Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Kids - cant live with them; cant live without them

I know, I know, it is said of women.

The past ten days involved some crazy amounts of traveling. Even more craziness if you include the past seventeen days. Anyhow the grand plan of most recent vintage was to go to Bangkok and Cambodia. The monster girl was 'holidaying' in Pune with her cousins (as she likes to call it). The husband left on Monday night amidst much chaotic lack-of-planning. I did meetings up the wazoo and so on and left on Wednesday night, after having spent a lot of time cleaning up the mess he left in his wake (not to mention having to put one million books of the child away). As is normal in such situs, my pick-up carefully arranged by husband to bring little me to his hotel in Bangkok, did a no-show. I walked and walked all over the airport and was accosted by several police-type people till finally the husband called and asked me to take a cab. No big deal. I flashed my credit card and took a cab, admiring the pink taxis that have mushroomed all over.

That same evening was our flight to Cambodia in a huge group. I was really really tired out. The Bangkok flight is too short for my taste, I could not get to sleep much and was zonky from almost missing an entire night's rest. I cannot remember much of the first night in Cambodia except that for some reason we rode in a Tuk-Tuk which is a motor-cycle-rickshaw, all colourful with cloth and stuff, all powerful in its noxious fumes, through some vaguely rural looking places covered with swamps and listening to the sound of crickets. The dinner was good I vaguely recall eating Pumpkin with Sesame Seeds along with rice.

We did the usual Angkor Wat thing on the next day, smiling hugely at the thought of that French dude who was explaining the stuff to us - and saying Hhama defeated the demon king Hhavana in the Hindu epic Hhamayana. I was lying in wait for him to say Lakshmana but he cleverly side-stepped that by saying Hhama's bHhother. There were scenes (apparently) on the temple walls from the Ocean Churning thing and from the Kurukshetra war and so on. We walked around and after a point had to run away from our Cambodian guide who was getting a catch in his throat from talking about what these temples meant to him and to the world at large. Okay already. Easy now. "What do you tell your child about the myths and epics and gods?" asked this desi-American dude, in passing, sort of. I jumped in and explained how the stories are narrated by her grandmoms and I don't control what they say. Of course we have some books on the subject too, small cute ones. The husband is fond of reading to her from Rajaji's books (!) and also from Anita Nair's new silver thing. I enter detailed discussions on such matters with her and try to force a rational approach. I tell her that I think they are stories, and that gods live in our imaginations, while other people believe they are histories and that gods lived a long time ago. She pats me on the hand and says "Krishna used to live here long ago. In Vrindavan. I believe so"
The guy was reeling at the end of my explanation (I sometimes think I come on too strong; not to mention talk for too long) and said something about Halloween and Santa Claus, which I did not catch.

We also took this long boat ride on a local lake. This is an interesting sight (apparently) because there are these villages of people living on the lake, in their boats. Which also serve as their homes. I sort of knew from a general look around the place that these boats are not necessarily those things belonging to rich Greeks that one might expect around the Greek Isles and so on. But I was not prepared for the absolute abject poverty I saw. Children running around naked and drinking and bathing from the lake water... Beautiful, rugged children with their skin browned to a crisp. I saw a five year old maneuvre a little boat around with an oar that was twice his size. The only 'cool' 'hip' thing was a huge boat that held a basketball court. Nice fibre-glass boards. Right there on the nasty water. Looking all wide and spacious unlike the house-boats crammed with every conceivable unwashed thing you need for a family of ten.

The next day we visited a local orphanage run by a French group. We went in a bus to their place. The children ran out to meet us. Two girls clung to me. I learned their names. They
learned mine. They showed me their classroom. We sat together in one of the benches. We held hands and sang rhymes. I asked them to count backwards from 100. They thought that was just crazy but were real excited to do so. They giggled when I said this is my husband in front with the four little boys literally hanging on his arms. They asked about our children. We saw their sleeping place. They showed me where the boys sleep and where the girls do. I took off my chappals to go into their room and was sorely tempted to pick up a broom and start sweeping. Cannot really help dusty floors in our type of climes, I know, but still. Then the person who took us told us that the kids have been learning dancing and would like to show us. We sat down. I was prepared to fix my steady smile and clap at the appropriate times. I was prepared to see Cambodian versions of the messy group dances I have been audience to umpteen times in recent history. But they were REALLY good. At first a bunch of little girls. Graceful. What beautiful hands. Then I thought, the boys are playful, they COULD NOT have paid attention and learned and practised. But they were just spectacular. And the best part of it was, these are traditional dances; not your Dhoom Machaale types (by the way I did see a really funny rendition of this song on the TV sometime when I just switched it on!). They did a coconut dance involving an intricate set of routines where pairs of them strike each others coconut shell things; they did a bamboo dance involving jumping in and out of the bamboo things; a monkey dance involving a lot of monkey like moves; and so many other things. They went on for well over an hour. And missed not even a single beat through the entire thing. In all maybe 30+ kids danced, and all of them were perfect! I was really floored at the end of it. We were sad to leave. They were sad to see us go.

And before I knew it I was flying from there to there to there and was sitting in a car to go to Pune, and reunited once more with my little monster. Who was extremely brave, and if reports are to be believed, an angel. Except that she turns deaf when she is reading something. And wild horses are required to be put into commission. She even ate egg yellows! Not to mention a veg burger! And a strawberry milk shake! And played with all the Abhisheks and so on and hung out with the cats and promised to stop with the chocolates already, and yes, she would return there very soon but this time with Amma for the entire time.

We are back in the saddle now. Based on mutual agreement we are celebrating No Chocolate Days till Saturday (crossing fingers and hoping to hold to it). Of course the No TV Week is in full swing too, in light of the pile of clothes on the TV room bed. Next stop is Family Dinner, which is damn hard to achieve due to various reasons.


choxbox said...

i know. there are two kennys. a single one cannot humanly do all this see.

phew. but the dance thing sounds too cool.

also weird coincidence n? we went to an orphanage (you've been to that one right?) too this weekend.

oh and i know that silver book by anita nair. been read a million times so i guess its pretty decent.

Airspy said...

Interesting, that you called the post 'Kids-' and not 'Mons....-'

dipali said...

This was lovely. Yes, one needs a decent night's rest to recover from the Bangkok flight- more standing around in lines at the airport, less flying. The multi-coloured taxis were fun- such luscious colours.
Loved your account of the Cambodian Hhamayana and the monster's views on mythology!
The orphanage sounded like a happy place.