Healthy Snacks? Yes! NO!

You may have heard this tone with particularly effervescent kindergarten teachers. “I am going to pick up the toys, who wants to help me? ” The voice is enthusiastic, slightly sing-song and most suggestive of acquiescence. At the end of this sentence, there is a scuttle among the noble children, all aiming to please. Miraculously, those who were moving to the red side of the margin see a chance to redeem themselves and everybody is happy to be helping with the toys. The classroom bursts into song: “Everybody clean up! All the children do your share!”

I confess it was something like this response I was expecting when I announced that I was leaving for the grocery store. “I am going to the grocery store! Who wants to come with me? I am going to pick up splendid snacks for our trip!”

There was no scuttling to please me, no daughter trying to get back into my good books after deploringly questioning me at the mall the previous day whether I had crossed items off my list, as I made to wander off to look at some pretty and shockingly expensive clothes in a forlorn store. None of the repentance one likes to see. The children looked (a) uninterested in going to the grocery store and (b) they practically held my hand and stopped me from buying any snacks for them.

I was going to make a quick stop at Traders Joe, that splendid store of organic fruits, vegetables, beautiful flowers, eggs from happy hens, milk from peaceful cows, yogurts using contented bacteria and p cows milk, fragrant soaps and hand-washes never tested on animals: this is the kind of shopping the husband likes. Most snacks the children like, can be traced back to this store, and yet there weren’t ready to come. I was confused and muddled.


It must’ve shown on my face for the daughter, forthright as always, said, “The thing is: you will buy healthy snacks.” She emphasized ‘healthy’ in a rather distasteful tone of voice and continued, “Then, you’ll get mad at us when we stop somewhere to buy something we can eat. Of course, you won’t eat it too because though it is healthy, it is still a snack right? Then you’ll tell us all about starving children and how they would love to have healthy snacks and then we all feel guilty and can’t completely enjoy the stuff we buy with Appa on the way. So, just don’t buy snacks okay? We’ll go with Appa tomorrow to Traders Joe and buy something for ourselves.”

I was aghast and turned to the husband for support only to catch him casting admiring looks at her. “Wow! I wish I was that brave!” he tried not to say.

The husband can be relied upon to be convinced by the children. “But Appa…it is organic. See?” they say as they show him chips, cakes and ice-creams, and he melts, along with that chocolate mousse they are handing him. As soon as they get home, the children disappear upstairs, secure in their knowledge that their father blessed their choice, while I gasp at the contents.

Well, say what you will: I am going to take that packet of baby carrots for myself.

The Art of Soliloquizing

If ever you need to shake off your inhibitions and take a course in the art of bold self expression, I suggest taking the public transit, BART. Talking to Once-self is a free course that is offered to all riders. Also selective hearing.

Traveling on BART gives you a unique experience. One only has to close one’s nose at times and one’s eyes at others, and the rest is there for the taking.

Soliloquizing is often frowned upon: One never knows when one is talking like an onion to a donkey.


One time, I was listening to a man telling me about a music concert he’d been to.

One of the bizarre things about this particular individual was it looked like he was talking to me. I mean addressing me. Pardon me if I have told you this before, but if you need to find me on the train, you would do well to look for a sharp-ish nose buried in her writing or reading and keeping to herself, after the dramatic entry at the last minute of course.

So, I was mildly puzzled and looked up. Tell me, he said, thundering, what should the boy do? Shall I help him?

I mean. I don’t know. It depends on the boy does it not? I am usually not the one who has been asked to share advice. I was rattled. Only none of the words came out. What managed to come out was a shrug. I looked around me completely bewildered, only to be confronted by equally puzzled faces that all seemed to share the same vague feeling that this gentleman had never physically been to the concert  he was talking about, and better yet, the boy could have been the lead singer on the fictional band, or his young ward, it was hard to tie the story together. He however, had something that most marketing professionals and politicians would die for: he had the unique ability to make a train-car full of passengers feel like they were being addressed individually by him.

It was amusing and interesting.

But when folks shout at you and demand that you have a good new year and a merry christmas, it is hard to not smile. Even if you are scuttling away with a slightly alarmed expression on your face.


The Curious Garden

I have always loved reading Children’s books. There is something charming, and uplifting about them, a shining hope that we sometimes fumble with as we grow older. Even when the books deal with hard topics, even when they deal with hard concepts. Every time I feel jaded, there is nothing like a lovely children’s book to help me uncover the magic again.

One beautiful day in November, I dragged the children along on a walk. The fall season, and the recent rains had given way to unruly gardens, crisp fallen leaves for us to feel the crunch as we walked on, and little birds frequenting the place once more. On the road side, was a hedge trimmed to the shape of an oblong mushroom and the toddler son stopped in front of it and said, “Like the Curious Garden book right? This is how it was in Amma’s garden when she was a little girl.”

The daughter looked dubious. “How do you know it was like that in Amma’s garden when she was a little girl. You weren’t there remember?” The son looked hurt. It is true that he is often confused with time and does not understand why there were periods in our life before he was born, when he always remembered having her with him.

What is Time is a favorite question of his.

“I know! But Amma told me when she read the book, right Amma?”

“That’s right!” I said somewhat taken aback that he remembered what I had said in passing while looking at the pictures in the book a few days ago. It has since become a favorite book for both of us. We love cuddling up with the Curious Garden.

It is a heart warming story about a little boy named Liam who looks after some plants on a forgotten railroad track only to have the curious garden spread its influence all over the forgotten places in the city. The Curious Garden also inspires many amateur gardeners and the last page shows the transformation of a bleak, smog-laden city to a beautiful one with creepers and trees and hidden nooks of gardens by the time the boy grows to a man.

One on gardens in Brain Pickings:

During Thanksgiving, the pre-school that the son goes to had an exercise asking the children what they are most thankful for. The notes were shaped like feathers and they were all posted on the notice board together in the shape of a turkey. I stopped to see what the children were thankful about. I must say it was all wonderful. Very few had capitalistic tones, which definitely warmed my heart.

The son’s feather-shaped note said he was thankful for Mom cuddling up with him and reading Curious Garden.


The Efficient Baxter Takes a Break

One morning, when the husband was away, the daughter sighed wistfully, as we piled into the car to get to her school on time, and said, “I miss Appa. I miss the action before going to school.”

“What do you mean?” I asked guardedly. This is the sort of conversation that will lead to promises involving television time, chocolates or extended bed-times, and drama about broken promises for things that should not have been promises at all in the first place.

“Well…you know how you get things ready the previous night and then we come in the morning and take everything and leave?”
“Well..we’d never do that if Appa was around would we? We’d run, and you’d run and there is more, I don’t know, FUN!” said the daughter.

I could not deny this allegation.

School-going time is one packed with drama, hilarity, perplexity, action and yawns. Feathers ruffled at this time smoothen themselves out before we get to our various institutions and good humor and charm overtake the retelling of it in the evenings and the family hums along with its customary cheer once more.

We also have strange customs and rules such as ‘Check the rear-view mirror till the car gets to the main road.’  I have run after the car on several occasions looking like a windmill flailing my arms, waving the latest piece of homework, or some paper that is required to be handed in. It is very hard to do that. Windmills function beautifully because they don’t run.


One time, I was charging behind the snorting car, looking like a pumped up rhinoceres because the daughter forgot her shoes. Her SHOES! I ask you. She explained that she likes to relax in the car and put on her shoes, so she can chill at home. When I told my friends this, they didn’t bat an eyelid. They said they always have an extra pair of shoes in the car for just such emergencies.

One time, I had to take her shoes into school because she wore two left shoes to school. (

The time when the check-rear-view mirror became a rule was on a particularly cold day in the Winter. The temperature gauge was mercilessly pointing at sub-zero and the daughter forgot her lunch-box. The house inside was toasty and warm, and I had forgotten how cold Californian winters could get. I charged after the car barefoot, running a sprint, with a lunch bag in my hand. My athletic coaches in high school always thought I performed best when I had a dog chasing me causing my heart to pump like it was powered by an industrial pump, but I wish to tell them that I perform pretty well when barefoot on sub-zero roads as well. The car, already late, was doing its best to keep the distance between us level. I was running and creating such a ruckus, some geese stopped their flight mid-air to see who the dickens was rivaling their squawking.

Luckily, the car’s merge into the main road was somewhat delayed because of the traffic and I managed to bang the car from behind and cause the husband to turn around. The sheepish daughter took her lunch box,  had the sense to thank me for the food later that evening, and all was laughed at, but it is now a rule. Everyone has to look at the rear view mirror before going ANYwhere.

When the husband travels, I throw my lackadaisical side aside and step into the role of The Efficient Baxter. Since I am rarely the Efficient-Person, I do a sincere job at it when I do step up, and I cannot deny, it snuffs the joy out of the process.

With the husband back, The Efficient Baxter has taken a break again, and we scrambled most satisfactorily this morning. I threw a well-aimed jacket through the open car window as it left, and received a beaming smile and a Thumbs-Up from the occupants.

“The Television”

The husband is back from a fortnight-long business trip and the whole household sighed with relief, joy and exasperation when his smiling face greeted us.

That sigh of relief was mine.
Those whoops and shouts of joy that woke the neighbor’s cat and caused the squirrels to fall out of their trees was the children’s.
That exasperated sigh that was drowned in the cacophony was the Television’s. Anyone would be exasperated if they were rudely told that their quiet time had officially ended.

In our household, the Television is one that does its share of work, usually without complaining, though we know how angry it can get when pushed up against demanding work schedules. Take the time it decided to go on strike and fumbled the husband mid-stride:

This time, the television had a break too during the husband’s trip. You see, I am hopeless at getting the various things to work – there is Netflix and Amazon and Xfinity and Roku and Google TV and Apple TV and You tube. I am vaguely aware that these are all different things, but like the daughter says, “Poor amma – she has lost the battle the moment she calls it ‘The Television’ instead of lovingly calling it a TV!”

With the Television out of the running race of entertainment options, other activities gallantly stepped in to fill the void. We had a marvelous time together: taking walks in the golden autumn sun while entertaining friends and family, making beautifully shaped dosas and pancakes, whipping up thanksgiving feasts just because, cutting and pasting paper, preparing for a science fair, decorating our christmas tree. We did everything except television-watching. Which is what the children missed the most (after their father of course). So, the first words to escape their mouths after the vociferous cries of welcome were yowled was, “Could you get Netflix going again? Amma tried and tried, but she just couldn’t.”

The husband shook his head looking shocked, “Do you mean to tell me, you spent two weeks including a long week-end without TV?”

“Yes…of course! But we had a nice time right?” I said smiling at the angels who came on walks dressed like Panda bears and impersonating hawks.


“Well…let’s put it this way! We had a good time because Amma was happy that ‘The Television’ was not working, so she made sure we did fun stuff.” said the daughter rolling her eyes, and quoting ‘The Television’ like she has seen many fine teenage heroines on Television do. The husband gave me a look that said, “To think a mother would put her children through this!”

As Netflix came to life, the children enveloped him in warm hugs and embraces and the husband looked pleased. He swelled as it isn’t everyday that he is made to realize what a true hero he is to them.

I turned to the toddler son and asked him, “Who should give you a bath today? Appa or Amma?”

I was already whistling up the stairs sounding like a milk cooker out of breath, a book neatly tucked under my arm, when he shouted his answer: “Appa!”

My Hero!

How a Hawk Taught a Panda to Fly

One November afternoon,  the golden autumn sunshine was shining through the yellow, red and maroon leaves. The remaining birds in this fast-losing-its-suburbia-touch flitted about looking for worms and grains, squirrels darted past barely containing their curiosity for the creatures who took the time to wrap themselves up in woollen to take a walk. The dogs looked at us with a supercilious air and closer observation revealed that it was because of the new cardigans they were wearing. The squirrels thought them (the cardigans I mean) ridiculous and the dogs thought the squirrels underprivileged, not that they told me of course.

It was at this time that a hawk screeched loudly and attempted to land smoothly on the concrete walkway ahead of us. Some crows took flight in alarm, but the squirrels chittered amused and carried on with their observations of suburban life from the safe treetops. A baby panda came charging after the hawk and unable to stop careened into the hawk. There was a moment of terse anticipation and tension, but the hawk turned its head regally, surveyed the baby panda and hugged him.

“No…Panda. You have to slow down before landing, or you could crash, like you just did, and real hawks wont be as forgiving.” said the Hawk to the Panda.

I don’t know why, but we went for a walk that day with the son dressed in his fine Halloween Panda costume. It was about a month after Halloween. He attended a birthday party where the birthday boy wisely asked for a costume party, and the Halloween costumes got to air themselves again. I must say I enjoyed looking at princesses, iron men, spiderman, pandas and rabbits watching  a charming magic show at the party. After the party, the streets were looking so beautiful that we decided to go for a walk.

“If he is coming as a Panda, I will use this,” (she said pointing to a wonderful Jaipuri shawl of mine), “as wings and be a bird.” said the daughter.

“What bird should I be, you little Panda?”
I did not know that Pandas liked Hawks, but apparently this one did. So, the Hawk taught the Panda to fly.


If an ornithologist were to observe us that day, I am sure he would have learnt surprising things. Which reminds me of this article where ornithologists studied Angry Birds to compare and contrast real bird behavior vs those in the game.

If ever there are weird walks, this one tops the list. Even the real dogs dressed in real sweaters stopped to watch the drama.

%d bloggers like this: