Monthly Archives: March 2001

Skirting matters

This article originally appeared in Sulekha

“It’s party time,” cried my three-year-old daughter Ragini as she made a beeline for her closet. This was going to be her day — the day that she had waited for all year — her best friend’s birthday! I mentally braced myself for a round of, “Mom, please can I wear this? Pleeease!” Ragini had changed her mind so many times the last week about what she was going to wear to her friend’s party that I was resigned to a long evening in front of me. I was learning the hard way that patience is the virtue that moms need the most.

When my second daughter Malini was born, everybody told me how lucky I was. “Two girls are so much easier to raise. You cannot imagine how much trouble boys are,” many of my friends gushed. I can let the secret out now — my friends were lying. My two girls, bless their hearts, are cute and endearing to one and all outside the home, but only I know the real truth. Bringing up two girls — make that two fashion conscious sub-six-year-old girls — is anything but easy. Having survived breast-feeding, potty training, and weaning, I was beginning to get a little complacent when my older daughter Ragini hit the first of her, “I-will-only-wear-_____ (fill in any article of clothing)” phases.

It began with the Prancing-Around-Naked phase. Wherever fancy struck her, be it the family room or a party at a friend’s house, off came her clothes. The shedding wouldn’t stop till she was in her birthday suit and she had drawn attention to her (lack of) clothing status in her loudest voice. I am sure much of the gray in my husband’s moustache appeared during this P-A-N phase. Just as we were getting resigned to being parents of a perpetually naked child, mercifully this phase ended.

Then it was skirts. Those were all she wore. My three-year-old had begun her Skirt Phase. In the beginning, I was only too happy that she was at least clothed! Nevertheless I was having a hard time coping with it. My angelic daughter, who had quietly worn any dress that I rummaged out of the wardrobe for her, was now very single-minded about wearing only skirts. If I didn’t give her what she wanted, she would bawl and plead alternatively until I ceded. Very soon, I found myself fighting a losing battle.

Ragini’s single-minded focus on her darn skirts, meant that all those new outfits from her doting grandparents hardly merited a glance. When my mother called me and asked if Ragini had liked the new frocks that she had sent, I had to evade her. It was easy on the phone. The frocks were gathering dust in the wardrobe. But I had not bargained for my daughter’s loud mouth. The moment my mother arrived on a visit the little imp demanded, “Grandma, I asked you for a yellow frock. Why didn’t you get me one?” While I squirmed under my mother’s disapproving look, the real culprit was grinning at us like a Cheshire cat. The Skirt Phase threatened my sanity severely.

Eventually my husband and I found ourselves adjusting and began breathing a little easy during the late Skirt Period. One fine morning soon after this our first-born declared that she only wanted to wear her swimsuit henceforth.
“Geez! I hope this dress mania isn’t catching. I’m not sure I can handle another kid going through this!” my husband snorted in disbelief.

The story does have a happy ending. While we told everyone how we had found a marvelous private school for Ragini, we were the only ones who knew that the mandatory maroon school uniform was the deciding factor!

A discordant note

This article originally appeared in Sulekha

After what seemed to be the most agonizing moments of my life, he said, “Come back tomorrow.” At home, my mother called up every relative and friend in town to share the good news.
“What a stroke of luck,” she exclaimed breathlessly on the phone.
When my father looked bewildered by the commotion, I explained, “The maestro’s agreed to take me on as a student. I passed the interview.”

Before this momentous event, my music lessons had always been the cause of constant strife between my mother and me. When I had turned ten, my mother began scouting the market till she found the right teacher. He was a young fresh graduate from the local music school. He would arrive exactly on time, first have the tiffin (snack) my mother painstakingly prepared and leave on the hour. Sometimes I wondered whether he really came for her upuma and dosa, which he always consumed with great enthusiasm. I never did find out since he didn’t last very long.

Over the years, though my mother managed to maintain a constant stream of teachers, I remained unschooled. One day she declared much to my joy, “Enough! I wash my hands off this matter!” After the brouhaha had died down I summoned up the courage to ask her, “Can I learn how to play the piano instead?” The silence that followed was deafening, till she asked, “Where did that come from? ” She was quite perplexed by my request. When she finally nodded her head resignedly I found myself conjuring visions of playing at Carnegie Hall!

My piano lesson started off with a bang the very next day. “Scales! Scales my dear. I want you to play only scales all day long!” my new piano instructor insisted. He’d come in the scorching heat of the afternoon, have a good siesta while I played and wake up only when I started banging on the keys. This phase did not last too long, as after my first few lessons, the neighbor’s dogs started baying the moment my classes began and wouldn’t stop till I quit. Henceforth it became a constant battle between woman and beast with the canines finally emerging as the winners. That was the end of the piano phase.

For the next few days I was in the doghouse. Mother walked around with an injured look on her face and I had to act pronto. “Give it another shot,” my conscience urged me. Nevertheless she was taken aback when I declared over the dinner table, “I’ve decided to learn music from the maestro!” I mentioned the name of a well-known local musician.
“You’re on your own. And no fooling around this time. He is a hard taskmaster,” she warned.

That was how I ended up taking and passing the test with the maestro that had so overjoyed my mother. The next day, I found myself on tenterhooks as I waited for my first lesson with the maestro. Finally there I was seated in front of him. “Sing a piece you already know,” he commanded. When I started to sing he bellowed, “Stop! I heard a discordant note there!” When he sat there glowering at me I wished my mother would walk in that very moment with the customary coffee and tiffin. I knew that half the battle would be won once he started digging into that uppma!