Chella kiligalaam palliyile…(Careful what you wish for, you might just get it!)

Just a clarification: the title of the post is a song from an old Tamil movie from the 60s, a lullaby.  Nothing to do with the English title.

Of late, I have been hanging with the young crowd – whether it was durng the preparation for the local fundraiser, or for the walkathon training.  I bravely signed up for a half marathon/walkathon to promote our local greenway trails.  (did I say signed up? coerced by peer pressure is more like it J does anyone do this voluntarily? )

 A group of Indian women have banded together to start training for this – most of them are younger moms, with kids who are still very young.  I’m amazed at how creative they are about childcare during training – a lot of support from their hubbies, a lot of determination to just do it.  But as we huff and puff towards our 13 mile goal, guess what dominates our conversation mostly? Kids!!

And I am one of the 2 moms in this group with grown up kids (well, semi-grown up – our kids are in college/high school and we don’t’ have to worry about who’s going to watch them, and feeding them etc.).  All the talk about kids, what they said today, what they did, their pranks, etc.  has been making me very nostalgic for my kids’ younger days.  I kept thinking how nice it’d be to have them go back to being younger for just a day!

Boy, did my wish come true!  It started with my daughter, the 18-year old, who’s home for the summer, feeling ‘icky’ a couple of days ago.  She had promised to walk with me, we got in the car and drove to the park.  My first clue should have been the sweater she wore in the 80+ weather.  She insisted she was not sick at all.  We parked, and she looked sheepishly at me, and said ‘can we turn around and go back please? I don’t feel very good’.  What am I going to do with this girl?

So we came back, and thus started  2 days of very high fever (105 – 106 range), my normally reasonable and well-behaved 18-year old regressing to a 2 year old’s mindset – heck, she didn’t even behave like a 2 year old when she was actually 2, refusing to admit she was sick, refusing to take her med or, insisting on taking it when she had no fever (she was preventing it!!),  making me ask the doctor what flavors the antibiotics comes in,  on the phone (um…yeah, she’s 18, but does the antibiotic come in syrup form? It does?  In banana flavor? Can she have it in strawberry flavor please? ) The doctor was kind and understood that her throat was very sore, and she couldn’t swallow pills, but still…

As if that wasn’t enough, we were setting the alarm at night for every 4 hours to check her temp, and Raj and I taking turns doing this, me going to work very cranky with barely 4 hours of sleep….that’s when it hit me, at 4 am in the morning, as I slowly picked my way thru the dark, with a thermometer and ibuprofen – ” you idiot, you wished for this!!  you were all nostalgic about the kids being babies, and all that – and you got your wish!! are you happy now?”

Moral of the story?  Careful what you wish for, you might just get it! 

She’s fine today and back to her normal self.  All’s well. Raj and I need a vacation, though!!

Their childhood is gone except in our memory. I have done my tour of duty there.   I will content myself with taking trips down that lane when I feel like it, and enjoy them in this stage of their lives—happy, independent, smart, funny, irreverent, and with a mind of their own.

Here’s the song, sung by T M S, for Sivaji – it’s a melodious lullaby:

Pasumai Niraindha Ninaivugale (It was the best of times…)

Signs of spring everywhere.   It feels like the whole city’s dynamics is suddenly different.  Pulsing, alive, expectant.  My tulips are in bloom.  My daughter is home.  Hah…that almost rhymed.

We survived her 1st year of college, away from home.  She survived.  She is a more confident, more independent version of herself after the past 8 months.  She has promised to spend time with us…already planning evenings of playing euchre, literature, scrabble, or watching our favorite shows as a family – House, How I met your mother, Big Bang Theory…  Spring is my most favorite season – a time for rejuvenation and hope.  The darkness of the winter past buried with the snow – laid to rest for now.

When I think of my younger self, and good times, Pondicherry beach always tops the list. Followed by, in no particular order: waiting for the children’s magazine “Gokulam” every Thursday and fighting with my sister to lay my hands on it first (loved the Vikramaditya stories – still do with a passion – they are THE BEST – he’s my hero, hands down!), fun with my cousins playing ‘ezhu kal’, Trade (Monopoly for those in the US), being able to see the beach from the mottai maadi (terrace) of the house in Pondy.

(I remember believing the grown-ups when they told us we couldn’t go to the beach on Sundays because it was closed but that’s a whole other story about my naivete or stupidity as some people would say)

I also grew up in a family that loved stories. My mom fed us dinner with stories of  Cinderalla, some version of the Beauty and the Beast, a story about 3 sisters Rupavathi, Kalavathi and Gunavathi. (No prizes for guessing their character traits, and who sticks with her father when he’s old and broke!)  She didn’t have access to a lot of resources, and spent her life taking care of her family – I am amazed that she knew these stories because I don’t think her mother (my paati, Perambur paati as we called her) couldn’t have told her either.  (note to self: ask amma about this).

I was the chosen company for my Purasawalkam patti (paternal paati) when she went to the ‘katha kalakshebams’ at the temple during summers. (I think the real reason was no one else wanted to go).  And came to love the stories of Ramayana and other Indian mythology.

My dad’s stories were fun and action-filled animal stories from Panchatantra – complete with sound effects.  The crow in the ‘Paati – vadai – kaka’ story always sang ‘chowdvi kaa chand ho’ when the cunning fox asked it to sing, to steal the vadai.

I have continued this with my kids.  I’ve told them stories – some made up, some read from books.  They both until very recently would ask me shamelessly to read or tell them stories at bed time J (seriously though, I don’t think one is ever too old for stories…)

I loved the beach – the Gandhi statue which was (is?)  the landmark of the Pondicherry beach, with the narrow steps leading down to the beach, the ‘pattani sundal’ with the tart mango pieces and chillies.  To this day, the ocean calms me down.   Whenever I’m stressed seriously, I crave the ocean – the salty air, the never-ending blue shimmering in the sun, the deafening roar of the crashing waves.  It’s a meditative experience – I always come back recharged, refreshed and my creative juices flowing.

Then once we moved to Chennai in my 9th grade, life was different.   I took a while to come into my own and went through some confusing and difficult times.  Then came my +2 years.  We were a group of 8 girls who hung out all the time together – Padma and Shanti who were almost like twins, Rajni and Chandra the quietest, sweetest and the nerdiest, Mythili and me who were best friends for those 2 years, and Rachel, and Usha, a super tall, super skinny Telugu girl who brought really hot Andhra food for lunch. I loved her tomato rice and she would bring a whole separate box just for me on days she brought the tomato rice. Trying to get into the lunch boxes before the lunch hour was the greatest accomplishment we looked forward to every day.

We argued about everything – Who was a better music director (Ilayaraja or M S V), better director (Balachander or Bharathi Raja), sexier actor (Kamal or Rajni), everything under the sun. Debates with our Commerce teacher (Zeenat) would get pretty heated …I remember one particular one – is footwear a necessity? This one went on for a long time. Ms Zeenat, vivacious and young, encouraged us to be open about everything.

I remember reading (and crying over) ‘Love Story’ by Erich Segal at school under the tree we used to hang out at, during a free period.  ( I watched it recently – and kinda surprised – it did nothing for me…)

 And of course, guys. There were 2 handsome guys who came to audit the accounts at our all girls, Christian missionary school – one short and handsome, and the other tall and handsome. They had close to a mob worship going on considering it was an all-girls school.  Nothing happened – just a lot of ogling.  But that was our big thrill back in those days. Of course, we were all seriously obsessed with cricket. I was ‘in love’ with Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricketer (later married an English girl…sigh…)….Wonder what he’s up to now.

College was more subdued, but still fun. My best years were my 11th and 12th grades. I was close to Rachel, and kept in touch until a few years ago. Those were the carefree days. You could forget all your troubles when you’re with your friends. We could solve all the world’s problems – nothing was out of reach.  So idealistic, rebellious, impractical!

It was the best of times!