What do you gift a guy who has everything? And, on top of it, is picky as hell about his clothes and cuff-links? Clothes - office-wear readymade-s don't work too well. His shoulders are too big, his arms are too long. Unsuspecting guys in stores think they can make a killing and tell him, "Sir we have new suits, very nice, all the way from Italy" (yeah! right!). He says "Okay I will buy them RIGHT AWAY if they fit me." They run to the racks and pull them out. Slurping a bit. The cuffs of the coat stop a little below his elbows. They give up with a morose expression.
Books are equally difficult since we have such contrasting tastes. I rarely touch books that he picks up. Though per force I have read Freakonomics and a few others of that genre, it is not with any particular fondness. I can never predict which ones he will like and appreciate. It all feels a bit impersonal too since they have some species of book-club at work and he gets a few popular titles from there (and seems mighty happy with it!). CDs of movies are bound to be a hit but I remember the last time I bought him the James Bond one and he got thoroughly pissed off because I refused to see the movie with him when the monster was awake, and somehow she was ALWAYS awake when I was...
So this past Wednesday when the birthday rolled around, I was in a fix. I know I should not spend too much money on anything, you know, since he is so picky about things, and will just refuse to use it. Tuesday night after homework and dinner I asked the monster to make a card. She drew a long girl with long arms covered with spiky bangles. Not to mention dangly earrings. Presumably, herself. She wrote the Happy Birthday and Love Monster and all that. I tried to get her to put down the date but she started it as 2/3/7/ which got real confusing so I wrote it on the back. She made two flowers, one pink one red around the girl. Then I put it away in the middle of a bunch of toys that were strewn around, in case he came back early. You know, so it would be a surprise. This would have been a good thing to NOT tell the monster girl. The minute he walked in, she goes, Appa, we have a surprise for you. I tried to gloss over this thing, and say, Oh no its nothing, come on monster girl lets brush our teeth. But no, they barged in and took out the card and she showed it to him, told him its a surprise for his birthday the next day, and that he should put it back in its hiding place! So that, was that.
At home in the evening we got through homework quickly (the OO in Hindi), and as I ran around eating rotis and getting ready, I gave up and let the monster watch some TV that she was on my case about (which it turned out was a bad idea cause now she is constantly after me about TV so much that I have decided to unplug the cable). We were invited to someone's house for dinner, a someone that we could not refuse. I was quite cool about it. It is rare that we get to eat dinner together. So what if its at someone else's house? I half thought that as befits my status as wife, I should throw a fit about this. "What? Eat Dinner At Their House Instead Of A Romantic Dinner At Home?" But then, I was supposed to go to Ahmedabad for work that day (which I canceled finally citing various reasons such as (a) Monster has a cold (b) Its my husband's birthday (c) He is out of town till 7 pm which is past the creche closing time and (d) My brain aches thinking of the flight at 11 pm. So after this and that, and the other, I managed to behave and not throw tantrums. Got us ready by the time he returned from the airport. We cut the cake (minus candles) and ate a teeny-weeny little bit of it. I packed the monster's dinner in a box and off we went on a LONG ride in the car. At least we were together in the car! And we had a drink and dinner together! So what if there were other work-people around? It was our little secret! How cool!
The dinner was great. The single malt was superlative. The monster had some company though they all managed to use the shrewd techniques kids use these days to watch TV. "Mamma, she wants to watch TV" said the boy to his mum. "Oh no! She just watched at home" I said, desperately. "Amma, Bhaiyya NEEDS to watch TV" said mine. "Oh no! They have been watching TV this entire summer vacation. I have banned them" said his mum. I suspect the oldest of them, an innocent looking girl sitting quietly in the bedroom, engineered the whole thing. I did not want to act up too much. The other mum, likewise. The host, who is secure in the knowledge that his girls are all grown up (and married) and he never has to feel guilty about them watching the idiot box, was goading them on, and asking us to relax and drink some more of his single malt. So, that was that, but at least, they were completely out of our hair, the view was great, the dinner fantastic (my tires have grown of course, I had already eaten my dinner at 6:30 at home, but how to tell them that? plus it all looked lovely so I dug in. It was 11 pm at any rate).
We returned home, catching a nap in the car. And the birthday ended. Miraculously, we were on time for school the next day, and I retained my sanity somewhat despite the less sleep.
And in other events, the school conducted a bead-threading competition. My words of advice were concentrate, enjoy yourself, if you get a prize, great, if not, no big deal as long as you enjoyed your time there. She came back and insisted that she neither won nor enjoyed herself. Then I gave her several anecdotes from my school years and somehow at the end she declared that it was fun. Which I am sure it was. Especially since we bought ourselves a beading kit and made two bracelets and a necklace, thanks to the competition. She threads beautifully and skillfully (if not faster than Eena Meena and Deeka!) and loves the dolphin necklace. Her perception of prizes, competitions, and so on are not entirely clear, for example, she thinks she won a running race with a friend of hers although she was slower, because, Slow And Steady Wins The Race! The school was good last year in that they gave prizes to EVERYBODY in the school. Whether they won anything or not. Which is kind of nice because the children genuinely feel sad otherwise, and it is not easy to explain to them that such material things are not important. At least not at that point, during the function.
And now its pouring cats and dogs, and I am concerned for the 12 km race next Sunday. But at least, I am through with the first 'competition' in school, emerged unscathed and still enthu about it, and he really liked his gifts, especially since I made the monster wear a T-shirt that said 'My Daddy Rocks' when we cut the cake!!