October 21, 2008

london beware: toddler on the pgrowl…

autumn. it must be the autumn…children like to sleep longer during this time you know.

i didn’t know.

i see, i said. maybe that’s right, suddenly realising that my friend had given me a possible explanation for athri’s odd behaviour since the past seven days.

sleeptime is struggletime, every afternoon and night. and when he does eventually tire out by 4:30 pm, he won’t want to wake up all evening until 8 at least. and then we are all awake until the eleventh hour. walking like zombies. just. wanting. to. go. to. bed. at six in the morning, he’s up again, like a bright chirpy alarm clock: radu, radu, radu…daddaaaaaaaaa…

and bathtime is a struggle too. he used to love his baths. what happened now? actually come to think of it, if he continues his moan-a-raagams so loud each day, he might just turn into a great singer. will i still be sane, clapping my hands and emotional, and wiping a tear with my sleeve while the camera zooms on me in the audience? i try to imagine, and then he starts wailing again.

last night we had a pre-sleep tantrum again. bawls and cries, but not even half-a-teardrop from his eye. and his mouth open so wide i could practically see the inside of this throat from where i was standing. normally i would have packed him off in this state to my friends (and his self-appointed deputy-parents) rashmi and zubin who live close by. when he’s with them, he’s a different person altogether. but even they have left for warm, sunny india, where they will celebrate diwali, the indian way.

so, without rashmi and zubin to call, and when every other trick had failed, i did the next thing that came out purely by instinct. i sat down facing athri, and bawled. he bawled even louder, i continued to imitate him, matching my tone to his. opening my mouth, nice and wide. he stopped for a second, confused. and then bawled again. it was my turn next. again, i wailed.

meanwhile our neighbours were just finishing their dinner. perhaps they were discussing the sorry state of affairs in the country where mothers were killing their children – sometimes suspected of setting fire to the whole house, sometimes drowning a disabled child in the bathtub – when they heard our bawling-duet. they put their forks and knives down, and went to the phone.

at home, athri was laughing now. we were still shouting out loud in turns, but this was not a tantrum. this was fun! at last when i thought the storm had passed, i went back to the kitchen to resume my chores. i got his milk-bottle ready, and that’s when i realised we were out of nappies for athri. very reluctantly, praveen braved the i-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-the-house-now look and put on his jacket and left.

three minutes later, when i was negotiating about the amount of water in athri’s little green cup, there was a knock on the door. i thought praveen had forgotten something, and was back. but he has his keys, i recalled with a frown. athri wanted more water in his cup, i insisted it was just right. the knocking got louder. i walked around athri and out of the kitchen, leaving him still complaining about the less-amount of water (definitely not enough to soak the lounge carpet, which is what he really wanted to do).

i opened the door. it wasn’t praveen. two big policemen stood outside, looking all prepared to send a message on a fat walkie-talkie. my heart beat fast. my mind raced with thoughts: buthow…praveenjustleft…omygodhassomethinghappenedtohim…hemusthavejustgottothecorner…howdidthepolicegethere…sofast!?

it was the taller policeman who read my mind.

nonono, not to worry. everything’s fine. we have just come to make an enquiry.

ohh, escaped from my lips.

we received a call from one of your neighbours who was very concerned. they said they heard a child and a woman wailing out loud. we just came to check…are you okay? do you have a child at home?

i finally smiled. oh i’m absolutely fine. that must have been my son i’m afraid, he’s tantrummy these days. i’m sorry if they were disturbed…

no no, they were worried and made the call. we were just doing our duty and had to check if everything was fine. so, you’re sure you’re fine? is it only the two of you at home?

my husband’s just gone over to tescos…you can come in and wait if you want to. he’ll be right back.

so…there’s no problem of any kind. you were not crying were you? he asked, studying my brown face and exhausted eyes.

i laughed. absolutely sir, no problem. it’s always like this at sleeptime these days.

i was embarrassed. at once the picture of sunny, happy and well-behaved neighbour’s-envy-owner’s-pride toddlers-in-prams came to my mind. how do they do it, i thought. other peoples’ children. as if on cue, athri appeared behind the child-security-gate on top of the steps, standing with his legs apart, hands still holding the little green water-cup, as if demanding to know, what do they want radu? come and give me more water to play with. a complete toddler-dada-in-the-making. my son. bully at home, billi outside.

ah, there’s our culprit, they said together. convinced. they laughed, and left.

i wondered which of our neighbours had made the complaint. the ones next door? i hadn’t met them but i hear their dog bark aloud non-stop, nine-to-six. every day they leave the poor thing alone in the house and go to work. or was it the sri lankan menopausal mother-teenage daughter downstairs, who themselves have a shouting match every other night.

this is the second time in a month that athri has brought the police. the first time he dialled their number himself (the whole seven-digit number of the harrow police station, not the 9-9-9!), when he was at rashmi’s place. they arrived tracking the house number from the landline-phone athri was poking at, by which time he was already back home with praveen, and blissfully asleep.

shaking my head and still smiling, i went to athri and told him, now look what you have done. at this rate you will soon be on their wanted-list, and we will be behind bars for suspected child-torture, when actually it is the other way round.

athri pointed to the tv excited, asking me to switch it on, saying beibies, beibies. i said no, there is no beibies now kutti, they have all gone to bed, and you must too. and then he shakes his head. naooo, naoo he says in his british-accent which i currently find very cute…baaallaaaoorriy. he was trying to tell me something. what is that again? i asked.


i understood.

athri was telling me that i was wrong. that was not the police, it was just pc plum, the singing inspector from balamory!


  • rashmi said:

    i am missing him so much 😡
    i told you he’s going to put us in jail:D
    will call you
    take care

  • mumbaigirl said:

    Heh heh, what a funny story. Thank god they believed you…sometimes they don’t

  • Girish said:

    You have missed a golden opportunity, to get rid of Praveen for once and for all. 😉

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