Friday, 25 September 2009

Visiting the stiff and swanky

House visits are fun (sometimes embarassing) when you take Adiv. Usually it is the very indulgent family. They bring out forgotten toys and books, play music and dance along, and often grant him the permission to play with the cushions. With strangers I'm more guarded. For fear of having him destroy expensive breakables, I trail him (something I do even when we visit family) and make futile attempts at distracting him with toys I've packed in my bag. He is rarely interested, as the prospect of exploring a new home seems far more fun.
Recently, when a cousin was in town, we decided to visit family we hadn't seen in ages. So we told an aunt that we'd come by, but before that we'd decided to visit my cousin's old boss.
Living in an expensive block of apartments, Mr Boss, Mrs Boss and their kids had recently moved to Bangalore, after a long stint in Mumbai. Mr Boss was my cousin's first boss, and they'd kept in touch over the years, eventually graduating from colleagues to friends.
"He is a nice, though quiet man", said my cousin. He however warned us about his wife. When he started work, he was the only one who mustered enough courage to talk to her. The rest of the office was terrified of her. No, she wasn't the typical Mrs Boss. She was just very intelligent, opinionated, and reserved. Her reserve gave her an air of snobbishness that made her a wee bit intimidating.

When we reached their apartment complex, our simple santro was stopped at the gate, while the bigger cars whizzed past the gates. Laughing, and telling ourselves we needed the exercise anyway, we walked past the gates after signing in. We found their building, and took the lift to the 6th floor. Then we stood outside the door, rang the bell, and waited. Mr Boss opened the door, looking mighty pleased to see my cousin. (He was surprised to see us though!). He moved aside to let us in, and we spotted Mrs Boss behind him. She gave us forced smiles, thawing a bit on spotting my cousin behind us. He walked in comfortably, chatting and asking about their kids. Meanwhile Mrs Boss guided us to their designer furniture. Some polite conversation later, she stood up to get us some eats. Perhaps to break the ice, or maybe quell the growing awkwardness, Mr Boss made a strange suggestion.
"Want to see our house?"
Not knowing how to respond, we agreed, following him slowly. Mrs Boss threw him a perplexed, slightly annoyed look when she saw us wander in. Oblivious to her apparent displeasure, Mr Boss continued giving us the tour. We went from room to room, even surprising their people-shy sons who were each locked up in their rooms. Mr Boss even urged us to enter their rooms and take a look at the wood work, the balconies, the design.....!Meanwhile Adiv was running wild, exploring every nook, paying a lot of attention to the cupboards and keys that were within his reach. When I saw him climbing one of the beds, I carried him away with promises of trips in the car, icecream after dinner, and cookies in both hands. The tour ended in the balcony that overlooked a crowded, popular mall on one side, and a busy street on the other.

The eats arrived. Adiv was given a biscuit, and the rest of us sipped some juice. The conversation now centered on real estate. Not even remotely interested, Adiv chose this moment to get off Ro's lap and run. Worried he'd take (or worse break) something, I ran behind him. I gave Mrs Boss an apologetic look as I ran behind Adiv. Mr Boss assured me that they'd been through this stage. Mrs Boss was quiet. I smiled and rushed in, only to find Adiv make himself comfortable. His shoes had come off, and he'd climbed on the bed. He had even pulled out a pillow from underneath the bedspread. Shocked, I rushed forward, muttered a few threats, made the bed, and carried him back into the living room. Luckily, by then, everyone was ready to leave. An ecstatic Adiv, screamed "Car" and rushed to the door. Very sweetly he waved at everyone. Mr and Mrs Boss chose to come down with us. Mr Boss wanted to give us a tour of their complex.
"We have two pools, one indoors and one outdoors."
"We have an inhouse library and beauty parlour."
"Tennis courts."
"No badminton court", I wondered amused! We had that, in addition to a pool that we barely used now.
We feigned interest by making appropriate sounds, and hoped the tour would end. It ended eventually with a tour of the garden. Adiv ran around happily, and by then even Mrs Boss had warmed up to him. She smiled, and asked questions about him. She even waved at him with equal enthusiasm when we left. Adiv was happy in the car. He enjoyed his outing, and meeting new people. He hadn't been naughty either, except for wanting to wander around in their house. Nevertheless, we came away deciding we'd stick to family, friends, and baby-friendly homes, till Adiv got older and less curious about new surroundings.
Tomorrow we go to the Zoo!

Oh Maid Where art thou!

My trysts with the maid continue!
First there was an opinionated chatterbox who frequently absented herself from work. Then there was the well-dressed beautician-turned-cook who knew no cooking. Inbetween were two sisters and their mother who came in turns. The first sister left for greener pastures (baby aayah for a few hours that pay the big bucks), and left her sister as her replacement. The sister, a cheerful lil thing who seemed to quite good and willing. Her husband played fiend, refusing to go to work. So she eventually decided to stay home as a means of forcing him to go to work. Her mother came in her place. The mother came with a pretty high opinion of herself. "I'm the best in this locality", she announced proudly! She happily agreed to do all that I asked her to do. However, when I wasn't looking she'd miss out a few of her chores. On reminding her, she'd say, "Oh, old lady na, I forgot." The biggest problem wasn't that. She refused to get on with Adiv. This 60-something year old and Adiv would fight every single day. They'd scream at eachother, and each fight would end with her threatening to cut off his tongue. That was reason enough for me to say Bye to her. Meanwhile I'd found myself a fancy looking cook. The watchman brought her proudly.
"Madam, my wife, accha kaam kar legi."
I'd just woken up from my afternoon nap. Bleary-eyed and still dressed in my night clothes that now bore stains of Adiv's lunch, I looked at a diffident girl. She was dressed in jeans and a short top. She even wore a lot of make-up. I wondered if I'd heard right. Maybe she was one of the new tenants in the building?
"New cook madam."
"Oh", I said hoping she hadn't noticed my dishevelled look. After a conversation that I barely remember, I asked her to start the next day. She came with a confession.
"I don't know how to cook madam. But I can learn."
She didn't learn much, but she was pleasant and she came armed with a sob story. So I kept her for a month before deciding to send her off! There was no point having a cook who couldn't cook.
Then my luck changed. A matronly, kind, pleasant woman came knocking at my door. She was clean and gentle, and she said she could cook and do everything. I was secretly ecstatic. She started immediately, and she was good. Her food was tasty, and her work meticulous. I was quiet about how good she was, for fear of having my neighbours pinch her away. In the mean time I attempted to keep her happy by giving her baby food for her grandchild, cutlets for her family, and lunch on days when she had extra work. When guests came, I cut vegetables for her and did much of the cooking. I liked the woman and I didn't want her to leave. I was paying her good money and I was a kind boss. She wouldn't want to miss that.
However, I was quite mistaken. Yesterday, she said she wanted to stop. Without maintaining any eye contact, she first made excuses about the amount of work there was. Then she said she had a back problem. I didn't hear much after that. I only heard, "give me my money, and i'll leave." Angry, I said i'd give her her money only on the 1st. She agreed, finished up her work and left. While she was there, I hoped I'd acted dignified. I didn't say much or beg for her to stay. But I wondered why she'd left. Maybe someone was paying her more as a nurse or baby aayah? I didn't believe her back was hurting. Once she left, I let the flood gates open. I wept more out of self pity. How would I manage with a baby? Would I get another maid?
A few maids came by to enquire almost immediately. Sensing my desperation for help, they asked for huge sums of money. One woman said that she wanted 500Rs only to put out the clothes from the washing machine. I politely sent her off!

Since then, I've cried a few more times. I've shouted at Adiv who smeared quite a bit of peanut butter on his head. I've fought with Rohit just because I wanted to cry and feel better. However now I sit at my computer feeling rather peaceful. The house is clean, the clothes have been washed and put out to dry, the food has been cooked, and the vessels have been washed. To make things better Adiv ate his dinner without much trouble. Things are definitely not that bad.
Now for some prayers! "Dear God, please bring me a maid."

Friday, 18 September 2009

Finding Myself

With hands firmly on the steering wheel, and eyes following the traffic on all sides, I'm mildly aware of the music playing in the background. Yet another friendly RJ announces the contest for the evening, luring in listeners with the promise of goody bags filled with CDs, caps, and t-shirts. I often know the answers, and I honestly wouldn't have minded an autographed CD or two. Nonetheless, I refrain to getting to my phone that lies nestled between my notebook and Bible. I'm already late, and with this crawling traffic, i wonder if i'll ever get to church on time.
My decision to attend BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) classes came suddenly. Motherhood though extremly rewarding, was often tiring. I knew all the songs that Elmo sang, and the rhymes on every page of Adiv's books. However, I craved for some "me" time outside the house. I began this endeavour with weekly outtings to buy groceries. I'd even extend these shopping trips to a few minutes of quiet browsing at the book store in the mall. I'd often return with a book, or a movie that we'd then enjoy later in the evening.
Then I got greedy. Now I wanted to meet people; not family we ran into so often, but new faces. Friends from the distant past seemed too busy with lives that didn't involve kids, and I'd forgotten the art of making new friends. Almost suddenly, a thought popped into my head; "BSF"!

My mom had been going for these BSF classes for over a year. I'd seen her extensive notes, and I know she enjoyed her discussions there. She'd even made some friends there. So maybe I needed to get there as well. I hoped I'd get to socialize a bit, and more importantly, learn about the Bible.
I went to their website, wrote to the coordinator for Bangalore, and she got in touch almost immediately. "Come on a tuesday", said her friendly e-mail. "We'd love to have you there."
After a few weeks of postponing, I eventually got around to going there. I got myself a driver, and a map. The church in which these sessions were being conducted was far away, and with the traffic in the evening, it would take me atleast an hour or two to get there.
As soon as I got there, I was welcomed in by the friendliest people. They gave me a tag with my name, and directed me to the pews. Groups of friendly women chatted around in hushed tones. Some sat quietly finishing their homework. I was happy! Smiling, I found myself a seat.
The session began with two hymns, after which the group discussions began. I was asked to meet the teaching leader with two other newcomers. The teaching leader explained the idealogies of BSF, and how we'd learn the Bible in 7 years. We filled up registration forms and went back to our places. It was another week before we found ourselves in groups as well. The other newcomer used this time to give me her testimony. A hindu from a traditional household, she'd come to Christ after the conception of her miracle baby. By the time her story ended, the groups returned from their discussions and settled down for the lecture. The teaching leader then began her inspirational, thought provoking lecture for the day.
At the end of that day, I knew coming here had been the right thing to do. After that I got back each week with extended narratives on what I'd learnt that day. I could relate to most of the lectures. Once it was about keeping the soul clean by getting rid of hatred and resentment. Another time it was about forgiveness. Once she even spoke about how we all had our assigned duties in this world. So we just had to perform our tasks well, instead of focussing on the tasks (and successes) of others. We just had to compete with ourselves and fulfil our tasks. This particularly made sense as I'd spent a lot of time envying those who'd done a lot better professionally. I was a happy stay-at-home mom, but I missed the deadlines, the impromptu meetings, and the promotions. But as the teaching leader reminded me, despite all that I was envying, I'd never trade them for what I had, because I valued what I had more than anything else.
The BSF lessons were about re-evaluating my own life. Through God's word, I was just given gentle reminders about what was truly important.

Now I'm part of a group that isn't the most enthusiastic. I have a group leader who is rarely available. When she is around, she barely gives us food for thought. The questions are answered in hurried succession. Nonetheless, I continue to enjoy the lectures, taking back lessons from them. I even enjoy my homework, that is often completed with help with Ro and our discussions. Now I'm waiting for Adiv to turn 2, so he can also start BSF classes for toddlers. Meanwhile Ro is waiting for me to finish my 7 years of BSF, so he can start his!
And......I'm still trying to make new friends!