Thanks to all the thathas and paatis and mama and mami and chithi and chithappa and athai and athimber and kutties and pilots and co-pilots and airhostesses and stewards and passengers and ground staff and man who switched on his mobile phone and other kind strangers...thanks for taking such good care of my little one and thanks for bringing him home safely.
How can anyone so talented be so likeable? And so eloquent? And articulate? And humble but not in a false way? And handsome? And in a very disturbing way, normal?
If you'd been watching BBC's coverage of the Olympics, you couldn't have missed the fantastic Michael Johnson. A supreme athlete who never once failed a doping test, Johnson's record in the 100mts* was long regarded as unbreakable. Until a Jamaican stepped into the scene. When asked how he felt about his record being broken by Usain Bolt, the supreme Johnson quipped (and I paraphrase), 'Records are not like kids. You can't hold on to them forever. Plus, it's not as if I woke up every morning to maintain my record. Once I set it, my job was pretty much done.' Like I said before, too normal no?
*correction: it was his 200 mts record that remained unchallenged for a long time
I swim three times a week - some 30 laps of a 30 metre pool. I've stuck to this routine for the past year. I went swimming until two days before my second one was born. And was back in the water about 3 weeks later. I see the same set of people nearly every time I enter the pool - Mrs. Amazon, Hippo, Johnny English, Jalkrida, Mouseface and Doggy-paddle. I rarely exchange more than a nod and a smile with these people. It's almost as if we all want to be left alone. I enjoy the solitude that water offers. There's no visual distraction. There is no temptation to bring in an ipod. There's just the water and you battling submersion. One, two and up for a breath. One, two and up for a breath.
She sees the guests off and close the door behind them. She turns around and imagine the house through their eyes. Did they notice the clean carpets? The colour coded cushions and curtains? Did they note the fresh flowers in the vase? And the garden with its lush, trimmed lawn? She hopes they remarked on the small kitchen garden. And didn't find the air freshener in the toilet overwhelming. She remembered to smooth the bed covers and plump the pillows before they arrived. And if they had snooped into her medicine cabinet, they wouldn't have found anything to suggest embarrassing illnesses. Her mirrors were wiped clean, her bins emptied and her newspapers folded, their corners aligned. Bet on the drive back home, they talked about how well-maintained the house was. And what a great job she was doing of keeping it. Good thing is they'd never know that she’d burnt the toast this morning, filled the dying shampoo bottle with water, hid rotting fruit in the fridge, mixed coloured clothes with the whites in the washing machine and stashed away spices in the cupboard that were so past their expiry date that they rightfully belong to the government. Not her fires were extinguished. At heart, she was still an anarchist.
I cannot live without you, she used to say. I swear I will die, she would threaten over the phone, if you don't come here in the next half and hour. And he would drop whatever he was doing to rush to her side. And today, they stand smiling politely at each other. He asking her about her well being and she noting how beautiful his daughter was. Each inviting the other to come home for dinner in a distant and comfortably vague future. And each hoping desperately that the other didn't remember their heady days of romance oh-so-long ago.
There’s something about the sight of an athlete on a podium, face lit with joy at having claimed what is perhaps the most coveted piece of metal on the planet, eyes pricking in tears as his/her national flag is raised to the strains of a national anthem, that always has me reaching for the tissue. Isn’t it great that the Olympics which is arguably the best celebration of human endeavour on earth and an event that glorifies nationalistic pride also contradictingly enough, evokes emotions that are common to all of us? Isn’t it great that I can partake in Phelps’ incredible gold haul and in a strange way, be happy to witness such superb athleticism without ever once letting his nationality bother me? Do you find yourself rooting for the Gambia or the Eritrea only because, who knows, they may not even have live coverage in those countries and if you don’t, who will? I love the Olympics and what it does to us as a collective population while reinforcing national identity. It’s a shame that it will all be over too soon. And the wars we had briefly forgotten will resume from exactly where they were left.
I have little idea about this sport except that it involves sailing in a small sailboat. I first heard of yngling when team GB won a gold last Olympics. Since then this Chinese-sounding sport has made an appropriate quadrennial comeback at this year’s Olympics. Which makes me wonder how one finds out if one’s good at yngling? How does a parent identify their child’s talent for this rather obscure and spectator-unfriendly sport? Does the bulb go off when a parent sees their child float a paper boat in a puddle with great skill? Do they then start taking their child for yngling lessons at the local water sport centre?
But isn’t it great that the Olympics gives a platform for these neglected sports and gives its practitioners a chance to shine in glory? Although I suspect that the chances of winning gold in yngling or slalom canoe (in which fewer countries presumably participate) is significantly more than taking home the swimming gold. Still, I love the fact that so much of TV time is dedicated to sport such as fencing. The rules of which remain a great mystery to me. Anyway, I got to catch the quarter finals of archery. I may not get another chance for the next four years.
Can one die of pride? I don't know. But your father and I came pretty close to that when we waved you goodbye at the airport a few days ago. You were a right trooper with a little canvas bag of documents around your shoulder and a bright green cap on your head. You cheerfully waved us goodbye, clutched your grandfather's hand and led him through the security check-ins. Leaving your poor parents to blink away our tears.
I understand that you are having a wonderful time back in India. Did you see the pictures that hang on the walls of your grandfather's house? Did you recognise the young girl that your mother once was? Did you visit all the places of my youth? I wish I was there with you to share some of your experiences. But I'm glad we found the courage to let you go on your own.
In just over a week's time, you will be back with us. This time you will have traveled across the world by yourself. I don't know of many 5-year olds who would have done that and still not make a big deal of it. And that just makes me feel proud. Dead proud.
A new series. I feel that I don't praise the things I like nearly as much as I put down those I don't. This is an attempt to acknowledge the unsung. Please feel free to sing praises of your own. Here's my first.
In praise of mother-toddler screenings
I've lost count of the number of movies I've missed watching in theatres over the past few years. The reason is really quite simple. I don't like to take my little one to movies that are not meant for him. And it's too much hassle arranging for child care if I have to go on my own. So I simply wait till it's out on DVD. On the only occasion in the last six years when I've been to watch a Hindi movie in a movie hall with a friend, there were kids running up and down the aisle much to the irritation of other movie-goers.
So what's the solution if you want to watch a movie and can't find someone to look after the little ones and don't wish to subject them to 3-hours of Salman Khan? Get yourself a ticket to a Mother-toddler screening. A novel idea that I only recently came across at our local cinema. These are special screenings - usually on weekday mornings - where mothers with young children under the age of 3 can come along to watch a film meant for adults. This means you get the chance to watch a movie without having to worry about tut-tutting couples in the front row when your little one starts to holler because "it gone so dark now" and wonders "when will it all be over?" two minutes into the movie. Sure, the movies they screen wouldn't be something too violent or sexually explicit. And that rules out most popular movies. But still, it gives parents a chance to enjoy a movie on the big screen in a child-friendly environment. I'll raise my popcorn tub to that.