Category: Slice of Life

Traditions

Traditions

I don’t want to wear formals, announces H.

That’s how most of our festive days begin. We have this tussle each year, at every festival. I’ve been giving in to him slowly but surely, bending to his will, letting him have his way. We moved from Kurta pajamas, to short kurtas and trousers and then to a shirt with an Indian jacket and jeans. This year I don’t even have the mind-space to push for that.

I don’t regret it. Not much, at least. I know he’s getting older; he’s a teen and I’ve learnt to choose my battles.

‘Alright’, I tell him, ‘but change out of your shorts and vest’. Crumpled tees and shorts have been his uniform these past few Covid months. I haven’t much bothered. This was but a small trade-off for quiet mornings.

But he isn’t done. ‘Why must I change? ‘What’s wrong with these clothes? They’re clean and that’s what should matter,’ he challenges. He loves a good argument, this son of mine and I indulge him most often, but not today. The cook is on leave and a pile of chores beckon me from the kitchen.

‘This is why I hate festivals,’ he continues.

That gets my attention and stops me on the verge of my don’t-argue-just-go-and-change outburst.

It’s an almost compulsive thing with me, this need to make festivals happy and stress free. Paradoxically, the stress of being stress-free stresses me out.

That is one reason I’ve let go of many traditions. And that’s why H’s remark hits home.

I pull my gaze away from the kitchen, realise I’m frowning and straighten the frown. I will myself to relax as I prepare to gently wade into this sea of arguments.

N walks in holding up a bright orange tee shirt for H. ‘Remember, I gifted you this one? It’s perfect for today. Please please wear it.’

I sigh in relief and quickly push home. ‘Come on H’, I tell him. He gives a huge fake sigh but I know he’s coming around.

As I busy myself with the cooking, I hear them argue.

‘I won’t wear trousers.’
‘But you can’t wear these shorts.’
‘Okay, then I’ll wear my Eminem Tee shirt.’
‘Noooo!! Not on Rakshabandhan. Have you even heard his lyrics? He uses such bad words in his songs.
‘At least he has a message to convey. He’s not just mooning around like your One Direction.’
‘I don’t care. You’re not wearing that ugly black tee. Mamaaaa tell him, pleeease,’ N calls out to me.

I don’t respond. I don’t need to. As I stir the kheer on the stove and get out the dough for the puris, I know already that H will wear what she wants him to, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have his bit of fun. Just as I know N doesn’t really expect me to intervene when she  calls out to me.

When I glance into their room I find them giggling together, playing tug-of-war with the unfortunate Eminem teeshirt.

Finally, they’re ready. Much fuss is made out of tying the rakhis. As per their own weird tradition H smears N’s forehead with the kumkum instead of making a neat little teeka. She’s used to it and stands still while I wipe it off and make a small round one instead. ‘I’ll take revenge,’, she says when it’s her turn. That freaks him out a bit. He takes eons to fix the clasp of her rakhi and ends with pushing an entire kaju roll into her mouth. She does the same and we’re done.

As I put away the puja plate I realise I forgot to ask them to cover their heads, as per tradition. I realise I miss doing things the traditional way. I miss the colourful kurta-pajamas, the chaniya cholis, the laddoos, the elaborately decorated puja thali and the sitting down cross-legged on the ground with a handkerchief on the head. I miss it all. I was wrong when I said I didn’t regret letting go of traditions. I do, at least some part of me does.

I want to tell the children: this is your culture, your heritage, your link to the past. Don’t let it go.

I hear them laughing and arguing and I hold back.

Instead, I tell myself, this is change, embrace it.

Image by minxutopia from Pixabay

Unlocking Happiness in Times of Lockdown

Unlocking Happiness in Times of Lockdown

Dinner is done and the children and Husband have withdrawn to the relative cool of the bedroom. I’m done too as I put away the leftovers and wipe down the kitchen platform.

I glance at the dirty dishes piled up in the sink. We went a little overboard with the cooking tonight, I muse. Dinner was definitely worth it but it resulted in loads of washing up. Even though everyone has done their own dishes, the sink is full.

Washing up after the night’s cooking is the Husband’s responsibility. He’s the first one to wake up each morning and handles the twin tasks of washing and disinfecting the kitchen and dining area.

I know he hates it but I’ve been resolutely turning a blind eye and deaf ear to his deep sighs. These are Covid times and like it or not, everyone needs to pitch in. I’ve become good at assigning chores and am quite enjoying my newly-discovered despotic streak.

Most days the Husband tries to clear the sink at night so he can have a peaceful morning. But tonight, spent from the constant work calls, he’s let it be.

On a whim, I decide to surprise him, even at the risk of exposing a chink in my despot’s armour. I take up the scrubber and begin to do the dishes.

H saunters by for a glass of water. Glances at my soapy hands and the pile before me and walks off. He reappears with a set of headphones, fixes them on my head, tunes them to my playlist on the mac and walks away again.

Vishal Dadlani comes on with the cheerful Kudi nu nachne de (my current favourite) and the chore suddenly seems a chore no more.

Lockdown memories aren’t going to be all bad after all. Do you have a happy #sliceoflife to share too? Tell me about it.

Leaving you with this track that continues to make me smile.

Growing Up

Growing Up

I wait outside the registration room and I watch H as he stands in the queue. He looks uncertain, but not scared. I watch as his turn comes, he signs up, picks up his ID card and walks out to me.

‘There. Done,’ he says with a grin, ‘You can go now. Or you can stay for the opening ceremony.’

I am here to drop him off for a mock UN session. We have travelled half way across the city for this annual event that brings together school children to represent various countries discussing a particular topic.

The instructions and timings are a little vague and H doesn’t know a soul here. That worries me. All through the forty-five minute drive I’ve been talking to him, explaining, cautioning, making sure he has the phone with him. Will he feel lost, lonely, scared? I wonder.

‘Don’t worry ma,’ he says reading my thoughts, ‘I’ll be fine.’ I look at him, taller than me already, in his formal suit, the ID card around his neck making him look oddly grown up, professional almost. To an outsider.

To me he’s just a 13-year-old. A goofy absentminded 13-year-old.

Unbidden, a memory comes to me, that of 6-year-old H, taking his first steps into Big School, bravely trying not to cry, walking away without a backward glance.

I look at him again. Try as I might, I see no traces of the scared 6-year-old. All I see is a young boy, chattering away excitedly. ‘I wish they’d have given me a more important country to represent. Philippines is just so sidey. China would have been good or the US or even India,’ he complains, ‘Next time we’ll register earlier.’

Nope, no traces of the six-year-old.

With an effort I make myself separate the two images.

‘Oh boy!’ he exclaims examining the programme for the day, ‘they have Breakfast after the Opening Ceremony. Last year I had three glasses of hot chocolate. I hope they have it this time too.’ The six-year-old is back again!

I can’t help but laugh, glad the younger version is still in there somewhere under the suit and the tie even as the teen tries to take over.