Anxious men in the passenger seat

wife driving

Originally written for Gulf News “Off the Cuff” http://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-cuff/anxious-men-in-the-passenger-seat-1.1871220

There are certain things you remember about your childhood that were an integral part of growing up. For me, one such thing was that funny little tomato-red Daihatsu Charade that we once owned. The car was a 1985 model that Dad had purchased refurbished, which meant we became its owners some 10 years after it was born.

It made funny noises when you drove it (stick-shift) and the trunk closed with an earth-shattering jolt. Pulling the windows up and down was good exercise for the biceps and if you got lucky, the air conditioner would sometimes work. This strange object, however, came in handy when I wanted to learn to drive.

After a few lessons of the basics, I decided to take my parents out for a ride. Bad idea, I know. Dad was a bundle of nerves as I took the car outside the gate, and he covered his face with his hands. A car sped along in the opposite direction and he jumped. “Can’t you see that car?” he said frantically. “We are on the other side Papa, please relax,” I told him.

Mum murmured in agreement from the back seat. Dad ground his teeth. I tried to laugh valiantly but found this first ride with him distinctly confidence-draining as I tried to reassure him that everything would be fine.

We were driving along the main road happily and I could sense him relaxing just a tiny bit. It was almost as though he had resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t look up much and we would all make it home in one piece. I was pleased that he wasn’t quite as excited as before and things started to get a little more pleasant. We finally turned home and as everything had gone well without any trouble whatsoever, I decided this was my time to speak. “Well, I’m quite okay driving, aren’t I? Look at you guys, you don’t trust me at all!”

Dad almost looked sorry and he was about to say something, but I’ll never know what it was because at that precise moment I banged the rear of the car while reversing into our unopened front gate, which I had presumed was open. Typical. Dad felt vindicated and the “I told you so” lecture that followed was positively grating. Fast forward a few years and I drive every day, sometimes for long distances. It has become second nature. I would even say that I enjoy it (minus the traffic, of course) and ferrying the girls around town is part of my job description. Yet, my husband recoils with apprehension every time he sits with me in the passenger seat.

We are driving to the airport to drop him off. “Change lanes, we need to take the next exit,” he says. I roll my eyes. “Thanks, but I kind of know the way,” I respond coolly. He shrugs. When I finally do change lanes he shakes his head in despair and wonders how much to say because he is travelling after all and making up over the phone might prove a little tricky. He (wisely) restrains himself from speaking about the details of my lane-changing abilities, but I notice from the corner of my eye, he looks extremely stressed. I don’t know about you, but the men in my life generally hyperventilate when I’m driving.

I enjoy speeding every now and then (the engine roar is so satisfying) but sadly my husband doesn’t agree. “No wonder the fuel costs as much as it does and do you realise how unsafe this is?” he says pointedly as I let it rip. I slow down because we need to pick up something on the way and the only parking available near the grocery store is parallel. Herein lies my real test. I take a deep breath and try it — five times out of ten I manage to do it and at other times, the car just doesn’t seem to obey. Sadly, this time the car ends up jutting out at a strange angle and he smiles vindictively. “You bribed them to pass your driving test, didn’t you?” He breathes easy and I scowl. He picks up the grocery and then knocks at my window. “I’m driving,” he tells me.

The man who looked completely distraught moments ago is now happy and relaxed and shows the girls how we take off in an aeroplane by going full throttle and making the engine thunder. My eyebrows almost disappear into my hairline. It’s nostalgic. I remember that red Charade and Dad. I smile wryly. Until he learns to relax in the passenger seat, I really don’t mind being chauffeured around by my man, especially if there’s parallel parking around.

 

A poem for my ex.

(Note: I wrote this poem after my ex and I got together — but only for a day. Make sure you read it right till the end.)

 

A poem for my ex

You and I got back together,

But only for a day,

Before each one of us went our own separate way,

We had spent each waking moment in each other’s company,

I never slept without you by my side, some said it was funny,

Touching you with my hands I relived those moments,

Those golden days when I felt content even with your silence,

I liked your dark handsome looks,

You were nothing like those two-timing crooks,

You did everything you could and yet I had to let you go,

I’m sorry for the pain it caused – you didn’t even show,

You seemed to understand when I didn’t pick you,

Yet I know you were hurt when there was someone new,

You stood on the sidelines watching as someone took your place,

You handled those moments with unmatchable grace,

And yesterday when I needed you, you were happy to be with me again,

But I was frustrated even then – I cannot feign.

You’re just not that sexy, and neither are you as cool,

You’re not the kind that would make a girl drool,

Yes you can be counted upon and no doubt you are smart,

But the iPhone is smart too – and a perfect piece of art!

You my dear Nokia E71,

My time with you is over and done,

We shared some precious moments together,

And you may call me a friend of only fair-weather,

But the iPhone has a sublime touch-screen,

And the apps are some of the best I have ever seen,

So I bid you farewell until I need you again,

Having you around  for emergencies is a boon not a bane!

Ha ha – thumbs up if you thought I was talking about a guy in the beginning. Apologies to call a phone an ex but really we spend more time with our smartphones than we do with our significant others – don’t you agree?

Image via Wikipedia

Image via geek.com

5 points on why ice-skating = mortification!

I am NEVER ice-skating again. Okay maybe I am. It was fun (despite my jelly legs) and I have a big ugly bruise on my knee to show for my efforts.

iceskates.jpg

Image via source

Five things that happened, that you should know about.

1. DH (who skates fairly well) says bend your knee and give yourself a push. I bend my knee and push myself (and go WHAM on the ice on said knee). Cannot get up because the ice is too slippery. DH says get up already. I say I am applying ice to the knee. (I know, genius comment right?) Finally get up to concerned stares from random skaters.

2. My older one was also on the ice-rink for the first time and did FAR better than your’s truly. Younger one and me were neck and neck on who did worse.

3. If you didn’t excel at something as a kid chances are you will be pathetic at it when older. I was never good at any type of skating as a kid. (Roller-blading, skateboards, they were all beyond me when I was a kid).

4. I know how it feels to lie down straight on the ice. Yes, the next time I fell, I just lay down as though I was in bed. Then sat then got up gingerly and almost fell again.

5. It is possible to sweat profusely out of embarrassment and haplessness even if you are on a floor made exclusively of ice.

But I still think I’d give it another go if I had the chance. I would give it another shot after watching many YouTube videos and reading articles on ice-skating. And I would spin circles around DH with my perfect flair and balance. Mental images of myself gliding along the ice, looking at him patronizingly put a smile on my face.

(Wakes up from pleasant daydream).

Can you skate well? Are first ice-skating experiences always this bad? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Forgettable swimming lessons

Originally published in Gulf News ‘Off the Cuff’ on April the 23rd. Late upload on WordPress. My bad. 

http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/forgettable-swimming-lessons-1.1012075

 

Image for illustrative purposes only. Via: http://www.bourneoutdoorswimmingpool.org/

 

If I weren’t human, I would have liked to be a bird, because the idea of flying attracts me immensely. If the avian species would have refused to accept me in their ranks, I would have gladly been a fish. That’s because I love to swim. As a child, swimming was one of the few things I excelled at and so, when she seemed to ready to learn, I decided to teach my six-year-old daughter how to swim. (I know, I know, we all make mistakes).

I imagined we would have a lovely time in the water together, and I would be able to give my girls (ages six and three) some quality time and undivided attention, and most importantly be able to have some fun with them. It’s pretty ironic how things never turn out as we presume they will. When I mentioned I was going to give our daughter swimming lessons, the better half suggested we get a professional to teach her, since children sometimes learn better with people other than their parents. I rubbished the idea dismissively.

“Oh no! There’s no way I’m going to pay for those lessons when I can teach her myself!” I said. He shrugged as though to suggest he wasn’t quite convinced.

As we walked to the pool dressed in our costumes, with the older one wearing her shiny new goggles and swim-cap, and the younger one with the floats securely fastened, I felt like an accomplished and impressive parent.

Alas, the feeling lasted all of five minutes. After about 30 exasperating minutes of trying to get her to hold her breath, all three of us were hardly in the best of spirits. I decided to give it a break, swam some laps and watched the girls play in the water in the shallow side of the pool. Later in the day I heard her telling her father, “Baba, Mum told me stop breathing! Can you imagine that!” He bit back a chortle as I said, “It was just the first lesson!”

Sadly we fared worse in the second lesson as I, being the short-tempered person I am, lost my patience a little. “Mum, I’m not talking to you,” she said, as she gladly splashed in the water with her sister on the shallow side, and I swam a few laps by myself. During the third (and final) lesson, I decided to be all patience and kindness, and promised myself that I would not let anything get to me. I was glad to see we were finally making a little bit of progress!

Swallowing water

She agreed to put her head in the water and managed to count to ten, but drew a line when I suggested she kick her feet as well. I thought to myself “Well, at least we’re getting somewhere!” but she soon came to the surface sputtering and flaying her arms, and said, “I swallowed water!” I decided not to teach anymore and as though to add to my troubles, the younger one looked at me, beamed as though she had achieved something special and said, “Mummy, I peed in the pool!”

The lessons hadn’t at all gone as I had imagined and he had, for the umpteenth time, been right. As we paid up the next day to get her some swimming lessons, he laughed a laugh that sounded vaguely like “I told you so.”

A day later I watched (somewhat bewildered) as my daughter obliged willingly to every instruction the teacher gave and later the instructor gushed to me, “What a cooperative little girl you have. Such a delight to teach!”

I tried not to roll my eyes and smiled affably. I suppose there are other ways of giving the children ‘quality time’!

 

Salon calling

I have a bit of a history with beauty salons. I have super-sensitive skin which makes treatments such as waxing and threading pure torture. When I initially started frequenting salons, I wrote this:

 

This article here:

http://archives.dawn.com/dawnftp/72.249.57.55/dawnftp/weekly/review/archive/080410/review3.htm

So anyway, as I was saying, I have tried out many different salons for hope of finding one that doesn’t hurt as much — the search continues. Meanwhile here is an account of the trip I made today (not the same salon as the article above obv.!)

Me: Hi, remember me?

Salon lady: Er? Umm.. I think so…

Me: Remember, I’m the one with the sensitive skin? The one who screams when you do upper lip or wax?

Beautician: Oh! Yes, yes I know now. How are you Madame? (She’s already giggling).

Me: Yeah thanks, good.

Beautician: Shall we get started?

Me: Uh, okay. *Nervous*

Treatment begins. She puts hot wax on my arm. I let out  a (well-behaved) yelp. She giggles.

Me: I’m sure there are very few clients like me? I mean no-one screams right?

She: Oh, some people find waxing quite difficult. We have a few like you.

Me: *breathing easier* Oh. Of course. I’m sure there are many who find it as hard as I do.

She: Two actually. You and this other woman.

Me: Oooowwww. That hurt!

She: *Giggle* It will soon be done Madame.

OH WHY why why do I put myself through torture treatments every few weeks? I tipped them well in the end though, I had to. It takes a lot to not get exasperated when someone jerks violently when you thread a single hair on their upper lip…

Super Mom (err.. not exactly)

supermom white 225 Super Mom

(Image credit: Google Images)

 

“Hello?” I snap into the phone, finally putting an end to its persistent ringing, as I simultaneously answer the door. A groggy two year old wails at the top of her voice, and in her agitated state, manages to knock the glass of milk on the carpet. I open the door wearily to find the internet guy I had been calling for ages. “Ma’am, I’m from Etisalat. I’m here to sort out your internet.”

 

I hear a faint voice from earpiece of the phone (over the crying). I lift the baby into my arms, tell the person on the line to please wait a second, and usher the internet guy inside. Next I divert my attention to the phone and find that the doctor’s office has finally called back and wants me to take down a number. “Please take down this number. The dentist will be available between 4pm and 8pm. An appointment – yes sure, Ma’am. Please wait a moment.” There is music at the other end of the line and I take the few precious seconds to smile at the baby and play with her, in the hope that her mood will improve (remember I’m still holding her). I pick the pen which is miraculously still in the pen-holder (the kids forget to replace it even after repeated reminders) but I can’t seem to find the yellow post-its and I scribble the number on my palm. Then I finally hear what I’ve been waiting for: “Ma’am, your appointment is fixed. Have a nice day and thank you for choosing our wonderful hospital.” Click.

 

The internet guy is working conscientiously at making my connection operational again and I hope he’ll get it working soon because there is some research I need to do. I put a rag over the milk and try not to get mad – that carpet had been spotless until the split milk. I make a half-hearted effort to wipe it off, because there is a strange smell emanating from the kitchen. Great.

 

I scrape the little one’s burnt breakfast (oatmeal porridge) gingerly from the saucepan, but soon realize that there is no point in doing so – it’s been scorched quite badly and I’ll have to prepare the porridge anew. As I pour the milk in a new pan (and realize I will have to go for groceries because we’re almost out of milk) I rub my eyes drowsily. I’ve been up since ages for sending the older one to school, this after I stayed up late last night working on the above-mentioned research. Welcome to a typical day in my life.

 

Obviously, I’m not quite so caught up every day, but there are days when I want to storm and rage at everyone. Days when getting out of bed my body feels like lead but I do it anyway. Days when nothing goes right – the food I make tastes insipid (or umm.. burns), the colours run on his favourite shirt in the washing machine, or the house looks like an earthquake affected zone, but I love being a part of the madness, and wouldn’t want to change it for anything.

 

There is something incredibly refreshing about the smell of a baby – and any mom will tell you that that has nothing to do with baby care products, but is in fact a special fragrance that you associate with your child. There is something mind-blowingly wonderful about the smile of a child who’s just woken up, a smile meant only, especially for you. There is something profoundly touching about the hug that you get from a bounding kid getting back from school, trying to condense the day’s events into one sentence, tripping over her words and her feet. The satisfaction that you feel when the milk is drunk and gooey khichri devoured (however unwillingly) makes you want to go on. I know no other way a woman can feel so wanted, so cherished and most importantly – loved. I’ll sign off now – I need to make a school run in a bit – but before that, a diaper needs changing – and oh, did I tell you I’m preparing fish for dinner?

 

Note: This was written a few months back, only just remembered it and decided to publish it.

 

Will you marry me?

He gazed at her face longingly, enamoured, infatuated. She looked ravishing in her pale pink ensemble that flowed into soft folds near her petite feet. Gracefully and with poise, she walked towards the stage, and the guests seemed bathed in the sparkle of her resplendence as they looked on, as though awe-struck.

He rued the time he had wasted in telling her how much he loved her. Tonight she was getting married, to that shady character who always seemed to hang around her house. But the marriage contract hadn’t been signed yet, he thought to himself, and took a deep breath. This was his last chance, and he would never forgive himself if he didn’t tell her he loved her.

He looked warily at the huge throng of people around her. Surely, she would be alone for a moment? He rehearsed the words in his mind — not that he needed to. He had envisioned that conversation a hundred times, and he waited, anxiously, for her to finally distance herself from all those people.

He realised his lips were suddenly parched, his throat completely dry. He had made his way to the stage, and finally — this was his moment, away from all those interfering, offending relatives. “Hello,” he said, looking straight into her eyes. She seemed glad to see him, and that encouraged him. He knelt down close to where she sat, close enough to get a whiff of her heavenly, enchanting perfume. He sniffed deeply. She always smelled wonderful.

He didn’t have a ring, but those details could be worked out later, he thought to himself. It was important to pop the question to her — after all, that strange fellow had gotten this far because he wasn’t afraid to tell her. She looked at him enquiringly — why on earth was he suddenly kneeling in front of her? He glanced behind him — the meddlesome relatives would be back on stage any minute. She was the bride after all. He cleared his throat. “I have to say something to you. It’s very important,” he deadpanned. She leant towards him.

He had to say it. He just had to. He couldn’t back out, not after he had gotten this far. She waited patiently for him to speak, her smile a little waned now. “Will you marry me?” he blurted out. Relief washed over him — he had revealed his feelings at last.

In slow motion

She smiled widely, and his heart skipped a beat. “You know what, I’m flattered. It’s not everyday that such a handsome young man proposes to you!” He breathed easier. So she was happy! Life suddenly seemed to go into slow motion. He watched the approaching crowd, fantasising that it would soon be him sitting beside her. Suddenly, her words brought him back to reality with a harsh, unpleasant bump. “But no sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I can’t,” she said simply. That moment was unfortunate for two reasons — the first was her answer and the second was that at that precise second, the music, which had so far been playing without a hitch, suddenly stopped. “But why? What’s wrong with me?” he said indignantly, stamping his foot on the ground. The people (who had now reached the stage) all heard him because of the silence created by the break in the music and began to laugh hysterically.

“Darling, age difference is definitely a factor,” she said stifling a laugh, as she picked him up and put him in her lap. Seven-year-old Farhan was mortified. “We can still be friends, right?” he said at last.

“Always, darling. You’re gorgeous.” And with that she kissed him, and he didn’t remove the lipstick mark from his cheek practically forever.

Note: The above is a true account and the people in the story are my cousins. The seven-year-old boy is now a teenager, who hasn’t proposed to anyone since.

 

First published here: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/will-you-marry-me-1.888793