Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Toe the line

Yesterday, I made a brave, brave decision.

I took Xena along with me for a pedicure.

Usually, I don't take her along when I go for pedicures, eyebrow threading or haircuts. She gets bored and restless and I feel helpless and stressed, strapped in my chair. It's usually not a very easy or enjoyable experience, trying to keep track of where your kid is headed and where your right eyebrow is headed. So usually I hand her over to Viv on a cricket-less weekend and go, or I just shrug my shoulders, say 'chuck it' and carry on living my life as Kroor Singh from Chandrakanta.

But yesterday, I told myself, "She's four. It's high time she learns to sit down and wait." I was in dire need of a long-due pedicure (Nail art on the fingernails is one thing; I like to do it by myself, but pedicures are best left to the professionals.) and my partner in most of such crimes, Clueless, was available. (Pedicures are SO much more fun when you go in twos or threes, isn't it?)

A small voice in my head was warning me that taking her along might result in disaster, but I was so glad I ignored it. Because, believe it or not, the three of us HAD A BALL. It was the most entertaining pedicure session I'd ever had in my life. Not only did Xena sit and wait patiently, she got involved. Her running commentary was making my pedicurist laugh so much, she almost nicked my toe. "So cute", she remarked. I wanted to retort with a "Totally. Cutie-cle, in fact." But I resisted. I didn't know what they did with customers who made bad nail puns. Paint only five toenails and send them off, probably.

Of course, Xena had a gazillion questions for the pedicurists and me.

"Is this hot water?"
"Is it very hot?"
"Can I touch it?"
"Why are you putting your feet in hot water?"
"Can I also put my feet in?"
"Are these real nails or fake?"
"Why is Aunty wearing a mask?"
"What are you drinking?"
"Why did Aunty give you a cookie with tea?"
"Can I have the cookie?"
"This cookie is not nice. Can you eat it?"
"Can I also get a pedicure?"
"Can you ask Aunty if she has children's nail polish?"

Clueless was about 15 minutes late, so my pedicure was slightly ahead of hers.
Xena was keenly observing the difference in stages. She pointed squarely at Clueless' pedicurist and loudly remarked, "WHY IS THIS AUNTY SO SLOW?"

Xena also helped us pick the colours for our toenails. Mine was straightforward because I'd shortlisted it down to three and let her pick the final one. Clueless was more, erm, 'open'.

Clueless - Xena, can you help me pick a colour for my toenails?
Xena - Yes. What colour do you want?
Clueless - Errr... you pick for me, baby.
Xena - Any colour?
Clueless - Yes. But something light.
Xena - YELLOW!
Clueless - Errr...

As we waited for my nail polish to dry, my pedicurist asked Xena, "How old are you?" Xena went into 'shy mode' and tried to hide in my lap. So I did what I always do when this happens. "She's THIRTY-FIVE. Aren't you?" Xena immediately emerged to correct me. "Nooooo. I'm FOUR." Works like a charm. Every time.

"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" my pedicurist asked next.

I was curious about what she would say, because I don't think she'd encountered this question before.

"No," she said without batting an eyelid. "Just a fish."

And so, we stepped out, with pretty feet and happy hearts, and a cheerful little girl in tow.

The future looks bright. And full of stress-free pedicures and haircuts.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Doctor's orders

I usually keep a small toy in my handbag when I go to pick up Xena from school. A toy car, a Rainbow dash figurine, a Transformers toy, a finger puppet, a book, a tiny soft toy, etc. She's usually hungry and tired and sleepy, and not really up for much conversation at that time. So the toy keeps her busy during the longish bus ride, and puts an end to the "Why is that boy playing with his mama's phone? Why don't I have anything to play with?" questions.

Last Friday, I forgot to take a toy. Luckily, it didn't result in total catastrophe. In fact, we ended up having fun.

Xena - Mama, which toy did you get today?

Me - Oh! I forgot to get a toy today. Sorry, baby.

Xena - Then what should I play with?

Me - You don't always need a toy to play. We can play something else.

Xena - Like what?

Me - Hmm... Let's think about what we can play in the bus without a toy.

Xena - Okay. (thinks) Doctor-patient??

Me - Sounds great to me!

Xena - Okay, I'll be the doctor first. You be the patient.

Me - Okay. Hello, doctor!

Xena - Hello! What happened?

Me - Errr... I hurt my finger.

Xena - Oh! Blood is coming out!! What should I do??

Me - Err... I don't know! You're the doctor!

Xena - Okay okay. Let's wash it, put some medicine and put a plaster on it!

Me - Okay!

Xena - Wait!

Me - What?? Quick, it's still bleeding!

Xena - Which colour plaster do you want?

Me - Umm... purple.

Xena - Which character do you want on your plaster?

Me - Umm... Tweety bird.

Xena - Okay, here you go. (mimes putting the plaster)

Me - I feel better now. Thank you, doctor!

Xena - You're welcome. Bye bye.

Me - Bye bye!

Xena - Okay, now I'm the patient and you're the doctor.

So we repeated the above. Yes, the whole thing.

And then...

Xena - Okay, now I'm the doctor and you're the patient.

Me (exhausted) - Again???

Xena - Yes.

Me - Okay. Hello, doctor!

Xena - Hello. What happened?

Me - I... have fever!

Xena - Nooooooooo! You don't have fever. Your finger is hurt!

Me - No, that was the last time. My finger is okay now. This time, I'm here for a fever.

Xena - Noooooooooo! You don't have fever!

Me - Why not??

Xena - Because I'm a finger-hurt-doctor!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Home affairs

So we have finished unpacking in our new home for two months, and have kind of settled in. Our flatmate is a very sweet chap; he'd actually stocked the fridge with what he thought Xena would like. Of course, he had no idea that Xena prefers air over ice-cream any day. But I've managed to convince her to try some of the stuff in there, saying "But Uncle A got this SPECIALLY for you!"

I'm also trying to get used to living on such a high floor. I've mostly lived in low-rise buildings in Singapore, so this oonche log, oonchi pasand life is new to me. We are right next to the expressway, so it's quite noisy all the time, but the spectacular views more than make up for it. In fact, I've been going a little bonkers taking photos of the view at different times. Check it out below.


The view at 6 am

The view at 3 pm

The view at 6 pm

The view at 9 pm

The view at 10 pm on another night

The view at 9 am yesterday, just before a thunderstorm

The view during the thunderstorm

In stark contrast, the current view of our old place is quite scary. We went to see it on Tuesday night after the first round of hacking was completed. I didn't take well to it at all. It can be quite unnerving to see your home all hacked up and plunged into darkness. I can't wait for the finished product.

This is pretty much what every room looks like. Yeah. 

Xena also wanted to come along to see "how contractor uncle has broken the old things so he can make new things", but she was quite horrified at what she saw. I think she kind of expected the whole thing to have been completed by now. 

Some of her questions:

"Where is my new room??"

"Why is it so dark?"

"Why is it so messy?"

"What are these things on the floor?"

"Why is contractor uncle not here?"

"Why did contractor uncle break all the old things and not make the new things??"

"Are we going to live here now???"

"I don't like it. Can we go back to uncle A's house?"

...and the one that cracked me up:

"Mama, our kitchen has exploded! How will we cook now??"

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Sounds of silence

So I went to see the doctor on Sunday, demanding my voice back. He prescribed a bunch of meds, including antibiotics, and asked me to practise the ancient Indian practice of maun vrat (vow of silence) for the next few days to speed up the process of getting my voice back.

For someone who is second only to Xena when it comes to non-stop chattering, it was really weird not to have a voice. Must have been a real respite for Viv though because Xena and I are constantly talking to him, and sometimes he has to issue a queue number system.

As I was talking less, I realised I was hearing more things around me. For example, I had the opportunity to hear a patient at the clinic ask the nurse, "Before or after food?" when she handed him an ointment and asked him to apply it on his injured foot twice a day. I also had the opportunity to really savour the 'dharti phat jaaye aur main usme samaa jaaun' expression on her face.

We had not fully unpacked so we had all our meals outside. We were at the coffee shop downstairs for breakfast. Viv was in charge of the easier job - standing in the queue to order our food, while I was doing the harder job - keeping Xena on the chairs that we had managed to bag with difficulty. I realised that the sum of all talk in our household is a constant. Because I couldn't talk, Xena was trying her best to maintain the sum. She wanted to go everywhere, talk to everyone, do everything at once. The two elderly ladies seated at the same table were very amused by her and asked her, "You how old ah?" Suddenly, Xena got all shy and refused to answer. Then they concluded, "OH! Cannot speak English lah!" Then they looked at me and said, "Cannot speak English ah?" I smiled and mouthed "Can!" which they interpreted as "Yeah!" and so nodded and repeated, "Ah. No wonder. Cannot speak English." They must be thinking, "Daughter cannot speak English. Mother cannot speak at all!"

Yet another task of mine had also been compromised. Xena's running commentary in the bus is usually controlled by me by either explaining to surprised commuters what she said/meant, or somehow distracting and stopping her before she said something really weird. This time, there was no chance at all, so when she pointed to a lady and said, "LOOK MAMA THAT AUNTY'S BRAID IS REACHING HER BUM-BUM!" I couldn't do anything at all. Except smile apologetically at everyone.

I was slightly panicky because there was a parent-teacher meeting in Xena's school on Monday, which I was supposed to attend. Fortunately, Viv took leave and decided to come along with me as my voice so that I didn't look like a fool miming all the questions I had for her teachers, "Does she finish her lunch? Is she respectful and courteous in class? Is she picking up Singlish from her classmates? Which kid taught her the term 'yucky smelly poo poo'???"

That last one would have been hilarious to mime.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

A moving story

So we have moved to our temporary accommodation. We are sharing it with a cricket teammate of Viv's (henceforth referred to as A). I'd noticed the onset of a sore throat at the beginning of the weekend, and now it's become a full-blown case of totally-lost-voice. I can't talk or sleep and so I'm up at 6:30 am, doing what I can at least do -- blog.

Over the last four days, we have done an amazing amount of sorting, throwing, donating, selling and packing. We didn't even have to go through the guilt of throwing perfectly usable stuff which we don't want anymore. We donated our washing machine through PassItOn.org.sg to a needy family. Also, I found a recycle group of Facebook where you can simply post stuff that you don't want but is in good condition and people will just come and take it off your hands within a day or two. In fact, there will be mara-mari over it. One person's trash is truly another person's treasure.

Here are some snippets of the chaos that our place experienced over the long weekend.

***

Xena (looking at all the stuff on the floor) - Mama, what is happening???
Me - We are packing to move, baby.
Xena - To a new house?
Me - Yes.
Xena - The new house with my own room? With the rainbow on the wall and the bean bag and the Elsa bed and Olaf pillow? Is it ready?
Me - No, not yet. We are moving to uncle A's house first, so contractor uncle can make your new room here. Then we will move back.

***
Viv - Why do we have such much stuff??
Me - Beats me.
Viv - We need to get rid of it.
Me - Yes, we do. Now is the time. If we look at something for more than 5 seconds and can't decide, toss it out.
Viv - Yes.


***
Me - Omg Viv, we need more cartons.
Viv - Again??

***

Me (spotting Viv poring over some Mumbai memorabilia for half an hour) - Viv, please don't get senti. Keep it or toss it.

***

Me (watching Viv open an old carton) - Omg what is in there?
Viv - An old 14" CRT TV.
Me - We have an old 14" CRT TV? Why??
Viv - I won it in a competition in NTU.
Me - Why do we still have it? Can we throw it?
Viv (testing it) - It works. See?
[For the record, I sold it for $12. The guy who bought it for his sons' room was thrilled. Kept thanking me for the 'very good deal'.]

***

Xena - Mama, why are we playing music on the iPad all the time?
Me - Because we don't want it getting buried under something and getting lost.
Xena - But I don't like this song!

***

Xena - Mama, are you making the carton without me???
Me - Of course not. I wouldn't dream of it. Come come.

***

Me - Xena, don't sit on that. Dangerous.
Viv - No, don't stand on it either.
Xena - Dangerous.

***

Viv - Where is the masking tape?
Me - It was right here. Where did it go??
Viv and me - XENAAAAA!

***
Me - Xena, please move out of the way.
Xena - But where do I go then?
Me - Go to the other room.
Viv (in 'the other room') - Xena, please move out of the way.
Xena - But where do I go then??

***

Viv - Are you excited about moving to Uncle A's place?
Xena - Yes.
Viv - Are you going to play with him?
Xena - Does he have children?
Viv - No, he's not married yet.
Xena - Maybe he can find an aunty and marry her, and then have children and then I can play with them.

***
Xena - Mama, are you putting all my toys in the storeroom?
Me - Not all. You can choose ten to take along with us. The rest will go into the storeroom till we return.
Xena (dragging her biggest and bulkiest toys over to me) - These three... and...
Me - Omg noooo....
Xena - But you said ten.
Me - Ten small ones, baby.

***

Viv - Where is the marker?
Me - It was right here. Where did it go??
Viv and me - XENAAAAA!

***

Xena - Mama, what did you write on that carton?
Me - 'Shoes'.
Xena - Can you write 'Xena's shoes'?
Me - No need to do that. All shoes are in here.
Xena - And what are you writing on this carton?
Me - 'Dressing table stuff. Hairclips.'
Xena - Can you write 'Xena's hairclips'?
Me - All the hairclips in this house are yours, Xena.
Xena - But can you write 'Xena's hairclips'?

***
Me - Viv, shelf wala banda aa raha hai.
Xena (when the doorbell rings) - Is the banda here??
Me - OMG. Erm, Xena, not banda. It's the uncle who is buying our shelf.
Xena - But you said banda.
Me - Sorry, banda is wrong. It's uncle, ok?
Xena - Ok.

Later...

Me - Viv, washing machine wala banda kal aayega.
Xena - Mama, you said 'banda'!! It's wrong. It's uncle.
Me - Yes yes, it's uncle. Sorry.

***

Xena - Mama, why are we giving away my clothes and toys?
Me - Well, you have so many. We are giving it away to a child who doesn't have a lot of clothes and toys.

Later...

Xena - Mama, why is daddy taking out the washing machine?
Me - We are giving it away to an aunty.
Xena - She doesn't have a lot of washing machines?

***

Xena - Mama, why is the house sooooo messy?
Me - Because we are moving.
Xena - Ok. Then the contractor uncle will come and make it clean and nice?
Me - That's right.
Xena - Can you ask him to put an Elsa bed for me?
Me - Errr... he won't do that. We will do that later.

***

Xena - Mama, can you ask contractor uncle to put a purple and pink tap in my bathroom?
Me - Errr...

***

Me (spotting Viv poring over an old X-ray of his titanium-ed hand from 8 years ago) - Viv, please don't get senti. Keep it or throw it.

***

Xena (watching me pull the masking tape off a carton) - Mama, slowly! You're scaring Blueberry. I'll go and save him!
Me - Huh?
Xena (running to Blueberry) - Blueberry! It's okay, baby. Mama is just pulling the masking tape off.

***

Xena - Mama, Blueberry is scared of all the noises. Let's feed her.
Me - Him.
Xena - Let's feed him.
Me - I've already fed him.
Xena - But she's hungry again.
Me - No, she's not.
Viv - He.

***

Xena (watching Viv carry a super heavy carton) - Daddy, you are so strong.
Viv - Yes. You can also be very strong if you have a lot of... (pauses)... Mama, fill in the blanks?
Me - ... dal and rajma... and milk... and vegetables... and fruits... and rice... and parathas!

***

Xena (carrying something incredibly heavy for her, such as a book) - Mama, look how kind I am!
Me - Huh?
Xena - I'm helping you. You said kind people help others. So I'm kind.
Me - Right. Yes, you're very kind. And thank you.

***

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for zombie

So we have come to the end of the A-Z blogathon, and the title of the last post pretty much describes what the month of April has rendered me into. I feel truly zombie-fied. April has been tough. Managing Xena, work-related deadlines, daily blogging, household chores, preparing for the upcoming renovation, selling furniture and sorting/throwing/donating stuff accumulated over two decades, was no fun with Viv travelling.

And just when I started my joyous rendition of 'Mera piya ghar aaya, o Ramji' upon his return, he dropped the bomb on me -- he's travelling again in June for the Apple conference (smack in the middle of our home renovation), making me instantly change my song to 'Pardesi, pardesi, jana nahin'. I'm now thinking of ways to get back at him. Maybe I'll ask the contractor to paint the whole house a neon pink while he's gone. Xena won't mind, I'm sure.

So, this is my last post before I shut down my computer and prepare it for take-off and landing in a new house -- our temporary accommodation for the next two months. In spite of the insanity, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the blogathon, more than last year in fact. Last year, I was having the panic attacks by myself, but this year I had a lot of company for the blogathon, and the discussions reassured me that everyone else was also having the same panic attacks. Phew and yeay!

Also, contrary to my belief that the universe had moved to Twitter, the blogathon gave me assurance that people are still reading blogs. They may not be commenting as much, but they are definitely reading. The numbers show it. Thank you, bewdas, for reading and for cheering me on. If you liked any particular post more than the others, please do let me know.

Thank you for your emails and your comments. I have replied to all the emails, and I hope to respond to all the comments by next week.

I was touched when some bewdas said that they will have withdrawal symptoms once April is over. To be honest, I'm already feeling quite emo about it, and I'm pretty sure that I will wake up tomorrow with quite severe withdrawal symptoms. Who knows, maybe that will inspire me to blog a little more in non-April months.

Until the next post... So long, bewdas, and thanks for (reading) all the fish (posts)!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for yesteryears

Xena likes to listen to me singing really old songs, many of them from black & white movies of the yesteryears. And after about 3897498289 renditions, she is able to sing along with me.

I prefer teaching her oldies rather than the newer ones. (Most of the newer ones are not very child-friendly anyway.) On the other hand, most oldies have simple tunes and very catchy and easy-to-remember lyrics. So far, we have done 'Dil ka bhanwar', 'Kajra muhabbat wala' and 'Mera naam Chin Chin Choo'.

This is her singing reciting 'Mera naam Chin Chin Choo'. 

By the way, I'd heard 'Mera naam Chin Chin Choo' many times before, but only now did I realise something. The song perpetuates the misconception that Singapore is/was a part of China!

Take a closer look at the first antara:

Babuji main Cheen se aayi
Cheeni jaisa dil laayi
Singapore ka joban mera
Shanghai ki angdaayi

Lately, I've started to go through the lyrics and explain the meanings of the songs to her. I hadn't done it for the earlier songs I'd taught her. Good for me, because I wouldn't know how to answer "Mama, how can one aunty's eyeliner kill another aunty?" and "Mama, what does she mean by 'heart like sugar' and 'youth of Singapore and lazy stretch of Shanghai'?"

Yesterday I was teaching her 'Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si'. I sang it very very slowly, pausing regularly for her to understand and grasp the lyrics. Whenever I'd come to a word she didn't know (which happens very very often), she'd stop me and ask.

Me - Ek ladki...
She - A girl.
Me - Good. Bheegi bhaagi si...
She - What is bheegi bhaagi si?
Me - Wet. It was a rainy night, so she got wet.
She - She didn't have an umbrella?
Me - No.
She - Hmmm.
Me - Soti raaton mein...
She - What is soti raaton?
Me - Sleepy night. It's raining, and it's night time, and everyone is sleeping.
She - Hmmm.
Me - Jaagi si...
She - Awake?
Me - Yes. The girl is awake on a sleepy night. Ok?
She (reluctantly) - Ok...
Me - Mili ek ajnabi se...
She - What is ajnabi?
Me - Stranger.

And that's when all hell broke loose.

She - The girl talked to a stranger????!!!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X is for xĭhuān

I was racking my brain, thinking of what to write with X. 'Xena' would be too predictable, and I'd already done 'Xerox' last year. X-ray? X-rated? Xenophobia? I even briefly considered 'xylem zamana' but I didn't want to be chased down the streets by readers armed with the modern equivalent of the jhaadoo or the belan. Selfie sticks, maybe.

And that's when I remembered the goldmine! The Mandarin language is bursting with words that start with X! I went through google of course, but I wanted to pick a word that I had learnt in my Mandarin classes. After careful consideration, I picked 'xĭhuān', which means 'like'. I thought I'd make a list of random things I like, and revisit this list a decade later to see if (a) I like the same things; and (b) if Xena likes the same things.

So this is my 'wŏ xĭhuān' ("I like") list.

Wŏ xĭhuān:

- sadakchhaap pani puri
(though well-wishers tell me that I'd better be careful. The tummy's resilience is no longer what it was when I left India in 1998. Besides, I haven't been to India in the last 5 years!)

- floral dresses

- strappy high-heeled shoes
(the heels have to be just right though; not too low and not too high)

- making adrak/masala chai and cold coffee
(company is compulsory)

- cheesecake

- Cadbury's fruit & nut dark chocolate
(I can finish a big bar by myself within minutes. I kid you not.)

- Sour cream & onion rippled potato wafers
(they have to be rippled; no rippled, no eat)

- the Harry Potter series

- the colour purple

- blogging

- picnics

- organising parties

- Bundaberg ginger beer

- Mexican food

- nail art

- vacations

- the rain

- winters
(mild ones; living in Singapore has rendered me incapable of handling real winters)

- watching movie trailers in the theatre

- Bollywood music
(any kind; well, almost any kind)

- singing

- cooking

- long walks

- being organised

- fitness
(not the working out part so much, but the results)

and last, but definitely not the least...

- being mommy to Xena. :)


Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for wish

Dear Pickles,

I don't know when and whether you will read this, but here I go anyway. A long long time ago, when you were all of 1, your mommy Maya, Aunty S and I participated in this old-fashioned thing called an A-Z blog marathon, and we decided that we will all write a post on the same word, expressing our take on it. We then decided to make it more meaningful by choosing the word 'wish' with each of us making a wish (or wishes) for the three little tots -- you, A and Xena. So your mommy has written this for A, Aunty S has written this for Xena, and I'm writing this for you. (We agreed to post them simultaneously at 10 am IST.)

It would, of course, be presumptuous of me to assume that what I wish for you is what you will wish for yourself. We can make all the wishes we want for our children, but we have no control over the future and we don't know how things will turn out. But parents can be just as stubborn as kids (as you will discover) and so here I have 8 wishes for you.

I wish you:

- love, respect and appreciation for the gift of life your parents gave you
Everyone talks about the sacrifices that parents make, and children are probably sick of hearing them. Some cliches, such as 'You'll know when you have your own kids' are actually true, as uncle Viv and I, and your parents, have discovered after stepping into parenthood. You will discover that in good time, but for now I hope you can see that the life you have is truly a gift from your parents, and I wish you the wisdom to love it, respect it, appreciate it, and live it fully. 

- a heart full of love and kindness
The world is a beautiful place. But at times, it can get ugly and scary, and full of hatred. The Internet especially, can sometimes become a horrible place full of unkind comments. I hope that by the time you grow up, all this blows over and you guys start afresh, with love, tolerance and kindness for one another.

- a life full of fewer gadgets and more real interactions
I hope that by the time you grow up, people around you are looking at the views and one another more than they're looking at their digital devices. I wish that given the choice, in your world, a kid picks a friend over an iPad (or its futuristic equivalent) any day.

- a cleaner and greener world 
The generations before you have royally screwed up the Earth. We are sorry for the state we have left it in for you guys. Though we are trying to make amends, it is a tad late. We hope that by the time you guys grow up, you will be more aware and will have more knowledge and resources to undo the damage done, and make the Earth clean and green again. And in case you guys have to relocate to Mars, remember our mistakes with Earth, and don't make them there.

- good health to enjoy your life
Eat healthy. Drink plenty of water. Exercise. Trust me, the payoff is much better than it looks on paper.

- a vocation that fills your heart with joy and makes you look forward to Monday mornings
Your parents are PhD-armed heavy-duty academics, and in our days (gosh I just made us sound so old), that would have meant an automatic and compulsory PhD for the offspring. But you were born in an era and a family that believes in freedom of choice, and I hope you find something that is your true calling, and yet provides you with the means to enjoy your life the way you want to. Some of us (*ahem*) take a while to get there, and I want to let you know that sometimes it is a winding path with ups and downs and confusion and uncertainty, but you just need to keep going and you will eventually get there.

- a love for travel
I hope that you will like to travel as much as your parents and we do, for nothing opens up your mind and heart the way travel does. From what we have seen, the people you meet and the cultures you experience during your travels change you as a person. In a good way.

- good friends
Last but not the least, I wish you good friends you can share your life with. It doesn't matter if they are two or twenty in number; what matters is that you can be truly yourself with them. Just the way Uncle Viv and I are, with your parents.

Love always,
Sayesha Masi



Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for vocals

"You know, when your sister was a baby, her cry was so melodious. OooOOooO." My Mom said.

"Wow. What about me? Was my cry melodious too?" I grinned.

"Errr...." was her reply.

Fine. Apparently it was more "WAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" than my sister's gentle "OooOOooO".

Fine.

So I didn't have a great start to my vocals journey. But unlike my OooOOooO-ing sister, I have loved music and singing ever since I was a kid. Mom used to sing on radio when she was young, so it was a dream for me to do that some day. Except that my music teachers at my primary school didn't quite think so. The male teacher was still okay, but the new female teacher couldn't stand me. Once, we all auditioned for a singing part for the school function. I'd barely sung 3 words when she put up her hand and dismissed me with a pained expression. Her final pick was this girl called Desdemona (parents must be fans of Shakespeare, methinks). Fine.

A few months later, we had a chance to do a musical play on radio, and the story was that of the rabbit who fooled the lion into thinking that there was another lion in the well. And guess who was chosen to sing the parts of the rabbit? MOI. Not Desdemona. MOIHAHAHAHA! I still remember the song. It was very jingle-like and it went, "Is bhayaanak sher se humko pana hai chhutkara, is bhayaanak!" Radio dream? Check. Of course, my mom sang 'Raina beeti jaaye' while I sang 'Is bhayaanak' but still.

That was the high point of my 'musical career'. The song never left my head. Even when we had some random minister or school inspector visiting the school and we had to wear saris and sing, "Aap aaye chaman mein vasant aa gaya, kokila gaa uthi swaagatam swaagatam", in my head, I'd be looking at him and singing, "Is bhayaanak sher se humko pana hai chhutkara, is bhayaanak!"

In high school, I did sing for inter-house and inter-school competitions, but my real exposure to singing came during my university days when I successfully auditioned for NTU's Indian musical band. For four years, I worked with highly trained people and learnt a lot. Of course, they were very supportive and tried their hardest to camouflage the shortcomings of this amateur singer. Some songs were too high-pitched for me, and nobody could hear me sing. Well, dogs, perhaps. And they literally used to lower the scale for me. (I know some of them are reading this, smiling and nodding their heads. Hi, guys!)

Then in 2005, I had a chance to audition for Antakshari. Here in Singapore, in front of Annu Kapoor. It was just the first round, so all he was asking people to do was just sing the mukhda of one song and go. He asked me the same and I started with 'Mera kuchh saamaan'. I was about to bow and leave after my mukhda but he asked me to sing another one. So I sang, 'Tujhse naaraaz nahin zindagi'. Surprise surprise, he asked for another one. So I sang, 'Tere bina zindagi se'. He seemed lost in thought for a while, and then said, "You like Gulzar songs, don't you?" I nodded. Then he said something like he didn't think I'd do justice to 'energy wale songs' and dismissed me. I didn't make it to the next round. Obviously. See, how I planted the axe firmly on my foot because of my dukhi aatma songs?

Fast-forward 10 years. Music is still forever playing in our home. I'm either listening to songs or singing them. All the time. So Xena has been exposed to it since a very young age. When she started talking, I couldn't wait for her to start singing. I'd sing the opening lines of a song and let her provide the ending word. Of course, sometimes she'd just say 'POOP' after my enthusiastic "It's the time to..?"   Of course now, she's a lot better and sings along with me. For some strange reason (and to my delight), she seems to like old songs. Mera naam Chin Chin Choo, Kajra Muhabbat Wala, etc.

Last year, I briefly entertained the idea of finally taking formal music lessons. But then the idea of learning Mandarin appealed to me more, and I only had space for one class in my water-tight schedule.

Besides, why stress myself with formal lessons when I'm having so much fun just singing, especially with my new singing partner Xena?