Saturday, February 16, 2013

With love, from Moss

He has completed 4 revolutions around the sun, but he can rattle off names of more than 40 cars in a go. Stuff I can’t even do after my 29! It’s another matter that Mercedes becomes ‘Mul-shi-deesh’ and Hummer ‘Hummal’.

He is preceded by a sister 5 years older than him, who is beginning to enter the I-know-all age. When her mother, a lady you can’t take for a ride at any rate, tries to admonish her, the not-so-little one retorts with half fear, half pride, and an ada to put Kareena Kapoor to shame – she jerks her head, rolls her eyes, twists her mouth and swishes her hand as she says, ‘sapne mein’.

It’s condescension to kill for. Imagine you are at work and your boss is ventilating about deadlines. Say that to him and he’ll be knocked out twenty spaces ahead!

Devam Godara and Sahima Singh are my sister’s two offsprings. They would, however, love to believe my sister is theirs. With Sahima’s extra years of experience with mother earth and mother Rashmi Singh Godara, she’s her younger bro’s hero. She can jump off fences, play badminton, ride her cycle at break-neck speed, lie with conviction, and accomplish ‘khatalnaak’ rides with the grace of a lady. No wonder, Devam sees her with awe and tries to imitate her. So when my sister cuddles her saying ‘meri beti’, Devam gets all insecure and grabs her with a look of rightful ownership as he copies, “nahin, meli beti”!

And then, of course, they follow patterns that most siblings do. They fight over proprietorship of Taj Mahal and Bikaner Fort. Disagreements are followed by a series of heart-rending cries, wrathful exchanges of slaps, fists and kicks, accompanied by shattering howls. I remember my childhood with my 2 older siblings. Fighting comprises a major chunk of growing up, but in our case, the code was clear. If Ma is sleeping, we’re not supposed to utter a squeak, let alone a cry. And we 3 warriors were so sacrosanct about it that we mastered the art of inflicting and enduring bloody but noiseless torture. For if Ma’s sleep stood disturbed, she’d democratically mete out punishment to all 3 – which was pinching our cheeks (yes, cheeks, not ears!) till our eyes watered and we almost bade a goodbye to our faces.

Maybe that’s the secret of our round faces.

Like all Indian children, Samu and Dammu get their own share of thrashing. It’s only then that they realize that they can’t get away with hiding an unfinished roti under the bed/ mattress/ closet. My sister obviously doesn’t tell them how she drained her share of milk in the sink or how she slipped her rotis and rice in my plate when I wasn’t looking. My brother, however, excelled in this art.

So when my sister gets down to teach them, trying to help Devam negotiate the maze of A,B,C,D…. the little boy articulates with all innocence when he sees her mother fighting impatience, “kya karun mummy, dimaag mein ataktaa hi nahin hai”. That gives my sister hope, for at this tender age, he at least understand the process of learning. She tries another formula:

A for Audi, B for BMW, C for Car, D for Dezire….and so on an so forth.

And she can swear on P for Porsche, it helps!

But being a parent is not altogether disadvantageous. Definitely not, if like me or didi, you have a sweet tooth. Well wishers and friends like Vandana Nathan shower chocolate and candies, which through detailed planning and meticulous execution, find way in the tummies of kids’ ma and mausi. In this respect, we were better off when the kids were really small, but as they grow up, they become more aware of our mean self-serving schemes. We keep finding new ways though. Innovation is survival.

When Sahima was Devam’s age, she was an angel of love; generous with her kisses (and chocolates), warm with her hugs and heart-joining affectionate. It was impossible to scold her because she’d react as if her eyes were being blinded by stringent sunlight. She would melt your anger. I’m yet to see a more loving and giving child.

Devam believes in no such kid stuff. He fiercely guards his chocolate. He’ll kiss you when he feels like it, or when he has to strike a deal. In the right mood, he’ll come and plonk himself on my lap, throw his little arms around my neck and kiss my cheeks and lips for the full length of a minute. Needless to say, that minute goes down in the best-minutes-list of my life.

The children are blessed with a mother who is loving in her own kind of way.

She used to call Samu as ‘chotti’, with all love, except that chotti means petty thief in the land from where we come (read: Bihar). The name caught my jijaji’s fancy and he kept at it. Then one day, a well-meaning guest at their house addressed Samu as ‘chotti beti’; Samu glowered back at my jiju. Her point was well taken.

For Devam, the endearment was even more universal. I’ve never known my sister to be a great lover of dogs, but she’d often call Devam as ‘kutta’, and mostly with love. It’s not his fault if he grew up thinking that’s his ‘pet’ name. Once a neighbor asked him a frighteningly familiar adult question: Ma pyar se kya bulati hai? Devam candidly replied, “kukka”. My sister suddenly turned to find an invisible object of interest in the sky and never called him that again.

That’s not to suggest real words of affection aren’t exchanged. She calls him ‘mera jigar ka tukda’ and he clutches her tight saying ‘meli jigal ki tukli’, ‘meli guliyaa’ and chooses to use her skin as the best track of all his toy cars. He can’t sleep without his palm clasped to didi’s arms or tummy, for he needs his ‘soft-soft’ touch.

Let me call this a children-trait that they pick up swear words with such ease. I don’t know from where Devam absorbed it (or maybe I do), but he would sum up his brush with all negatives, such as fights, falls, food and ghosts, with a singular expression. In a pervert sort of way, I kindov waited for him to use it! Then it came one day. Didi was consumed in some chore, and it must have been urgent, coz she banged her feet against a chair in the hurry. She let out a yelp, ouch! Devam wasted no time in throwing his cars and rushing to her mom’s rescue and asked her, “kya hua mamma, phat gayi kya”?

The pain shifted from her feet to her face.

Devam's latest is, when being pressed for home-work, "arey mammi, dandaa kyun karti ho?"

Samu, on the other hand, is discretionary. She’s had that power since she was a chit. An uncanny knowledge of the forbidden. But a child is a child, after all. And for all questions, they turn to their parents (if they don’t, there’s a problem). It’s with complete frankness one day then, in the audience of a considerable few, that Samu asked my jiju what he meant by ‘phaadu’. Her father was bowled out. But her mother tells her in a very unperturbed, understated, matter-of-factly tenor, “beta, when something makes you fart so hard that it tears your pants, that thing is phaadu”.

A second unsaid question lurked in Samu’s eyes…could that really be possible?!

So you see, a mother has most answers and all solutions. She gave a melody toffee to Devam when Silk was lying in the fridge. He wagged his little finger at her threatening, "Main loungaa". Then he started behaving like an angry Sunny Deol in fits of rage and threw the toffee away. Didi watched this antic with an unraised eyebrow, and simply walked off like a cool cat. Minutes later, knowing he had no audience for his fake tears, Devam picked up the toffee and went off like a lost Ajay Devgan.

Meanwhile, as Samu grows up with admirer Devam by her side, there’s a spring in her feet as the double digit age comes in sight. Her exaggeration of events and people are so dramatic, you’d want her to script fairy tales. Considering I’ve been like her chum since she was born, she calls me ‘Moss’. Feeling a little clumsy at this algae-meaning sobriquet, I request she’d much rather call me by name, but she likes Moss better. I suppose it’s because the English ring around the word. After ‘Sapne mein’, her second favourite expression is ‘Pata hai’, which she’ll use even before I’ve begun, let alone finished. But in her eyes, I see the hunger to learn, to know. I can talk to her for hours, tell her my stories and listen to hers, and it takes only 2-3 candid submissions on my part to bring her to complete truth.

When I’m surrounded by them, it’s an old world in a whole new light. Fights are forgotten, stories are remembered. Lessons are taken, points are discarded. Everything is play, yet play is not everything. Love is simple, expressions are straight.

Strange are the ways in which children purify us.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

lover forever

From the sinuous labyrinths of memory
from the dark, tantalising track
out comes a sting in the eye
clutching my heart, when you come back

i know you know it just as well
the void you left - deep and black
it floods with light, laughter and love
i end up in pieces, when you come back

i'm lying, it's a pretence, i so admit
it's strategy to live, it's plain tact
for how can someone who never went away
a permanent resident, ever come back