Monday, November 22, 2010

Madhuri Dixit needs a lesson?

Babs loves watching and dancing to the song Aaja Nachle, title song from the movie of the same name. She loves to give everyone a grand performance and more so to her best buds Wawa and La. On one such ocassion while watching the song as well as seeing Babs performance all of us were raving about Madhuri's talent and expressions and grace. This is the context. Now the discussion between mother and daughter.

Amma: Babs, remember even if I get angry with you, it will only be for a short while.
Babs: Ya, I know that.
A: Good.
B: But Amma, you should never get angry with me.
A: Why is that?
B: Because, I am your daughter.
A: Small silent laugh.
B: And I am so graceful.
   {Pause}
    Have you seen my expressions? They are beautiful. I dance so well Amma.
   {Pause}
    You know what? You should call that Madhuri Dixit home and I should teach her to dance.
   {Pause}
    Today? Now?
A: What? (Mouth open, not sure of what I had just heard).
**********************************************************************************
Babs has finally kinda sorta settled down in school. I am afraid that the Thanksgiving break will make it difficult for her again and so will the Christmas break but after that it should be fine. She has been doing a lot of stuff in school and her teacher only had all good things to tell us about her in her first PTA meeting. Yay! Apparently Babs does her work and cries for me during breaks!

She is growing up and becoming super independent. She does not follow me into the bathroom now. When I leave for work on weekends she happily sends me off. She wakes up in the morning wanting to eat cereal watching her favorite songs on TV. I am glad she does this because I don't have to worry if she is eating enough and is not hungry in school. The winter is here, Santa is here and I am afraid that Babs is still scared of him from up close, so no Santa portrait yet for her.

Where is the Babs who used to simply lie down on my lap and play with me and listen to every word I said? Now I have this girl who is busy playing with her toys or scribbling meaningless and wordless notes for me and her father in her room or playing with her new kitchen set making invisible meals for her parents.

Love you
Amma

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Europe 2010 - Part 10

October 17, 2010   Happy Birthday Babbi (Walldorf)

German's take their Sunday's very seriously and shut everything down. I don't think any store is open on that day. The entire city comes to a stand still. If you forgot to buy bread then tough luck! We woke up a little late after the long night and I gave Babs her ritual Birthday hair wash and made her wear her new dress that GP had bought for her from India. She was very excited. After lunch and in a sloth like pace we took the kids to this indoor play area where Babs and Tan were let loose. Both of them had such a great time there and bonded really well. The parents, us, also got a full dosage of work out and we were dead tired when we left that place four hours later. G and I tried out trampoline, Babs and Tan loved it. We did those funny climbing cubes and played in cubes filled with those little colorful balls. We were entertained.

Tired, we got back home and after another wash we were all ready to cut the cake for Babs. Who was so excited that we were all going to sing for her. Following with N took us to his favorite Spanish restaurant. Of course I got the most average dish on the table while everything else looked good. Babs was three now, she tried out calamari for the first time and loved it. G and the rest of the gang ate different types of sea food and had a great time there. Before we even got back home the kids were asleep. The adults too were not really a bundle of energy. We slouched down and spoke till it was very late. 

I packed all our bags and put them in the living room and started sulking badly. I was having a good vacaiton. One of those that you never wanted to get over and it was coming to an end. *sulk*


October 18, 2010   Frankfurt & Dallas

Nits dropped us back in Frankfurt Airport. We boarded the flight with a very heart. I could not forget Tanmay and GP. For the way they took care of us and showed us around the country. It was so easy to bond and become friends with GP that I was sure to miss when I came back to Dallas. Babs was a bit sad too but once again she was a super sport in the airplane. Three of us napped for three hours and she was up for the rest of eleven hours with not a scream or a tear. We colored, painted, snacked and told stories to each other but it was all easy.

LP picked us up at the airport and dropped us home. There is something about being back home. No matter what there is no better place than home. Babs still jet lagged went to bed at 6.00pm. G and I followed suit at 7.30pm. No matter how hard we tried we could not keep our eyes open! We did wake up at 5.00am next morning bright and early! And once again regretted that our beautiful vacation had indeed come to an end.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Europe 2010 - Part 9

October 16, 2010   Lucerne & Walldorf

The next morning we woke up and ate bread and jam brought from home and packed ourselves back into the car. We were very sad to see that the entire city wore the face of gloom with gray skies and drizzling rain. We were really shocked and Nits was upset that we would not be able to do most of the things we had planned for. But 10 minutes in to our drive out of Lucerne I thanked God for the weather. Fall had set in.

The beauty of Switzerland was there the previous day but today it was in spectacular display. The grass looked greener, the trees had overnight changed colors and the gray sky played the most beautiful backdrop to showcase the natural beauty. In spite of the bad weather Nits wanted to take us and show some waterfall and have us go up a cable car. The wives, us, we changed the plans and decided to head home because our children needed a break and so did we.

The entire drive back till we entered Germany leaving the Alps behind was brilliant. I could not get enough of it. All the way I kept pointing something or the other to G and others and vice versa.

We reached Walldorf, picked up some cake and chocolates and headed home. In Germany everything is closed on Sunday. Freaked me out, so I did some panic chocolate shopping thereby not buying quite as much as I wanted to but thankful that I at least got something. We went back home and let the children play themselves to sleep.

After the little ones were sound in bed the adults played Dumb Charades creating some of the most hilarious moments in our life to remember for ever including G's depiction of a parrot. We laughed so hard that GP's stomach cramped. We fell asleep very tired...Tomorrow, Babs three year anniversary! Happy Birthday!


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Europe 2010 - Part 8

October 15, 2010    Interlaken & Lucerne, Switzerland

We woke up pretty early but again before we were on the road it was close to 9.30. We reached Interlaken after a beautiful drive through Basel and Bern a little after noon. The kids were very excited to get out and stretch their legs. We went in for lunch into a snobbish cafe and after seeing their attitude we walked out quietly refusing eat there. The guys did have coffee there. Laker we walked along Lake Thun to enjoy the fall colors and take some good photos.

From there we drove to the city of Interlaken and upon reaching G declared that he wanted to do Paragliding. I was a bit scared but did not want to discourage him. We had the most expensive ever McDonald's lunch and took the kids out to the garden to play while G waited for his Paragliding ride. Then the kids and the mommies went on a pseudo train ride through the town to see the city. We were super impressed and excited. When we got back, unfortunately, G had already landed making us feel a little bit sad but I forced him into buy the video to compensate for that.

After picking up some coffee and force feeding the kids we left for Lucerne where we were going to spend the night in a Etap Hotel. G and Nits had booked the tickets and were excited about getting a great deal. GP and I had no opinions and were looking forward to eating out packed dinner. The drive to Lucerne and the view of Lake Brienz was really mind blowing.

Our hotel room was a welcome surprise for the kids. There was a bunk bed in each room for the third person. The kids refused to get down from it. They were tired to the bones but stayed up way past their bed time but they were both jumping up and down like monkeys. Finally the girls (us) managed to make them sleep while the guys went and bought some basic supplies (example: Beer and drinks!). All of us stayed up late into the night catching up and chatting while the kids slept above us in the bunk bed. We had met GP and N five years ago in Bengaluru and did not know when we will meet them again, so we wanted to make the best of every night when we could chat like adults after the babies were asleep. Bliss!

PS:

  • Hotel in Switzerland...cramped. Very small. The one we stayed in was super small but compact.
  • The beauty of the landscape cannot be described with photos or KJo movies, they have to be seen.
  • Everything is super expensive here.
  • People are super rude and mean. I just don't know how they expect to operate as world's tourism capital if the people are not friendly at all.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Europe 2010 - Part 7

October 14, 2010   Heidelberg, Germany

My being sick last night gave everyone a reason to take a breather. By the time the kids were ready and all of us were nourished it was quite late in the noon. Slowly we dragged ourselves to the Heidelberg Castle. On the way up Nits stopped at a cafe. As much as I whined about it to him I was glad we stopped because the cappuccino was essential to keep my head up. I was tired with the fever and felt very sleepy. The kids had a ball there playing catch inside the restaurant.

From there we drove to the castle which was beautiful in the most scenic and serene way. It is hard not to think about how the place must have been during it's hey day or in Hitler's prime. The view from the gardens are something that the photos we have cannot do justice to. It was the perfect view of a medieval town from atop a location of power. Later we walked inside the impressive courtyard of the castle where I spent sometime with Babs explaining to her how a princess would have walked the passage and she tried to imitate it. It was funny and worth it. She was really tired by now but she wanted to hear me tell her about prince and princess!

The guys decided to take a detour and Nits wanted to show G his favorite bar in the city. Even before we had driven for 5 minutes from the castle both the kids had fallen fast asleep. I suggested that I could drive GP and the kids home while the guys could have a chilled out time without us and give them some catching up time too. This was met with reluctant acceptance from the guys because they did not know what was coming next :P Most of the time when we offered them amnesty it was always conditional and sometimes the conditions (as per their opinion) were harsh. But this time around we were nice enough to let them hang out and head home.

Being girls, once we got home, we dived into packing for the Swiss trip the next day and then I suggested we do some cooking. As my stomach still grumbled at odd times I did not want to put it to test on Swiss food. GP was also up for it and we quickly made Puliyodharai, curd rice and potatoes and also some dal for dinner the same night. After all was done and the kids were not there to bother us we settled down trying to watch some movie while we ate. We also opened a bottle of bubbly and tried to unsuccessfully drink one glass before the guys came home.

Thanks for my pink health that we almost wasted a whole day doing not too much. But I guess everyone got recharged for Day 1 in Switzerland!

PS:

  • We saw a guy fondling another guy in public in the gardens of Heidelberg Castle. It was weird. Not because they were gay but public boob fondling is always weird.
  • I cannot say this enough but I was super impressed with German restrooms. You pay for them, they give you a gift voucher and you use friggin' super clean restrooms!
  • Kids are favorites in Germany. When we were in the Blackforest restaurant (I mentioned in my last post), the kids got into a fight because both of them were tired, hungry, and were fighting sleep. They were both throwing mini tantrums. Typically in most places the rest of the patrons will frown upon such events. But there, people around us looked at the kids and smiled at them and told us how beautiful they were. A couple of them also gave them candy's that came with their coffee to these brats! Imagine that!
  • Remember, "Kinder, Bitte." Helps!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Deepavali at my home!

I love all the Indian festivals and each of them bring back fond memories. When I say Indian I am not restricting it to only Hindu festivals. Deepavali definitely has a very special place in my heart and it has nothing to do with praying to God. It has everything to do with the season itself. Dussehra, followed by Deepavali, then the Christmas and New Year ending with Pongal. What more can anyone ask? Especially if you are in school/college this is like a long vacation time, right?

Babs, I wanted to write this for you, so you can see how your mother celebrated her Deepavali growing up as a small kid. These yearly rituals meant a lot to all of us and even today when I spoke with my mother we both recollected it and felt super nostalgic.

Two weeks before Deepavali, mother will be seen scrambling around trying to make sure she has all her supplies in place to make the sweets and savories for Deepavali. Mother loved making these so that her family could enjoy them. She made them in large quantities too because we had to distribute them to our near and dears! Then she would start her one-sweet/savory-a-day ritual. Mother would make, Boondi Ladoo, Murukku, Kara Seedai, Sweet Seedai, Thattai, Athirasam, Ribbon Pakoda, Diamond Cuts, Kaja, Somas, Badushah, Kara Boondi, Om Podi, and a few more to keep us busy with food for a whole week or mroe after the festival. House would smell like someone has been doing some serious cooking and I loved it. Mother would meticulously make the sweets and hide them from us so that we would not finish them off before the festival itself.

Then of course there is the whole deal of buying new clothes for Deepavali. When we lived in Trichy, we would go to Town and when we lived in Chennai we would in Mambalam shopping. There were deals and steals and either way you are robbed because of the festive season. Schools were also abuzz with all of us comparing what new dress we got and how much fire crackers each of us had purchased. It was a matter of pride and gossip in school.

The night before Deepavali was the most exciting part of the celebrations for us. Some of us would have already exhausted at least half of the crackers and would have slept slightly late bubbling with excitement. Sleep will rarely visit you this night because you are bundle of nerves and you keep hearing a random atom bomb or saram going off some where in the distance. Either way mother would wake us up early at 5 or 5.30 in the morning and line us up for the oil massage. One by one each of us would go through the ritual and be given a hot bath at the end of it. Fresh and clean we get to wear our new dress. Filled with excitement we will run outside to burst some more crackers only to notice that a soft drizzle has descended upon us. This happened every single year. Not just once or twice, but every year...Sad we would head back inside our home.

Mother will by then have steaming hot idli's and vadakari with sambar and chutney ready for us to gorge on followed by any of the sweets you choose to eat. As the day opens up sun would peek through to let us kids play outside for a while before Mother packed the sweets to be distributed. First the neighbors, a quick walk. Then to friends slightly far away for which brother would accompany me. Then father and I would go to friends house very far away by walk after the drizzle has stopped. I enjoyed these visits, we went to give and we would get too. The variety we enjoyed from everyone's house, the critiques, were all a part of the joy. This was always followed by a heavy lunch and a nap.

Once again in the evening filled with fresh vigor, all of us waited for the sun to go down and about six in the evening we would be out with the flower pots, the circling ones (Changuchakaram), the mathapu (sparkles), and of course the loud ones. We would be outside sharing our fire crackers with neighbors and be there till as long as we could keep our eyes open...before calling it a night...

I wish life would go back to being so simple. None of us went overboard buying the fire crackers that rules had to be made to ban them. People were sensitive and sensible those days. Nothing can beat mother's sweets, even today, even if I get the recipe from her and make it, her touch is what makes the difference. I am sure all of you had some fun experiences too...please stop by to comment if you can!

Love
Amma

Europa 2010 - Part 6

October 13, 2010   Walldorf & Blackforest, Germany

By the time we woke up it was already 9.30am and before we got ready it was a little late in the day. I asked Babs casually if she still wanted to go back home after she had met Tanmay (another 3 year old), to which Babs replied to me, "Amma, we can go back to Dallas in 3 days. Look at this (pointing to Tanmay's room), what a beautiful house this is. Let us stay here." We could not stop laughing at her sudden change of mind.

Babs and Tanmay took about ten minutes to bond and before long they were playing football inside the house. The first thing Babs wanted after waking up was dosa which she bravely asked her aunt GP. I guess she is a Desi after all, she gobbled up very fast and then drank milk too before we set out. The drive to Blackforest (BF) after which the famous chocolate cake is named was a little too winding. BF is also famous for the Hansel and Gretel story. Before we reached there I was already feeling slightly heady. Once we got up there Babs and Tanmay played in the kiddie play area on the swing, see-saw and the slide. After that we walked around the lake taking some very good photos and enjoying the sun shining down on us. It was cold but the sun kept us from freezing and actually providing us some fun time in the outside.

Then we decided to get ourselves nourished with some good German Food. unfortunately the only dish I could eat (Turkey) was just okay and I could not really enjoy it. Babs and Tanmay got hungry and got into a small fight and me and GP (Nits wife) had to do our best to keep them from fighting. The two of were also fighting our own sleep. The hungry kids ate something, I did some story telling and eventually ate some very yummy German salad. We headed out, did some pedal boating on the beautiful Mummelsee which was suggested by our husbands and pedaled by them too. I was feeling a bit queasy but I thought it was the drive on the winding roads and kept pushing it away. We did some souvenir shopping and as we got into the car, I once again complained of stomach ache but let it be. I am normally super queasy riding in the back seat and I thought that's what this was all about.

Ten minutes into the drive I begged Nits to stop at the nearest place that will have a restroom for me. Nits was trying to take us to another place before dark and I was not helping. After a couple of futile attempts we stopped at a coffee shop. The kind lady behind the empty bar let me use the restroom...and boy did I make everyone's stay long there. Each time I came out I had to run back in. In the meantime the husbands and wife and kids settled down to eat some authentic BF cake and drink some coffee. The husbands also got to play some pool while the kids ran around wild. The coffee shop was entirely empty but for us and the owner was kind enough not to throw us out because we used it like out house. Finally after I thought I was done we were back on the road.

Another ten minutes I once again complained about wanting to use the Loo. Nits gave up on going to this other sight seeing location and tried to stop at a convenience store and unfortunately it did not have a restroom. I threw up in enormous proportions right there on the shrubs. Sorry shrubs, did not mean to dirty you. After which, I thought I was ok. I got back into the car and we drove home while I kept praying that I was going to be okay soon so that my trip will not be spoilt.

Once we were home, we all decided that we would leave for Swiss the next morning. I was all gung-ho about it until I went to bed. I tried to sleep but felt weird. I called for G who fussed a bit before coming to my side to rub my back because the guys were trying to book our hotel in Swiss. Three minutes after he went back to his friend I sat up one more. Nits knocked on the door to give me Digene. I could not even respond as I threw up two more times. Thank God, I had some presence of mind and had taken plastic bags to the room. Immediately Nits ordered me to get ready and he got ready too and drove me to the local ER in Heidelberg. I was shivering by then and giddy and slightly delirious. Nits kept me busy by constantly talking to me.

And once we got there the doctor attended to me in exactly five minutes. She did not check my weight or my BP or any of the other things that nurses usually check you for here in the USA. Two minutes of German between Nits and her and later she confirmed it from me in her broken English and she told me to lie on the bed to get a shot. As simple as that. She checked my temperature just because I insisted on it. "Must be a stomach bug but not German Food," she assured me. I wanted to contradict her but I was too weak. I screamed and cried when she rammed the shot into my butt and Nits could not stop laughing and neither could the doctor or her nurse. I was embarrassed but this was not the first time. I walked out still feeling weak but already mentally better. We picked up meds and got home. Do I need any more adventure in my life?

Thanks Nits for doing the needful. Had I stayed home waiting to feel better I would have ruined the vacation for everyone including me!

PS:

  • Food in EU generally was not my cup of tea and since I eat only chicken and a few selected veggies, it was all the more difficult for me to find anything palatable most of the time.
  • BF was beautiful! If you are in Germany, you must drive through this part.
  • The ER we went to was so efficient that it is not a joke. I remember once we took a friend to the hospital for stomach ache and before they actually treated her it was three hours and she was ready to walk back home.
  • Germany is beautiful and Germans are very nice, especially if you have a kid along. They bend their backs to accommodate you and your child. Words to know, "For Kinder. Bitte." Works magic!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Europe 2010 - Part 5

October 12, 2010   Brussels & Germany

After all of previous night's excitement we decided to sleep till we could sleep no more. By the time we got ready and were about to leave PS sent me an email from work informing me that he could not come home to take us to the station in the evening as he had a meeting and he would try to see us directly at Brussels Nord. To make up for that he wanted to come home and spend some time with us during lunch. I am smart so when he came home, I had all our bags packed and asked him to help us drop our bags off at the storage in the station and we could do a city tour and pick up our bags at the station and head to Brussels Nord from Central. Because walking the ten minute walk on cobble stones and uphill climb even in sneakers with the bags was crazy, especially with Babs and the stroller. So we lugged our bags to the station locker and dumped it in and bid PS farewell hoping he would really be able to see us off that evening. I hate hasty goodbyes.

We then found ourselves a tour bus and got to the top in spite of it being slightly chill. BRU was a revelation. Contrary to my original cynical perspective Brussels was beautiful. I found the Royal Palace more grand than Buckingham Palace (Sorry Queen!). The modern part of the city was also very impressive and our ride was really exciting. Our last stop at the Little EU and Atomium turned out a bit of a disappointment. We bought tickets for the Atomium instead of the little EU. A big mistake because the Atomium was not that great and Babs would have loved Little EU and because we ran out of time we could not visit it and I was very disappointed but then what the hell is a trip without some disappointment. So we headed back to the city. I had my last Belgian Waffle topped with chocolate and bananas and Giri ate at a local burger joint and I also fed Babs more yogurt. Then we walked slowly to the station, picked up our bags and waited for PS.

He had told us to leave in case he did not make it before 5.45pm. The clock was showing 5.45pm and I told G that we should take the train to avoid any drama. G told me to count to ten before leaving just in case PS turns up and just as I counted 6, I saw him run down the stairs in true SRK style and I was so jumpy happy. He quickly picked Babs and a bag and G and I followed him to take the next train to Brussels Nord from where we were to catch our train to Frankfurt am Main. PS got into the train with Babs and the bag and before we could get in, the train doors started to close. The ticket collector would not let PS get down and us in. Confusion broke out in all our faces except Babs who carelessly smiled at PS as the train moved away.

G and I freaked out and everyone in the station saw what had happened. People around us assured that the next train would come in 3 minutes and everything will be fine. G and I stood getting tensed about Babs and then about PS. We did not have a cell phone on us to co-ordinate! What if Babs throws a temper tantrum, what if she hurts him, what if...

We got into the next train and got down at Nord and waited to see if they were in the platform and then headed up not sure where they would be. We were tensed until we saw PS holding Babs while she played with his long hair peacefully. I ran and hugged both of them and PS assured me that the two of them had no issues and Babs did not even shed a tear. She asked for us and when he told her that we would come in the next train she chilled. We are so proud of her.

Then we chatted and waited for our German train SNCB to come and pick us up. When the train came into the platform we tried to run to our compartment. Suddenly PS screamed and told us to get inside the train wherever we were and he threw the bag he was holding into the compartment he was standing next to. The three of us barely made it in and the train left the station. Total DDLJ Style. PS waved good bye and we could not believe that the train barely stopped in the Nord station for more than 30 seconds. Frustrated we also found that our seat was literally the last seat in the train! Brilliant. G went and culled all our bags from the different compartments. One was really far away where PS had thrown it in and then two of them were lying where we had got in and it took him almost 20 minutes to pick them all up and get them to the last coach. He then settled down for a nap with Babs while I started out through the window into the darkness as Brussels blended into other EU cities that I had no idea of.

Then the ticket collector came and threw another googly at us. She wanted our tickets to which I gave her what I had printed out. She insisted that it was not the ticket. The piece of paper showed the date and time our seating confirmation, seat numbers and the fact that we had paid! I don't know what else she wanted. She fussed about for two minutes in strong German laced English and then left in a huff. We sat down and relaxed once again after G threw enough attitude around in frustration.

We got ready to get down at Frankfurt Airport assuming that is where we were supposed to when to gentlemen on the train assured us that it was the wrong one. So G asked them to confirm why the airport station was not the main one? the board did say Frankfurt Airport (am Main). The two of them had a hearty laugh and told us that Frankfurt am Main meant Frankfurt on the river main and had nothing to do with it being the main station. Foreigners we are! Lesson learnt, always ask locals to stop you from doing anything stupid.

Nits was there waiting for us. G and him could not hold back their excitement. Nits spoke with high energy (like Babs on sugar) and freaked Babs out. The entire drive to Walldorf Babs kept asking me if we could go back to Dallas. Nit had plans for us, to go to Venice, then to Austria and to Switzerland. G and I quietly pointed out that we had two kids (his and ours) in the equation maybe just Switzerland will do. Making a lot of plans we got to his apartment where his wife made some dosa for Babs who gobbled it up in excitement and I ate rice and sambar as if I had not eaten in a year. After all soul food is soul food and who would not miss rice especially if they are from the South of India. Babs had milk and then went to bed hoping we would come back to Dallas sooner. But that was before she saw Tanmay's play room...

Edited to Add:
Thanks Remya for reminding me about my PS. I had one but forgot to write it down.

PS:

  • Every beverage has it's own glass to go with it. There is no generic glass they serve anything in. Even if it is water, they have a glass that matches the brand of mineral water they are serving you. Same goes for beers. For bars that store 1000's of varieties of beer, they still carry a glass to match each beer and will not serve you otherwise. My friends house was also the same. He went and bought new beer glasses because he bought some new beer and the beer has to match the glass. They are so particular about that.
  • Beer is big in Belgium. People drink beer three times a day at the very least.
  • Did I mention before that food in Brussels is super expensive? It is very rare to get decent priced food. So be prepared for that on your budget. Plus Italian here does not taste like Italian in USA...which I prefer more.