Saturday, March 26, 2011

Women + history+ neurosis + genes = dining table of familiar commotion

My grandmother told me this morning, as I was about leave the house, that I'm becoming increasingly self-centered.

What? Why?!

Apparently I'm not spending enough time with the family.

"Nonsense", I said, "I came for lunch yesterday when Charu called". (And so basically, bye, I'm not having lunch at home.)

And that was that.

As consolation, I had dinner at home and went neither to the gymkhana with boy and friends, nor to Smoke House Grill with college friend in town for a week and her husband and his friends whom I've never met. Can't say either was such a sacrifice. I'm happy to be home and listening to my Nani talk about fat pink peaches she ate in Peshawar. No, not Peshawar; Quetta, says my Nana. This any day over fragments of jejune conversation that would have stuck to my ears, like last night, had I gone out with either bunch.

So Charu who called is my grandmother's only other grand daughter and therefore my cousin. When she called for lunch means, when she had descended on the grandparents for visit plus lunch along with her daughter, aged 7, and rung me up to move my ass and come join in the fun and games. Generations merge and age no bar.

She's in her 40s and I talk to her as an equal possibly because I haven't grown up calling her, my 'older sister' i.e didi. Charu is Charu. Age difference be damned. Even though, growing up, some thought it was a bit off that I don't do the didi thing.

Back then, I would look up to Charu who would send birthday cards and include the dog's name in the sign off under lots of love. Charu bought me, from the book section at Modern Bazaar that hasn't existed in longer than I haven't worn braces, a hard back edition of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Charu would let me sit in the room when her college friend, the one with long black hair and dreamy almond eyes -- Roma -- and she would do their girly lets-wash-each-others-hair thing. The good cousin had time to ask us kids (my older brother -- not bhaiyya either -- and I ) how life was. Then Charu got married and I seemed to have taken it a bit personally for I wept like a loon. No, don't go! There'll be nobody cool left in this family!

Of course I didn't know then that I'd see her the next day and be her little helper in opening wedding presents. If I was a cool kid, I might have been less cute kid. Good things got waited out, I suppose.

So lunch, yesterday, the one I used as a trump card to redeem my always-out-of-the-house-ness, was, you know, 'fine'.

It amused me a little to think that Charu's daughter, age 7, might be a leetle bit in awe of me. Technically I am her aunt. But even she, to the slight dismay of my grandmother, and her great grandmother -- how cool is that? -- doesn't do the didi thing. We're a wayward family. I am my name. And the kid has this unnerving way of saying it in a really sweet, shy voice that catches my mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, and me, all off guard: Nivtee, you want water? Makes me reconsider having children. No, wait! Checking myself. But you know what I mean.

So this child, this loaded with personality dark-haired, dark-skinned thing with hair as curly as her mother's, (but like my grandmother and I agree, way too long for her height, age, proportion), said 'thingy'. And I sat up. Thingy. Smart, growing up too fast, born when I was in college, child, said thingy. Surely when a kid starts being cool and saying things like thingy, the cuteness is gone. I thought this. And momentarily felt sad, because I haven't, to use an MBA-type word, 'interacted' much at all with this, this child when child was cute and free of cool-isms.

I used to fumble around kids because doing ooozzziieee wooozie *cheek pull* followed by more sundry gargling, puckering and cooing would make me incredibly self conscious. It was/is, easier to treat them like people. Maybe take it easy on the big words and not say, it's been a pleasure interacting with you, but if I don't say that to adults, why would I unleash those demons on little people, related and much dearer.

So, my niece, because that's who she is, right?, is pretty smart.

We needed to break the ice. I refused to do it, figuring that when she's acclimatised to my presence, she'll do it on her own if she deems me cool enough to talk to.

Didn't take long. I have respect for little person-for coming up to me at the dining table three seconds after she sees I've finished my lunch and asks, smiling away, but not meeting my eye: will you play with me?

Me: disguising my melted heart - Um, sure. What do you want to play?


Me: Um, okay... where are the sticks?

I'll go find!

(Charges into my grandparents' room / her great grand parents room -- again, how lucky is that child to mingle with her great grand parents? -- and drags out one number walking stick, triumphant grin and all)

Me: What will I play with?

Child panics. There's only one walking stick. I tell her to take it easy, I'll, er, find a makeshift hockey stick somewhere in this house. All I find is a folded newspaper -- The Economic Times, I must show off here, with an old attempt of mine at the cryptic crossword. I figure I could play with a newspaper. Child not convinced. Abandon show off prop. Enter random twig. Yaay! We'll play with this.

Off we go to the veranda, 7-year-old and about-to-be-27-year old, niece and aunt, armed with one plastic golf ball one walking stick and one random twig. I am explained the rules of hockey, and most generously, offered the walking stick, because the upturned u-handle will make a better end to whack with, if you can picturise what I with silly words gesticulate to explain.

She to me: This is your goal. This is my goal.
Me to she: Yup, okay, got it. Start.

We play for maybe nine minutes, squealing, running, dodging, whacking the ball against the peeling paint on the veranda wall and, what do you know- breaking the ice. So much for letting little person win. The child thrashed me. I was impressed. I was also thinking good deed for the day over.

Turns out, we were just warming up. Back inside the cooler environs, little one looks up at me and blurts: ask me anything about South Africa!

What?! Er, okay... what's the general um complexion of people there?

Child looks lost.

Okay, okay, forget. What's the er, population of south Africa?

Child looks lost still.

Obviously I make a crap child interviewer.

Then I say, okay, why don't you just tell me whatever you know about south Africa.., yes?

Thrilled kid starts of, and here's where I could have just done a separate post called

Why I think my 7-year-old niece is smarter than I was at 7

Because she said thingy. I never said thingy when I was 7. I never said thingy at 20 even!

Because she asked me to quiz her on South Africa and supplied me with the following:
  • Africa has 54 countries
  • The smallest country is Seychelles
  • The largest country is Algeria
  • The capital is Pretoria and
  • Sudan is divided into two parts
And also because when I taught her to play Name Place Animal Thing, for an animal with I, I went with Iguana and she wrote Impala (!).
When she got stuck at animal starting with U and asked me for help, I said underdog but it wasn't funny, not to her but her mother and I giggled.

Somewhere in that afternoon is the beauty of sisters not planning their families. I don't see how else women of ages 90, 62, 45, 27 and 7, who live in different homes, can sit down together to lunch and pretend it's an everyday thingy.
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cathatfished said...

i woke up this morning to the sun pouring through my window, chai, a clean room and old hindi music and felt so much love for the world. now in the evening reading your post gave me the same warm feeling :)

Anonymous said...

you lucky lucky thing

i cried reading this

i miss home

The.Mystic said...

My niece is also like this, can't say the same for the cousin sister. I felt really warm reading this, it reminded me of the silly games I used to play as a kid and playing those games with my niece and nephews. Life's pleasures are in the simplest of things!

Nimpipi said...

catthat: I write for you, I do. I love your comment!

Anon: I don't know what to say.

Myst: Sweet! Danke:)

Perakath said...

Word of the day, jejune. It looks like a fake word, no?

I can't believe you're so comfortable with your touchscreen that you typed out this fellow on your phone.

Nimpipi said...

Pera: I first heard fake word in the context of boyband lyrics; jejune words of a song or some such. Fake or not, it stuck:)

You realise you have the ability to hair split some bits of a post that makes your comments the easiest to reply to? :) I was wondering when someone would register the little droid-blogger line at the end. Had to be you:) Impressive no? Although, sigh, I didn't type the whole thing out, alright. Just edited a line here and there, removed excess commas, checked my tendency to ramble.. all that. Basically, didn't type out the entire thing on that touch pad - iss not good for you, or for the battery of touch pad.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Is your college husband aware that her husband is a half-wit?

Are your maternal instincts boiling? Remember, your eggs are stamped with an expiration date.

You are not imagining it. Children are WAY smarter at a much earlier age than previously. They also, unfortunately, become more world-wise to the dark side of life as well. All too soon.

Nimpipi said...

UB: I've been meaning to edit that half-wit line, but she doesn't read my blog. I'm telling myself, that's okay then.

He is, ok. He really is!. She doesn't know it, because, sigh, she's a half wit too.

I don't know where I get stuck befriending warm, well meaning clucks whom I really love despite their cluckyness.

My maternal insticts.. damn. I don't know. I hope not. I want a dog though.

Anonymous said...

"smarter" is to be qualified though. certainly they're more smartassy. more ironic-ism/sarcasmism. less earnest. genuine intelligence and original thought? no. children are idiots.

The.Mystic said...

Get a Lhasa Apso!

Nimpipi said...

Anon: I was with you till your last line. More precocious than idiotic, but sure, I guess there is a bunch of idiot children floating around. Just like idiot adults.

Myst: I want a Great Dane okay! Or a boxer, ideally. No yappity apsos for me. It's a pity I don't have a sprawling farmhouse at my disposal. My dream dog will have to shrink. Sigh. Oh wait, a beagle! There's an idea..

Sucheta said...

Awww inspiring post.
Kids are getting scarily smart! Soon there will be no mids. Just a bunch of physically underdeveloped adults.