From Divine Mermaids To Almighty Dashed Cars

I have written about the pace of life in the nourish-n-cherish household before and I shall do so again.  Never a dull moment about sums it up. Now, of course, there are folks who have more kids than we do, and more pets than we do (did), and yet manage their time more efficiently than we do. One can either sigh and wonder where the time went, or simply muddle along and try to throw in a lazy afternoon or two if possible and make the best of things. That is what we do.

The daughter’s school had put up a truly marvelous play. The children were fabulous in their roles and it was heartening to see how the props were changed, the lines memorized and the whole play was worthy of the standing ovation it received.

To my mind,  with out her (the daughter), it seemed the play could never have gone on. I mean, she played a half dozen roles in the same play. There were a dozen sailors on the stage, and sure enough, there she was: The sailor with the curly hair, which was hard to spot as the daughter has straight hair. The next minute, it was a school of fish (the orange one with black stripes for the critics). There a sea-gull, here a sous-chef, elsewhere an unfortunate soul. The play was titled ‘The Little Mermaid’ and of course enthusiasm for the production ran high in the daughter’s mind. She has always liked the mermaids.


In fact the Mermaids may once have saved us – read on in this thrilling tale:

There were rehearsals to attend, costumes to try on, back stage friends to rib, camaraderie between scenes, forgotten cues, not yet perfected dialogues, and much more excitement. I was really happy that she had an experience like this, for performances form a bond forged of nervous anticipation that is difficult to simulate elsewhere.

I quizzed her about how she came to play this many roles later, and she said that when she joined the Drama club, she had auditioned for various parts. She was selected as only a sea-gull at first. However, the Drama Club had not quite expected a steady stream of folks to leave over the following months, and she was given more and more roles to fill. I had no idea the Theatrical industry worked so much on Corporate lines.

Between Drama productions, Science Fairs, Basketball games lost, tied and won, life has been a series of waves. The past Saturday was probably the first one this year where we did not have anywhere to rush off to, and the son lay belly down on the mat blissfully arranging and re-arranging his cars, while his mouth was set to ignition-on. The fond grandparents looked at him playing with his cars on the floor, and gingerly picked their way through the pile lest they take a spin like Lightning McQueen in the Cactus patch.

Vroom! Vroom!

Looks like it is a ‘No’ on the tires for Lightning McQueen again


Every-time the ignition sounds died from him, a running commentary started up telling us all about that blasted tire of Lightning McQueen that burst during his final lap in the Piston Cup race.


I yearned for an afternoon nap that Saturday. How delicious it is when there is no plan other than to take a walk and read? The mother, a relentless cook, was already thinking of the evening meal, but I shushed her with a smart, “We’ve just had lunch – relax!” and went upstairs singing to bed.

In case you have missed the narrative thus far in the blog, the son is somewhat singularly focused in his interests. He plays with Lightning McQueen or Dusty Crophopper loyally ever since he knew how to hold a toy:

When one comes up to bed yearning for a nap, one wants to take a nap, does one not? Does one want to spend time clearing the bed to make it look less like a freeway and more like a bed? One does not. After the fifteenth car was removed from under the blanket, I felt justified in swearing:  “I swear to the Almighty Car Lord that I shall kick Lightning McQueen  if I find him in my bed again. ” Even if it stubs my toe, and I have to hop around holding my big right toe in my left hand for a few minutes.

P.S: Please catch a good nap when you can folks. It is wonderful.

Lead Kindly Light

Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom
The internet has been agog with the fact that sitting is killing us. We were meant to be standing up and we are changing something fundamental when we move towards sitting this long. Of course, I have been reading all this sitting smugly on my chair, sipping tea and resolve to fix it immediately. How, one may ask, but I could not answer for I do not know.

There is a very sensible article that seemed to tell me exactly how to repeal all the horrible effects of sitting. Apparently, if I gave myself 3 small walks for every 3 hours of sitting, I could reverse the appalling effects of sitting. Though how I can throw in a dozen small walks a day is beyond me. : 3 short walks required for every 3 hours of sitting.

On another note, the son has been accessorized with a pair of shoes that light up. The sister of his came up with ridiculous arguments for the shoes:

  • He needed the light-up shoes because when he walks at night, the lights from the shoes can light the way.
  • It saves electricity because when he wear those shoes, there is no need for any lights in the room: This coming from a child who leaves a light bulb trail wherever she goes in the house, and I yelp behind her switching off every single light on the way. I, to prove a point of course, switch off lights in rooms before I have made it to the door and bang up against something unceremoniously only to have a cackling I-told-you-so afterward from the daughter. but it is all in a day’s work and I bear my grievances with fortitude.
  • If he is walking in a forest and the sunlight does not come through, he can help us out with his shoes.

The last reason may have been the reason I caved in. One never knows when one can get stuck in a forest where the sunlight does not reach the floor right? It turns out that he got to walk in a forest within a week or two of his new shoes. To give the little one his due, he walked and ran for miles on end in the forest. The novelty of the light-up-shoes coupled with a serene forest atmosphere no doubt.  But he did seem to emanate the ‘Miles to go before I sleep’ aura about him.

Maybe, I too shall get myself a pair like that and then parade up and down throwing in a dozen walks or more a day. In search of the light.

Lead Kindly Light Amid the Encircling Gloom

Taking the ABCD Approach

“Amma! How can you say that? Three is a very important age!” says the daughter riled up and agitated. I now recognize that tone of voice as the one she uses when she is standing up for someone or something. There is a sincerity to it that is refreshing. Maybe, one day that voice will help her lend her energy and actions to more noble causes than celebrating the third birthday party for her brother, but for now, I appreciate the thought.

“Really? Tell me all about your third birthday party dear.” I ask her. I can see her tumbling about in her brain with a look on her face like she is rattling a box of metal keys to look for the key to the treasure chest.

“There was a .. a cake?!” she says hesitantly.

“Nice try. What else?”

“Amma, see all I am saying is that I will take care of everything for the party. All you need is A.B.C.D and we are set.”

I was gearing up for a small party among his friends in his day-care and much singing of the birthday song, but the daughter wanted to have some of her own fun in our house with a larger group of her friends and her brother’s on the occasion. Hence the discussion.

“What is A B C D?”

She picks up a marker and heads to the white board in true Teacher’s-grand-daughter fashion and writes:

A: Apartment/House

B: Buddies

C: Cake

D: Decorations

“We already have A, I’ll invite all the Bs, you order the C and I’ll take care of the D too. I’ll even clean up before the party. “

She ignores my question about cleaning up after the party.

So, I am settling down to the myriad tasks that come with pulling off a birthday party at the last minute. None of this is helped by the fact that my sister sitting half a moon away is pinging me on progress. The daughter has looped her in for support I see.

Lightning McQueen Cars Cake
Lightning McQueen Cars Cake (Image from Safeway)

The little brother, in the meanwhile, is basking in all the attention. When people wish him a Happy Birthday, he glows and wishes them Happy Birthday too. Sigh.

The Car Test of Colors

If ever you are in one of those situations where the world has to be saved and the only way to do it is to disconnect the red fuse wire after tying the yellow fuse wire, I strongly advise you against approaching the toddler son. He may be the leading authority on distinguishing between Squirrels and Crows. He can even do the difficult Crow vs Geese category, but he draws a sharp line at colors.

One morning, we were sitting there eating our breakfast when the son shouted that there were a few squirrels on the tree in the backyard.  They are a source of great entertainment, and were indeed welcome. The daughter listened to her brother tell us the gripping story about two squirrels.(I shall regale it on the blog one day). Always a proud mother, I said, “Wow. What color are the squirrels?”

He looked up at me and said, “Blue.”

The daughter and I exchanged looks and burst out laughing. So, I went on with it. I picked up a gleaming yellow banana and asked him what color the banana was.

The son was hurt. Everyone knows that, he seemed to say and then said, “Green.”

“No son. That is yellow. Yellow banana.” I said patiently.

“What color is the spoon?” I asked pointing to the white plastic spoon he had in his hands.

Bananas may be tricky monsters, but white plastic spoons – pssshaaww! “Black!” he said.

“NO! That is white. Yellow banana, white spoon.” I said

“NO. NO. That is black spoons.” he said. (We are working on his grammar)

The daughter felt I was giving him difficult questions and pointed to the cereal box that had a blue lid and asked him what color it was. This,he felt, was where his strength lay and said confidently,“That is cereals.”

“Cereals yes. But what color?”

The little fellow said unabashedly, “Red!”

One would have thought that his abysmal track record would at least have given him cause for thought, but no. Confidence poured out and he said that the blue cereals box lid was red. If anyone had doubts, they could go and eat green bananas and chase blue squirrels.Colors 

I cornered the husband later and asked him whether our poor son was color blind. “Over reacting as usual.” said the husband playing chess on his computer, but I could tell I had sown the seed of doubt in his mind.

A few hours later, the husband came beaming and thumped me on the back, “He isn’t color blind. You simply gave him the wrong test. See this? I call it the Car Test of Colours.”

The Car Test of Colours – Pssshaw and Pssshaww again. I rolled my eyes for added effect.

He called out to the fellow and flashed a red car in front of him and asked him, “What color is this?”


The son said, “That is Red 95 Lightning Cars.”

“Well… he knows that car is red. He watches that Disney Pixar Cars movie everyday.” I said unimpressed.

“True. But watch this. “ says the husband with the air of someone who has yet to play the trump card, and pulls out a blue Lightning Mc Queen. “What color is this?”


“This is Blue 95 Lightning Cars.” says the son.

He breezes through a black and white police car test with correct results, and looks at me as though challenging me to put him through more difficult tests.

Right then. I just need to let the educational authorities know that they have to devise special Cars movie based color tests when he goes to School. Sigh.

The Affectionate Amby

I suppose this always happens in the world of fashion. You look at skinny models in high heels tottering with the confidence of a skyscraper on skates, and you see the perfect lines, and flatbeds where ordinary people settle for curves.  Then you stop to wonder what the competition is about. Sometimes, you pause enough to look down at your own feet and the sensible footwear below the matter-of-fact trousers with extra pockets for carrying the cellphone. Then you think, why isn’t there glamour in practicality?

Why aren’t the world’s most stunning personalities cased in things that the everyday man and woman wear while they go about their lives?

I often think that way in the world of cars too. I remember the first time I showed my mother a Ferrari on the streets of USA. “Where else in the World, other than California, would you find a Ferrari parked on the street between a BMW and a Mercedes Benz?” I asked her, clearly excited to be showing her the sights.

In her typical fashion, she looked critically at the car, and said, “Looks like an expensive car.”

“Of course ma! Do you know how much it costs?”

“Doesn’t matter what it costs! It looks like we can’t fit our groceries in the trunk. So, what is the point?”

Sigh: There is a reason, I find glamour in practicality. It is called ‘instilled values’ folks.

Anyway, applying practicality to cars, it looks like the show Top Gear finally sees sense in my argument. Those who have traveled in an ambassador car in India would be thrilled to note the humble car mentioned. For what else is a car by looks, a horse by power, a bus by capacity, an optimist in attitude and a dog in loyalty?

The Amby
Ambassador alias Amby

The Hindustan Ambassador is the King among Taxis. The only car where restaurant signs can be reused in a car: Seating Capacity: 30

The Car, that in most families, is known affectionately as the ‘Amby’.

I have a story about the time my grandmother came to my sister’s wedding in an ambassador car, but I will save it for another day. That is an entertaining read for sure.

P.S: I have since seen the video clip of the Amby winning that race and it seems to be because all the others crashed into something or into one another. Nevertheless, the Amby it is.

One Mad Hen with a Green V

“Did you go to <fill in any place where parking is a pain> by any chance on Thursday afternoon – the day before the long weekend?” the husband asks.

I was astounded. How did he know? I admitted I had, all the time marveling at the Sherlock Holmes in him.

“How did you know?” I ask

He grins and waves a parking ticket at my face. I don’t know how I manage it. I look around for all the signs that say it is okay to park in a particular spot. I pay for it. Display on windshield. I hassle innocent bystanders and ask for reassurance that my parking is not going to get me in trouble and two weeks later, I land a parking ticket. I grin sheepishly and gulp at the amount. I could have gone ten times with that money.

So, you can imagine my trepidation when I had to spend three days on the University grounds to drop off my nephew. To make matters worse, the first thing folks told me when I landed at my nephew’s university was that parking was a pain and if I was not careful, I would have a windshield full of parking tickets for my collection. I was not pleased.

The day dawned bright and early and there I was entering the University grounds, my eyes peeled for parking signs. I promptly circled the main area six times in a clockwise direction (And once in the anti-clockwise direction before realizing halfway that it was a one way street and hastily turning around. ). Moving on, I figured that at this rate, none of us would get anywhere and I dropped the nephew and his father in the general vicinity of a map and headed to the parking garage.

I parked in a spot marked ‘V’. ‘V’ for Visitor.  I paid for the parking slot and strode out of the Garage. Ten steps on, doubt crept in. What if ‘V’ stood for  ‘Van’ or ‘Viscosity’ or ‘Valedictorian’? The stride faltered, the pace slowed, and I found myself looking doubtfully at the garage. Luckily for me, I also saw signs for a ‘Parking Office’ and I headed there.

When in doubt, ask. So, I stood in line and headed to a desk clerk.

He was drinking in, his morning cup of creamer and coffee and fixed me with a stern glare. Folks who work at Universities have a way of doing this to you even if they work at the Parking Office I tell you.

As is my wont when fixed with the stern glare, I gulped and asked .” it okay to park in a spot marked ‘V’?”

“What do you mean marked ‘V’? Were there ‘V’s on either side of the spot?”

“NO, there was a ‘V’ in the middle.”

“In all my years of service here, I have never seen a spot with a ‘V’ drawn in the middle. You had better head out and see that there are ‘V’s on either side.Otherwise, you WILL get a parking ticket.”

I nodded, and understanding that my allocated time was up, headed back up to the garage.  I ran up the stairs and huffed and puffed up to my spot. I had seen wrong. There was no ‘V’ in the middle of the spot, but on either side. So, I headed back to the Coffee & Creamer desk clerk to show him a ‘Thumbs up’ sign. He grinned and said, “Then fine!”

Luckily I did not have to stand in the pesky line again, but the man talking to him was startled for a moment. Clearly whatever he had going just then was not falling under the category of ‘Then fine!” and he looked at me with a facial green that was pure jealousy.

I turned my back to exit. But you know how they say that when you exit the royalty, you must never show your back, or you shall pay? I paid.

“Just make sure, it is a green ‘V’ and not a red ‘V'” he said to my retreating back.

Green V Parking

There are 26 different alphabets in the English language to choose from. Twenty-six. Why not pick an ‘A’ or a ‘Z’. No. They have to go for a red and a green ‘V’. Damn all parking signs. So, back to the garage and up the stairs and past the cars I went to make sure it was a green ‘V’. I emerged from the stairs and what do I see? A cop standing near my car. Not this time young man, not this time. Please. So, I ran hard with my backpack flapping against my back and breathing like a charging rhino.

“Please *puff* officer. I just *pant* went to verify whether *pant* I had parked in the right spot. *puff puff pant pant* He said a green ‘V’ was okay.” I glanced down and saw that I had not erred. I had parked between the lines showing a green ‘V’ on either side.

The Officer looked like he’d seen the idiot of the day in the morning itself and laughed out loud assuring me that it was okay to park there as long as the ticket was displayed on the dashboard.

If you remember, I urged folks to wear sensible shoes while going to drop children in college, and that is partly because in my enthusiasm to not get a parking ticket, I kept parking in the same garage in the green ‘V’ spots. This garage was in the centre of the University and if one needed to walk 2.3 miles to see something, so be it. I was not budging.

If I get a ticket for this, I swear to God, I will be one mad hen. One Mad Hen.

Carwaas Saar Carwaas Carwaas!

I got into a friend’s car and they both apologized for the mess in the car and removed one toy from the seat. I cringed. Everything else about the car was spotless. No rubber-bands and dried leaves on the floor, no spare jackets on the seats, no books peeping out of every pocket – not even a chocolate wrapper on the floor and they apologized for the mess. I made a mental note to compose something proportionate when I gave them a lift. I don’t think mere words are enough. The cars interiors and exteriors have led to intense arguments about what is a reasonable mess quotient for a car in our family. Ever the sensible voice in the family, the daughter suggested that we take an adventure of sorts and get the car cleaned by going to that fun car wash down the street. So, off we went jibber-jabbering the whole way.

The automatic carwash is the one thing that had my eyes positively popping out in all directions when I first came to the US. Perhaps I have told readers about my brother and his love for vehicles on wheels. For refreshers, please hop on over to his blogpost – if that doesn’t convince you about his love for vehicles, I don’t know what will

Point is that as long as I was with him, I had to just take my vehicle and go wherever I was going. He’d have it cleaned, he’d fill the petrol tank (except on one occasion that I shall blog about soon), turn on the ignition and hand over the vehicle to me with a longing in his eyes. I would then get on and simply move-it with a wave to the dear fellow. Moving to the US has altered all that. There is no brother at hand to take care of my car for me. The car needs washing, I wash it. Sigh! From the opening paragraph it is all too clear that I am not doing a stellar job at it either.

The daughter and I enjoyed the carwash and on our way back I couldn’t help telling her about how I felt when I went for my first carwash in the US.

“You mean – you have never seen an automatic carwash till you came to the US? You’re kidding right?” she said incredulity dripping out of every syllable. I then explained car washes to her as done in India.

A carwash in India has as many flavors as the spices and the industry thrives on a number of best practices. Only none of them are documented.

The marketing slogan used is:

Saar Saaar Saar Saar – carwaas saar carwaas saar carwaas


Adjusted to traffic and surroundings. Decibel levels should allow for marketing slogan to be heard inside rolled up car windows.


Some places I know have “saloon caarwaas”, “jest fast carwaas” and regular deals. The saloon carwashes are the ones done with foaming soap and water. While this is done with a regular service, the owner has the option of sipping tea (hand-delivered with a finger in your cup) or leaving the car there. Best done with reliable dealers or mechanics, for we all know that spare parts are hard to come by.

As for the Jest Fast carwaas variety, I’ve seen them done in minutes while waiting for the traffic signal to turn green. A bunch of guys throw some water on the car and another bunch climb on with towels and scrub clean. One time the signal turned green and the guy on the front windscreen was not done yet. He kept wiping while the impatient mistress honked to let him know. This guy should be identified and recruited by any organization worth its salts, I have always maintained. For Rs. 5, he simply wouldn’t let a bird dropping go. He scrubbed and scrubbed. He screamed to the driver – “Madam – keep moving! I will scrub and then jump off at the next signal. Don’t worry!”

So, the lady drove gingerly with this guy squatting on the hood and scrubbing the windscreen with all his might. It is a pity I hadn’t a cell-phone to snap a picture with me right away, but I shall always, always carry that image with me.

As expected the daughter guffawed at the whole story and said she preferred the automatic variety. I was not so sure.

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