Bamboozled in Barcelona

I was robbed in Barcelona at the fag end of my stay there. It’s not that I hadn’t been warned. But the warnings had been expressly about being careful in crowded areas and essentially to be alert. But the universe sometimes has different plans for us despite everything.

Any woman will tell you that they are usually far warier than men when stepping out from home because women are more frequently on the radar of almost all sorts of miscreants. Keeping all the warnings in mind, I set out to explore Barcelona, alone for a bit and with my sister for the most part.

I can tell you what kind of a death grip I had on my phone. It was not only my lifeline back to home, it was my guide in a city where eloquent shrugs and rapid fire Spanish was the norm. My extent of Spanish was and still is restricted to salutations, please and thank you. Not much help when “grandpa” comes and robs you on the metro as I was soon to find out.

Even walking around a brand new city can be a bit daunting but I was so elated to take in the cool breeze, the lovely buildings and just the utter newness of everything that every day that passed without any incident led me to let my guard down a little bit more. And this is where the screw ups happen.

We are all more victims to our minds than the world around us. A “bad guy” typically needs to have a vicious air around him, it’s usually a man who is the perpetrator or essentially looks like trouble from the word go. People who look like they’d be more at home playing chess in Central Park and smiling kindly at kids aren’t the people you think about when mugging comes up.

Neither do you think that two innocuous looking women who insist very jovially that they are trying to get people to come to their flamenco show at the city’s square and are handing you roses because it’s a marketing gimmick, are either marking you out to their cohorts as an easy mark or will use the flowers as an excuse to come close to you and rob you blind.

If you really let your mind go there, paranoia will rule supreme. And it did for us, for a bit before our innate stubbornness reasserted itself and we said screw it! They’ve taken quite a bit from us; the peace of mind is ours to give away, or not.

Here is the thing- if you are traveling alone then be doubly cautious since the eager-beaver attitude you give off can make you stand out in a crowd. If you are traveling with a partner then you are slightly safer but the crooks work to divide and conquer. The safest bet seems to be to travel in a group because the more the people to manage, the lesser the variables in the control of the criminals.

So it boils down to common sense. Don’t do what I did and try and keep to this ready reckoner and trust your gut. It could mean the difference between being traumatized and hurt vs a safe and memorable trip for all the right reasons.

  • Don’t stop to click picturesque balconies and building facades so often that you might as well be wearing a neon sign that says “Fresh Off The Boat”. If you’re a clickomaniac like me, just control your impulses. Your internal camera (mind) sees way more things than that which you’ll end up posting on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Take a taxi when traveling with luggage that requires not only your focus but both your hands. Going through turnstiles at a Metro station and lugging your bags till the escalator or elevator is an inconvenience even if you’re built like He-Man.
  • Avoid interacting with strangers. You know where your important documents and articles are; no need to keep checking and rechecking just because a person with a kind smile tells you that you’ve been dropping euros like Hansel and Gretel did breadcrumbs. The kindness of strangers can be experienced in a setting more within your control. A bit of bird poop on your shoulder or bag isn’t going to derail your life especially if it prevents you from stopping in your tracks and lets another set the stage for a malicious act.
  • Avoid crowds as much as you can and do not be afraid to get in the face of people who seem to be pushing you or hemming you in. Seriously, think about it…who in their right mind wants to get into a cathedral at the speed of light. The structures have been there for centuries…5 more minutes aren’t going to make any difference.
  • Don’t make eye contact with strangers who come up to you. Just register who is around and the place where you are in, is it crowded, lonely and how close you are to a landmark and just keep walking. In a country known for their tourism, you aren’t the sole individual another can turn to for help.
  • Don’t overstuff your handbag or wallet. Keep it simple and neat and with everything within a fingers reach. If you have to stop to sort through your change and the notes, you are giving someone time to sneak up on you and part you from your money or any other important object from your bag.
  • Avoid areas which are lonely. There are optimum times to go sight seeing. Stick to those since those are also the times when the local authorities will be available to help you. Note: many smaller police stations are closed in Spain on weekends. It may make you go WTF but knowing that beforehand may mean the difference between wasting time waiting for a closed door to open and getting the right kind of help and in a timely manner.
  • Keep your country’s embassy’s address stored in your phone. You will need to go to them no matter how far away you are in order to get back home especially if your passport’s been whisked away.
  • Schengen visas are NOT going to be reissued by the country that issued them originally because those are the rules. You will need to either fly back to your home country or request the intervention of another country near by for asylum while you get a fresh visa issued. Keep in mind though, no country barring your own is obligated to let you enter. Don’t bother crying- if it’s not protocol, they don’t give a damn.
  • Do not attempt to evade immigration at airports by driving in or arriving by train to another country if your visa has been stolen. There is no guarantee that you may not be asked to show your papers. Failure to show your visa means deportation at best and a host of other issues at worst which may also include difficulty in getting a passport issued or even getting banned from international travel.
  • A visa is linked to the passport it is issued on. No passport, no visa. If a new passport is issued, its validity does not extend to the earlier visa. Again, don’t cry. It ain’t gonna help.

These and many many more things can help in preventing any loss or harm befalling you while traveling aboard but the people who carry them out aren’t doing this for a lark. It’s what they do. Their commitment to getting your money outweighs all moral dilemmas so try and not get stuck in the “why did this happen to me” rut.

If you aren’t physically hurt, thank your stars, take stock of the situation and immediately set about asking for help in cancelling anything that can be misused by others and then find a police station or a police officer and keep asking for help till they do what’s required or lead you to the people who can.

But don’t be too surprised if you get a blase kind of a response from the authorities. They will take their time to type out the report, they will listen to you impassively and then gesticulate widely with their hands and shrug their shoulders a whole lot but thay may not commiserate. They see it too often and are quite desensitized to the occurences. Keep a hold on your temper and just go through the essentials like filling out a police report and asking for copies in triplicate. You may be lucky enough to find a police officer who doesn’t say, “Doesn’t your embassy have a copier?” Your only job then is to get the stamped report in hand and move onto the next step- reissue of your passport.

I intend to go back to Spain. I don’t know when that will be but I will try and make it back. The place is gorgeous and I know I liked what I saw there. This experience was a wake-up call in many ways albeit one I could have done without. But we escaped without any scars and whatever hits our minds took, we will continue to recover from it. A little paranoia never hurt anyone while traveling. Go with the gut and be ruthless about your safety.

You can also check out these articles for the MOs used by the pickpockets.

Pigeon Poop Pickpocket in Marbella, Spain

https://www.worldnomads.com/travel-safety/europe/spain/barcelona-pickpocket-capital-of-the-world

Forewarned is forearmed. Truly.

Safe travels.

Why Kids Should Come With Disclaimers

It’s a longish title I admit but sometimes you have such a doozy of a week that you just need to get it out of your system and can’t be bothered by the aesthetics of formatting or “optimum” title lengths. Apparently blogging tip#1 is that one needs to keep the title ‘short and punchy‘ to attract more readers.

My kid is 10 years old. He acts half his age at times and then there are other times when I have no idea what he’s acting like except that it A-N-N-O-Y-S me.

Blogging tip#2- occasional allcaps in the midst of a post lends some gravitas and also attracts attention.

Anyhoo…for those who have arrived late onto this particular blog, I chiefly write about my kid. Why? Because he fills up my world rather like the John Denver’s Annie Song but in a less melodious way at times. Blogging tip#3- it’s easiest to write about what you know and see around you so I kinda didn’t have a choice when it came to my topic of blogs since being a M-O-M is pretty much all I do. Note: a effective use of tip#2 in the preceding line.

Another anyhoo- this past week TO and I have been butting heads quite a bit. It’s almost as if his agenda for the week was let’s see how much my mother’s head can swell before it explodes or how high she can screech before she hits a frequency only dogs and bats can hear. I think he hit his targets pretty often and that’s why there were loud popping noises coming from the direction of our house a few times this week and often dogs in the community were seen running around in a frenzied state looking for the source of the noise that left their hoomans mystified.

There is usually a good amount of push and pull when one wants to get a kid out of bed in the mornings. But being told off by a buck-toothed midget that I should come back later because I’m disturbing his dreams, isnt a way I like to start off my week.

This continued for a few days with TO shooing me off like I was a pesky bug on occasion as well. All of which my ego withstood admirably. Since my ego was coming a poor second to my eyes which were firmly fixed on the clock that was counting down the minutes till the school bus came.

Imagine this- you get a super reluctant kid out of bed only to have him lollygag on the livingroom couch as if it’s a weekend siesta. You then kick his butt into the bathroom only to see him stare off into space with gormless look on his face for another precious five minutes more.

You get him on the Express brushing schedule and drag his body to the dining table where his milk has been impatiently waiting for him. There he contemplates the glass of milk as one would the mysteries of the universe and then, after another irreplaceable 10 minutes have gone by, asks the one question you did *not* expect, “Ayu…how do you say the name for Thor’s hammer?”

You instinctively start to answer before you realize that in the next seven and a half minutes your kid has to finish his milk, poop, bathe and meet the bus-a short walk away.

That’s when your inner Hulk breaks loose and you think some rather painful thoughts about where Thor could stick his hammer and get into the shrieking banshee mode.

You think the weekend is going to be better however it’s anything but bereft of drama.

So for all the parents out there who aren’t always looking at your flesh and blood with undiluted love oozing from your pores; fret not. You aren’t the only ones who fantasize about having a catapult that would fling the brat to a galaxy far, far away.

S-I-G-H.

P.S: I haven’t even tackled the mad rush we get into when there’s just 2 minutes left on the clock and someone realizes that he hasn’t packed everything he needs for school day that. There’s not enough Xanax in the world to counter that.

Saturday Facepalms

My kid rates fairly middling to high on the maintenance scale. As a family am sure we all do. In each others’s eyes if nothing elseImage result for keep calm+family

We rate above average on the drama scale too. And not the kind that rates the good drama and invites curtain calls and huge bouquets of roses. This is the soap opera kind which has varying quantities of MELOdrama, pathos, angst and ire. And that’s all in the first few sentences uttered by TO. I am perpetually the evil witch and boy am I glad! It maybe in the genes but when I see a kid who acts up, my palms itch to connect with their backsides and bring out all the shades in the spectrum of red.

One thing that TO has been pulling on us is threatening to run away each time he gets UBER exasperated with us. The first time he pulled that nonsense I admit, I was taken aback but then knowing his love for peanut butter and the telly; I knew he’d be back. And he was.

Fastforward a couple of years and this morning suddenly the “I’m leaving” bomb gets dropped on our head. Again. Red was no help at all being the good cop.

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Thankfully I was fully caffeinated and had happy things to do for the rest of the weekend so I didn’t sweat it. I asked TO to make out a list of places he thought he could go and stay in and keep the list a bit long in case some people were unavailable to have him crash at their place long-term or use their wi-fi free of cost- whichever is the bigger transgression.

Not surprisingly, he quickly changed his tune. He started negotiating with me and started tell me that for the low, low cost of screen time, I could have the pleasure of his company at home forever. Clearly this mom found that too high a price to pay so I insisted that he keep the list ready since he was going to get the digital media taken away sooner or later and he’d again get upset and want to leave.

I even suggested putting the list up on his door, in big, bold font and colors so it would be easier for him to choose where he wanted to go and live. Weird how soon the threat fizzled out soon after that. If this were a cartoon, TO would be like a balloon, whizzing around the room, rapidly deflating.

Evil Mom-1. Whiny Kid-0

Nuff said!

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Saturday Morning Conversations

I crashed by myself last night…was listening to music, sorting out playlists…everything you need head space for and which can’t always be done effectively with someone staring at you with googly eyes and asking, “what are you doing?” for the millionth time.

I avoided weird bedtime conversations but couldn’t avoid them during the next morning when someone decided to wake up and smell the roses with unbounded enthusiasm before his mother got caffeinated.

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Imagine having slept off to music spanning the decades along with conversations with friends on and off till the middle of the night and then waking up to the most #dafuq question one can imagine first thing in the morning viz, “How old do you think De Villiers is?” And on seeing my glazed, semi-blurry vision starting to go the angry, snorting bull way, TO preemptively turns his face skywards and says, “Why me?!!” Nothing quite like having your angsty moment stolen and impersonated by the person who brought it on in the first place.

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So on we went with the good morning kisses and inane questions till my brain cried out for coffee once more. Red being the coffee guy at home was hollered at and he promptly went and made some for HIMSELF and not me. There’s only a few things a woman can say to her husband at such times and I tell back on Barb#1 aka ‘ I gave you a kid, can’t you even get me a cup of coffee?’

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We are fond of our drama in this household. Be it me trying to bury myself under the covers so I don’t have to hear my kid drone on about some ODI post which Tendulkar decided to retire from cricket

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or trying to bargain for more screen time or me giving the evil eye to the placidly coffee-sipping spouse who’s going to need me to find his stuff for him soon; this is just how we roll.

Slainte!

Retroblogging#67

For anyone who’s wondering about the sudden jumps in the numbers on the blog posts, let’s just put it down to outright artist license and move onto the good stuff. Here’s another post which brought a smile to my face because life has interesting ways of teaching us lessons..

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Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.”

Or something to that extent I imagine must have passed by an old chappie’s lips when four loud, boisterous kids from his neighborhood would filch his precious stack of clothes pins and make them disappear day after day..

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The more he complained to his neighbors (the parents of the brats) the more clips kept disappearing. They’d go off the clothes line and end up in the oddest places, like the water tank. Which after a point of time seemed to verily have more clips lying at the bottom than coins in the Trevi Fountain!

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Anyhow, he’d rant and rave and often cuss at them, not that they gave a hoot! It was fun to see the crusty old man finally move his potato sack of a body off the swing and lumber after them. Else it was the swing where he sat, day after day and made it squeak and squeak as if it was his life’s purpose.

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The brats didn’t know that the irritable man who always told on them was actually retired and wanted nothing more to sit on his swing and sip from his stainless steel glass of booze that would remain undetected in that wettest of dry lands. So the sight of children causing a ruckus put a cramp in his guzzling plans indeed! And if he stayed compliant and ignored them, he would have to face the task of answering his not so little woman who would wonder about the regular disappearance of her clothes pins.

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Cut to present day- one of the brats is grown up now. Somewhat. When she finished her laundry today and went to hang up the innumerable little things that her child goes through daily, she found that she was YET AGAIN short of clipsies..!
How she gnashed her teeth and wished that for once her beloved dumpling would throw something else off the balcony or find other things to confiscate instead of the oh-so important clips…

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And while seething and doubling up the clothes (since there weren’t enough clips to go around) she thought of a curmudgeon whose clips she and her fine companions would to love to chuck into the water tank or use as marks to get badams off the tree.

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And then it came home to her…what goes around definitely comes around. And there was plenty more coming her way…!

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Retroblogging#23

Another one that caught my eye from the days of yore…

Right from the time my son was born, I was struck by how delicate he was. I knew babies are vulnerable and helpless but this one seemed to embody those qualities and more. He was a thin baby, weighing just on this side of an acceptable birth weight but he never lacked spunk.

That ‘scrawny’ baby’s learnt to run now and also balance himself on his toes to reach heights hitherto out of his reach.

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One thing that’s absolute about children is that you NEVER know what they’ll do next. If you think there’s a line they haven’t crossed yet, they always manage to cross it and then some! So if you threaten your kid with that ‘last straw that breaks the camel’s back’, you’d better be prepared to have a whole herd of camels waiting out there because your offspring will find plenty more straws and with it plenty of camels’ backs too.

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I used to think of little children (infant to toddler stage) as being fragile but it’s us as parents who’re the fragile ones. The kids are resilient and how! They fall, they bleed, they sprout bumps here, there and everywhere and they still keep going even after the tears have left tracks on their face.

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And speaking of tracks, while you may not need therapy to get over the minor cuts and nicks on your child; it definitely takes some doing to see your child hurt and you not being able to prevent it. And some things do stay with you. Whether it makes you a better parent or a hovering one is anyone’s guess.

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And by the time you’re over the initial trauma and your monkey is again gallivanting off for newer places to fall down from; you tell them what’s sure to become your motto in life- “Don’t cry! You wanna cry? I’ll give you something to cry about if you dare do something like this (fill in blank with your pet peeves about your kid) ever again!!!”

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And you go on. Both of you…sometimes with one chipped tooth, a brief black and blue mark and you with a near-paranoid obsession for stuff your child could hurt yourself on again. But you do go on.

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And before you know it, they’re onto newer things, more things they could make hurtful for themselves and with you still trying to be their life-long safety net and catch them before they fall. But that’s not to be…what is to be their ever-growing curiosity, activity and ability to bounce back each time.

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Amen to that! The rest will keep I suppose 🙂

P.S: At the time of this blog being posted MLM’s graduated to TO and has had 3 surgical interventions (nothing critical) which includes one broken hand being reset. And we’re still chugging along! Phew…

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

My kid thinks I’m blind AND dumb. If he didn’t, why on earth would he cut off a clump of hair that he couldn’t untangle instead of bringing it to his mother who’s so damn handy with a comb and also when we have a detangler spray handy as well? My face is going to have permanent indentations from all my facepalming.

Anyhoo, two days ago TO walks up to me very nonchalantly and asks for screentime access when I notice a lopsided part of his hair. On asking him what happened to his hair he goes coy and says “nothing” and then once I poke him on the bald spot he can no longer deny, he tells me how it was hurting him to comb his hair and he just cut it to make easier on himself. 🙄

After making it clear to him that a combover wasn’t something he should have to consider in this tender age, he agreed to get his hair cut so it would seem nice and even and less like male pattern baldness was setting in for a 10-year old.

At the parlor however, his desire to look funky had to be recalibrated because he didn’t have enough of floopy hair left on top to have a mohawk or even a mushroom cloud-like shape. What was inevitable was a bootcamp look. Ye Gods.

Am sure we’ll be visiting the stylist again, soon, for yet another hair dilemma. As I was telling someone yesterday, he went from pretty to butch in a single snip!

Retroblogging

I occasionally got back and read stuff I’d blogged about earlier. Sometimes I can see an evolution in the style of writing and at other times it seems either pedantic or boring. But this one is relevant even today, hence the repost. It was written 8.5 years ago on a day when I seemed to have been rather prolific or just didn’t want to actively parent and just hide away in my beanbag and keep blogging.

I was worried that I’ll be fanning my ignorance quite a bit by forgoing the newspapers altogether but a quick glance at them has assured me am not really missing much.

It’s not quite so much as news as an announcement of the end being near. Take a look all around- honor killings up, scams are in they heyday, political parties are the jokers with the Indian Government providing the 3 ring circus. What does get the space in the papers are announcements of the Fresh Faces in the city colleges where self-proclaimed celebs go and shake a leg and lecture impressionable young’uns on personality and grooming. While their grooming and personality (or lack thereof) is highly suspect or airbrushed for the print media 🙂

I sometimes read my papers a day late since my son loves to paper our house and Red always takes off with the Sport pages first thing in the morning. While gathering the papers from last night’s yay-ness I came across a news feature of a German porn star who died after her 6th boob job went bust! Literally and please don’t excuse the pun. Hmm…that did grab my attention because the girl in question really was just a girl and 23 years old.

Hell at 23 if a person can generate that kind of income, why not live it up? What good would 800 gms boobs (each 800 gms mind you) do to a person except make them more susceptible to gravity a WHOLE lot more? And now she’s dead. Fatal beauty anyone?

This isn’t a homily on the evils of x,y,z. It’s been so long since I read the papers and found something genuinely informative. And felt up to date on the happenings around me.

It’s either the verbal skirmishes between the politicos in A.P that make the front page or the Naxals or the scams…and honestly all they make me think of is that people are inept. They do just enough to show that they have Johnsons and then they back off.
I get it, the machinery moves slowly. But for everything? The people who have the most influence and the potential to actually act seem to be mainly posturing and and everything is just for show.

Want to get something done, throw down and the gauntlet and see where that takes you and stand your ground! Things aren’t that stable anyhow whether it’s in the state or the central government. Or for that matter for most things.

The last few ‘newsworthy’ things I remember reading about my city and state either involve political fluctuations, political gripes, suicides, dogs mauling infants, slums, citizens grievances against the local governing bodies. And the list bloody keeps going on and on.

And it’s the same thing the next day. It’s a template of sorts if you will.

Small wonder then that I play escapist and read the comics, smirk at page 3 and get right back to my books.

Cynical but it works.

 

Waiter..There’s A Fly In My Soup

Well…there may have been a fly and there may have been a waiter and there definitely may be some soup somewhere in this universe. But this morning it was just me and TO, sitting at the dinning table while it was still a bit dark out.

He was all agog about going to his cricket class after having a break of 4 days. I made him a quick breakfast of toast and jam and was just lurching towards the coffee mugs when suddenly this happened: “Ayu…come here please!” Ayu duly went and was faced with the crisis that would lead to humanity being at utmost peril…a portion of a bread that wasn’t covered with enough jam!

TO-” my bread is empty here. Me- it’s not empty..it just has less jam. TO- but it’s almost empty…that spot has jam but this corner doesn’t have any jam at all!”

Me (going back to the kitchen and gripping the butter knife the way Carrie’s mother held the cleaver)- “Shall I put more jam for you then? Why don’t you eat the rest of the other bread while I put more jam on this bit?” TO-” I want to eat it all together Ayu. I’ll wait till you put more jam. That’s it..a little more to the right, no..that’s going out of the bread! Yup..a little more to the left…perfect! The whole bread is covered now. I can FINALLY eat in peace!”

Me, bleary-eyed, sleepy and caffeine-deprived, ” Am so glad I could take care of your jam emergency baby. Nothing makes a mother happier than stuffing more sugar into her kid and being micromanaged into the art of spreading jam on a piece of bread.” And pat comes the reply- You’re welcome. Kissy kissy”

AAAAAAAAAARGHHHHHHHH!

Freaky Friday Conversation

My son and I have no-holds barred conversations. These conversations often leave me with a gormless look on my face and at other times it’s a toss-up between laughter, crying and looking for a place to bang my head against.

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Ever since TO and a bunch of little friends sneaked a peek at some horror movies on Amazon Prime and then went and got spooked about anything that went bump in the night, I’ve reinforced the embargo on scary movies till he’s 30. My hope is that he outgrows the wish to watch them way before that deadline passes but keeping it banned till the big 3-0 makes it sufficiently important in his head. If anything’s banned for that long then the repercussions surrounding it are going to be rather elaborate and possibly ouchie-inducing too.

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I’m not too worried about him sneaking a peek again. In fact let him see Pennywise biting off a kid’s hand or pulling him into a sewer. Or Bathsheba possessing Carolyn Perron or worst of all, let him take a gander at the head turning scene in The Exorcist. Some lessons are learnt the hard way. Let’s see which way the little man’s headed..’cuse the pun!

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But getting back to the freaky conversations we’re prone to having…TO keeps asking me how the doll in Annabelle comes alive. And explaining demonic possession to an almost 10-year old isn’t something I thought I’d have to tackle. I mean the facts of life..yeah sure. But how a doll is a host of a demon or that people use the occult to channel evil spirits and what is exorcism; all this wasn’t in any of the parenting manuals my husband shoved my face into unfortunately.

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So after trying to explain the occult to him and failing, I tried to keep up with the rapid fire questions while evading the virtual helicopter shots coming off his cricket bat. I told him I didn’t know how Annabelle got out of the well or why they didn’t show Annabelle as walking and running or killing people or if he’d suddenly find Annabelle if he opened his closet door while he was home alone one day. But I told him not to worry about Annabelle at all…because I…his all-knowing mother was always watching and would ALWAYS know what he was up to. Always. Mwaaaahaaaa