Watching Alyssa as she went about her day, dancing, prancing, laughing, crying, demanding, deciding, manipulating, teasing, remonstrating; being as unpredictable as a fourteen month old can be, set the whirligig of time spinning and I found myself at different time zones with my boys.
I was with Tintin aged five, who had just returned from a school fete. It was the first time he had attended a fete in school. He was happy, I could tell from the way his eyes glowed and by his non-stop chatter about his day.
“I bought poha for you because you like it,” he said handing me his plastic tiffin box. I was pleased. I opened it and saw a lot of chopped green chilli, carefully collected in one corner.
“Wow! That’s a lot of chilli,” I exclaimed.
“Yes, that’s why I picked them out. You don’t like too much chilli, na?” My heart melted.
“So where is the poha, beta?” I asked looking at the few turmeric yellow grains of rice sticking to the sides.
“Oh, I ate it.”
He didn’t see the broad grin on my face because he had already turned his attention to something else.
“You are so thoughtful about Mama,” I said.
I knew I was not going to forget the day my little boy thought of buying me something I liked, on his first fete. Well, that he picked out the chillies was also so thoughtful. That he ate it up is the whimsical part!
The whirligig spins again and I go further back in time. Tintin is one and a half. I have tutored him about not putting things from the floor into his mouth, because they were “dirty.” “Dhirty,” he had repeated bobbing his head. I was pleased as Punch.
I had left him sitting on a small stool on the balcony. He was munching on almonds, cashewnuts and raisins from a bowl. Then I heard it, a low chant in a monotone; Dhirty...dhirty..dhirty...
I went to see what was so ‘dhirty’ and there he was, meticulously picking up the spilled nuts and raisins from the floor and pitching them over the wall, having pronounced each as dirty! I tried to stop him but the look he gave me as he held one up to me and said dhirty, left no room for retrieval. He insisted on throwing each dhirty, not to mention expensive, nut out.
I wondered if it would be a good idea to teach him about ‘not so dirty.’ After all weren’t almonds supposed to be brain food? However I chucked the idea along with the few remaining almonds. There was much more the brain could feed on. Tintin found books, the best food for thought!
When Tintin was three, we were on our first ever trip to his father’s home town. It was as new for me as it was for him. The people, the language, the culture, everything was new and had a different tone and nuance. Our first lunch with the family found Tintin sitting between an older cousin, much older by about twenty-two years, and one of his father’s college pals.
He was a picture of decorum and good table manners and I puffed up like a mother hen, as my mother-in-law praised him. However, I noticed he was leaning away from the man on his right, the college pal. Thinking he had some sort of discomfort with the chair, I made the big mistake of asking out loud, why he was sitting that way. He nodded his head and kept quiet. So the cousin whispered a query. That was it.
He leaned further away from the pal and said in a stage whisper, “This man is dangerous.”
Nothing could be more far removed from the image of “dangerous” than this thin, meek man sitting bent over his plate.
Given the cultural setting we were in this could be construed as a big insult especially, coming from someone so young. It could also be reflective of the manner of upbringing, thus bringing our parenting skills into question. All of a sudden there was a clash of emotions between the inflated mother hen and the mother. The former deflated and the latter burst out laughing. Thankfully, everyone found it not just funny but charmingly funny; even the pal.
I guess he had no option given the cheerful scenario.
Poha....a light dish made of beaten rice and spices.