Monday, May 25, 2015

Documentation for Dummies!

'M, come here for a minute and bring X and Y with you' my husband called in a voice that suggested that we were about to have a family meeting. This is a routine matter for us. Every once in a while, he will call, we will gather; he will speak, we will listen; he will dismiss and we will disperse. I always think in hindsight that I should have taken a notepad with me because the words of wisdom he doles out in these family meetings deserves to be passed down to generations. Sometimes I wonder how he manages to walk up straight without sagging under the weight of all that knowledge and wisdom. It can't be easy for him, I am sure.

To my 'Can't this wait? I have Sambar on the stove and it's not ready yet', my husband gave an indulgent smile and said no. Of course not! Switching off the stove I walked behind him looking back only to make sure X and Y were following. The next challenge was gathering around the toilet bowl in the pea-sized bathroom which was the venue of our current meeting. If you haven't seen our family recently, you probably cannot understand the mammoth (pun intended) difficulty of fitting the four of us around the said bowl but after a bit of creative maneuvering, we all took our rightful place and waited for the meeting to commence. As my husband cleared his throat to begin, I realized I had once again forgotten the notepad. Darn it!

'As you all know, this toilet has been leaking for a while now' he stopped and looked at us for confirmation. Promptly we all nodded and he continued 'so I have come up with a plan to prevent water getting wasted so much'. X, Y and I gazed at him with undiluted awe. He deserves a halo behind his head, I thought reverently, as he got ready to share another one of his many master plans with us.

Bending down to point at the knob below, he said 'Remember to turn this counter clockwise every time before you use this bathroom'. He paused to see if we were following and we did what we always do best. We nodded vigorously anxious to relieve his mind of all doubts. How could we not follow him? He even demonstrated 'counter clockwise'. That is how good he is to us. I can't believe how fortunate we are to have his guidance in complicated matters like these. Satisfied that we got it, he proceeded 'After you flush the toilet, wait for 20 seconds and then turn it clockwise until you can turn no more'.

Uh oh! Oh God, please no! Not Math! Not at a time like that. I could see myself in the bathroom reciting 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand………………….I looked at X and Y in despair but they are made of sterner stuff than me. They were looking at my husband with a look that seemed to say 'Is that all you got'? Unfazed by that, of course, my husband continued to patiently demonstrate the knob-turning technique until he was sure the process was etched in our little brains. Such was his training that I found myself practicing the turn unconsciously in the air while watching TV last night.

'But appa' Y interrupted his training session and asked 'What about when we have guests at home?' Thrilled and thoroughly pleased by this intelligent question of Y, my husband beamed a smiled at her and proceeded to solve this new problem. His ability to instantly provide solutions to problems is spooky, I tell you. Give him a problem and he will give you a solution right away but if you are the kind that needs some hand holding with implementation, I suggest you knock on a different door with your problems. How much can one person do? He can't both think and act now, can he?

'This is what you do' he laid out the plan for us. 'Make a document that gives step by step instructions on how to turn the knob and how long they are supposed to wait before turning it again. Be sure to take a picture of the toilet bowl and put an arrow in red (he really pays attention to details, doesn't he?) to indicate the position of the knob. X, you are good at drawing, right? I want you to draw examples of clockwise and anti-clockwise motions and put it under the bullet points. After all, we want to make it easy for our guests to enjoy our bathroom' he finished.

I blinked the tears of pride that were welling up in my eyes. Such thoughtful and thorough documentation instructions are worthy of a Fortune 500 company's IT department. And here is my husband, brimming with the milk of human kindness, using his skills so you can pee in peace (using the instruction sheet that is soon to go on the wall over the toilet) if you ever plan to stay over in our home.

Is it any wonder that we adore him? J

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother’s Day!

Honestly, I was the worst child ever. How my Mom put up with me when I was growing up is beyond my understanding. If I had been her, I would have disowned me in a heartbeat.

It is no exaggeration when I say that I was brash, demanding and outright obnoxious. Without considering how I will be leaving my Mom to face the fire-breathing dragons of our Land (my Dad and Uncle in righteous anger) for my adventures, I would happily hop off to play cricket and kabadi with the boys on the street. Knowing very well that playing board games or putting kolam/rangoli might have fetched my Mom some brownie points for good child-rearing over summer vacation, I had thoughtlessly opted to borrow (or steal, if you want to be technical about it) my Uncle's 2 wheeler to take a joy ride around the neighborhood. One time, I overheard my Dad's sister giving helpful pointers to my Mom as to what she could do to make me better. J

That's not all. When I felt the first pangs of hunger, I needed food right that second. I mean, right that ticking second. The fact that I woke up hungry most days and went through the day in a constant state of hunger is a whole different matter. And, it is not like I would eat anything my Mom cooked. No way! The Meena's 'approved' list of dishes was, yes, pathetic but definitely non-negotiable. Naturally everything I liked had a direct or indirect connection to potatoes therefore making them 'oh no' items for all the adults in the family.

My mother would wake up at 4 am most days and claim her Kitchen kingdom with the enthusiasm of a 5 star hotel chef on his first day of work. When people talk of multi-tasking, I snicker. Discreetly of course because hey, I know it is wrong. My mother was the true mistress of multi-tasking. A quick peep in the Kitchen window would show her starting her day at the stove by putting water and milk pot side by side for the morning coffee ritual. From then on, it was a whirlwind of action getting breakfast and lunch boxes ready for my Uncle and my Dad who would step out of the house by 7 am.

When I say lunch boxes, it is the nothing like the totally pitiful ones that I pack for my daughter to school here. No sandwiches and yogurt cups then. Sambar rice, yogurt rice, one healthy veg, one koottu or keerai (palak), papads all packed nicely in 2 steel carriers by 7 AM. A well-played first innings indeed. After a short 2 minute tea break, the second innings would begin with my sisters and I creating a tornado in the house to leave for school at 8 am. Off she would go to whip up a spicy tomato rice for me, onion sambar and a plantain roast for my elder sister, rasam and a beans curry for my younger sister. As we rush out of the house without so much as a 'thank you amma', she would wave us off with a smile and enter the Kitchen for the last and final innings of the morning. It is now time to cook 'pathiya' food for my aunt who was bed ridden with a painful rheumatic arthritis.

You may think, sure a lot of mothers those days cooked and cared like this for their families. You would be right but what makes my mom special to me is that after almost 5 hours of cooking, she would find the time to sit by my aunt's bed side and talk to her about the morning activities and ask for her advice about next day's menu and simply keep her company. Who does that, you tell me. God must have had a bad 'Math' day when he put a dozen people's quota of goodness into my mother alone.

My mother lived her life as an example to us. What little I have learned about helping others, I learned watching her. There was an old man in our neighborhood when I was growing up. We had nicknamed him 'Tuesday begger' as he always came to our door on Tuesday mornings alone. He had principles too, you know. He would beg only once a week in each neighborhood. Politicians should have his scruples. He would come in the morning before we would leave for school. In all that morning madness, she would take a plantain leaf, place it on a plate, serve hot rice with sambar, vegetable, a glass of buttermilk, one banana and feed him. She would wait for him to finish his meal and pour cool water for him to wash his hands and send him off his way with a one rupee coin. Who does that, I ask again.

Today, my mother is just weeks shy of 80 and is recovering from a knee surgery. She is the most loving, generous and compassionate person that I know and I consider myself blessed to be her daughter.

Happy Mother's Day Amma! I hope to be at least half as good a mom to my kids as you were to all of us. Thank you for putting up with all my nonsense all these years. J