12… a lock-down wont keep me down…

it was Rias’ 12th birthday today… in the middle of a lock-down due to Covid-19 and as is customary it had been raining extremely heavily since yesterday morning(every single years since the day she was born 4th of July is one of the rainiest day of the season) . We knew we would have to try just a little more than usual to make it special after all next year she would be officially a teen and that just means we, the parents, would probably not be allowed in the same zip code anymore… aah well… so this kid is big on birthdays she loves loves loves her birthdays… just like her mom and exactly unlike me. This time however as expected everything was low key until I went in for a shower before bed time a couple of days before D-day… see all my epiphanies happen under the showed (my research says that the force of the water hitting the top of my head activates my brain cells and makes me think better…

As I stepped out of the shower I kept thinking about the idea and then went on to discuss with the wife… for Ria two things are of paramount importance in life at this point in time, good food and her friends… tomorrow it could be world peace and Jimmy Choos but right now this is what matters… Food her mother had already thought about, it was going to be an upside down pineapple cake that she was going to bake and then as customary on Rias’ birthdays takeaway from Mainland China. For the past 10 year now, since they opened up nearby, for every one of her birthdays we have headed over to MLC for the birthday lunch. This time they may not be entertaining guests but they would certainly be hold up the traditions… The pineapple upside down was a recent experiment which SG had pulled off very well (like everything else that she does) so that’s what it was going to be… in fact the tin of pineapple had arrived already on Monday… and me being me I had polished off all 9 slices on Monday evening itself (along with the girls ofcourse)… SG had to get another one but thankfully amazon delivered before time (as usual)…

So anyway my idea had nothing to do with food (though I did make the morning breakfast of heavenly muesli crusted french toast which the girls so love and the thick custard covered birthday cake that was slaughtered at midnight)… my idea was more to do with the friends part… last night around midnight all three girls were asleep around midnight I put up the streamers and the balloons, brought out the cake and woke them up… after a little bit of reluctance we cut the cake (a standard milk cake with mildly sweet thick custard topping that is not anything to look at but exceptionally hearty to dig into)

She was up first today morning, usually this is not the case… french toast for breakfast was the order placed while all four of us were rolling around in bed making plans for the day… I of course obliged with my spectacularly superlative rendition of four perfectly cooked fluffy yet juicy and well cooked french toasts that were polished off by the two kids in about a minute… on a full tummy these kids can be extremely well behaved and helpful… they cleared up the kitchen and put away the laundry without much coaxing and pleading…

Ria had already received her presents over the preceding weeks (a new phone, a pair of head phones, an activity monitor band, a laptop for school, clothes, dairies to write in) essentially the long drawn celebrations I referred to earlier that the mom and kid so love (even though most of these were for online classes at school but then I’m cheap like that I made it sound like these were birthday presents and Sonali played along since well these are pretty cool birthday presents if you ask me)… everyone in the extended family had chipped in for the bills… so on that front we were covered…

content kittens…

SG and I went out to get the essential items for the goodie bags(what goodie bags? the shower idea remember)… we wanted to get chocolate brownies and blocks from Merwans (a bakery that has been around for over 84 years now and is one of our favourite go to places) … Merwans at Seawoods was closed. Going out during the lock downs is a stressful affair as you never know what is allowed, what is not allowed, what is open and what is not… anyway we quickly headed for Merwans Vashi branch and after being rerouted multiple times landed up there only to find that this outlet too was closed. Whoooops!!! Roll back to pavilion and pick up the goodies from a bakery nearer to home… this is also an excellent bakery so no worries on the quality of stuff front… drove back home and loaded up the small goodie bags… Amazon had misfired on all engines past couple of days and so the beautiful diaries that we had placed an order for had been not delivered… so the goodie bags were going to go out without a gift… just the pastries and well a chocolate and a packet of little hearts…

Lunch arrived from MLC and lord was it good or was it good… amazing food as always… enough leftover for the dinner as well should any of us need it… a surprise cake arrived from Chinu chachu (he never fails to make sure a cake arrives at each and every occasion come hail or hell fire)…

Next we all got out in the pouring rain, in the middle of a severe lock down …we drove off to deliver the goodie bags our girls’ friends… the celebration of a kids birthday is usually incomplete without friends and that was the idea… share a birthday spread a bit of cheer make it happy instead of the dour grayness that has surrounded us all… We left the packets with the security guards (just like pizza delivery guys) or in some cases the kid or parent themselves… a quick hi from afar, a short bit of a conversation with masks on from a distance… no touching any surface, sanitizer after every foray out of the car to drop off the packet… and it was done… back home with two extremely happy kids bouncing around and talking 19 to the dozen… everyone showered/disinfected and then the two of them settled in for the video call session with friends… from behind closed door I could make out some singing and a lot of chattering was going on… then I barged in with a cake and that happened again with friends…

The kid made tea for us and like a grown up had tea with us as well 😀 In the meanwhile Sonalis’ upside down pineapple cake was getting ready… the kids started asking for dinner around 8 so the MLC meal was reheated and the two of them ate… we figured that was the end of the day but no sir they were eagerly waiting for cake number three

if sinful goodness had a face…

The cake was as usual spectacular… moist, not over sweet and perfectly caramelized… Ira had been stealing the pineapple while it cooled off in the kitchen so we figured might as well cut it before it was left topless…

…and just like that with a little bit of effort we were done… kids rolled off to sleep after another quick shower and multiple phone calls with grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunts, thanking them for all the gifts and wishes…

at first glance it may sound and seem reckless to be going out the way we did… even irresponsible. However with adequate precautions I believe this is the new normal that needs to be embraced… how long do we want to wait for a vaccine which will possibly never arrive? We need to start moving and maybe even start living again… fear is not solving the problem fear is just amplifying the problem… so get on with your lives guys be at ease so that you are not with disease…

Five more minutes (a poem)

Let me sleep for five more minutes

5:45 AM the alarm goes off. The third in a series of alarms spaced 15 minutes apart.

Mom and dad are out walking or running or cycling or swimming or just waiting for us to restart.

Ira my younger sister is cosily snuggled into my side breathing heavily ignoring the alarms like me. Let me sleep five more minutes.

The main door opens and closes, dad is whistling and calling out to Ira and me. Ira bounces up all sunshine and daisies and everyone is rolling about in our bed, Iru and I go “eeewww you are all sweaty”.

He’s been out jogging with mamma. Ira bounds off like the little mutt that she is after mamma. Let me roll over and sleep for five more minutes, just five.

Ira has had a shower and is all dressed and ready for school. The alarm goes off again. This time I know it’s 7:35 coz I can smell the coffee from the percolator. Dad’s onto his second cup for the day while he prepares breakfast for us.

Mamma is calling out to me, urgently now, saying she’ll leave without me if I’m not ready in five. I continue to stay put, it’s a Thursday for heavens sakes. The weekend is so far, let me sleep for five more minutes.

The door opens and closes, moms gone and so is Ira. Dad’s on the phone with his client, to think it’s well past one in Australia. Let me continue to sleep for five more minutes and then I’ll get up and enjoy my self sanctioned holiday.

8:30 AM and I’m finally up. Dad’s busy on his workstation, moms at office and already in the middle of a discussion. Ira is at school doing her ABCs. What do I do now? I get ready, make the bed, have the eggrolls dad had made for breakfast and settle down with a book watching the waves roll in and the sea gulls soar over the mangroves outside our window. Oh boy, time does slow down when you’re on your own. Good thing I have a new book in which to drown.

It’s 8PM now, the day is done and everyone is back home. I am happy about my break from school but it’s done now. I missed all my dear friends and most of all I missed Anshu ma’am.

It’s fun to take a break but it’s even more fun to go back. So my bag is packed, my uniform is on the chair, the checklist for bedtime is all ticked and I’m off to sleep. Tomorrow I will wake up on the first alarm and make sure I’m at the door at 7:40AM, right beside mamma and Ira to make the leap.

5:45AM, the third alarm goes off…. I’ll sleep for just five more minutes!

keep walking

There’s a saying in Hindi which loosely translates into “no one receives their due before it is due”

As I padded my way to the coffee machine the alarm went off. I needed to be down stairs with the boys in 5 minutes. Knocking back a shot of espresso I rushed out of the house. Downstairs I saw the boys walking swiftly doing laps of the building while waiting for me to join in. As I joined we headed out for the 5km run-walk. 30 minutes and we were back at the badminton courts. One of the older members of the group commented “you walk very slow Imtiaz”. I was kind of thrown off guard and retorted, yeah that’s why I prefer running instead of walking. That was a time when I used to run around 16km every day, but yes I did walk slow. I have not run 16Km in over 2years now, not even 5km. I just do walks now.

We moved houses and I lost touch with the group of friends with whom I used to go out every morning 5AM. Now I walk on the jogging track opposite our house or at other places with my kids. A couple of days back the elder one started running and I was expected to give chase and defeat her. It was a difficult job she runs fast. And suddenly just like that it clicked. Why did I walk slow all along, not because I have short legs, certainly not. I remember walking with my own father when I was smaller and he used to walk very fast, I always managed to keep pace. I had forgotten how to walk fast and now used to walk slow to keep pace with someone with shorter legs. Someone who was just starting out with walking. Someone who’s now grown almost as tall as me (well almost) and now runs so fast that I actually need to make an effort to keep pace. I walked slow with that kid for so long that I forgot how to walk fast. However now I know that is all going to change.

In a way my daughters are bringing me up rather than the other way round. But then again this is the way families should all grow up, organically, isn’t it.

the more things change….

The more things change the more they stay the same…. a couple of weeks back Ria came home excited “I’ve to prepare for elocution competition, selections are on Friday, the topic is – there is life on other worlds in space”. I helped her research and put together her material for the preliminary round. Friday when I picker her up from school she was all excited “I was selected from our section, the final is next Friday and it’s a competition between classes 5,6 and 7″… I was a little put off by the fact that she would be going up against people from class 6 and 7. But we put our shoulder to it and prepared the first, second, third ….final drafts. She practiced with her house captain and house mistress. Eventually today was the D-day.

When I picked her up today “I came first, I came first!”….. It was dejavu, I was back in school where I used to, sometimes, write the debates for three out of four contestants So Ria had won the elocution competition where people one or two year older than her were also speaking. I never mustered up the courage to go and speak on stage but write I can…. oh yes that I can do 😀

Next year, debates! (debating starts from std 6 onward.)…. here’s the speech I helped her put together:

Good morning respected Principal maam, members of the jury, coordinators, teachers and my dear friends. Today I, Ria Khan, of 5-C am going to address the topic “There are many worlds in space which have life”.

“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” words famously spoken by Neil Armstrong when he stepped onto the moon. That event sparked an unknown number of fantasies about how humankind would go boldly into space. We all have a deep desire to find the answer to the question “are we all alone out here in the universe?”.

Thanks to space research we have information to help us understand the origins of our universe. We know that the big bang happened 13.8 billion years ago and scattered all the building blocks far across the universe. We also know that there are a number of earth like planets out there revolving around their stars. Recently seven earth sized planets were discovered 39 light years away orbiting the star Trappist-1. Given that the universe is massive and ever expanding it is possible that conditions for life may have appeared elsewhere. Life as we know it could be existent on some other planet even as of right now. Maybe far away there’s an elocution competition going on on an earth like planet, for all we know dinosaurs are still stomping around somewhere!!

We know one definition of life but maybe there are other definitions as well. On Earth across time and geographies we have so many different types of people. If a comparison were to be done between humans today and the first man, 25 million years ago, the results might be surprising. We would identify with them probably as much as we identify with an ape today. Yet thanks to research we know we are the same life forms. Similarly, maybe, highly advanced (or primitive) life does exist elsewhere in the universe. Would we recognize alternate life if we see it? The echo we so desperately wish to hear may never come because we might be tuned in to a different frequency.

In conclusion I would like to say that whether there is life on other worlds in space is debatable. However we are not going to get another earth anytime soon. So lets take care of the world we do have, live in peace and harmony with our fellow humans and protect the environment because, for now, this is the only world where we do know for sure that life exists.