Saturday, December 4, 2010

“Read to your child, everyday”!

During our recent visit to India, we found a few Indian authors whose books, whatever we could lay our hands on,  we had packed in our bag gages along with a whole bunch of Amar Chitra Kathas and other books of Indian knowledge. Finally, after all these months that we returned from India, I get hold of this book I had wanted to read because it had felt more like the story of my life.. well, maybe if you left out the IIM and IIT qualifications from my resume, if you left out the part where the characters were both students at the same campus when they fell in love, if you leave the part out where the boy had to make ANY effort at impressing the girls family, if you left out the part where the girl was a pure breed, if we could just switch the states..I mean languages of the boy and girl in the story, if we could place both the north and south Indian boy, girl to be brought up in South and many more such adjustments would almost sound like the story of my(our) life(lives). The book, that you must have already guessed by now, I’m talking about is, ‘ 2 states ’ by Chetan Bhagat
In fact, this saga has continued in  my family for 2 generations now. I had generously taken over the staff of upholding this tradition, from my North Indian father and South Indian Mother who brought us up, supposedly “The Punjabi” way. How could such a story be complete without an Aloo Gobi or a Paneer episode or with, as simple as how we cut our vegetables…In my case, I had just tried to let my MiL know that this beautiful white flower of a “Gobi” is one of the vegetables some people cooked, that, it had been the favorite in my family, the so called “North Indians”.
She had immediately left me alone in unfamiliar waters, in the confines of her kitchen, all by myself, without any help finding utensils or salt, ignoring my telepathic pleas to enter the kitchen while I searched high and low for all the basics of creating a Punjabi recipe. While Hubby dear had entertained his Mom with his cuckoo like voice (at least that’s how it must feel to his mom, I'm sure!), not letting her remember that an unwanted alien was in her kitchen that very moment…I had ended up using rock salt from her south Indian kitchen trying to cook one of the most revered North Indian dish called Aloo Gobi!, instead, creating this sodium rich dish, thanks to that damn Rock Salt ( the more inanimate the scapegoat, the better!)
With R and my triplets taking over my life for the past eight years..I had resigned to be able to read(or write) at night after everybody is put to sleep, if I could still keep awake, that is! Today I realized, that was too much to have asked for! How could I dare read something other than books that have princesses cartoons strewn on each page?!
As soon as I was spotted laying on my bed with that infamous red book in my hand, R was beside me with her recent favorite in her hand. She had taken care to choose one of the wordiest book from the lot of books, she called hers. She had laid down beside me, she had tried to quiz me on the pictures from the book..acting like she was looking at these characters for the first time ever!
“Who is this, Mama?”, she had asked.
“Princess Jasmine”, I said, as I looked away from my book, to what she was pointing.
“No Mama, I am asking, who is this?!”, she asked again, trying to prolong our conversation..
“Abu!”, I answered.
Then she tried reading the book herself..realizing (like everyday), that she doesn’t know to read yet, followed by the most cutely executed question.
“Mama, Can you read this book for me?”, she had asked so sweetly, that it would take a lot of courage to refuse.
She had done this the previous night and the previous and the previous. I had known what was to follow. After having listened to her silly nothings for the whole day that were such important something s for her, like
“Mama, I’m sorry, I’m going to the library with my mom now!”
“Is that so? Who is your mom (today)?”, I had asked
“Ileana”, she had said.
after having cooked and cleaned and folded loads of laundry, after I had made sure to conduct this hour and half long Yoga class for the triplets, after school, and pampered them through Sava Sana with relaxation music and massage in the end so they would want to continue with the class the next day, after I had served them their dinner..and made sure R had got her Roti with Dahi, I had just sent them to their tables to complete their Home Work and I had come to bed to relax with this engrossing red book to get a peek into few more lines of the story. 
R had diligently come to lie down beside me with her favorite. Realizing that I had no way out of it, I had read her the story of Aladdin and Abu, about Princess Jasmine and Rajah and how they had sat on the magic carpet and sung..”…A Whole New World…” flying over the town of Agra bah.  I could see, in Richa’s eyes, that she was in love with the Palace, with Rajah, with Abu and of course, the beautiful Jasmine!  As I had reached the last but one page..I had purpos…I mean, mistakenly said “THE END” and R had retorted back immediately saying
“Its not B END Mama, See!!”, showing me another page that was left. I had then finished reading the book and said “THE END” at the right place. As soon as I had done that, she had said..
“Can you read it again, Mama, Its Ok!”
I almost wanted to refuse and tell her..”that’s enough for the day”. But, the God of Guilt took over my mind and rang this bell in my mind, reminding me what the TV channel had announced, “Read for you kids everyday”, day in and out.  (Somehow, mysteriously, word had been spreading across the TV channels that we parents weren’t doing enough of it lately and they were broadcasting messages all across R’s channel, like they would broadcast public safety messages on radio to ask people to keep safe and stay alert). 
Guilt ridden, I had read this lengthy, wordy book again,…for R to enjoy, without complaining or finding an excuse to avoid it.  And as soon as I had finished it for the third time, she had asked me to read it again!  No sign of sleep on her face. She was already done with her bedtime chores of potty and brushing and was dressed to go to sleep as soon as she would let her body. The earlier the most preferred, but, sleep remained elusive of her or it was time for me to face that moment of truth! She had been purposely trying to fight sleep for some more Mommy time. What!! I’m not giving her enough of it!!
I had already been yawning every minute now.  This book was doing its job right. It was putting somebody to sleep, except it was me that was wanting to sleep now! Pavan had just come to the bed after checking the triplets’ homework for its accuracy.  I had thrown this look at him, telling him clearly as can be…”Beware…you may not have a chance at your bedtime story!”
“R, can Papa read the book for you?”, Papa had asked R to come to him.
“NO! I want Mama to read the book for me”, she said.
“R, I am tired of talking so much, I want to be quiet now”, I said.
“R, Papa loves you too..Can you come to Papa? I can read you the book?”, he had tried to convince her.
She felt elated at such expression of love for her..She had jumped towards him with the book, that wordy book.
Hubby dear had started the story. He couldn’t fool her now, like he had done earlier. I had already read the book to her so many times that it almost felt like she was reading the words in the book along with us.  So, when Hubby dear, in an effort to make a long story short said
“and Aladdin got the magic lamp for Jafar”
Catching him red-handed,
“Papa, you didn’t say the cave started crashing in, the rocks started falling and Aladin was stuck inside the cave with Abu!”, she corrected him.
Knowing that he couldn't’ fool her today, Hubby dear had continued to tell the story as is. I for one, had fallen into this deep slumber after resolving that it was a bad idea for me to be reading any book, Chetan Bhagat’s “2 states” or Disney’s “Aladdin and the magic lamp”. I was too tired reading bed time stories to anybody!
“Papa you know, when you and Mama fell in love, your family did not like Mama, right? “, a triplet let out the secret to Papa.
“And, Mama’s family, liked you!", another triplet let out another cat out of the bag.
Hubby dear looking confused at them..Then N explained to Papa what a true Indian love story entailed..which seemed very much like her Papa and Mama’s love story.
“Look Papa, A boy loves a girl and the girl loves the boy. Then the boys’ family has to love girl, and the girls’ family has to love boy. Then the girls’ family  has to love the boy’s family and the boys’ family has to love the girls’ family. when this happens, if the girl and the boy still love each other…that’s when they get married”, she said, almost reciting the whole blurb of the book “2 states” to him.
Papa immediately runs upstairs to ask me “you are already educating them with this book?!”
At least my girls know the truth behind an Indian love story now…How complicated it is..and hopefully they will not attempt at complicating this already twisted tradition further.


sm said...

reading books is good habit good choice of books

gayatri said...

Hi SM, right agree with you there..thanks!

Rachna said...

I am so poor at doing this and lethargic too. Whenever, I try reading to Gautam, his attention is everywhere else but the story. He will ask a million questions about the pictures or some of his own, and my interest then wanes in the whole exercise. In all fairness, I don't put in as much effort as you do!

About 2 States and Chetan Bhagat, I think he is a bubblegum author. I have read all his books, and with the exception of the first one (which was good), I feel all others are being written with a sole aim of churning out bollywood movies. Very frankly, I feel 2 States is steeped in stereotypes.

rashid1891 said...

I am so poor at doing this and lethargic too. Whenever, I try reading to Gautam, his attention is everywhere else but the story. He will ask a million questions about the pictures or some of his own, and my interest then wanes in the whole exercise. In all fairness, I don't put in as much effort as you do!

Purba said...

The "Indian Love strory" according to your babies - couldn't help but smile.

And hats off to you!! Being a Mum is a full time job and you have not one but four!

gayatri said...

Hi Rachna, Trust much as the world keeps preaching to you.."Read to your child" its not easy..
About "2 states", I didn't try to evaluate the book here..
I was trying to tell how much my experiences matched most of the stereotypes that are in the book..Brought up in the south, married to one, having a south Indian/North Indian parents, grandparents, friends..words like "rascal and bloody fellow" is common in the south while the words change with a north Indian.. How true about evaluation of a good groom/bride by each of them!
How I've gotten rid of those AXE like knives that my MiL brings with her when she visits us, even our ways of cutting vegetables is like a religion.
Like I said, It felt to me like my experience..with some adjustments.

gayatri said...

Hi Purba..Right, they had memorized the whole blurb..
Right now..its like being a mom to one and a friend to 3 of them who are looking up to you. Its fun to have a full house. Work sure, but fun multiplied that many times too. I do crib a lot and forget to mention the fun part of it.

Rachna said...

I understand what you are saying. But, for someone like me who comes from a North-Indian family, I felt that the food habits in my in-laws place was very South Indian in nature. Even the way of preparing vegetables or tempering dal. Based on that, I thought, it would have been easier or similar for you to adapt to a South-Indian family's traditions. But, I realize now forget North Indian or South Indians, the cooking traditions are so different from household to household.

Bhagyareema said...

I don't read to my son at all, reason being that he will just take the book from me, look at the pix, ask what/who it is and then keep it away. He is just not interested in stories, but yes if I am reading something then he too will sit with me with one of his books and read aloud a story which he makes then and there(which makes hubby dear say that he has inherited my genes.)

Agree with Rachna, cooking habits differ from household to household