*Poguma, pogadha.. (Part 3)


… in Urban dictionary, translates to – “Will it go?”. And thus we had an eventful beginning to our trip.

Part 1- Don’t underestimate the power of Schengen Visa Officers.
Part 2- To go or not to go? That is the question.

Before I get into the particulars, like my friend, Raji, has mentioned on her blog, we all have our immediate families, extended families,  and friends to thank for, without whose support this trip would have been difficult. And also a special note on our little ones that were left behind on this trip. They were amazing and were very cooperative. They dutifully made appearances on video calls everyday that we were away and showed a lot of understanding!

That aside, almost all of us got asked if the children didn’t miss us, and how we managed to convince them. The question is moot. Of course we’d miss. I had taken the older one, Vyas, on this trip and told the little one the real reasons for not taking him. That it would be a very tiresome journey, and that it involved a lot of walking and travel, and the weather might not agree with him. And that traveling as a family would be different where we can take each day slow and easy, especially if anyone falls sick, and how the same thing will be difficult when traveling as a group where we’d end up slowing down everyone else. He understood and has since not thrown a fit. Nor the children of my other friends who left their little ones behind!  So, the point in case- our children are nice like us and so are the other members in our families 😉

Coming to our eventful beginning, on the day of travel, all the eleven in the pack assembled at the airport 2 hours 45 minutes before the flight. We spent under one minute to bid adieu to the nice folks from our families that had come to drop and see us off at the airport. We had an hour and a half to kill before boarding the flight. Recording our memories of the trip began right there. Never would you have seen the interiors of Chennai airport captured so beautifully and artistically.  What we were not able to truly capture is the inherent smell of phenoil (disinfectant) that is so Chennai-airport.

Our boarding was announced and we hopped into the flight, and settled in nicely. There were a few first-timers. And we all breathed a sigh of relief as the trip was now REALLY on! The pilot steered the flight on to the runway even as the usual safety instructions were being relayed. The flight picked up speed on the runway and just when we thought it was going to go more faster and take off, it slowed down. It was followed by a slight commotion in the flight a few rows ahead of us. Which was followed by an announcement from the pilot that a passenger was very sick and needed medical help. There was a bustle of activities with a few people crowding around the sick passenger. It seemed like this person, an aged man, had a stroke. His daughter was on board the flight too. But we were not sure about the nature of sickness. Paramedics arrived in 10 minutes and more flurry of activities. The pilot steered the flight back to the departure gate as the passenger had to be de-boarded! It was now 30 minutes past the departure time. Our connecting flight from Dubai to Paris was in 90 minutes from the time of the actual arrival time in Dubai. More staff and more medical support arrived including an   IV, a stretcher, oxygen, wheelchair et al. The old man apparently was rendered immobile and the staff had a tough time bodily moving him on to a stretcher. He did not get any better with all the medical help. It was a good one hour by the time he de-boarded and his checked-in baggages were removed from the flight.

When we later recounted this incident or even as I record it here, it kind of felt/feels selfish to have worried about our connecting flight. I guess we were all given to some amount of cynicism ever since  a few visas got rejected. A terror attack in Paris exactly 6 days before our journey added to our concerns. We were sure that someone was out there, trying to jinx this trip. Seems very silly now. The things rejections/failures can do to you! We sincerely hope the old passenger got timely medical help and has fully recovered. It is tough to imagine how it would have been handled if he’d fallen ill 20-30 minutes into the take off. Hats off to all those who handled it smoothly!

The pilot made good time and we had about 50 minutes for the next flight. The airlines folks were thorough and whisked us to the departure gates without further ado. So we got off one, did a run-walk-run through a security check, and boarded into another without even a loo-break 😉 And finally we landed in Paris! We had evaluated quite a few options on the best way to get to our hotel much ahead of the trip and found Uber to be the best, most affordable option. And so, we Uber-ed.

We checked-in at ibis budget hotel in Montmarte. True to its name, everything about this hotel had ‘budget’ written on it with a capital B. To give you an idea, the bath towels were ‘budget’ towels. Which means the length would be half the actual size of bath towels. The bathroom and toilets are separate. But your movements inside both are ‘budget’. Very restricted. A person of average height cannot swing a full arm without banging the elbow or at least the wrist on the wall or the door. But who needs to swing a full arm inside the bathroom or toilet, right?! And yes, there is no lock on the door-like fixtures on the bathroom and toilet. But what is there to complain when you can afford to post a guard outside while you are at it? So it worked. The beds were comfortable, the wifi was great, the location was great and safe, hassle-free check-in/check-out, the paid unlimited breakfast (6 EUR/person) was awesome with a great choice of beverages that included piping hot coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.  Paris welcomed us with an evening temperature of 4 and 5 degrees against our expectation (based on web information) of 15 or 16 degrees!

And right away, we learnt our first lesson on France. The spellings and their pronunciations have no bearing on each other.  They are like synonyms – two different words, but the same meaning 😉 You can never get around to a place by pronouncing the name of a place going by the spelling. A tip- prepare a cheat sheet of names, phrases, and directions! Or, learn French!

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“The end justifies the means”, they say. The day that began with some apprehensions, ended with a memorable evening and a lovely, cool, night on the Eiffel Tower. We had arrived!

Read more on the places we visited in Paris, here!

At EIGHT…


… you are still a handful. Your dramas continue. Between your last birthday and this, you’ve bested the art of negotiation. Your aspirations and ambitions are unique and keep changing every birthday! Let me just record your eight-ness here, shall I?:

At the moment, you’ve decided that you want to be a Youtuber! You are convinced that because you know to sing, you need not take up music classes. You discovered Alan Walker through your friend and can sing ‘Where are you now’ to match every note and nuance in there!

You read and pick your books well. But for a mom who has grown up on a generous dose of Enid Blytons, it’s hard to understand your rejection of Famous Fives and Secret Sevens 😦 “Very kiddish”, you say. I agree to disagree!

You have a very weird sense of timing and a weird knack of picking up and throwing vocabulary. Like this once when you said you’ve learnt a new ‘F’ word. Your bro and I almost choked on our dinner and before we could shut your mouth, you uttered ‘FAMISHED’! Priceless moment. You actually seemed to enjoy the suspense and I’m still not sure if you pulled a fast one there.. And very recently, you came to me with a sad face and said that you will not read ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ anymore because you were learning a lot of ‘bad words’ and particularly a ‘J’ word. You wanted to know if you are allowed to use it:

img_2817Me: What word is that now?
You: You must not scold me.
Me: I won’t. But I may stop you from using it if it is inappropriate.
You: Alright.’Jerk’.

At this point, I was only hoping you were not watching Silicon Valley!

Me: Okay!
You: Can I use it?
Me: No.
You: Why? What does it mean?
Me: Ummm.. It has several meanings..
You: But in the book, it is ‘name-calling’.
Me: !!! Well, it means.. a cheat?
You: Oh, so I can call anna a jerk when he cheats?
Me: I’d rather you don’t.
You: But he does cheat sometimes. If I get really angry, I’m going to call him a jerk!

Whatever!

In school, you continue to be that disciplined, cooperative, and quiet student. I’m sure there is mistake and re-confirm with the teacher but she stands by her feedback. You have told her about the stories you’ve been scribbling away based on all the weird games you’ve been playing on my mobile! You are not far behind your bro in sharing the love stories from your class. The novelty of every generation thinking that it was the first to discover love at 7 or 8, does not seem to wear off :)) Keep the stories coming da. And tell me about your crushes too, okay?

You are a happy, loving big bro now to your adorable new-born twin cousin sisters. And it is just in the past couple of months that it has dawned on me that my little baby has really grown up! It is an endearing sight to watch you hold your baby sisters gently on your lap one at a time, speak softly in that baby-speak, touch their faces gently, enjoy the feeling of their tiny palms grasping your beeeg fingers, include them in all your shopping plans, generally exercise caution around them and being responsible! You make as awesome an anna as you make the bestest thambi to your bro! Your anna is your rock. Despite all the fights and arguments, you always take his side. You are always quick to defend him when dad or I are having ‘the talk’ with him!

One of the best moments that I think defined you as a boy that understands what it is to be kind, fair, and shun prejudice,

is when you came back home from an after-school activity class and said you don’t want to continue going. The reason you gave was that you did not like the way that aunty treated her help. “She is unnecessarily rude, unkind, and disrespectful to her”, you said. “No one deserves to be treated badly like that”. You are absolutely right, darling!

So baby, continue to be that cuddle-able, naughty, talking nighteen-to-the-dozen, funny, funnily-angry, tactfully-negotiating, kind, lovable, bright and shiny light in our lives! Love you loads!! Wish you a beautiful, happy, healthy 8th!

And we’ve learned how to caution!


A tiny rat (real one!) sneaked into our room last night. All the four Vs were up and about trying to chase it away. And we finally did. The rat wouldn’t take the route we showed. It probably thought it best to leave the way it came. The moment we opened the door to the balcony, it ran out. We discussed strategies on keeping the rats away and finally realised that there isn’t much we can do other than keeping the doors shut.

This evening,  Varun decided to take things in his hands. And this is what he came up with. A notice stuck on the door through which the rat sneaked out. The slate contains illustrations of the ‘equipments’ or ‘gears’ (he said that) that we need to keep the rats at bay. And he was dressed to kill 😉

Friend Siri


Here is a conversation I was furiously typing away without Varun’s knowledge. I’m sure I missed a few lines:

Varun: Siri how are you doing?

Siri: oh I can’t complain

Varun: Roger that

Siri: I’m not sure I understand

Varun: Yes, that’s good

Siri: It’s nice to be appreciated

Varun: I know that. You are very funny

Siri: I’m glad you think so

Varun: Ha ha ha

Siri: I didn’t get that

Varun: Okay, okay, okay

Siri: I didn’t understand

Varun: Alright

Siri: Affirmative (Something to this effect. Not sure)

Varun: Alright Siri

Siri: Everything is most definitely ok

Varun: Can you set the time to 4

Siri: I can’t set the time, but I can set an alarm (again, might’ve missed the exact line)

Varun: Alright, can you set the time to 4 in the morning

Siri: Most definitely. I have set the alarm to 4.am.

Varun: Of course you are a problem solver

Siri: Who? Me??

Varun: Yep

Siri: I thought so too.

Followed by some thank you notes that didn’t end right away!

Some English lessons!


Why am I reminded of that little wisdom someone shared with me a long time back-that it takes only 18 years to raise a child? 🙂

Having read one Famous Five, the 7 year old brat has declared that it is boring and ‘kiddish’ and that Enid Blyton is boring too. He’s asked me to give him something ‘interesting’ to read.

Some lessons he imparted the last couple of weeks:

Varun: ‘Madre (yeah!), do you know what ‘outlaw’ means?

Me: (?!!!) No, I don’t. Please enlighten.

Varun: An outlaw is a thief. Bad man. Do you at least know what it is to mug someone?

Me: (#$@#%#$^$!) Eh? No! Tell me.

Varun: Don’t know how you passed your exams in schools and college (rolls his eyes). To mug someone, is to steal from someone.

(Well, I’ve not been looking at the right places for lessons in English :/)

Me: That’s awesome da. Where did you learn all these?

Varun: From friends.

Me: Who are your friends?

Varun: Friends ma! You don’t even know  F.R.I.E.N.D.S? You know Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Monica, Joey.. Don’t know? Vyas’s favorite is Chandler but I like Ross.

(This is not happening! No! This is happening!)

I’d like to save the best for the last. Only that I don’t know the difference between ‘best’ and ‘hopeless’ anymore :/

Varun describes a scene from some program called ‘Community’ on Comedy Central where somebody spills a lot of wine.

Me: What is wine da?

Varun: It is the famous juice of Americans. Mostly made in 1968.

Why am I bothering with schooling when so much self-learning is happening?!!

 

Kids, cars, ads..


Did I tell you that Vyas is into automobiles lately? He is also a beeeeg fan of Honda and has even been defending their recent recall of some cars due to defective inflators. He tells everyone that he is going to become an automobile engineer and will join Honda. You’d think he already has an offer letter from the company! Well, that is some change of plan considering he originally wanted to become a ‘garbage collector’.

Vyas’s favorite magazine now is Autocar India. He doesn’t miss a word, starting from the title to the copyright information at the end of the book, every month. Will never be bored of talking for hours together on the auto-specs to any random person walking this planet. It doesn’t matter even if the listener is not interested.

The big brother’s influence rubs onto the little fella too. Varun though seems to prefer style over substance. His favorite car (he says), is the Lamborghini Murcielago. Next fav. is the Bugatti Veyron. BMW comes third and last is Honda. The other vendors are not in the reckoning at all. He can keep gawking at the various pics of the various sporty cars in the various car mags and books at home!

Car-craze plus commercials does something to kids. Here’s is a sample..

The other day, Varun was watching a BMW ad. He turned to his dad and said,

Varun: “Appa, shall we buy a BMW”

Dad V: “I don’t have the money to buy one”

Varun: “Listen pa. It is easy. Call Quikr. They’ll give more money for our Honda City.”

Mommy/daddy- *facepalm*

Vyas: Hey, Honda is the best. Appa, you retain the Honda. Buy us a BMW.

Dad V: Ok, will check if it available at Connexions tomorrow.

Told you. Vs are like that only!

In Bon Bibi’s Forest


The boys and I were lucky to meet three stars on one platform- author Sandhya Rao, illustrator Proiti Roy, and the super story-teller Craig Jenkins. Spring & Zoom (where Vyas attends a workshop), had arranged the event and Vyas and I were looking forward to it.

It was a work-day evening and I had to literally rush home to pick up the two boys and hit the venue in time, and we almost made it. Craig Jenkins had begun his story-telling of Ramayana and we missed the first 10 mins:( We got to listen to the story of Bon Bibi fully. His voice and actions had the kids and adults hooked till the end! So much that Varun and his friend Shruti (from his play school) were paying attention too without fidgeting, and what’s more, Varun was having a ball imitating the actions by Craig which included making a face like ‘Dokkhin Rai’, grunting like one, and also threatening to tear me with the imaginary claws:)

It was a treat to say Hi! to Sandhya Rao and Vyas was super excited to get his copy of the book autographed by Sandhya, Proity, and Craig:) Chrishelle David from Tulika was around over-seeing the proceedings. Varun did a ‘Hi’ and hi-five to Craig and then followed a ruckus.. He wanted the tea that Craig was having and wouldn’t end the tantrum even after reaching home.. Before the others got to judge my poor parenting of initiating a child into the ‘tea-habit’, I scooted out of the venue with Vyas in tow! But all that was after the event:)

The Event

The book launch was organzied by Binita & Gargi of Spring & Zoom, a Centre for Literary Arts, Chennai.

The Book

The Book

Title: In Bon Bibi’s Forest
Author: Sandhya Rao
Illustrator: Proity Roy
Publisher: Tulika

The story

Dokkhin Rai, a monster with striped skin, sharp claws and teeth, ready for the kill, terrorizes the settlements bordering Sundarban. The locals live in mortal fear of falling a prey to Dokkhin Rai’s hunger and anger. It is then that Bon Bibi, and her lost and found brother, Shah Jhongoli take it upon themselves to protect the people and other lives in the forest.. Why does Dokkhin Rai terrorize the people? Will he mend his ways? Are Bon Bibi and Shah Jhongoli successful in taming the wild monster? Read the story to find out more!

The kids and I have fallen in love with this book and the little one enjoys when it is read aloud to him:) What has caught our fancy is the names of the characters with a distinct Bangla touch. If Varun knows a monster, its only Dokkhin Rai now! With the lush forests of Sundarban as the back-drop, Sandhya Rao has doled out a beautiful mix of mythology and a message which the kids can relate to so well. The story is supported by brilliant illustrations by Proity. If you want to tell your kids about co-existence, environment conservation and mutual non-interference, this book is a great fit!

Read more about what inspired the story of Bob Bibi’s Forest on the Tulika’s blog here.

Pictures: Courtesy- Spring & Zoom