Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Dragon Slayers

When I was small, it was my brother who took on that role.

Delhi, like the rest of India, was not a stranger to insects, rats, spiders, lizards and other creepy-crawlies. And where I grew up, a flat in a government colony in Minto Road, New Delhi, there was no dearth of such creatures.

Often I would find roaches invading my study table. Or spiders in my cupboard. There was once a lizard floating in my bath water. No matter how hard my mom tried to keep her home clean, there was always an alien lurking somewhere to invade her space. My brother, who for some reason found such creatures rather fascinating, was the designated bug buster. Broom in hand, he would gleefully chase the offending creature, driving it away. I, being petrified of it, would stand on the tallest structure in the room, a bed, a chair or the table and try to direct him to his prey. " There, there, behind the T.V., strike, whack, swat..." Or, "There it is, climbing the curtains, kill it, kill it". Fear turns the best of us into killers. My brother, who was not a killer, would hold the creature in his hands, (eeewwww) and release it outside. That got him another round of blood curdling screams. " Why did you not destroy that damn thing? Now it will come back again."

For all his faults, (he was a weak wimp after all) he took his role as the dragon slayer rather seriously. His primary job was to defend his little sister and he never forgot to inspect the bathroom before her bath or the bedroom before her bedtime. He kept an hawks eye under the sofa, behind the curtains, inside the shoe rack and all other such vulnerable places. He spoiled me to such an extent that I'd often wonder how I'd ever cope without him in my life. Being a brave girl of the New World, I could fight my battle against any two-legged beast and win, but who would chase away the anthropods and the reptiles?

So, when I decided to get married, one of the first questions I asked my husband was " Are you scared of cockroaches or lizards?" If he thought I was mad, he never let me know.

Over the years, my husband has protected the women in his life, his wife and his two daughters, countless number of times. He saved us from those big brown cockroaches with beady eyes and long tailed lizards with clawed feet. He saved us from smelly rats and ugly spiders. Over the years, he has been able to gauge the seriousness of the threat by just listening to our screams.  He now knows whether to pick up a rolled up newspaper or a long handled broom just by hearing how much stress we put on our vowels when we say "Aaaaahhh" Choosing the right weapon is half the battle won.

So my house, thanks to my husband and my pest control agency is normally alien free. The problem arises when he travels. Like now. There is a big, revolting, lizard on my kitchen wall and I do not know what to do. I gave my kids bread for breakfast, I asked my mother in law to make the morning cup of tea and I'm here now, in front of the computer blogging, when I should be thinking of lunch.

The fire breathing, broom weilding Dragon Slayer is quite appropriately in China. And I'm missing him terribly.

Monday, July 12, 2010

India Through Their Eyes

Last week I had some guests at home.

Though they were of Indian origin, they had not been a part of my country for a long time. The husband was an American citizen who left India almost 25 years ago. The wife was an Australian who had never lived in India. Their laptop was stolen at Mumbai airport. The wife sheepishly admitted they were pretty lax when it came to such issues and the thought of locking their suitcases had not occurred to them. "We no longer have the habit" was what she said to be precise. Traffic snarls, potholes and numerous questions later, (What are these? Slums? Is it where Slumdog Millionnaire was shot? How come there are so many people on the roads? Why do trucks have Horn Please written? Isn't it impolite to honk here?) when we finally reached home, it was almost as long as their journey across an ocean and several seas. The weather was gloomy and it continuously rained which created further delays.

And I kept on thinking, what do they see when they look at my country? When they see barefoot children playing in the rain, do they see the poverty or do they see happy children? When they see policemen taking bribes from commuters, ( happened right in front of us) do they see how immune we have become to corruption? When their laptop went missing, did they think this was inevitable? And the unruly traffic and the constant honking? What do they think of that?

When they see my India, a country that I think is vibrant, colourful, confusing and endearing, what do they really see? A billion people working hard just to survive? A dirty, messy, smelly country? A country full of crooked people trying to con the foreigners? What do they see? Do they see the love?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

He Said She Said Part II

He said: Wan't to go for a walk?

She said: Are you crazy? In this rain?

He said: I thought you loved the rains.

She said: I do, but not the Mumbai variety.

He said: So what do we do? Want to eat out tonight?

She said: OK. Let's go to McDonalds.

He said: McDonalds? That's hardly suitable for the occasion.

She said: Who cares? The kids will love it. Moreover I don't want to change out of my track bottoms and sneakers.

He said: What happened to your high heels?

She said: I packed them off. Mumbai monsoons are shoe-killers. Moreover, I get my sciatica pains if I wear heels for a long time.

He said: Alright, that's settled then. I have to check my mail and make some calls. We'll leave at 8.

She said: And I have some groceries to pick and vegetables to buy. 8 seems perfect. Oh, don't forget to sit with the older one with her math problems. I will be teaching the younger one for her tests tomorrow.

He said: Right. Remember to buy Ma's BP medication when you go out.

She said: And you don't forget to return your cousin's call. He has called twice already.

He said: Sure. Hey kids, guess what? Tonight is special and we are going to celebrate it by going out to McDonalds!

They said: Awwww, can't we order some pizza instead? We don't want to miss our TV show.

He said: (Looking slightly relieved) Well, we can do that, what do you say?

She said: (Looking relieved too) We can certainly do that. Let's order pizza. I have to get up early tomorrow morning. And I have this book to finish. May be this Sunday we all could go out.

He said: I have to go over some reports. And make a con-call. Fine, next Sunday kids. Meanwhile let's call the pizza guy.

They said: Yayyyyy!

The story actually started like this. And then continued like this. But that was some years ago. He is still gallant, she is still romantic. But for both of them, the definition of love has somehow changed...