Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer holidays with the Grand Children – Most rewarding experience

My daughter dear (DD) rang up to say that our GS had got selected to the Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai. All of us were mighty thrilled. The downside of the deal was that his holidays would start when Grand Mother’s School opened after the summer holidays.GM the princi screamed at the top of her voice, “THIS IS REALLY MOST UNFAIR – I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM – WHY CAN’T ALL SCHOOLS IN INDIA HAVE THE SAME ROUTINE?” etc. Daughter consoled her by saying that she would bring the children to Bangalore and spend their entire summer holidays bonding with the grandparents, mama, mami, cousin and all the kith and kin.

The next task on hand was to ready the house to receive DD and the grand sons - Ayaan, the twins Agastya and Aarin. Normally, whenever military commanders move about in their operational area they take their personal entourage with them. Similarly DD announced that she would be bringing along her support staff – Durga Bai and Rohan to Bangalore to assist in looking after the ‘Three Man Army’.

Immediately a high level logistics meeting was scheduled and held to discuss all aspects of their four weeks stay with us. Our 2 BHK and study apartment is comfortable for two people but certainly not big enough for the army and support staff. Various ideas were bandied about and finally we hit upon a plan which was implementable and acceptable to LOH.I spoke to my dear friend Balu and asked him, if I could use his garage to store my drawing room furniture for a month.

A week prior to their arrival the house was given a thorough scrub down and made ‘Child Safe’ – Believe me, it is a very daunting task. Firstly, all the plug points had to be rendered safe by sticking them with cello tape – all artifacts were removed and packed away – knives, forks, scissors and other such objects of warfare were removed and stored in inaccessible places and boric powder liberally used to keep ants and other creepy crawlies away.

The entire drawing room was shifted to Balu’s garage and a huge additional bedroom made out of it. The entire room was one big bed on the ground for the twins to crawl about.

Fruits, biscuits, chocolates, corn flakes, butter, jam and other such things were stocked in humungous amounts to last their entire stay.

On the domestic front the cook and the help were bribed by LOH to ensure punctuality. She told them, “You come to work every day without skipping when they are here and I will give you a month’s salary as bonus”. The incentive worked beautifully and throughout their stay both the helps came more or less regularly.

Having sorted out the logistics issues, our attention was focused on operational aspects – It was unanimously decided by the LOH that there would be no golf for me during their stay. This was very vehemently supported by the DD and Son in L. It was an extremely harsh restriction placed on me, violating the entire frame work of democracy, ethics and fair play – I pleaded with LOH and said, “Take away my freedom of speech and expression instead,” and she said, “Nothing doing - in any case you have already surrendered those a long time back.” – “DD and I have decided that the children need you most in the morning – as daughter will be looking after the twins at night and I would have to leave for school very early”. When you realize your chips are down in a family battle – the best thing to do is to honorably retreat to the bar or wherever one stores the ‘elixir’ and quickly down a glass or two to restore yourself to your original size and regain confidence to fight again another day.

The army arrived exactly at 1630 hours on 9th June 2011.Six suitcases of assorted sizes and one ‘Twin Pram Travel System’ were loaded into the cars along with their owners – the convoy reached home safely with shrieks of welcome, endearments and nursery rhymes blaring away in the background.

Immediately on arrival, DD declared that converting the drawing room into the twins’ abode was not a good idea as it lacked privacy – there would be constant traffic to the kitchen and other two bedrooms, disturbing them – totally impractical and unacceptable – the motion was instantly supported by LOH, “I told you this won’t work”, I wanted to remind her that all the decisions were jointly taken – better sense prevailed and I decided to let the matter rest; discretion being the better part of valour!

Within an hour, Shetty the Gardener and his gang of helpers came and rearranged the setting. All the furniture from the master bedroom was removed and relocated to the drawing room – to enable the twins to move about freely. Once asleep the door was shut from the outside; thus protecting them from outside noise and ensuring privacy. Just about the time the twins decided to sleep – Grand Daughter Samara was heard loudly proclaiming her arrival – “Ayaaaaaan! Ayaaaaaan! Where are the babies?” this was enough for one of the twins – Agastya, to let out a deep – ear wrenching cry, soon to be followed by Aarin – The party had begun. After about three hours of merrymaking, bonding and generally having an uncontrolled ball, all the GC’s decided to call it quits. GD went back home promising to come back the next morning. Ayaan and I slept together. The twins slept with their mother and so on. Quiet and peace slowly descended on the Prabhakar household. Except for an occasional cry, the fridge door opening and the sound of the micro wave heating the milk – the night peacefully turned to dawn and to daylight.

Normally the twins do all their activities together. They sleep and wake up at the same time, feed together, go out in the pram, potty, bath, cry and so on. As long as they act in tandem – all is well – the air is full of merriment and gaiety. The mother dear can predict the sequential activities correctly and plan in advance. Catch a cat nap when they are asleep, go out for a walk when they are gallivanting in the pram. The grandfather can also find time to indulge in a brief spell of’ Gin & Tonicing and a bit of Zzzzzz.’ If for some reason this jointmanship fails due to reasons such as – fever, crankiness, stomach upsets, mosquito bites and such other acts of god and nature – normally referred to as ‘Force Majeure’ – (In this case only one party – the twins are free from any liability or obligation from fulfilling the contract), there is mayhem and confusion in the house. Normal command and control fails and the mother is forced to recall all the forces under her command. Household emergency is declared and fresh duties allocated to cope with the situation. Within a fraction of a second the joint decibel level can reach an alarming intensity – waking up the entire household, the neighborhood and triggering the colony dogs to bark endlessly. Fortunately these ‘out of step’ occasions were few and we were able to handle them.

Figure 1 – Playing Uno in the hall turned bedroom (for the grownups)

Twins can either be identical, meaning that they develop from one zygote that splits and forms two embryos, or fraternal because they develop from two separate eggs that are fertilized by two separate sperm. Agastya and Aarin are fraternal twins, having their own identity, looks, likes and dislikes, behaviour traits and so on. It’s extremely interesting to observe them – one is outgoing the other is reserved, one is friendly, whereas the other is cautious, one likes mango the other does not relish it, one experiments with food and the second one sticks to his favourites. One takes time to get used to new faces, whereas the other has no problem, both like playing in water and going out nonstop in the pram, both enjoy playing in the grass and catching ants – the list is endless. They are two different persons, but with a very special bond between them.

Figure 2 - Enjoying bath time

The next morning followed by all other mornings – the twins roamed free in their pram all over Jal Vayu Vihar. Before breakfast, followed by post BF and then pre lunch, evening, late night rides kept them occupied. They sat comfortably in their pram- watching cats, dogs, squirrels, chirping birds, falling leaves, friendly residents and slowly falling asleep.

Figure 3 - Favourite pastime – Pram rides

Now my daughter is finding it extremely difficult in Mumbai locating the almost forest like ambiance, which the twins had got used to in JVV. One of the twins refuses to come home after a pram ride in the park.

Figure 4 – Agastya enjoying the park

Figure 5 - Aarin giving a cheeky grin

The twins soon became the cynosure of all eyes in the colony. I had to cope with endless admiration, cheek pinching, queries, coochicoos, so ‘chweet’ and much more. One set of teenagers wanted to know if they could take away the twins. I gave them a very firm and formidable reply and said “Hey girls, listen – it’s a package deal – the grandfather comes along with the twins.” – that was enough to make them scoot. The whole family went to Mysore for a holiday and while visiting the zoo, the twins were mobbed by tourists. Mother sensing trouble ran towards the twins and was trying to get in edgeways. One of them rebuked her, “Can’t you see we are all waiting to see them? – Get in line!”

In spite of all our efforts to clear the battle zone of all mines, the twins were able to penetrate all our defence mechanisms and cause severe attrition. They repeatedly attacked the fridge magnets, managed to pull out all the drawers in the kitchen, and examine the OTG on a daily basis. One day when our troop strength had drastically reduced and defenses were down, they sneaked up to the bar and started removing the single malts from the trolley – that’s when I reacted in the fastest possible way –the alacrity with which I responded was enough to put to shame any feline on a hunt. They got used to Tata’s praying and would crawl to the pooja room as soon as they heard the bell ring. They thoroughly enjoyed the prayers, the bell and finally the mangalarati.

Figure 6 – A taste of things to come – God help!

Figure 7 - Mum mum time for the twins

Looking after Ayaan - four and Samara–three and a half, is a different ball game.

They are in the “Y” stage – anything and everything has to be suffixed with a why? I told them no more TV and they should go outside and play – Why? The Spider is making a web – Why? Don’t drop your food on the floor – Why? And so on. One requires unlimited patience to answer these endless volley of questions. This year grand fathering was a tad different, in that, both of them have become tech savvy. One afternoon Ayaan told me, “Tata, firstly it is not ‘I Pod’, its ‘I Pad’ – secondly, I have not been using it the whole day, I have used it only for one hour.” All their stories, games, puzzles and a host of other children’s entertainment avenues are now available on the I Pod. There was less demand for Tata’s stories. Both were quite content using their I Pod and falling asleep on their own after a hard day’s play. Ayaan, Samara along with her cousin Isha were a riot – and the trio became uncontrollable when joined by their new found friends from JVV – Sambhav and Saarika – another pair of twins. One very adventurous neighbour used to invite all these children home to play- a very courageous act indeed.

Figure 8 - Rain dance

In addition there were visits to Vishweshwaraiah Museum, Cubbon Park, Planetarium, Swimming pool etc.

Figure 9 - Illusion - Vishweshwaraiah Museum- grandson on a platter

Figure 10 - In the Mysore zoo

Figure 11 - Boating experience

Being on the ground floor provided the children with unlimited access to open ground – which is in abundance in JVV.To them; the entire colony was Tata’s garden and forest. The open grounds were a boon, as they spent less time indoors – they played hard, ate well, slept soundly and more importantly had a whale of a time.

Figure 12 - Playing with grass

Figure 13 - Playing outside the house

We also celebrated the first year birthday of Agastya and Aarin in Hotel Jayamahal Palace. The children once again had a fun filled afternoon in the pool, running around the abundant open space in gay abandon and generally extracting value for the money their father had paid.

Figure 14 - Birthday party in the pool

Today’s children are very smart. One day DD called out, “Ayaan, come and meet an aunty who is here to see you.” – To which he replied while continuing to play, “Is she interesting?” Samara once said, “I am to have only one scoop of ice cream – but, if you don’t mention it to mama, I will have the second one.” They learn faster, are very observant, terribly inquisitive and overall much more intelligent than our generation – evolution, I suppose. They are very comfortable with words like – amazing, cacophony, flabbergasted, disgusting and use them in the most appropriate context.

During their stay with us, our life was like a roller coaster ride – full of excitement and action happening around us 24/7. Never a dull moment – it was fun filled and high intensity bonding. As planned, DD and her children finally left for Mumbai on 06 July 2011.Their departure left us staring vacantly at the walls, there was a sudden void and heavy silence enveloping the house. The two of us were suddenly left aimless.

Every evening we now sit out in the patio, sipping a drink, gazing at the stars and dreaming about their next visit.

Long live the institution of grandparents and grand children.