Eight!

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Dear Ammu and Kuttan,

You turn eight today. EIGHT! That means, five more years before we hit our teens. And, ten more years to college. Scary, ain’t it? Very; at least for me.

Last year was very special for us. You know why? Because, that will forever remain the year when I changed from being your ‘mother’ to your ‘friend’. The ‘because I said so’s have considerably reduced (or so I think!) This was the year when we had many many conversations. We continue to speak about religion, feminism, God, food preferences, respect for others, freedom and so many other things. These conversations are so important to me not because I am imparting my beliefs and wisdom (whatever little I have of) to you; but because, while talking to you, I learn a lot about where I stand on these things. Thank you for that!

During the last year, we continued to follow our usual school changing, state changing, house changing, friend changing routine. And you dutifully fell in line with these massive changes despite your difficulties. Every day I learn how to cope with change and live happily with it from the both of you. Thank you for that!

You guys have moved from being whiny travelers to happy backpackers over the last year. We did quite a bit of traveling last year and you guys have enjoyed the travel more than ever. You don’t bother much about skipping a meal or sleeping in a small motel or complain about being tired (well, mostly!) and it makes me immensely happy to just be around you.

This last year is also special because you converted (okay, I converted you) into avid movie buffs. Every Friday, we watch a film (language, no bar!) and enjoy it. You wouldn’t have seen me happier than the day you guys enjoyed and laughed out aloud at MMKR. You have your preferences leaning towards Vijay which I am hoping against hope changes in due course.

While on hoping for a change, I am desperately hoping your music preferences evolve from Anirudh and Justin Beiber to much better options. For now, I am glad you let me listen to a couple of Raaja and ARR songs before changing to Anirudh screaming ‘velai illa pattadhari’.

We are still working on our pleasure reading and I am hoping eight is lucky enough to kick start it for us. Your love for water comes through with how quickly you get ready for your swim classes. Your love-hate relationship with chess continues; while your experiments with ballet and soccer have ended up in dislike. I am glad you have the opportunity to experiment with finding your passions. People were created to find our calling; so never ever stop the searching and learning in life.

Kuttan, you continue to be the little Buddha of the family. You are the sanest member of the tribe next to your dad and I am ever thankful for that. Your questions astound me. ‘Ma.. What’s the difference between heaven and hell?’ ‘Ma.. Do you believe in God?’ ‘Ma.. do I already have hormones?’ ‘Ma.. Did you have boyfriends before Appa?’ ‘Ma.. You are the one who said asking questions is okay, now why are you tired of answering me?’

Kuttan, your biggest achievement this year was conquering your fear of heights and speed. We tried doing it with the Shamu ride in San Antonio but to no avail. Then, it was with snow boarding that we tasted success. When we said we are going to Disney, you vehemently refused to get on board. You reason was ‘school’ but we knew you really meant ‘fear’. But then, after the first ride, you just went with the flow and really enjoyed it. A part of the reason was the company we had but that is not to take away the credit from you. Well done, boy!

Kuttan, you provide the much needed humor quotient to this family. You make us laugh with your intelligent wit. ‘Ma.. I got into trouble at school today. My teacher warned me that she’ll write a note to you if I do it the next time.’ ‘What did you do?’ ‘I made A laugh, Amma. Is it wrong to make others laugh? I didn’t hurt him!’ There.. You did make me laugh with that but there’s a time and place for everything. You’ll learn. But just don’t let go of your humor; that’s the only thing that will get you through tough times. That, and your love for music (even though I don’t approve of your choices, yet!)

Ammu, what can I say about you? Other than that I want to be you when I grow up? Yes, I do. Ammu, you are courage personified. You’ve been battling so many things (bullying, reading, bad health) this last year but the way you are facing them all makes me so proud. You are a fighter, Ammu. And, a happy fighter at that. Nothing comes easily to you. That doesn’t mean you let that go either. You girl, are my star.

Ammu, you are the little helper anyone would love to have. The other day I cut my finger while cooking. The wound was quite deep and Appa was traveling. No one said anything but you just jumped into the act. You washed dishes and peeled vegetables, just like that without asking. You always have known how to help when others are in need. You always have known how to hug when others are in need. You always have known. Be that way; don’t change.

Ammu, I am proud of you. But I am prouder when someone tells me that I have the best behaved and kindest kid. That happened during your mama’s wedding last year. You were the toast of your two perimas who kept saying what a kind, independent and helpful kid you are. Whenever we go through tough times together, I think of that day and tell myself everything will be alright.

Ammu, you want to be an actress one day and play the role of a space werewolf. You want to be a singer. You want to be a teacher. You want to go to culinary school. You want to have a Christian wedding and then have kids. ‘Can I do all this, Amma?’ Yes, you can, Kannamma. All this and more!

Kuttan, you remember the other day, when you walked down from the school bus but Ammu took a long time to come down. I was worried what she was doing in the bus when I found her and her friend N talking to the driver. Immediately assuming that some trouble was brewing I went to her. She came down seething with anger. ‘That boy J was troubling and teasing Kuttan, Amma. N and me tried to stop him but he wouldn’t. So we complained to the driver about J. Are you okay, Kuttan?’ Kuttan, you are blessed to have a sister like Ammu. And so is Ammu to have you. You children make me happy!

Kuttan and Ammu, you have your own interests and yet, complement each other well as a team. You come to each other’s rescue when one is in the line of fire. That doesn’t mean my refereeing skills have gone redundant now; they are pretty much alive and kicking every day. (very much, pun intended!)

Every day, both of you motivate me to be a better parent and to be a better human being. Thank you for that!

Happy eighth, my little darlings. May this year bless you with only happiness and joy. Go conquer the world with all the kindness you have. Let nothing stop you!

Lots and lots and lots of love,
Amma

Conversations

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Ma.. Does God exists?
It does for some. It doesn’t for others.
What do you think, ma? Do you believe in God?
I don’t know yet. I am still trying to figure out.
So how will I figure it out?
You look at people, you read about it, you strengthen your belief systems and you will figure it out.
How long does it take to figure it out?
For some, it doesn’t take long. For others like me, it takes quite their entire life.

*****

Ma.. Is egg vegetarian or not?
You tell me..
S says because it comes from chicken, it is not vegetarian.
Okay.
Ma.. But what do you think? Is it vegetarian or not?
How does it matter? You eat it anyway. If you think it is vegetarian, think of it that way. If S thinks it’s not, let her think of it that way.

******

Rain

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‘Where’s the umbrella we bought yesterday?’ screamed the son. ‘We’ll take it when we go to the bus. Looks like it is raining.’ Sure, I said and looked into the closet. There it stood in a bright concoction of colors – red and yellow and blue and green, propped up against the wall to save itself from falling down. Was it afraid of falling down too, just like me?

As I stepped down with the son in tow and a few droplets of water hit my glasses, I realized rain had no such fear of falling down. All it had done all through its existence has been just falling down. Was it ever afraid of falling down? Was it ever given a chance to not fall down at all? How much must it hurt when it falls down every time?

I opened the umbrella to shield us from the rain. The umbrella which is afraid of falling down is actually helping protect us from the rain which knows nothing but falling down. Irony, I smiled at myself.

Bus came. Hugs were traded. Goodbyes were given. And, umbrella was closed. But, the rain didn’t stop. It never really stops, does it?

There’s something magical about getting wet in the rain. It’s as if you are having a silent conversation with nature. Sometimes, you think the sky is crying her heart out of misery. It’s as if you are holding a part of her in yourself and you are gently assuring her that things are going to be alright. Some other time, you hold her because you think her joy knew no bounds that it’s spilling out all over the earth. Rains always reflect your feelings. If you are happy, it is deliriously happy too. If you feel gloomy, it will be crying along with you. In a way, isn’t rain like your best friend who shares your feelings without asking any embarrassing questions?

There are tiny little droplets all over me. My glasses are hazy with water. Even through it, I can see a small boy looking at me with my closed umbrella, and give me a puzzled look. I look up at the sky. It’s a beautiful dark grey with a minuscule piece of sun peeking out of them. How much more longer is the sky going to make the rain dance? Where exactly from this massively wide sky does this rain come? Despite the evaporation and condensation and all the science logic, I cannot help wonder at the mystery of rains.

A virtuous circle of goodness, that’s what rains are. Rains makes me think of some people; good people. People who are not afraid of falling down. People who sometimes deliberately fall down so that they can be of some benefit to others. People who don’t speak a word of all the good they’ve given this world and yet continue to spread love and goodness until they are around. People with an aura so mysterious around them that you wonder if they are angels and fairies disguised as humans. How different are they from the falling rain?

As I enter the house and dust my feet on the doormat, I silently thank them; the rains and all the good people in the world. How long ago we all would’ve perished if not for both the rains and such selfless souls?

Kaatru Veliyidai

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This post rant contains spoilers. Oh well.. The film itself is a big spoiler only.

Okay.. **takes a deep breath** I went to see this film with extremely negative reviews from almost everyone except a very few. Even VJ who watched the film a day early warned me to go with ‘no expectations’. Of course, it was a Karthi film; whoever will have expectations. Even with absolutely no expectations (in fact, my expectation levels were tending towards the negative!), I was utterly disappointed with Karthi. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk rant about the Karthi disaster later.

Did I like the film? No. Was it so bad that people wanted to walk away mid-film? No. But the fact is that the negatives outweigh the positives and that by a mile. Sigh.

First, the positives; whatever little there were. Cinematography. Ravi Varman sir, please take a bow. The red-green-yellow in the Sarattu Vandiyila song. The whiteness of the snow covered Himalayas. The brownness in the Afganistan market scene. The closeups with Aditi. If we were able to sit through the film, it was because the visuals lured us into it. Nothing else did it.

A little credit should go to ARR. Or may be, I was already well versed with all the songs that I was enjoying them throughout. Yet, I felt the songs were paced too close to each other that at one point it felt like its familiarity was breeding contempt.

Another positive is Aditi Rao Hydari. How gorgeous this girl looks! Her clothes and earrings were exquisite yet so relatable. That aside, she was the only one in the entire film who really did her job well. Although her character I felt was nothing but a glorified version of the quintessential Tamil cinema’s loosu ponnu. For instance, the scene where she wants to stay in the snowy mountains even though she can clearly see the avalanche approaching and wants someone else to calmly explain why she should not stay there.. Apparently, Mani saar was portraying the character as obstinate. No saar, that’s not ego; that’s just being juvenile!

I’ll not talk about the story because there’s nothing to talk about. It’s just a mish-mash of all his previous films put together. I was not bored watching the film because I was placing from which of his previous films the scenes are from. Also, the Afganistan-Pakistan chase sequence is the biggest farce since DuraiSingam escapes from Australian Police by googling his name. Yes, I just committed the blasphemy of comparing Mani Ratnam’s film with Hari’s.

The VC character. I really want to say kudos to director saar for showing shades of negativity in a hero’s character. But I won’t. Because he didn’t carry it through. You remember my grouse about OKK where I didn’t quite like Mani saar marrying them off as the perfect ending? Same grouse I have here. If Mani Ratnam thinks VC is a male chauvinistic pig, then he should go the full distance. No, I don’t want to believe that VC gets transformed in Rawalpindi jail. What VC (and his entire family) needs is therapy.

When VC parades Leela after that fight in front of his colleagues, I felt angry. When Leela goes ahead and tells him ‘I love you’ after that scene, I felt disgusted. No.. I am not that much a romantic to believe a well educated opinionated egoistic girl would go after this guy.

In fact, none of the characters had any character. They were not defined well. At no point of time did I feel like I understood any character well; and neither did they.

Mani saar’s strong point has always been his casting. But in this film that was what let him down. Apart from Aditi, no one else fit in. Right from Delhi Ganesh, Shraddha Srinath, Rukmini (she was extremely beautiful but acting fail!) and RJ Balaji (I actually at one point felt sorry for him!), none of them knew what they were doing.

But, the biggest blunder of it all was Karthi. In one scene, he had just screamed at Aditi and is coming to her house to ask forgivance. He sits on his jeep while Aditi comes out. Sathya is carrying three-fourths of the burden of the scene by singing the soul stirring Nallai Allai. All Karthi had to do was complete it by feigning how sorry he was for his behavior. But. Seeing his expression I felt like screaming in the (almost empty) theater, ‘Can someone please put him out of his misery?’ All this while, I’ve been thinking he didn’t get the right urban script to showcase his talent. But now I realize he has already been clear that he can’t pull off any kind of romance whatsoever and that’s why he tags himself along with the likes of Santhanam and Ganja Karuppu. I am really sorry, Karthi. If even Mani saar can’t save you, no one can!

Lastly, about Mani saar. I like his films. They’ve always been magical. He’s been making reasonably good films for around the last three decades when his contemporaries have long hung up their boots. But then, the last three films of his have lacked the soul that his earlier films had. Yeah, it’s just my opinion and I am bracing for brickbats. But sorry Mani saar.. you’re just trying too hard.

For the sake of posterity!

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Dinner time conversations are the best. Yesterday, I was sulking about something (what’s new, anyway!) and the son was trying to make me laugh. I feigned anger and continued to prod him to eat. He turned his attention to his dad.

Pa.. You know Control+C is copy and Control+V is paste?
Oh wow. You know that?
(Daughter chiming in) Yes, pa. Amma taught us this.
Great.
We can use this Control C Control V thing in power point presentations too, right ma?
(I nod.)
(Husband smiling) Oh well.. You know quite a bit about computers. You know what you should do this summer? You should start looking to intern in some office.
(Very innocently) Oh wow. That’s all you do everyday at work pa? Control C and control V?

We both burst out laughing and kept laughing at the ‘truth’ for a long long time while the son and daughter kept wondering what was so funny about it.

******

I get a call from my neighbor asking to send the kids on a play date. Son had homework yet to do while daughter had none. I told the neighbor I’ll send them in sometime. The daughter took the phone from me and wanted to talk to this neighbor boy. I could hear only one side of the conversation…

My teacher is awesome you know. She doesn’t give me any home work. But, A still has reading to do.
…..
No.. I can’t come now. A will feel sad that he’s not playing but doing his homework, no?
…..
Yaa. I will come after he finishes his work, ok? Bye!

It wasn’t really difficult to figure out the other side of the conversation. I just smiled and silently sent a thankful prayer to God.

******

A note

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As soon as she got down from the bus, she came running.

‘Ma.. Ms. H gave me a note.’ Such sentences elicit paranoia in me. Why would she give a note? ‘Did you do something bad at school today?’ ‘No, ma. I was okay.. I think!’ The ‘I think’ came as an after thought. Or I thought it came as an afterthought.

I opened her bag on the way home. What could she have done? The envelope said ‘To A’s parents’. Right. I opened it and read it in a hurry.

It was from the parents of child D. They had introduced themselves and given their phone number to talk regarding ‘an incident’ involving their daughter and mine. The word ‘incident’ sent a shiver down my spine.

I had known that Ammu had some problems with D. She would come home everyday alternating between feeling ‘sad and mad’ with this D. ‘D is writing something bad about me in her cookbook and sharing with all others in table. And then they all laugh at me.’ ‘D is whispering behind my back. I think it’s about my hair. Does it smell, Amma? Can we wash it one more time?’ ‘I think D thinks I am not good at reading. I know I am not. But I am trying.’ Everyday there was one thing or the other.

I kept telling her to ignore this D. ‘It doesn’t matter what others think about you; what matters is what you think about yourself.’ Such wisdom doesn’t really bode well with a seven year old, does it? (That it doesn’t bode well with even adults is another story!) She didn’t want to tell the teacher and make this a bigger deal. ‘Then, all you can do is ignore’.

A month ago, during the parent teacher conference, a fleeting reference to this incident was made by me. I was careful enough not to mention the name of the other child. But the teacher was shrewd enough to guess who it must be. ‘I’ve changed tables now. And A is not the newest student in the class anymore. She seems happy with the new table mates. Ask her to tell me if something bothers her.’ And that was that.

Over the last month, she wasn’t really coming home with complaints everyday and so I thought the matter was settled. And that’s why when this note came in yesterday, I tensed.

Ammu took her time in assuring me that nothing new has happened. ‘In fact, D apologized to me on Friday’, she concluded.

The note had asked me to call them post 6.30PM. And I held my breath till 6.30.

‘This is A’s mom. I got a note from Ms.H’, I began. But the rest of the talking was done by D’s dad. He said how much he was sorry for his daughter’s behavior to A. His wife apparently came to know about it only last week from the school and they were shocked to know she’d been so mean. They were a group of five and that’s probably led them to this, he said.

Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond. Saying it was okay sounded hollow and patronizing. But that’s all I could do. I mumbled something to the effect of ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘she’ll be fine’ and hung up.

But from then, I’ve been thinking about D’s parents. Particularly, her mom. The moment the call came from the Principal to her telling her daughter was at fault. How she’d have felt. Her anger. Her fear. Her sadness. Her guilt. I could feel all of it.

‘I hope D doesn’t repeat this’, is all what I heard her say yesterday on the phone. And, I could feel the emotion in her voice. The emotion which spoke about how much as a parent we want our kids to turn out to be good adults. The reluctance to accept the fact that our child could make a mistake. The fear that they should behave better as adults.

I still wish I could give her a hug which could just convey to her that it’s okay; that I understand.

Tomorrow, this incident might seem small and petty and forgotten in the din of other bigger things. (Which it should rightly be.) But these small moments of guilt and sadness and fear that moms go through.. these will keep recurring and haunting us, won’t they? And yes, we’ll get through them with all the hope in the world. After all, hope is all we have!

Musical Monday

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I’ve been meaning to do a music post every Monday now. However, I **had** to post today. Music of one recently released album has made me realize that if I don’t post today, there’s no point in doing Musical Mondays whatsoever.

The album is Power Pandi. The man is Sean Roldan.

The music of this album is like someone caressing you lightly and silently wishing away all your worldly worries. Like I said on Twitter, the music is Raajaesque; but with a firm RR stamp.

The Life of Power Pandi, that is, Vaanam Parandhu Paarka. The title song. It’s one title song I really really enjoyed after a long time. (For some reason I kept getting Enge Pogudho Vanam from Kochadaiyaan vibes. Probably, the word ‘vaanam’ did it!) Ananthu’s voice is so caressing that it is so apt for the lyrics as sung by a grandfather. To my utter horror, the song is written by Selvaraghavan. The guy who wrote ‘adi da avala’ has written – ‘kaatru mazhaiyil modhalaam; andha kadalil saeralaam; indha kuzhandhai koottathil; ivanum thendralae.’ Sigh.

The Mass of Power Pandi. Soorakaathu. Such a fun song this. Sung and written by Dhanush, it is so reminiscent of some of Raaja’s folk opening songs. The beat is so catchy you can’t help but shake a leg.

The Youth of Power Pandi. Paarthen. Paarthen screams Raaja with a capital S. Sung by Sean Roldan and Swetha Mohan, it transports you back to the 80s Raaja. The way it begins with the flute and meanders through – this song is such a pleasure to listen to.

Power Pandi, the Nomad. Veesum Kaathoram. I’ve never been a big fan of Anthony Dasan’s singing but this song suits him aptly along with Sean Roldan himself. The way they compliment each other it’s like a ping-pong match where both players shuttle the ball effortlessly between each other. The way the song moves from the first interlude to the charanam is so so good.

The Romance of Power Pandi. Venpani Malare. My most most favorite song of the album. So much 80s Raaja right from the beginning violin to the interludes. You have to listen to it to feel the goosebumps. There are two versions of this song. One by Shwetha Mohan and the other by Sean Roldan himself. I like both equally but I tilt a little towarads the Roldan version because his voice has that soul only he has. The ‘kaatril parakkum’ part that keeps repeating is just God level.

And Dhanush has written the lyrics. What a leap from Kolaveri to this-
Thediya tharunagal ellam
Thediye varugirathE
Thegathin surukkangal ellam
SirikindrathE

Take a bow, Sean Roldan.

Here’s the jukebox of the songs.

Open

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Memoirs and (auto)biographies fascinate me. Most of the ones that I’ve read have been more engrossing than the best fiction works that I’ve read. No.. I am not talking about just the promotional mock-inspiring boring ones. I am talking about the bare-it-all ones. The ones that tell us that a life is just not black and white but one that is filled with greys. The ones where blacks are in fact highlighted.

I have a special love for sports autobiographies. Because, they are the ones that tell you how it hurts to fall. And how much it takes to rise from that fall. You must remember my flowing tributes to Mary Kom and Abhinav Bindra. But the one that I read recently easily outwits these two.

Open by Andre Agassi.

It’s a great book not just because of its brutal honesty. Yet, it is also a great book because of its brutal honesty. Agassi lays open everything he did and didn’t do from his childhood until his retirement. His father’s unruly ambition, his mother’s obstinate calm, his brother’s unwavering support, his friend’s logical approach, his trainer’s extreme kindness, his coaches’s different approaches.. everything is said with so much honesty. There’s never a place you’d think Agassi is pretending to please someone.

I was particularly intrigued by the chapters involving both Brooke Shields (who he was married to for a couple of years) and Steffi Graf (who he’s still married to). He spells out the relationship he had with these two women word for word; of course from his perspective. He speaks about their parents, their strengths and weaknesses, their career choices and so on. (I particularly found that he was much much more critical of Shields than Graf. I know why but still..) All the time while reading about these women, I couldn’t help but wonder if their privacy was being compromised for the sake of his honesty.

In my opinion, Pete Sampras got the rawest of the deals in the book. Growing up, I’ve always felt Sampras to be a nice gentlemanly person despite the existence of a few controversies. But from Agassi’s perspective, he was a boring stingy person who could think of nothing else except winning. Or at least, that’s what I got from the book. I am still wondering why is being nice equal to being boring!

(On an aside, I’d pay a million bucks to read about the camaraderie that Roger Federer and Rafeal Nadal share despite being rivals. One day!)

My biggest takeaway from the book was the man himself. Andre Agassi. An enigma of sorts. Yet, just another human being with the flaws we are all endowed with. The book showed me a glimpse of what fame can do to a person. The book showed me how much work goes into making of that fame. The book showed me that sometimes regardless of the work you put in, that bit of fame can still elude you. The book also showed me that legends are people too. They fall. They sometimes choose to fall. And, they learn to leap up from the fall.

As I read through the book, I kept pondering about how much Agassi was pushed by his dad. How his dad imposed his ambitions on his son without an iota of regret. How Agassi kept saying ‘I hate Tennis’ to all and sundry. How he kept thinking about the ‘what ifs’. How he says he and Steffi have vowed never to let their children pursue tennis.

Did Agassi’s dad do the right thing? If he hadn’t pushed the child, we wouldn’t have a tennis great in our midst. But, what did all that pushing do to Agassi? Was he happy with what he achieved? Would he have excelled in something else that he also liked if his dad hadn’t pushed him to pursue tennis? Or would he have ended up just as a mediocre ‘also ran’? I don’t have answers. No one has.

Before I end, one huge shout out to the co-writer of the book, Pulitzer prize winning author J.R.Moehringer. The prose flowed seamlessly like a beautiful river meandering through crests and troughs bringing out laughter and tears on its way. Yes, it was prose when it was indeed poetry. While I go scouting for his memoir, The Tender Bar and his novel, Sutton, you guys do me a favor and read Open by Andre Agassi. It’s a favor you’ll not regret, I promise.

How I met my driver’s license – Part 2

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…Continued from here.

One and a half months after the move, I was still not taking any step toward the DMV. A day before the kids’ winter break, the husband literally put me on the car, took all the documents needed and drove me to the DMV. ‘But but.. I haven’t prepared for the knowledge test!’, I said. ‘But but.. You’ve taken the test thrice already. You can ideally set the question paper for the test now’, he said. Well, may be, he did have a point.

So, I did pass my knowledge test. Fourth time and yes, you can stop counting now. So while I was waiting after finishing my test, I was hoping my India DL would somehow rescue me from the much dreaded road test. The person in-charge took a look at my license, consulted a book for about five minutes (which felt like five hundred to me!) and came back with a ‘Your state is not in the book!’ What’s new, anyway! ‘So, I’ll put you on January 25th for the road test?’ There it was. January 25th was the mangalagarama naaL.

I slowly started preparing with the husband but I didn’t want to fail this time. Or, let’s put it this way.. I wanted to prepare myself well. I finally took a decision and called a driving school. I knew how much these classes cost. If nothing else could do, at least the financial commitment should make me focus on passing the test was my reasoning. I booked for classes. A tall big American was my instructor. The first day I was super scared.. both of him and the driving. But he was super friendly unlike my (and other people’s) experiences from Indian instructors who have been super rude. (‘My instructor used to pinch me’ ‘Chithappa gave up driving ‘cos the instructor used to scream at him’.)

‘You just need to concentrate on your speed. You tend to slow down when turning. Otherwise, you are fine.’ This I started practicing with the husband. I drove the kids to their weekend classes. ‘Ma.. You are driving. Oh God.. Will we reach on time?’ ‘Appa.. Please can you take over. I can’t hold my breath any longer!’ You remember I said driving with infants is scary? Scratch that. Driving with older kids is even more scary. And annoying.

And then, the D-Day dawned. All the bests were traded for breakfasts. ‘Ma.. Don’t drive too fast and you’ll pass easily.’ Giant hugs were given and taken. My instructor came in an hour earlier to practice before the test. We did parallel parking a dozen times. K turn a dozen times. And, went on the same path as the test a dozen times. Finally, it was time. We were waiting behind a few cars to have the test taken. ‘So, how long should we wait to take the next test if we don’t pass today?’, I quietly asked him. ‘Why are you even thinking of that now?’ I shut up. But nervousness doesn’t let me shut up. ‘Are you also nervous every time your student goes through the test?’ ‘No, I just hope they pass.’ I wished I could stop talking; for the sake of both me and him (He wasn’t keeping well that day!)

Finally, my turn came. The officer checked the signals and my instructor bid me goodbye. The officer got into the car. I was breathing hard. I was breathing audibly. I was breathing as though I was in pain. ‘Are you okay?’, he asked. Yes, I mumbled. But my breathing didn’t stop. ‘Are you okay?’, he asked again. Yes, a little nervous, I said. ‘But you have an India license. Why are you scared?’ Yeah right. No, I didn’t say that. Thankfully.

Then, I started driving. I knew the route by heart. At what speeds to go. Which turns to take. Which signals to give. My instructor had specifically told me even though I knew the way, I had to wait for the officer’s instructions. I did. At one turn, I slid a little faster. ‘Easy easy’, he said. ‘Govinda govinda’, my mind said. I drove further and finally I had to parallel park.

Aaah. Parallel parking, my nemesis. He asked me to make a U-turn and parallel park immediately. I had to straighten the car first to parallel park. I took about four minutes to straighten the car. Finally, I parallel parked. The car was parked straight but I did take a lot of time. Govinda.. Govinda.. Yes, my mind voice again. The officer asked me to park near a couple of cars. I was waiting for him to tell me why I failed. ‘You know, that turn was very fast!’ ‘You need to work on your parallel parking. It was horrible.’ Instead he said just two words. ‘You pass!’

Really? I thought I was only thinking it but no, apparently my mouth was faster. Yes, you did, he said. Thank you, I said. Thanks a lot. It’s a medical miracle. Thankfully, I stopped myself before I could say that. Then, I saw my instructor. ‘G, I passed!’, I yelled. I know, he said. It was just another day for him.

I went to the DMV in the same exhilaration to get my license. But there was some issue and asked me to come after a week. It was a bit of a dampener but then, I had passed. I had passed my road test. Finally. I called the husband. I messaged a whole lot of friends. And then, finally when the school bus came, the kids came asking, ‘Passed? Passed?’ When I said yes, my kids and a few of their friends all started screaming with joy. Passersby must’ve thought I won some World Cup or something.

Today, I went to the DMV and finally got my DL. As I saw it, I felt like I conquered the Everest. Yeah, it isn’t really a big deal ideally but for me it has come after a big struggle. For those of you who kept prodding me to do better at every hurdle, a big big thank you. I still need to start driving on my own for which I believe this is a first step. And today, I am happy for this teeny tiny first step.

How I met my driver’s license – Part 1

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2009. Yes, that’s how long back this story goes. When I first set foot in the US soil, I thought let me give the people here a marana bayam by driving on their roads. But then, everything was upside down. Left became right. Three pedals became two. Gears went missing. And, I became pregnant with twins. See, I told you everything was upside down.

Anyway, I was not one to give up. So, two months after they were born, I gave my first knowledge test. (Yeah, first. Because, there are many more coming.) And, I failed. I came back crying. What? I had never failed a test in my life yaa. This was a first. My mom was here with me and she promptly blamed it on the hormones; both the test and the tears.

A few months later, I took the test again (second time!) and I passed. And then, I started to prepare for my road test by driving alongside the husband. He is a very patient man, the husband. You must’ve guessed it by now knowing that he’s surviving a eight year marriage to me. But just reiterating. Despite the non-panicky husband, learning to drive a car with two little babies strapped behind in their car seats is like walking a tight rope. Anyway, I must’ve practiced with him for about a month when someone told us the road test is waived for anyone with a India license. You must be thinking I already must’ve had a India license. But no.. I was traveling to India in the next two months and thought getting a license there would be easier. So, off I went to India.

I did get a DL in India. But. My life is filled with buts. When I returned, we had decided to move back to India for good. So I spent the next few months tagging along with the husband/neighbors instead of going to the DMV. But then, we did go back home for good. Only the good lasted a four and a half years.

Cut to 2015. We moved back to Dallas. Within two months of moving to Dallas, I did take my knowledge test. Third time, if you haven’t yet lost track. I passed. Unlike here, the learner’s permit there was valid for an unlimited period of time. Which only meant one thing – procrastination. I did drive around with my husband by the side for sometime but then the novelty wore off. I started hopping on to ‘my’ seat next to him and became the GPS operator, the car DJ, the food supplier and the general ummm lazy person that I am.

Slowly, I started meeting new people and making newer friends. However, the conversation with everyone only meandered towards this.. ‘What? You don’t drive? That must be very difficult for you and the kids.’ That’s what they’d say. But it would always sound to me like this.. ‘What? You don’t have a hand? That must be very difficult for you and the kids.’ I really wanted to give the driving test but God knows what stopped me. Oh wait.. I know. Fear. Fear of failure.

Fall came. Winter came. Spring came. I gave the India vacation as an excuse. More to myself than to anyone else. Then, the move to NJ came. ‘I have an India license. So, may be, they’ll waive the road test this time. Let me go and take the test there.’ Idea Mani means me only. Two months later the move happened.

To be continued…