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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trying to get the groove

After only four visits during the last 18 years away, I do feel strangely displaced in my own city. Yes, my city. My Own Madras.

While I find it easy to

...slip into salwar kameez or saree and do the shringaram with bindi, bangles, flowers and suchlike effortlessly,

...juggle various dialects and accents of Tamil while in Tamil Nadu, and get by well with a neutral Hindi while in the north, even though I haven't spoken it on a daily basis for nearly 16 years, my favorite variety of local magazines and newspapers in Tamil, poring over recipes and kolams and embroidery instructions,

I must admit that I find it quite challenging to get used to

...slippery tiled and mosaic bathroom floors,

...wet WC and sandpaper TP,

...not enough clean public restrooms,

...Indian-style toilets (enough said),

...frequent unscheduled power cuts,

...Heat and Dust.

Many things that nagged me 18 years ago, still manage to irk me now

...the unfairly exorbitant fares demanded by auto-drivers; the constant haggling to get a fair deal; the recklessness of road-users

...the way everybody tries to make it their business to tell you what(not) to do

...the way people get upset by the merest things and get heated over trivial stuff

...the abject poverty that drives many fellow-(wo)men to seek charity, sometimes even panhandle

On the other hand, where else would

...a full-grown man, our watchman at my parents apartment complex, almost prostrate and touch Oggie's feet simply because he truly believes babies are Gods

...neighbors do Ganapathy Homam and bring over a bounty of prasadam items to share

... a variety of fruits and vegetables make it tough to choose between seasons? Even, many varieties of the same fruit - like rasthali, poovan, majal pazhams (varieties of bananas), and the many varieties of mangoes, not to mention sapota, guava, nagapazham, nungu and the elixir par excellence called Coconut Water?

Watching Banumathy dancing while singing Azhagana Ponnu Thaan (Ali Baba), in her characteristic minimalistic movements with that smirk-like twinkle in her eyes and smile on her lips on TV the other night opened a floodgate of memories... I did have a liking for songs from my mom's generation, maybe because she liked them so...

The heat is bringing out the worst in me... Being mindful of electricity bill for my dad, I refuse to run a/c all day - so, just a few hours in the afternoons when it is unbearable, and at nights (bio-sleep) at the highest setting (not the coldest) so kids get a good night's rest is all I can bring myself to incur.

Oggie being terribly demanding, I find myself meeting his needs more often than Ana's - proving the squeaky-wheel-gets-the-oil syndrome.

Ana is acting out her frustration and is getting to be quite a handful. I think she just misses her school, her friends, her dad, and her home. She has never been this difficult before - I understand her vexation, I do want to help her, but, am finding it rather tedious, so, I let her watch Chutti and pogo as much as she wants (no Tata Sky here).

The beach trips so far have been quite a hit. Sort of. Ana is never ready to leave when we are, and kicks up a huge fuss after all the fun.

While every effort has been made to put away the shaving blades, kitchen knives and scissors, pad the sharp corners of furniture, keep the bathroom doors closed, it is still not quite child-friendly here, making me constantly vigilant, leaving me terribly exhausted... Besides, Oggie is a tumbler, a rolling tumbler, in bed. Even pillows piled all around him can't stop him from spilling over to the edge of the bed.. he fell off only once so far, my fault for not watching. I miss his crib probably more than he does.

On the plus side, no cooking, no cleaning, no serious work except mind the kids. My mom, despite her back and knee issues, does all the work because they don't have any maids or helpers for doing the dishes and cleaning the house... they've had a string of bad experiences with help that they decided not to have anymore. My dad, the most generous soul I have been blessed to meet so far in my life, gives me everything I want for day-to-day endeavors with such a genial smile that it shames me to ask for anything more.

I am filled with mixed emotions now that I am here with Ana and Oggie...

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At 5:52 PM, Blogger Sole said...

Beautiful, beautiful post. I could exactly imagine the life you are talking about. I was there not long ago myself with my two little ones. Despite all the challenges as you've rightly said there is something so special about our very own city, isn't there. I mean you can have as many negative thoughts and feelings, but yet something makes it home and a very special home indeed.

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Gauri said...

Yes :) It is such an eclectic mix, is it not ?

The good, the bad and the in-betweens !! :)

At 10:43 PM, Blogger Poppins said...

Lovely post. It's been so long since I moved back that it's almost nostalgic to read these kind of posts. I think Ana would do fine if she had activities to keep her occupied for a bit..

Here's an idea - Is there a preschool close by where you can send her for a few hours?

Maybe even a Montessori one? Some of the fancy ones come with A/C. Should be better than watching Chutti I think. (Altho' nothing wrong with that, summer vacations are meant for vegetating)

Think Oggie is upset by the heat hence the crankiness. And hey, do try and borrow a crib from someone. The fall sounds scary. If you were here, I would have lent you mine.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Sole: Thanks, yeah, Madras, especially Mylapore area has a special place in my life, nothing can replace it.

Gauri: Yeah, I think my feelings are a bit more detached now... I have been away so long that I can't get around town independently anymore...

Poppy: Thanks a bunch, girl... we looked into preschools - would take 50Rs auto fare each way, every day, plus, I do have some travel plans, so we couldn't do justice to the expenditure... everything comes down to the lean budget I am on during this visit... my heart breaks coz her constant refrain is, "Will you play with me Amma?" and me, between juggling Oggie's demands, and trying to sort through my old stuff that I want so my parents can throw away the rest, and silly me poring over the 100 odd photo albums stirring nostalgia, shooing Ana away with, "Not now Ana, maybe later"... A 'later' that never comes... gosh!

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Tharini said...

Then make that 'later' come now Sheela. it breaks my heart to read this.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger seeseebeehomestead said...

Hi girl,

Have a good time in chennai. Ana should be going thru this "why everybody is different around me phase?. Moreover she is a shy girl.All these days her life is filled with people who are like her though she was seeing couple of indians. Now her world is so different and she is also missing the warmth of her dad. She is dady's girl.

Like our good old days, try introducing her to kids of her age in your apt. Kids speak universal language and will get attached with each other quickly.
You give 100% of your time to your kids when you are here. You hands are full with caring for oggie in a non baby proof world .So please don't feel guilty about not giving enough time to Ana. It's short time and she will be fine.

I understand the crib situation. NR fell once from bed (he was not even mobile at that time). After this episode he refused to sleep/lay in hard surface like floor. He will curl himself like worm and cry till we place him the bed. I understand your anguish . Can you place the just mattress on the floor ?.

Enjoy your time with parents sheel email me about your arrival plan .


At 8:34 PM, Blogger Lavanya Seetharaman said...

I have started missing dear Chennai after reading this :(
Hope u have a good time while u are there !!

At 1:52 AM, Blogger Scorpion said...

A real feel of how you must have felt. Reading this reminds me of R.K.Narayan's Malgudi days.

Never knew you the writer in you so long.....


At 8:41 AM, Blogger Zaara said...

Enjoy the rest of your vacation - hopefully ana will remmeber glimpses of these days in her future. Even though it may have been rough, the time you got to spend with your family will always be priceless.


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