Prajaktachi Phule

It was a hot summer night. Jaie switched on the air conditioner and sprayed her favourite room freshener in the bedroom. Her children were already asleep, tired from playing all day long in the heat. It was their summer vacation and she didn’t have the heart to stop them from enjoying their childhood. After switching off all the lights in the house, she entered the now cool bedroom and settled down on the bed next to her husband. He was surfing through TV channels trying to find something interesting to pass the time before they fell asleep. She picked up her kindle and resumed reading a story about floral landscapes in Scandinavia. Her tired body and sleepy mind pushed her down the memory lane and she allowed herself to reminisce about her childhood.

The housing society where her parents lived used to have a giant prajakta tree right outside their bedroom window. It was an era when everyone slept with fans on full and windows all the way open. Homes in that time did not have air conditioners. Jaie remembered the refreshing fragrance of the prajakta flowers spreading a divine scent through the rooms pushing out the uncomfortable smells of day long sweat. The agarbattis (essence sticks) that her mother lit in the evenings would run out of fragrance long before it was time to sleep.

She walked further down the memory lane and saw her childhood friends… the summer vacations spent together. The days full of playtime. How they would all wake up around seven am to the melodious songs playing on the radio. Some the songs heard in those waking moments still had the power to bring Jaie out of her deepest miseries and troubles. After a shower, Jaie would fetch loads of flowers from the flower trees across the society for her grandmother. In her mind’s eye, she could still see the beautiful flowers in their myriad hues – Aboli (firecracker flower), Anant (Gardenia), Gulmohar (Royal Poinciana), Hibiscus, Jasmine, Nishigandha (tuberose) Prajakta (night-flowering jasmine), Champa (marigold), Sadaphuli (periwinkle), ratrani (night cestrum)… Jasmine remained her favourite even today as it was the English name of the flower Jaie. She felt very much in tune with the flower that was her namesake. After helping her grandmother in the daily puja, she would go down to play with her friends. The early morning dewy grass felt fabulous to her. She always felt as if God had created a lush green moist carpet just for her – to take away the heat of the summer sun. As the sun would begin to rise higher in the sky, all the children would head home to eat breakfast. After her breakfast, Jaie would stay back home for a while to see her mother off to office. She would go down to play as soon as her parents left for work. By now, the sun would be hot enough to burn, the children would move into the shade of the many huge trees in the housing society. The group of Gulmohar trees was their favourite place to play for there was a lot of shade afforded by the giant trees and the fallen gulmohar flowers felt to their innocent minds like a lush red carpet. The huge trees made a perfect hiding spot, and hide and seek was the favourite mid-morning game of all the children.

Lunch time was a slightly longer break and all the children would normally stay back home till late afternoon to enjoy some cool breeze under the fans. Most of them would have lunch and meet up in the house of one child. Jaie often loved to use this time to indulge in her passion – reading. After her grandmother fell asleep, Jaie would sneak to the devara (temple) and pick up the mini-pothis kept there. She rarely understood much of what she was reading, but she enjoyed trying to make sense of the ancient scriptures nonetheless. After about an hour of reading, Jaie would call out to her grandmother that she was heading to her friend’s place to play. The children would play teacher-teacher, house, cards and indoor games at such time. Very often, the children chose to play outside the door, but well inside the entrance of the numerous buildings in the society. They liked to pretend that this was their villa and that they were having guests over. Come evening, a little snack and the children would all be out in full force to play again. Cycles, cricket bats, badminton rackets and such equipment would be out in all its splendour each evening with all the children taking turns to share and play.

Looking back, Jaie realised that all the residents of the society had probably had an unwritten, unspoken rule – the parents would provide evening snacks each day by turns. She now remembered having enjoying the spicy theplas (rolled flat bread) made by a friend’s ba, yet another tamilian friend’s amma had served up crunchy murukkus (fried lentil snack) , a keralite friend’s home always had a ready stock of softest and fluffiest idlis (steamed rice cakes), a Bengali friend’s mother had once given her fried brinjal slices, her own aaji always handed out the tastiest besanache laadu (sweet chickpea balls), there was a Christian friend whose mother always dished up delicious warm cupcakes, while a sikh friend’s mother was ready with paronthe (rolled stuffed flat bread), there was even a Jewish friend whose mother made the world’s best honey challah rolls. To Jaie’s taste-buds, the sheer-korma that a muslim chachi always offered the children at Eid was unparalleled even today. Her parsi friend’s mother made the yummiest dhansak.

Thinking back to those yummy snacks eaten in the homes of her friends, made Jaie’s mouth water. She realised that she was a culmination of all these cultures. She felt grateful at having been exposed to a huge variety of people, lifestyles and cultures since a young age, due to which she had become non-judgemental and accepting of individualism. She looked at her sleeping children and realised how much today’s generation missed out on fun simply because fun came so easy to them. They had seen challah rolls only in shops and had no idea of the difference in the tastes between the theplas made by a ben and their mother. Though not a linguist, she could at least understand most of the conversation in most of the various Indian languages and their dialects. She felt sad for them that they only knew to buy flowers from the flower vendors and did not get to relish the simple joy of walking barefeet on dewy grass, plucking flowers, enjoying the fragrances. Though she and her husband were strict about TV times and such, Jaie realised that her childhood had been better thanks to the absence of artificial sources of entertainment. She could not recall a single moment where she had felt bored during her vacations. She compared her childhood to that of her offsprings and realised that it was her generation that was the culprit.

‘We bring them things even before they realise they want them,’ she thought to herself. ‘But today’s generation needs to be tech-savvy. They have to be able to use the various gadgets for the future of the world is in gadgets,’ argued her modern mind. ‘True, but at what point should they stop? Why do they need a calculator for a simple addition?’ questioned her rustic self. ‘There’s no stopping them. Why use your brain when you have gadgets to serve the purpose?’ fought back the modern mind. ‘You know the adage: The lesser you use the brain, the more rusty it gets,’ warned the rustic mother. ‘But they need to be self dependent in today’s tough competitive world,’ tempted the modern urban lady in her. ‘Precisely why they need to reduce their dependence on gadgets and increase the same on themselves!’ shot back the ancient wisdom in her. ‘Isn’t it better to let them use gadgets and be self content than have them behind your back asking for entertainment?’ smirked the modern urban mother. ‘Why can’t they just use their imagination to rustle up their own entertainment?’ fought the rustic lady valiantly. “Are you ok? Why are you tossing and turning so much?” Jaie opened her eyes to see her husband look at her worriedly. She told him about her internal turmoil and he started laughing at her. “Que sera sera mon amour! What will be will be!” he replied with a smile. “Our times were different. Traffic was much less and galli-cricket was an easy option. No one was rich enough to have to worry about kidnappings and ransoms. Moreover, the children from one area and locality normally went to one common school unlike today’s kids who go to different schools, each a ‘private international school’, each the best and most expensive one. They are exposed to materialistic competition right from the crib with us buying them the best brands of clothes, toys, prams and even milk bottles!” She was amazed. “You are right. But what is the solution? Do we let them become gadget dependent? Or do we pull away the gadgets?” she wondered. “Neither. We can only decide what is best for our children, draw a line, occasionally allowing it to stretch either way,” he suggested. “Yes, overindulgence and abstinence are both extreme. We will have to draw a middle line, and the line will keep changing, shortening, elongating over time as they grow up,” she agreed. “Okay then, now that that’s settled, I have a surprise for you,” he smiled. He went out of the room for a few minutes, and came back in hiding something behind him. As she looked at him in askance, he drew his hand forward and she had tears in her eyes… he had bought her a string of her favourite flowers – a mix of jasmine, prajakta and aboli. He knew she loved to sleep with the string next to her bedside in the summer months. It was a part of her childhood that she had firmly clung to. She gleefully accepted his gift and carefully placed it on the nightstand next to her pillow. That night, Jaie’s sweet dreams were laced with the heavenly fragrances from her childhood… by the flowers gifted to her by her husband.

One Potato Curry

It is a typical Monday in my life. It is almost six in the morning and I have been running around for the better part of the last half hour trying to clean up the house, make something resembling decent breakfast tiffin for my active six-year old, trying to cook up a stormy lunch for his long break at school and still ensure I load it with all the nutrition. And in between all this, I realize that I don’t have enough potatoes for tonight’s dinner. We had been to the mall, and I got so engrossed in window shopping, that I completely forgot to enter the supermarket in there.

So being a supercool mom, I just shrug to myself and decide I’ll pick up a kilo of potatoes from the grocer on my way home from work. Yeah! Didn’t you figure it already? I am a woman of today – the super cool working mom who juggles ten tasks in the air without letting a single one flop! As the two meals are getting ready, I pull out mini-tiffin from the freezer for the kid’s early evening fruit time and push it into the chiller. Of course I am smart. Did you really think I would slog for hours in kitchen each morning? No way! I have set aside two hours each Sunday for just these preparation tasks – making dough for parathas, preparing dosa batter, chopping onions and tomatoes and vegetables and keeping them in air-tight containers to last through the week and save me oodles of effort and time during the hectic working week. Don’t tell anyone, but this supermom does have a few underhanded tricks that she doesn’t divulge to her envious mom-friends. I chop the fruits and keep them in mini tiffins in the freezer and pull out one each morning for the kid. As for the healthy meals, well, most of them have their ingredients prepped up in advance too! I only have to roll out the parathas each morning. <wink, wink>.

As I am gloating over my own intelligence, the alarm tolls half past six. So I quickly wrap up all the kitchen work and rush into the bedroom to wake up my sleeping family. I take a minute or two to relish the sweet innocence on their sleeping faces and then cuddle with my kid for a moment while he’s waking up. My man of the house gives me a sleepy smile and my two men take up a few more minutes cuddling and playing on the bed before their day starts. I surreptitiously walk out of the room letting them enjoy their daily ritual of early morning boy-time. While the two are washing up and getting ready for the day ahead, I finish my now cold coffee and set about warming up milk for the two. As I am in the shower, I remember I forgot to pick up the clothes from the laundry. So I now need to figure out which sari to wear to work today, as each sari has its own accompaniments and some of them are still stuck in the laundry thanks to my forgetfulness yesterday. We got so late strolling around in the cool climes of the mall that I completely forgot to ask hubby dearest to make a quick stop at the laundry to pick up the ironing for the week. And today is a Monday – so the laundry will stay closed. Which means, I will have to manage two days with “make-do” boring saris and blouses instead of my usual classy cotton and silk ones. As I turn off the shower, I make a mental note to remember to pick up the clothes tomorrow.

I rush out of the shower and drape the six-yard feminine wonder around me. In the meantime, my boys as I like to address my husband and son together have gotten ready and are now checking their respective bags to ensure they will have all the things they need for their day ahead. I of course don’t bother emptying my bag to ensure the same. My wallet, my car keys, house keys remain in the said bag all week long. My husband likes to call it my “dronagiri” for he says I lug around too much weight in my huge bag. Right from stationary like staplers and whiteners to feminine basics like some makeup and napkins, my faithful “dronagiri” carries it all. As I step out of the house to see off my little one to his school bus, he suddenly shouts, “Mamma! I forgot to keep my art book in the bag. And his supercool mamma replies, “Chill baby, I packed it in last night. It is kept neatly next to your organizer”” He gushes in relief and runs out to see if his school bus has arrived yet. The faithful old watchman gestures to me to let me know he’ll keep an eye out for my baby while I pull out my scooter from its parking. So I place my bag on the base of the two-wheeler and take it out. But being my luck, the scooter refuses to start. It doesn’t even wheeze when I kick it in frustration. Just then the watchman tells me, “memsaab bus aa gayee“. So I give the watchman the entertainment of his day by running to the gate to see my precious one get into the bus safely and wave off to him cheerfully. By now I am sure half the people in the society must be giggling to have seen this daily sight of me running with my sari hitched up like in those funny movies. As the bus drives off with my kid in it, I walk back towards my two-wheeler muttering about my bad luck. I meet a couple on my way to the parking, and the lady smiles and says, “You aren’t running a marathon Shweta, pull down the sari folds now.” As I neaten myself, I realize that I haven’t even combed my hair yet. So I quickly run my fingers through my hair and tie my scarf around my head to keep my frizzy mane in place. Just as I reach the parking, the love of my life walks down, talking on the phone in one hand. He signals to me to wait and I pray he has had a change of heart and is going to offer me a drive to the school where I teach foreign languages to the students. But fate has better things in store for me. The man actually hands me the car keys and kisses me a good bye, all the while continuing to talk to some colleague in another country over the phone. He heads off towards his own car and I rap my forehead scolding myself all the more for constantly forgetting that we recently bought me a smaller car as I run around too much from school to tuitions and classes and ferrying our little one to his activities in the evenings and so on. So I gleefully get into my shiny new four-wheeler which even has automatic transmission and drive off to work in pride.

In all this, I am running behind schedule and am a God forbid ‘five minutes’ late! My students are enjoying the unexpected free time and they all look a little disappointed when they see me walk into the class. The next five minutes are spent in discussing how each one spent the weekend. The whole point of the exercise is to give the students some verbal practice at the foreign language. By the time the lecture ends, I am on the verge of forgetting the language myself. I walk out of the room after assigning them home assignments which I am sure they will do after about five to eight times of being reminded in not-so-kind style. The day moves on and soon it is time for break. We all are supposed to enjoy half an hour of time to eat breakfast, sip our tea and discuss our academic plans for the students. While we are doing just that, a parent comes calling. The peon announces that the parent wants to meet me. I push aside my delicious breakfast to go out of the staff room to see to the parent’s concern. The principal chooses that moment to walk into the staff room and looks at me curiously, wondering why a parent is here to meet me on a non PTM day. I am worried too. The parent informs me that his child is in a grade younger than the one where he can take up a foreign language. The parent says that he wants his ward to excel in the language next year and asks me if I can guide him to any courses for preparation this year itself. I advise him to not over rush the child and let him decide it for himself. As I step back into the room, I realize that I have missed out on some important announcements by the chief of the school and I get a sound scolding for disturbing everyone by asking my neighbor about the announcement.

After recess, we head back to our respective classes to impart some more knowledge to our future generations. The school bell rings, signaling the end of the school day, and we all head back home in the simmering afternoon heat.

I have three more blessed hours before my little one will return from his school. I hurriedly pull out my bowl of chilled rice from the fridge, dump some cold yoghurt and give it a more than healthy dose of sugar and salt to make the otherwise bland curd rice taste delicious. I switch on the TV in the bedroom and gobble up my cold tasty lunch in peace. As a rule, I don’t allow TV during meal times, but since I am home alone, I tell myself I need this break and change of pace to calm the nerves frazzled by my mischievous students. Being a woman, multi-tasking comes naturally to me and I change, eat and watch TV all in one beat. A few minutes and some deep breaths later, I am ready to head back into the sun to a student’s home for tuitions. At this point, I feel grateful to God and my love for having got me a four-wheeler. I start the car and first thing I do is switch on the AC. As I drive towards the student’s home, I remember that I again forgot to pick up potatoes. ‘Never mind’ I think to myself. ‘I can buy them on the way home.’ I park the car just outside the gate of the society where the student lives. As I ring his doorbell, the chillaxed teacher in me remembers that she forgot to bring the worksheets she had made for the group for today. But improvising at run time is another gift God granted us women. So I call upon that gift and I make up some questions and dictate them to the group of students assembled for the tuition. I tell them that they need to be able to understand the words dictated to them and this will give them practice for both answering writing questions as well as understanding dictated ones. So saying, I nicely sign off from the student’s place reminding them that they have to come prepared for worksheets for next session. Next, I head to an academy nearby and finish my hour long lecture there too. A group of students there has their school exams coming up and they surround me with questions and doubts for clarification. As I patiently explain the French grammar to them, my phone’s alarm sounds again and I realize that my teaching session at the academy has run overtime and now I need to rush back home to pick up my kid from his school bus. So I hurriedly wave off a good bye to my students at the academy and drive home and back to my ‘mom-role’. I reach the stop just in time as I see the school bus turn the corner. Ours being the last stop, the kind bus driver and the bus maid or ‘didi’ as the children fondly call her, smile and make time to chat with me for a few minutes. They love to tell me all about my little one’s antics at school during the day. I like to think it is because he is their favorite child and also maybe because being a teacher, I am from the school fraternity too. As soon as the bus drives off, my precocious child starts chattering away and telling me all about his day at school making me wonder if he has a hidden well of energy from which maybe even I can pull some. By now, we have reached home and my kid wants to go and play with his friends. I have to remind him… daily… that he needs to first wash up, change, eat something – all a matter of maximum ten minutes and only then can I let him go down to play.

Well, after much cajoling and threatening, the little one finally accedes to my request and goes off to play and cycle with his friends. A few more deep breaths and I sip my coffee and munch a few tidbits. I sing along to some silly song playing on my phone’s youtube while setting the cooker. And I again remember, ‘oops! I forgot to pick up the potatoes!’ Having no other option, I improvise and change the menu. I pull out the packet of frozen peas and add them to the curry of one potato. Using some ready-mix masala, the curry gives out an appealing aroma and I am all set to drive my ball of relentless energy off to the stadium where he learns athletics. He jumps into ‘mamma’s new new car’ and off we go. “Mamma, do you know? I was able to jump my cycle today. At school, my friend Kovidh always talks about jumping his cycle. I tried for many days but I was able to do it today. Nice na?” asks the ball. “Hmm, yeah, very nice,” I reply while trying to maneuver the car around an auto that has stopped bang in the middle of the road. “Very nice means prize, so when are you giving me my prize?” he questions. ‘Oops!! I drove straight into that one,’ I think to myself while trying to come up with some ideas acceptable as prize to my little one. “Your prize will be ready and waiting for you at dinnertime tonight,” I say. “Wow! Are you making a cake for me?” asks he. Unbelievable as it may sound, I am actually jealous of my six-year old! He can finish off a huge portion of the cake without gaining an ounce of weight. I meanwhile slog slog slog all day long, even go for walks and gym in the evening while the bundle of energy is busy doing athletics, and yet I never seem to lose a single gram of weight despite abstaining from all the sinful goodies like cakes and ice-creams! How unfair can life be! “We shall see. Now off you go into the ground. I can see your friends already starting to play.” Hearing the magic words, he jumps out of the car and runs towards the group of bundles of energy like him. I park the car in the stadium’s car park and head into the ground to check on my little one. Seeing that the coach has arrived and my little one is safely in the able hands of the coach, I head off for my walk. I enjoy my daily one and half hour of walk, looking into the windows of various shops, buying some knickknacks, sometimes having a vadapav or a cutting chai. This is all my ‘me’ time. This is the time when I am not a mom, wife, daughter, teacher or friend. While I am on my walk, I am free to think whatever thoughts I want to, without having to wonder what someone is asking of me. My phone’s alarm goes off again and I see that it is time to head back to the stadium from wherever in the city I am. So I walk back to the ground and wait for the batch to end. My now sweaty, dirty little bundle of energy comes running towards me and tells me he saw a big dog that he wants to take home. His coach has come up right behind him and ruffles my son’s hair saying, “You ran well today. But you need to improve your focus.” I greet the coach and pull my bundle towards the car park. He is again talking nineteen to the dozen and moving off to the next question before I can answer the first. He uses the sanitizer I keep in the car and opens his snack tiffin. I see his disappointment when he sees a laddoo in it. He has been asking me to pack some wafers for his post-athletics snack since quite some time now, but I am loathe to feed him such addictive snacks for fear that he’ll over indulge.

I drive him home and once again feel irritated that I forgot the potatoes! Once home, I hassle my bundle of energy into the shower, where I have to literally peel off his dirty, sweaty clothes. As I am scrubbing the dirty monkey with a loofah, I often wonder if the kitchen scrub would do a better job of cleaning him up, so dirty and sweaty is he. He, meanwhile, is still talking non-stop and I am surprised when he suddenly starts crying. “Mamma! You put soapy in my mouth!” he cries. “Sorry baby, then blow it out and remember to keep your little lips closed next time I am washing you,” I retort. I wash him up and then handing him a towel, I am head into the kitchen to warm up his dinner. I look towards the bathroom and I see that he is still busy drying himself. I smile to myself thinking how quickly the little one is growing up, when the doorbell rings. Thinking that it might be dad returned home, the little bundle runs to open the door. I run after him shouting to go hide in the bedroom and put on his clothes and even as I am shouting, the little monkey slips on the water dripping from him and falls hardily on his bottom. That brings on one more crying session and whoever is outside has by now lost patience and rings the bell again. So I wrap a towel around my monkey’s waist and lift him not heeding the warning pain in my back. As he begins to calm down, I open the door and see that the visitor is looking for some Mrs. Iyer in Anandvan society. I inform him that this is not Anandvan society and I am not Mrs. Iyer. As I am about to close the door, the visitor has the audacity to ask me for a glass of water. I go against my upbringing and refuse, as the fear of allowing strangers into one’s home has imbibed itself deeply in our minds today. I tell him to ask the watchman for water and quickly shut the door still holding my half-dressed monkey in my arms.

I set him down and he goes into the bedroom to put on his clothes. Now I have to wipe the floor to make sure no one slips on the water again. Just as I am finished doing that, the little monkey steps into the living room proclaiming ‘big hungry’ and asking for food. Knowing his preferences, I serve him rice and ladle the potato rassa I had made earlier today. As I am about to head into the bedroom to change out of my now soaking and already sweaty clothes, my little one suddenly complains of a tummy ache and I hear a sickening wet splattering sound in the kitchen. True to my luck, the monkey has thrown up all over my kitchen floor. He starts crying. I tell him not to worry and lift him off the chair and plonk him on a plastic chair in the bedroom. I switch on the AC for him and tell him to relax. I head back into the kitchen and clean up all the stinking, dirty bile and then wash all the utensils and chairs for added hygiene. All the newspapers that I used to clean up the bile are now in a huge plastic bag, waiting to be thrown out of the house. After a quick touch-up mop as I call my final post clean up mopping round, I wash the mop head with antiseptics and soaps a few times.

Hubby dearest chooses just that moment to walk into the house. The revolting smell of the sick assaults his nostrils at the door itself and he reads the signs as soon as he steps in. My dream man that he is, he quickly picks up the plastic bag containing the soiled newspapers and tissues and goes downstairs to the common dustbin to drop it off. Once back home, he helps me dry off all the washed utensils and chairs. It has been fifteen minutes since my little monkey threw up. As I step into the bedroom to check on him, he has fallen asleep in the chair and has veered towards the edge. Hubby lifts our sleeping kid and places him on the bed. He freshens up and joins me in the living room after changing. I have lost my appetite by now, so my love very sweetly warms up our dinner and brings me a plate. We make an exception tonight and eat in the living room instead of at the dining table in the kitchen. Thus pampered, I am able to push in at least half my usual dinner and we both chat about our day. While washing the dinner dishes, I hear a sound from the bedroom and am about to head in there, but my husband beats me to it and I go back to the kitchen to clear it all up and prepare a bit for the next day. My boys step into the kitchen as I am finishing up and the little monkey says his tummy doesn’t ache any longer and that he would like to eat something. I soften some cooked rice and serve it to him with a helping of yoghurt and sugar. He gobbles it up and then goes back to sleep.

The husband and I watch some TV for a while and my multi-tasking self forces me to pull out my kindle and finish the last few pages of that story that I have been hooked to. I look up at the clock and am shocked to see that I have been reading for the better part of an hour. I force myself to keep back the kindle, switch off the lights and doze off to blissful sleep. But as luck may have it, my phone’s alarm chooses that moment to ring once again and I am forced to get up and take my daily dose of tonics and medicines to keep myself fit, or that is what I believe anyway. As I come back to bed, I see that the husband is already fast asleep and snoring, so I lay my tired self on the bed and try to doze off. A million thoughts keep pulling at my brains from different directions for a an hour or two before I finally fall into the blissful state of sleep.

Girls’ Day Out

It is a hot summer day and I am returning home from my workplace. I reach home in the simmering heat and feel thankful to see that the power’s on. The mobile beeps while I switch on the air conditioner and being a new-age tech-savvy phone addict, I jump to retrieve the messages. My mom-friends (we are a group of six to seven mothers whose children study in the same class at school) are planning to have a girly date minus the kids.  Wow! I think to myself. A day with the girls! Minus kids will be the icing on our already yummy cake! So we hurriedly fix a mutually convenient date and time. The unanimous decision is to have this date on a weekend during the summer vacations so that most of the kids will be already bored with us and will readily agree to let us for a few blissful hours. So we sweet talk our husbands and/or other family members into agreeing to mind our attachés on this particular date.

A week before the said date arrives; we all make time from our busy schedules and head off to beautify ourselves in the parlors. Our manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing, and threading must all be in order for the Girls’ Day Out. All through the week we keep calling up each other to fix a dress code – should we wear jeans? Or should we keep in tune with the weather and wear shorts? Or would a really nice feminine skirt make us look younger than our thirty-something selves? Decisions decisions! Finally, on the D minus one day, we all give up and decide to just wear what each of us would be most comfortable in. After all, isn’t the whole point of this date to feel totally at ease and in tune with ourselves?

So on the D-day, I pull out my favorite red dress with floral print. It has the perfect summery look and feel to it and just about touches my knee. I feel comfortable and yet beautiful and gorgeous in it all at once. A quick brush through my stylishly cut summer hair, a dab of red lipstick – for what is a woman on a date without her red lipstick, a pair of my favorite ballet shoes and I dash out the door grabbing my shoulder sling bag. I receive a call from one of the yummy mommies saying the cab they are in will reach my door in ten minutes and I head down to wait for them in the shade of the trees as I am too excited to be sitting at home waiting for them. I jump into the cab as soon as it arrives and off we go. We have decided against going to any of the regular haunts in our city and hop over to the neighboring city of Powai for a change of scene. A friend of mine who stays in Powai has already given me the names of a few places we could hang out in.

It is high noon and our conversation in the cab initially sticks to the safe topic of our children – which are the binding factor of our friendship in the first place. We discuss their summer activities, their hobbies, and so on. The cabbie thinks we are just some dumb females out on a social date to blow off the money hard-earned by our husbands and makes his opinion of us clear in the first few minutes. We ignore him and continue our conversation. As the cab is to turn into Powai, the cabbie manages to ram it into a bus and then starts blaming the bus driver. So we step out of the cool climes of the cab, and walk over to the restaurant after paying the cabbie. Surprisingly, the afternoon heat doesn’t seem as hot or as punishing when one is in entertaining company. We relax the moment our feet are out of the cab and that is when we give way to our inner girls. The subject of children abruptly gives way to talking about our own childhood, our marriages, our dreams, and our careers and so on. With most of us being from the IT industry or having our spouses in that industry, we have moved homes at least thrice in the last five years. And we start exchanging notes about our time spent in places away from home.

By now, we have reached the restaurant and it seems quite kitschy at the first glance. Hoppipola looks like it can make us forget our daily boring and tiring routines for a while and we decide to take a chance and head in. A look at the menu and we are relieved to see that the prices are quite economical. Being our first girly date in many years, we order a drink each to go with some appetizers. By the time our exotic looking cocktails arrive, we have started acting like teenagers who have known each other for a long time. The drinks arrive and we drown them our parched throats in a jiffy. But we have forgotten that we have ordered cocktails and not mocktails and it is not long before all of us start feeling a little extra happy and light headed. This makes us happier still and we start talking about the dreams we had as we grew up, what we studied to be, what we became, our sacrifices, our love for our families and so on. We even talk about the dreams that we could not see to fruition. Our shared travel stories bring us closer, for it is on foreign shores that one’s true spirit comes out of hiding. That is where one is tested to the hilt of one’s limits. We have each been there, done that and come out much the wiser for it. We consciously stay away from the vicious cycle of everyone’s favorite topic – the in laws. We stick to happy thoughts and happy subjects and by the time we look at the time, four hours have passed since we entered this restaurant. About two liters of cocktails have been guzzled amongst six girls and we are praying for early deliverance from the hangover that is sure to come on.

We pay the check and laugh once again when we realize that all of us have carried substantial cash to ensure that we don’t go home in anyone’s debt. Typical women, are we not? As we head out into the now cool early evening breeze, we are suddenly overcome by the desire to window shop. So we walk around for a little while, but the love of home soon starts tugging at our hearts. So we call a cab and pile in to head home. As soon as the cab starts moving, our conversation goes back to our glue – our children. I am the first to get off after paying my share of the cab fare. I am so tired and sleepy as soon as I reach home. It is still evening and the husband has gone to drop our child off to his activity class. My love for the man rides up a notch or two when he comes home carrying a huge bottle of lemon juice for me. “To help you overcome the hangover,” he utters the magic words. I guzzle it down like a person who has never seen lemon juice and then nod off to sleep.

Voices in the room wake me from my drunken stupor and I open my eyes to see my monkey has just returned home and my two boys – the man and the child, are now heading into the kitchen to rustle up some dinner. By now, my man has correctly gauged that I am not going to be able to stand straight enough to cook. I doze off to sleep again seeing that my home and hearth are in good hands. The aroma of freshly toasted sandwiches tickles my nose and I wake up craving it. By now, the hangover has sufficiently subsided and I walk into the kitchen to see that the little one is tidily studying while the man has made the world’s best toast sandwiches – yeah, that is one dish I have never been able to passably manage! A hearty dinner and few more glasses of lemon juice later, I am back to feeling a lot more like my old self and we have a nice time with me regaling them with descriptions of the tumblers the cocktails arrived in.