Balancing act ~ 2

Last night I encountered a gray African parrot  at a friends place. The parrot belongs to his father, who is a bird aficionado, and Raju, the African gray, has been around for many years. I walked over to his cage for a closer look and he immediately bristled and turned away, wary of newcomers, but I whistled to reassure him of my friendliness.

His feathers settled down and he slowly turned around to inspect me with an unblinking birdy eye, head cocked to one side. Then he whistled back. I whistled again. He whistled too.

‘Hello birdy,’ I said.

‘Hello!’ said Raju.

‘Helloooo….’ I repeated, stunned.

‘Hellooo!’ said Raju.

Needless to say, I would have been quite content to hang with Raju the remainder of the evening, shooting the breeze, but etiquette demanded I socialize with my human friends. I’m told Raju does a great imitation of friend’s Dad, repeating an idiosyncratic phrase in his exact voice, calling out to the chowkidars loudly,  ‘Javaiiiiiid…..’…..’Mukhtiaaaaar….’. He also greets everyone with a chirpy ‘Good morning’ every day.

I had a cup of very good coffee, as a result of which I had trouble falling asleep. (This is the first time I actually put two and two together)

Consequently, I woke up later than usual. Huz said he woke up during the night and heard me making strange purring sounds as I slept and he wondered what I was dreaming of. It was so weird to be told I was doing something I was completely unaware of doing. He was so amused.

Amu has been agitated of late. I watched as she paced the rug yesterday, going in circles as she followed the border pattern.

‘Have you ever considered that I might actually really need to see a therapist?’ she asks.

‘Nonsense, therapists are useless. I can do a better job of sorting you out,’ say I, the bird whisperer.

We sat on my bed and talked for an hour, girl to girl. Turns out I’m not the only one with friend woes in this family. Turns out I’m not the only one who over thinks things and drives herself crazy. And apparently she is just like her mother, tears spilling over as she gets emotional.

My concern for Amu’s emotional well-being is visceral. If she is troubled, I am troubled, as simple as that. No one gave me a handbook for parenting an only kid. When I was growing up, I didn’t seek out my mother to confide in or discuss my problems with…..I had my sisters. Apparently people who have sisters tend to be happier and more optimistic, simply because of the connection they feel when they talk. Sometimes I feel crushed when I think that Amu’s long-lasting happiness and optimism have been sabotaged, because we didn’t provide her with any. It is a sadness I carry around with me.

Not a lot of people I know can understand the intensity of the balancing act I do, trying to be both mother and sister.

The good thing is, Amu talks to Huz too, albeit of different things. We hang together as a family. That doesn’t mean Amu isn’t a moody, broody teenager, but I’m pleased to report she isn’t closed off to us, just because we’re parents.

I tell Amu to keep calm and eat chocolate. I know she doesn’t like chocolate, but I wish she did. I had made hot cocoa the other night and it sure had a therapeutic effect on me.

Sometimes I wish I was less goofy and weird, but it is the idiotic things I babble that make Amu giggle. As for me, I just felt absolutely relieved to see the clouds on her head dissipate. She bounced off the bed and ran off to scribble things in her diary. Later that night, as we were driving to aforementioned friends place, I heard my phone beep. There was a text message on it that said, ‘I love you loadz nice parents of mine.’

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Song triggers

Stories of my annual October allergies have become old hat now, so I won’t say much about it except that it’s been a miserable week…or two. Flu rendered me more or less useless, so I wallowed in listlessness while it lasted. On top of all that, Zahooran decided to celebrate Eid back in her hometown and has been gone for…you guessed it…two weeks.

I have been mostly ‘sensible’ about the layers of dust and cat hair piling up, and only tackled the housework when things got too bad. Today was one of those days. Happily, I felt more energetic today, so it must mean I’m better now. A few puffs of my inhalers (I have two different kinds) before my morning mug of tea, and I’m good to go.

My days start late, since I am an owl, and today was no exception, but come hometime, I must drop whatever it is I have belatedly embarked upon and dash off to pick Amu from school.  Sometimes it gets a little crazy. Like today, I had been cleaning out my front balcony in a grubby tshirt and shorts, sweaty and a bit out of breath from all that dust, just 5 minutes before Amu had to be collected.

Jumping out of work clothes and into respectable outdoor attire is a challenge I rise to most admirably, I feel.

Huz had warned me about the main road next to the Mazaar being cordoned off for a couple of days for the Urs of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. Every time this happens, all the traffic gets diverted to a parallel street, which in our case happens to be the one that passes right next to our main gate. Craziness.

I cranked up the volume as Prince wafted out of the radio and sang along to ‘When doves cry’ as a couple of pigeons flew up and out of my way, over the windshield.

…..’maybe I’m just like my mother….’

The song ended and the RJ mentioned that the song was from ‘Purple Rain’, which was released in ’84.

What was I doing in 1984….?

Well, I was 12 years old then and that time of my life can only be defined by where we lived.

It was a rented apartment in a complex meant for retired army officers, but for me and my sisters it was a bubble. We were completely self-contained there.

I would go to school in the morning in a van with a bunch of other kids and return in the afternoon, tired and hot and hungry. After the noise and the traffic on the roads and a commute interrupted by multiple stops, our huge compound felt quiet and peaceful, though I still had to climb three flights of stairs lugging a heavy bag.

My mother would have lunch ready and we would all eat together, except my father who would be at work. My eldest two sisters shared a room, while I shared with my younger sister/arch nemesis, Fatu. It was not easy. Those were the days when I simply hated her, and I’d fly into rages if she bugged me, which was pretty often. She was 7 years old then, and the boys in the compound had nicknamed her ‘aunty’. I have no idea why.

Eldest Sis was 19, and was engaged/romantically involved. On top of that, she was busy with her studies and I thought she was very brave and independent as she used public transport to get to and from college. She even knew how to drive and had been doing so for a couple of years, since my father firmly believed that his daughters should be bold and confident, like boys, and furthermore, not depend on him to go anywhere.

This was also the time when Eldest Sis began to beat her stammer.

Since she led such a full, busy life, Eldest Sis had the remarkable ability to fall asleep anywhere, even in seemingly uncomfortable places. She would cajole one of us to scratch her back as we watched tv in the family room while she sprawled on the floor on her tummy, or curled up with a cushion. She had long straight hair then, a figure to die for, and beautifully manicured hands. Pedicures were her particular hobby, and the rest of us watched her, fascinated, as she groomed herself.

She also paid me to iron her clothes sometimes, a few rupees perhaps, but in those days it would be enough to buy me an ice lolly or a packet of chips from the corner store.

Eldest Sis and Sax, the second after the Eldest, had always been thick as thieves since they were little. They share the most history, and remember the most about our collective past.

Sax was 16 then, had just begun college, and seemed to manage to have lots of fun.

Now that Eldest Sis was in a relationship, it also seemed that she was preoccupied, or on the phone, or out a lot. So even though they shared a room, Sax could not always count on Eldest Sis for company.

So it was that she began to notice my existence, and my status went up a notch. I was now old enough to have the honour of ‘hanging out’ with her, be a companion for a walk around the block, could be told secrets in confidence as well as be a worthy opponent for evening badminton matches under the streetlight.

It was also around this time that I began to have problems with my breathing as the winter months approached, and my father started to worry about my health…

(to be continued…)

Balancing act

With Huz back in Tanzania for a week, it’s just Amu  and me and Fuzzy in the bubble, with Zahooran making an appearance early in the morning to clean up the mess we make on a daily basis. Things get a little lawless around here without Huz. Without him we degenerate into serial felons. We play computer games like fiends (current obsession being Angry Birds…..what fun!), we watch multiple episodes of  ‘The Vampire Diaries’ on dvd till the wee hours and we sleep at 4 am.

We eat only Soupy Maggi Noodles (mast masala if you please) for dinner, pizza and a heap of fries doused in chaat masala, ketchup and lemon and garlic mayo for lunch, and pancakes for breakfast. It is telling that I have described our meals in reverse order.

Yup, the bubble is a very unhealthy place to be in these days.

In the middle of all this decadence, I’ve been busily subscribing to some interesting blogs, which means I get a flurry of emails every day. Which makes me realise everybody updates their blog way more regularly than I do. Which makes me feel very uneasy and prone to panic attacks, with a pretty constant naggy feeling of not doing what I SHOULD be doing.

Funny thing about blogging is, everything I do becomes bloggable, so while I’m going about doing things my mind is thinking about how I could craft something fun and witty out of the most mind-numbingly mundane activities. Like doing the laundry or watering the plants, or even brushing Fuzzy and getting the firmly knotted tangles out of his voluminous fur. I flip on my laptop and open up all my various tabs, forgetting what a dangerous move that is. I am immediately distracted by new mails, new tweets, new notifications on facebook and fresh comments on the dashboard. Any hopes of writing anything, fly right out the window without me even realising it until an hour (or two) later, when I have read everything, replied to everyone, pored over all updates and watched a few videos.

In fact, sometimes I read some really amazing posts on other people’s blogs and they say what I want to say so much better, my motivation fizzles out like carbonation from an opened can of half-drunk soda in the fridge. (There’s no point holding on to that unused soda by the way, I might as well pour it down the drain immediately.)

Yesterday, a thought struck me anew and I thought I should articulate it somehow, and to this end, I have consciously closed all the other tabs on my browser, a great way of staying focused.

I find that I hang out with Amu a lot more when Huz is away. And as a consequence I end up bonding with her better, which makes me wonder why we don’t spend as much time together when Huz is around….

For one, Amu moves into my room at night…it’s as if she doesn’t want me to feel alone. Though, being an only kid, she’s the one who sleeps alone in her own room every night, even though she gets creeped out by rattly doors and strange sounds that have a rational explanation but which escape you when you’re disoriented in the no-man’s land between wakefulness and deep slumber.

We talk and we giggle and she goads and cajoles me into taking her wherever she whimsically decides to go…..and I pull myself out of my summer torpor, grumbling and complaining, but in the end we end up having a lot of fun.  She’s into photography in a big way, but too timorous at this point to do anything more than point and shoot from the car window as we drive around our part of the city…..she has a great eye and it always surprises me to see what she considers interesting enough to capture. And she composes her frames well!

I really appreciate her personality, I find. She knows what she wants and what she likes, and I have an inkling she feels comfortable enough to share ‘some’ of her secret thoughts with me…. sometimes. I know she scribbles in a diary (which she keeps rather temptingly on her shelf….and no, I haven’t read it, though I’m DYING to, but I understand it would be a violation of her privacy…dammit)

She surprises me with her maturity sometimes. She makes all these conscious decisions without anyone having to really tell her, least of all myself. The other day she decided she wants me to fill her wardrobe with a bunch of shalwar/kameezes. The need to dress conservatively sprang into action of its own accord, because SHE judged it wise to do so, living in the kind of world we do, where men cannot seem to control their eyes and everything female must be stared at and stared at, until a child who finds herself suddenly ‘grown up’ is bewildered into being self-conscious ALL the time.

It’s 5:30, and the sun is streaming in through the window, which would not have been very pleasant  an hour ago when there was a power cut, but right now we have electricity and so we have air-conditioning, which is really awesome very nice. I’m trying to dash off a post for today before I get cracking on the pile of cloth I need to stitch into fetching outfits for Amu and I. In the meantime, she is trying out the blouses we bought yesterday and figuring out ways to wear them ‘decently’ with jeans. She says the boys in her gang have a way of making fun of all the girls. She just told me they call her Mike Tyson and snigger while asking if she just got back from the gym. She is wondering aloud why they do this, looking endearingly uncertain. I tell her it’s probably cos she’s so sporty and has such awesome incredible shoulders.

I shooed her off to watch some tv while I finish off this post, as she was being rather kitten-like and distracting, curled up next to me on the bed, texting one friend or other and asking questions or making random observations about me, or making fun of my incorrect use of the language that kids speak in these days. Despite all my inadequacies, I still feel like an older sister rather than a mom to her, and I let her insult me good-naturedly, because that’s how sisters are.

that's Amu reflected in the hand-painted mirror 🙂 and my hair's messy because of the fan 😛

I’m glad I can still pull out the mom card when needed though, because that’s how our relationship swings. When she listens to me thoughtfully and nods her acquiescence after a ‘lecture’, I know she needs that firm bit of guidance that only a parent can give, and I’m thinking, the teens aren’t as bad as they’re cranked up to be.

*throws salt over shoulder*