Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bombay and the Summer Boredom

2 weeks ago we took Son to delight, terrorize and empty the pockets of his grandparents in Bombay, The InLaws. The previous time visited there, Son was 6 months old, my father died the day I landed in India and I got laid off the day I came back from India. Suffice it to say that it made for a very peculiar association I had with the city. In addition, due to the poor child’s jet leg and the fact that I was still nursing, we did not really get out much to see the city and as a result, my memories of it were rather gloomy.

I was entranced with Bombay this time around. This is one modern, CLEAN (ok, maybe I have been in Dhaka  a little too long and my cleanliness yardstick has been severely skewed) , happening city.
The first day I decided that I need some TLC after receiving the news of our next assignment upon landing in India and headed over to an upscale and pricey French hair salon. I spent almost 5 hours there pampering (well reflected in the final bill), reading the Indian versions of People magazine (it is amazing how complicated the love lives of cricket players are in India) and sipping endless cups of green tea. In the end, after my hair was washed for the 17th time, the hot water stopped and so they had to bring in buckets of water from somewhere else to finish. To his credit, the hair dresser never lost heart. I came out of the salon looking fabulous in my blown-out, highlighted, cut hair and French manicure. Exactly 4 minutes later, the entire ensemble went to hell when a torrential rain poured over Bombay and the humidity in car made me look like the usual distressed poodle. At least it was a poodle with highlights.

We went out to dinner twice in 4 days, and found 2 fab restaurants with amazing food, exorbitantly expensive alcohol and somewhat good service. The second restaurant happened to be all the rage in the area we went, which is something we did not know – we just stumbled upon it while looking desperately for a place to eat late in the evening. I have never seen so many women dressed in miniscule tight dresses, platform heels the height of which will make Kim Kardashian green with envy, and enough bling to pay for Bangladesh’s national debt. Next to them were the inevitable gaggle of young men in muscle shirts, muscles indeed bulging from everywhere, various forms of goaties and moustaches and their fashionable permutations, as well as strikingly pointy shoes and tight pants. The picture was completed by several tables filled with matronly women in striking (read: screaming colors and shapes) sarees out of which their abdomens and love handles were generously pouring out, sitting next to even more matronly men sipping vodka and smoking enormous cigars. It was classy. The food was, however, exquisite! Once we finished dining, generously washing down the inventive Italian cuisine with a bottle of fabulous white Indian wine, the restaurant turned into a club, spinning some excellent Indian R&B and techno. Having promised the InLaws that we would be back before 12 (it was pushing 12.30 already) we had to leave with a sigh.

Son was spoiled rotten as usual and took his grandpa to the cleaners. Twice he dragged the InLaws to the toy stores (they obliged with delight) and asked them to buy him a myriad of planes, trains and automobiles, 4 boxes of crayons (“Why did you want all 4?,” asked I; “Because I don’t know!,” answered Son), 26 coloring books, a ball, a giant stuffed Doberman and a smaller stuffed tiger. The damn Doberman was so realistic that it almost gave me a heart attack one night when I went in to check on Son and the creepy toy was sitting quietly in front of his bed, looking at me menacingly in the dim light of the Bombay night. We left the city sans the majestic creatures – the thought of me running around Bombay airport carrying a massive, disturbingly realistic Doberman under my arm just did not sound like an awesome idea.

Dhaka, on the other hand, is bizarrely quiet. Many expats and Bangladeshi party animals have left the city in search of other summer delights elsewhere in the world and the usual party scene is sadly dead. We just sit and watch the rain fall. Which it does a lot. 'Tis the season...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Unique Joys of Parenthood. And out next assignment

Being a parent is fulfilling on so many unsuspecting levels that a non-parent will never even know. Forget conventional joys like the running of the little bull to you when you open the door after work and jumping in your arms with a piercing "Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa". Forget the sweet and sudden turn of the little head to you just to say quietly, "I love you, Mama!" Forget the times when he makes you a card for mother's day or brings you the rare gift of a dead roach. Parenthood is enriching in ways I never even knew.

For example - your child's performance at the school's end of the year party. This year, the Diplomat and I were treated to a rare Kafkaesque performance of the story of Pete Ocha. This being a French School, naturally the performance was in French and most of the story was danced by the children, which added to our utter amazement and confusion at the eclectic story. To date, I am unsure exactly what went on that night - in the story, there was a little boy whose parents died or left him in the first scene, but then he somehow went on living by dealing with sounds (like, bouncing them off things). Everyone else around him thought he was weird and creepy (I wonder why) and they kick him out of the village. The kid then runs away to throw some sounds at a scarecrow which in turn throws them back at him. Then Pete ends up with the gypsies who happen to be eating children (very aptly and expressly danced by the 1st graders who were running around in a giant pot with vegetables). There Pete plays with sounds some more and is given a ceremonial jacket (I think). Not sure why - I think the jacket kept the sounds inside. I am guessing that something truly profound happened in the end. But I am not sure. I must learn French. And not drink during the performance next time. But the school invite said to bring wine to toast the kids and we did. Maybe we should have done it AFTER the performance? But we all felt that it was enhancing our experience given its, um, idiosyncratic plot.
At any rate, the kids were splendid and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The 3 and 4 year olds were sitting at the front and the beastmasters (AKA, teachers) did a fantastic job keeping them semi-tame during the whole production. After it was all over, the baffled parents were treated to a feast boosted by ample amounts of libations while our children ran amok through the expansive grounds of the school in the humid and inviting darkness. Hats off to the French school - it was a memorable night and Son will be going back there next year. I CANNOT WAIT for the end of the year performance!

Another rare gift of parenting is the first time you catch your child playing "doctor." I always imagined it would be when Son is, say, 10. Not so much. Last week, we decided to get together with two other splendid couples - parents, whose daughters also go to school with Son and are bestest of friends. We had a  blast at our rooftop, BBQing and drinking the night away while the children entertained themselves delightfully in the inflatable pool. At some point, all of us turned to observe a peculiar sight - one of the girls was lying on her back, legs up and panties down, while the other two were peering down pensively. Amused, we went to them and asked just what the heck was going on and Son, in all earnestness answered, "We are playing doctor, mama!" and turned back to continue. Needless to say, we had to break the scene sternly, which was not easy given that we were all trying not to roll on the floor laughing.

Yes, parenting has many gifts. I cannot wait to see what teenagehood has to bring to us.

In other interesting news, we have just learned that we are going to Rio de Janeiro for our next post. Given that the post was at the bottom of our bidding list and in no way fulfills any of our clearly expressed preferences, the Diplomat and I continue to be baffled by the assignment and the thought process of the powers to be. Nothing against Rio - a most exciting city where I am sure we will have a blast. I suppose this is how the State Department likes to keep us on our toes. I am very happy that we get to go back to Washington for 6-7 months of training and then we get to live in a spectacular country, where we get to see the World Cup and possibly even the Olympics!