Skip to main content

Dial 911 for Amma

There was a time, some years ago, when nearly every other month would see some aunt or the other jetting off to the US to assist their daughter during childbirth. The process would start with announcement of the good news followed by frenzied months of preparation. It would kick off with applications for passport and visa. Every new development would be discussed, debated, put to vote and finally taken a decision on. If there was a small item in the Hindu on page 14 about restrictions to the number of visas being given out that particular month, favourite gods would be invoked, sacrifices promised and fasts undertaken in order that such a decision not affect the concerned family member's application.

An auspicious day would be chosen and packing for the trip would commence. Sarees would be chosen, suitcases dusted off, woolens borrowed and dry-cleaned. Contents of the suitcase would be constantly rearranged like a loose-limbed jigsaw puzzle. Half a kilo of thuvaram paruppu would take the place of a sentimental maroon saree when a casual mention during weekly phone calls to the US would reveal that dal prices had risen sharply in the preceding months. There would be the mandatory horror story narrated by another US-returnee who would recall how a ghastly black customs officer refused to let a pack of rasam-podi enter the hallowed grounds of America. And as the big day drew close, the pace would be stepped up. Like a bee hive, the would-be passenger's house would buzz with activity surrounding the trip. Finer aspects of the visit would be nailed in place, numerous rehearsals of the procedure - from check-in to immigration - carried out, farewells would be bid and just as you begin to wonder if they would ever leave, they would. Over the next months, we would hear all about trips to Niagara falls, dollar conversion rates, massive supermarkets, twin SUVs at the garage and 5-bedroom suburban houses. Some years later, when the cousin was having another child, the whole procedure (with the exception of passport application) would be repeated all over again.

Sometimes I wondered why the aunts and uncles were never invited to visit their children at times other than during child birth. Did my cousins not think their parents (particularly the girls') deserved a holiday in the land of milk and honey? And why did the aunts and uncles, despite whispered stories of endlessly lonely days stuck in the house with an infant while the parents went out to work, always seem eager to jump on the next flight westward? Is it because this would be their only chance of visiting the promised land? And a rare opportunity to spend time with their grandchildren?

Such were the thoughts crossing my mind when I called my parents in India last year to tell them that there was to be an addition to our family.

(to be continued...)

Comments

Blogeswari said…
ahaaa... kelambittangayya kelambittangayya!

Kamaan.. ulla irukkara singatha veliye konduva.. continue pannu magale continue...
Aim said…
Hmm.............. Quite a question...... Reminded of "the namesake" though not directly...Neways congrats i guess....... Don't be startled, am just a not so regular reader of ur blog....
Red Phoenix said…
A picturesque description of what I might witness with my parents a (lot) few years ahead of my life.... :) Howz the kid and mom doing?
WA said…
BAH I keep asking/begging my parents to visit and they can't be asked :( Turns out that my parents have a busy life in India and the idea of spending a few weeks in a rainy boring place isn't tempting enough. As you get older isn't your life supposed to revolve around children and grandchildren? Hmpf
Aparna Menon said…
Dear ammani,

After reading your blog, i kind of patted myself on my back. I am a single child and i came to US 4 years back...last year my father retired and as a retirement gift i sent my parents to Europe...while most ppl wondered why i wouldn’t ask them to come and stay with me so i can get home made food for some time!!

This year, both my in-laws and my parents came over to US to visit us , just to enjoy the stay and visit places together..(of course the vested interest was that we don’t have to make 2 Niagara trip, 2 NY trips and so on...but anyways...we were all together...)

No kids around yet and no plan for any in the near future...but i loved having the parents around just like good ‘ol times...:)!!
Thought provoking.
Nicely said.
SUMI said…
"Sometimes I wondered why the aunts and uncles were never invited to visit their children at times other than during child birth. "

A bit of a skewed perspective I must say. Parents have visited me when I was single and in college and will visit now when I am married and kidless, and once I have kid(s) as well. But perhaps what you describe is indeed a small part of the sample space in your frame of vision !
said…

You May Also Like

Guest blog by Chinna Ammani

Here’s an interesting write-up by Chinna Ammani on stereotypical portrayals in Indian adverts. The opinion expressed is strong and the language uncompromising. Read at your own peril!-a

The Aiyaiyo Syndrome

These days I do what is called as a shooting supervision. When ads are filmed (with lip sync) in Tamizh, my job is to teach models their lines and rehearse with them. Most of them are from Mumbai and are non-Tamilians. So when they have to do a line in Tamil, for example "Adanaaladan Dettol ubayogikaren" (And that's why I use Dettol) , they invariably say "Aadanaladaanu naanu Detttaalu ubayogikkareanu" (Something hideous). Their exaggerated delivery of our supposed accent is all thanks to Hindi actor Mehmood. My blood pressure rises and I yell "DO NOT DO A MEHMOOD HERE. WE DO NOT SPEAK LIKE THAT".

Though their voice is dubbed later with a Tamil voice-over, I ensure that they pronounce it the non-Mehmood way. Mehmood has done this major damage to us So…

Bio-data

Married for 31 years, 2 months and 17 days
Six cups coffee a day, brewed everyday of marriage
Three meals a day,
At least two dishes cooked, each meal-time
One snack for every Sunday
Big basket of clothes ironed every Tuesday
Average 18 items of clothing washed per day
Three children
1 miscarriage
One mother-in-law suffered
900 sq metre of floor space mopped, once a day
One caesarean endured
3 chicken poxes, 2 measles, 2 fractures, 8 diarrhoeas, depression, conjunctivitis every summer, 1 tonsilitis and countless common colds and flues
1 job held for 29 years
6 hours slept every night
Sex tolerated every 2nd week
Religious rituals everyone of them, carried out
Not one of them, believed in
Lived 52 years and some
Died exhausted

Overheard, “At least she had the satisfaction of having lived for her family”


http://jikku.blogspot.com/2005/02/quick-tale-3.html#c111042815438237631

The Saturday Poem

Found this in yesterday's paper. Again, I wish I'd written it.

-a

Now and Then

"Now that I'm fifty-seven",
My mother used to say,
"Why should I waste a minute?
Why should I waste a day

Doing the things I ought to
Simply because I should?
Now that I'm fifty-seven
I'm done with that for good."

But now and then I'd catch her
Trapped in some thankless chore
Just as she might have been at
Fifty-three or fifty-four

And I would say to her
(And I have to bite my tongue)
That if you mean to learn a skill
It's well worth starting young

And so, to make sure I'm in time
For fifty, I've begun
To do exactly as I please
Now that I'm thirty-one.

-Sophie Hannah

Lost in Post

To a little boy

It cannot be easy being you. A follow-up act to your more devilishly charming, flamboyant older brother. Before you were born, I was convinced that no child could ever take the special place your brother had come to occupy in my life. I used to argue with your father you would always be a second-born. A runner-up. A bridesmaid (or a best-man, as you turned out to be). That you could never be the prized, cherished, celebrated apple of my eye that my firstborn child was. But how easily you tore down my flimsy little conviction. The minute I saw you, I knew I was gone. What was worse, I succumbed willingly.

My fears that you would be overshadowed by your brother have proven unfounded. Over the past year, you have come into your own as a person. Your brother demands and challenges our love and attention. You, on the other hand, are much more accepting of our distractions with him. It is almost as if you understand that he is used to being the star of the show for much of his…

I ask, you write

Okay, here's the idea. I ask you a question and you write a short story explaining it. Let me give you an example.

What happened when young Padmavathi was drawing water from the well to wash her clothes, early one Margazhi morning?

Annon's story

One morning when Padmavathi was drawing water from the well, she found Pettai Rowdy # 1 Govindarajulu inside the bucket! She dropped it at once and Govindarajulu went down and down and hit the bottom of the well with a Nung sound. His upper and lower teeth fused together and since then he has been fed intravenously. Pettai Rowdy # 2, Ragothaman Iyengar, who suggested this to Govindarajulu, now rules the roost.

After marrying Padmavathi, he is inviting all of you to a water drawing ceremony at the new well they dug in their house.

Jai Ragothaman Iyengar! Jai Padmavathi! Come one, Come all!

-

Here's a question for you.

What happened that made young Meenakshi change her mind about the parrot green saree she had originally chosen and go for a …