who was I kidding? After I got back home, far away from New York, and dangled the bags from my shoulder to my thick middle, I realized that New York Chic and I were far away from being one. Now I looked like a suburban mom trying to be New York Chic. Sigh. On the flip side, that means, I get to go and buy another handbag very soon. And shoes if I can find them.