'Dating, Diapers and Denial' is a novel with a comical view of life for men and women who have dated, raised kids and gone through the sweet-sour moments that they get- it's a novel you'd want to read over and over again, to double up at the funny anecdotal passages and the witty observations. Tongue-in-cheek, with self-aimed pot shots, the innuendoes are clever, and witty. The book moves at a brisk pace, with story-telling that enthrals. As the humour tickles the readers, the sense of 'relating' to the instances keeps them riveted to the book.
Here are some excerpts from the book:
Childbirth was not easy! In fact, our first-born, Aisha, was born in extremely alien conditions: at a hospital in Kawasaki in Japan. The only English term those guys knew back then was 'curry and chutney' used while ordering 'curry and chutney' at any Indian or Pakistani restaurant. And, the only Japanese word we knew was 'Sayonara' taught to us by Asha Parekh.
Combining the two, one could not do much except have dinner and part: both activities not quite directly relevant to childbirth. The Japanese government was very kind to us and provided us with the services of an interpreter. We were grateful till we read the fine print: we had to pay her by the hour. The thought of it gave both of us severe cramps akin to uterine contractions.
In both cases, it turned out to be a false alarm, since I never went into labour, and Alok discovered he didn't have a uterus.
Since I did not go into labour, and it was seven days over the due date, they finally decided to operate.
It was a unique c-section operation conducted with the help of placards to convey important steps in the procedure to me.
'Now It Is Prick', or
'Now You Is Ouch.'
I must have laughed a lot through the procedure, perhaps giving them an inaccurate cross-cultural lesson - 'Indians laugh a lot during childbirth'.
Maybe, it's part of the curriculum of the Tokyo University for International Relations now.
On Play Behaviour
I grew up in a family of girls: we are three sisters. Our pastimes were elaborate activities built mostly around dolls. These dolls changed clothes a lot, got married a lot and had babies all the
Wedding celebrations were common during our playtime.
We would take pains dressing up, mostly by wrapping our grandmother's sarees pulled from the laundry basket, preparing exotic wedding meals (glucose biscuits served on leaves), and
going through complicated rituals that were mostly cooked up along with the meals.
The only complication was that we had a lot of girl-dolls and just one boy-doll. He was called Bobby and he wore a bandmaster's dress which was really moulded plastic. So, he had
socks that just grew on him, of the same material as his legs were. If Bobby were human, his autopsy would enter the Guinness Book:
'Dr Shekhar, see those socks, they have exactly the same DNA as the legs'
Bobby was much in demand, since in those good-old-days, we did not marry girl-dolls to girl-dolls. Hence, Bobby ended up marrying a lot.
In fact, sometimes, he would do triple shifts in a day, as bridegroom. I guess this caused him a lot of stress and he ended up peeling quite a bit of his cheap paint.
In this process, when Bobby went on to lose his youth and charm, we had to face the sad reality of retiring him from his services. Retirement for dolls meant lying in the smelly medicine cabinet with the mangled toy guitar and Zena, the doll without hair and legs.
So, with Bobby out of the marriage market, we had to turn to Munna and Tiger. They were our dogs. Munna was a dapper looking stray who would trot into the compound after a day's
worth of vagrancy with tales to regale Tiger, the dumb pet for whom Munna was a role model of sorts.
They would happily accept our request to play 'groom'. The sops were they got to partake in the wedding feast and also chew on their garlands. If they resisted, we used the leash to restrain them: all in all, quite symbolic of an actual human wedding.
On Kids' Social Events
Every year, I approach Independence Day with a great deal of respect and fear. Respect for the freedom fighters who put all at stake for their motherland. In fact, their stories touch the deepest spot in my heart every time I reflect on their tales of valor.
And fear because of the task of dressing up my kids as a'freedom fighter of their choice'.
Yes, that is how we celebrate Independence Day in Apartment Complex Club Associations.
So I woke up in a cold sweat on the morning of 15th of August last year and asked my kids: 'So which freedom fighter do you want to dress as?', I thought I should be democratic in the true spirit of the nation.
Since both responses were inadmissible even after applying huge amounts of creative liberty, I had to go back to good, old autocratic ways.
I told Aisha she could dress as 'Annie Besant' or 'Sarojini Naidu'.
She heard me describe the outfits and then, politely declined.
She wanted to be 'Jhansi ki Rani'. Like all the other thirty-four girls in the building. You see 'Rani Jhansi' is a popular choice since she dresses up like a queen.
All little girls get that part about her. But, since re-creating her exact look can be tough, mothers just stick to broad guidelines: pretty Indian clothes and lots of jewellery.
So, we had many Jhansi Ranis that evening, dressed in sarees, lehengas, salawar kameez, laanchas, and ghagharas, pirouetting daintily, maybe trying to ward off the British with their
I focused on converting 'Benton' boy into a suitable freedom fighter. He did not put up much of a fight. He was not much into the celebration except waving the flag occasionally and
yelling 'Jai Hind'.
After some thought which yielded zero ideas, I dressed him up as 'Anonymous Soldier', dressed in a kurta pyjama and gave him a toy sword. Not only did this gesture salute those that
paid a nameless tribute to the nation, it leveraged very well on the only outfit he had.
At the venue, the kids lined up to enact a play to summarize the struggle. I realized there was a problem:
There seemed to be a shortage of British soldiers. The kids playing that part either did not want the 'loser' role or their parents insisted they'd better air their ethnic costumes this time of the year. There must have been an emergency huddle of sorts.
Then, suddenly, I saw Aisha in a magenta evening gown with hat and stole, entering the melee as a 'British soldier', brandishing her Rani-Jhansi sword.
My girl is always that sweet, adjusting kid, you see.
There was another girl, dressed in a 'Barbie Doll' top and denim skirt with a name placard hanging around her neck with 'Lord Dalhousie' written on it.
Then, there was Lord Macaulay in bermudas, with an orange and blue water gun saved from last 'Holi'. These were some last minute entrants that salvaged the play.
The plot of the play was simple: basically, you were dressed either as a 'British Soldier' or as an 'Indian Freedom Fighter' and wage a war against each other by kicking, punching and pulling hair.
Till 'Gandhji', wearing a skin colored skull cap came in and implored for peace, after ducking a few punches himself. At that immediate point, the British soldiers displayed exaggerated emotions of respect for 'Gandhiji' and fell at his feet.
On Wondering How It Will Be Like to Die
I wonder what the scene would be, at my own memorial service!
My mind drifts away to imagine the scene of action. The house looks nice (maybe the maid did show up for work today). There are flowers all around, and some nice wine chilling in the corner. I hope there is some more ice in the fridge, and that they have some other beverages as well. I inspect the cutlery that has been laid out, and count the number of plates.
I look furtively at the clock, wondering if the guests will start arriving now. I am nervous. And then it strikes me: I no longer need to be! I am dead, after all.
I see Alok looking sad and staring vacantly. It's because he has missed his game of golf today. He walks around absentmindedly, at times, practicing his swing with an imaginary iron, as he often does.
I can picture Aisha, as a pretty-young woman, with a good-looking, down-to-earth, rich, polite and intelligent husband. The husband is multi-faceted, multi-talented, courteous, knows how to treat a woman and extremely successful at work.
In short, he is mythical.
Prithvi walks in with a girl on his arm. She looks like Reese Witherspoon, with that pesky, rude mouth and a cheap dress.
'Bitch!', I mutter under my breath (taking a creative liberty here since there is no breath left, really).
She comes from a horrible family, with atrocious values and is deceitful and cunning. Of course, there is no way I can actually know all of this. But, that is a mother-in-law liberty I take.
One cannot take away this privilege from any woman, even posthumously.
Book: Dating, Diapers and Denial; Author: Rachna Singh; Publishers: Alchemy Publishers; Price: Rs 175/-The sense of relating to the instances in the novel will keep the readers riveted.