9 Years and Moving to the Beat

9 years ago today Maher and I got married. In Montreal. We were amidst close family and friends – a party we won’t forget.

Guajira – I Love U 2 Much

Dandia RaasThere was dancing – from barefoot in the rain with Yerba Buena at the jazz fest, the garba and dandiya raas non-stop night, to the gypsy band “Soleil Tzigane” who used to play Friday and Saturday’s at Cafe Sarajevo, what used to be my hangout while we long distanced. We were thrilled that the musicians accepted to do our reception.

Ederlezi – Goran Bregovic (First dance)

I can’t just grab a photo that represents the occasion from my phone’s camera roll or off FB, our wedding photos are stuffed into a steel box in Chengdu. Hard copy.

Together koh samui

4 moves, a few mistakes, a stroke, IVF, NICU time, Leila and Rahul, long distance all over again on, and we continue to sneak moments together, learn about each other, grow in our relationship, listen to each other more intently, accept each other more sincerely, continue to compromise, let go, and love more deeply.

At least that’s what we try to do anyway. And hope for more years together.

Related:

Waiting for Cafe Sarajevo to say Good bye.

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Bedtime Stories Part 1

It’s bedtime.

“Rahul, can you choose a few books for us to read tonight?”

He brings 3 of his favorites.

“Tuttle tuttle tree,” he repeats as we go through Dr. Seuss’s ABC imaginings.

A comb, a brush, and a bowl full of…
“Mush!” he beams, as we say goodnight to the room, the moon, the kittens and the mittens.

“Capillo,” he says, every time we see the hungry caterpillar munching through fruits and cakes.

He’s tossing and turning.

I sing the usual lullabies; they don’t relax him.

It’s late.

“Can I tell you a story?” My last resort. It’s been a few weeks since I told either of the children a bedtime story.

Immediately, Rahul is still. Even in the dark room, I see his wide open eyes stare at me. Waiting.

I’ve never been a story teller, or a singer for that matter. It was only after we returned to Chengdu from Hong Kong, when the babies were 5 months old, that I looked up some nursery rhymes. Maher and I didn’t have any appreciation whatsoever for children’s music.

And stories? I spent my childhood wondering how come I didn’t get an imagination gene.

That’s the thing with our little yogis though; they listen to my out-of-tune singing, and the same story, over and over. Seemingly enjoying it all.

So I repeat the story – the story of their lives.
Rahul listens attentively.

“When you and Leila were tiny, tiny, tiny; you were in my belly. Right here. Rahul on this side, and Leila over there on that side. As you grew bigger, so did my belly. It grew and grew and grew.
Then we all went to Hong Kong, and you were born there. You and Leila had to spend some time in the hospital. You became strong and big very quickly; you came home after only 3 weeks. While you were there, mama and papa used to spend all day with you, touch you, talk to you, and sing to you. This was my song:”

“You’re just too good to be true.
Can’t take my eyes off of you.
You’d be like heaven to touch.
I wanna hold you so much,
Can’t take my eyes off of you.”
(The Lauryn Hill version of course!)

“And papa used to sing this:
“Elle est a toi, cette chanson,
toi l’auvergnat, qui sans facon,
m’a donne 4 bouts de bois,
quand dans ma vie il faisait froid.…”
( “Chanson pour Auvergnat,” is by French singer Georges Brassens. This version has English subtitles)

Rahul’s still awake. I continue.

“And the other song that papa sang was this one:”
“Je n’avais jamais hote mon chapeau, devant personne.
Maintenant je rampe et je fais le beau, quand elle me sonne….”
(Also Georges Brassens. “Je me suis fait tout petit,” with English subtitles).

Rahul’s eye lids are getting heavy. I keep going with the story.

“While I went to see Leila in the hospital during the day, you stayed at home with your 2 grandma’s. They took very good care of you. Papa went back to Chengdu, but came to visit us every weekend. And then Leila came home; and you and R met each other! When you were 5 months old, we left Hong Kong. We joined papa, and we were all together.”
He was asleep by then.
———————
Leila’s turn.

I lie down next to her. It’s late. She can’t focus; can’t stay still.

I skip the books and the lullabies. Go straight to the story.

I got to the bit where I tell her that mama and papa sang songs for her while she was in the hospital.

She stops me. “Mama. Sing Summertime.”

She falls asleep a couple of minutes into the song.

What she missed of the story were the songs that Maher recorded for them, the night before he left HK. (“Chanson pour Auvergnat,” “Je me suis fait tout petit,” and “No Leila, no cry.”) I played the recordings for L and R every day that we were in HK; until we moved back to Chengdu.

“No Leila, no Cry,” a la Bob Marley.

No Leila, no cry
No Leila, no cry

Cause cause, cause
Cause I remember, when we used to sit
In the government yard in Hong Kong

Oba ob-serving the hypocrites
As they would mingle with the good people we meet
Oh, good friends we’ve had, good friends we’ve lost
Along the way, oh

In this bright future, you can’t forget your past
So dry your tears I say

No Leila, no cry
No Leila, no cry
Oh little Leila, don’t shed no tears
No Leila, no cry

Cause cause, cause
Cause I remember, when we used to sit
In the government yard in Hong Kong

And then Natasha would make the fire light
Log –wood burnin’ through the night
And we would cook oat meal porridge
Of which I’ll share with you, ooh

And Leila, she’s my only carriage
So I’ve got to push on through,
But while I’m gone

Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright
Everything’s gonna be alright

So, no Leila, no cry
No Leila, no cry
Oh little Leila, don’t shed no tears
No Leila, no cry

Hit by a Whirlwind

Last night, we had to dodge: balls, balloons, trains and tracks, horses, blocks, dolls, grapes, icing, biscuits, sippy cups, shoes, 15 or more little people, and as many big people, to get anywhere. Rahul was fixated on a little blond girl. He’s a flirt and charmer, but this time, it was to keep HER (not any of the other 15 kids who ransacked his playroom) from touching HIS tennis ball, HIS stuffed doll version of Iggle piggle, and HIS motorbike.
Leila found me whether I was in the kitchen, amidst the big people, or in the washroom.

But when the “Tangled,” cakes they requested, came out, things changed. Leila’s had a picture of Rapunzel on it; Rahul’s had Maximus the white horse, on it. L stood tall and blew out her two candles. Rahul blew his out at early, at “…dear Rahul, happy birthday..” They stuck their fingers into their respective cakes and…yummy!

They waited or should I say cried, all afternoon for their chocolate and cheese cakes. Leila sang “To you,” to me, many times. Rahul sang, “Happy Daisy Doo,” all day because Upsy Daisy Doo has a birthday too!

Once they got their cake, and the music was pumping, they were in their element. They danced to the Bollywood hits they love, the Zambian music D2 brought for us, and some reggae.

We all had a blast, if you can say that about a couple of 2 year olds birthday party.

————–

For his birthday, Rahul asked for a piano, Leila followed up by asking for a guitar. We were proud. Now we have a little electric organ in the living room. With a microphone. YES, A MICROPHONE. And did I mention that R and L both love to sing opera? And that we don’t know what the Chinese character for “volume” is. So yeah, we still have to FIND a mini guitar.

————-

All week I’d been brainstorming for a two year birthday post, and yet the 1st of November came and went. It’s in a bit of a list form, here goes: I thought to write about how Leila is a beautiful, sensitive, little girl. Extremely expressive. She imitates hip hop, Belly dance, Indian classical dance, and Chinese Opera like a pro.
When she saw a scrape on my knee the other day, her face showed immense concern, she turned both palms up questioningly and asked “…happened?”
She’s the “stuff police.” No one can touch, forget about borrow, her “papa’s shoes.” Today she chased him around announcing that the t-shirt he was wearing was Jalal’s. Maher and I had wondered which one of his brothers t-shirt it was. She knew!
She’s cheeky, and mischievous. She overheard that Rahul was looking for the baby elephant toy. She found it, took it, and ran. She’s fast.
And she’s fighting back now. She’s no longer the vulnerable poor little girl who gets bitten or hit from behind. She turns right around, snarls at her brother, either pulls his hair, or snatches her toy back.
She loves her new motorbike. It’s a shared toy that either she doesn’t let Rahul ride a whole lot, and/or Rahul is not terribly interested in, and he lets her have it most of the time. Either way, we know where her motorbike gene comes from.

Maher and I spend a lot of time teaching the children how to negotiate.

—————–

Rahul is sweet, he gives kisses. He loves his ayi (nanny) to bits. Many days he doesn’t smile until he sees her.

He keeps his dads contact lens case in his palm day and night. It might be a way of keeping a piece of Maher with him.
He calls things “jolie.”
He has to have whatever L has. Yet, he can happily play on his own for extended periods of time.
He’s a word machine, and mostly what he says makes sense. He repeats anything, even Greek! He talks when he dreams: “Dog, one, two,” he said at 4am the other night.
The longer the word the better. His favorites are “disanaur”, “tephelone”, “capilo” (caterpillar), and “hecolopta” (helicopter).

—————

L and R are jealous of each other, and they compete for attention. But if anyone gives R something to eat, drink, or play with, he always asks for one for L. Leila does the same.
Often, Leila’s first question in the morning is, “Aya?”, (interpretation: where is Rahul?). Rahul’s first question is “Naina?” (interpretation: where is Leila?).

—————

They test our patience everyday. For every time we scream or want to scream at them, they do something that makes us want to hug and kiss them 10 times over.

So we do all: the screaming, the hugging, and the kissing.

—————

I wrote “Medium and Happy” (http://natashadevalia.com/2011/05/09/medium-is-just-fine/) 6 months ago. We’ve come a long way since the whirlwind hit, 2 years ago.

Some Music for the Birthday Girl

My little cousin turned 23 yesterday. Here are a couple of YouTube videos (that’s I’m accessing via the proxy server),for you Saloni.

The first is a Talvin Singh electronic piece, Jaan, with beautiful vocals. I travel through enchanted worlds of love when I listen to it. I discovered it in 1998; when I was in Chennai taking dance lessons.

And the second is a TV5 show, again of Talvin Singh, but this time improvising with Angelique Kidjo. I found it today on YouTube, randomly.

Jaan because of Chennai, electronic music, and the vocals. And then, the Angelique Kidjo one because you know, strong female African performer!

Hope you enjoy it.

http://onolisa.tumblr.com Saloni’s blog: Everytime I visit, I dream big, I travel far, I’m beautiful inside and out, I’m hip, alive, and connected.

It’s no small feat, not only to be all that, but also to inspire those around you to feel it!

Thanks

The Monkey Song

The Monkey Song from the Jungle Book is one of our favorites. The music is catchy, the dancing good fun, and the animation colourful.

R pretends to play the trumpet like the monkeys.

L watches intently, and loves the other two main songs as well, the Elephant march with Colonel Hathi, and “The Bare Necessities”, with Baloo the bear. Whenever Mowgli appears she calls him, “Leila.”

The first time I watched the Jungle Book, I was around 8 years old. It was in my aunt and uncle’s living room in Bombay. I had traveled on my own to spend a month with them. They often put the video on for me. I loved it. I didn’t see it again until a year ago.

Maher wonders if there was a subliminal relationship between his childhood infatuation with the big-eyed Indian girl at the end of movie, and him marrying me.

Through the monkey song, we discovered Louis Prima – a performer with a lot of character! If you have the chance, take a look at some of his other videos on YouTube.

Anyone know any stories about him?

Vande Gurunaam…Reggae version

The “One day Gurunaam…” version of the Ashtanga opening mantra (chanted before every practice) is an old joke now. I’ve heard many teachers make it. No idea who started it though.

Madonna has her Shanti-Ashtangi dance version. Here is our Bob Marley inspired one:

Everyday Gurunaam

“One day Gu-ru-naam

To-day Gu-ru-naam

To-morrow Gu-ru-naam

E-ve-ry-day Gu-ru-naam

Oh yeah yeah

Yeah yeah yeah yeah

Oh woh woh

Woh woh woh woh

E-ve-ry-day Gu-ru-naam

Ommm”

One-and-a-half

R and L are now officially a year and a half. Their love for music and dance is growing with them. R has a very cute new dance move. He shakes his head and shoulders very fast and then swings his arms around freely. Leila does cha-cha-cha type steps around the house. She also goes down down down and then up up up.

When the moment and music inspires them, they hold hands and look into each others eyes. Their smiles are contagious. They make each other laugh. The couples dance turns into a bear hug. Then there is hair-pulling, screaming, and crying. An adult intervenes. We pull them apart and ask them to be gentle. Sometimes there is a make-up stroke through the others hair, or a peck on the cheek. Other times there is no reaction. This is sort of how our days go – the activity might be different, the fun, laughter, drama, and crying always there.

So what has changed for US?

-We haven’t read anything longer than a few pages on a computer screen in a while.

– We only watch animated movies.

-I hum nursery rhymes all day long, even after R and L are asleep.

-Maher plays children’s tunes on his classical flute. He did take it out of its case after many years though.

-We eat overcooked, car and plane shaped pasta. The big secret we are keeping from the Lebanese family and friends is dinner is at six-thirty pm now.

-My brothers and guy cousins are jealous of my big shoulders and biceps. When I was pregnant a friend with twin sisters told me his mum developed strong arms. I looked at him strangely. Now I understand.

-Maher’s practice takes even longer than it used to. The little yogis don’t miss their chance to practice with and even force feed him.

Now that L and R are eighteen months old they will sleep soundly through the night, eat heartily, drink out of cups, and play calmly with each other. No, but one Mum of Twins (MoT) blogged how things lightened up for her at one-and-a-half. So hey, some positive thinking and hoping can’t hurt!

Bob Dylan in Shanghai

A couple of Fridays ago we flew to Shanghai, hung out in a hotel room for a few hours, then took the crowded peak-hour metro to the Shanghai Grand stage. Bob Dylan was performing. The crowds in the subway on a Friday evening could overwhelm anyone. I don’t know how L and R made it without a problem and even enjoyed it. Not only that R fell asleep in his carrier. L was exhausted but in typical L fashion she rebelled sleep. The bright lights, masses of people, and noise were her co-conspirators.

We filed into the stadium/theatre all very excited. It was our first concert together. We waited in our seats as the rest of the place slowly filled up. The people around us were easy-going and cool. They made space for us with our two babies, two baby carriers, one back pack and diaper bag. We got many understanding and encouraging smiles.

While we waited, I wondered whether our families worries about taking one-and-a-half year olds to a full-on concert would actually confirm and result in a quick return. Would the loud music harm their sensitive little ear drums? Would they be overwhelmed by the sheer massive experience of thousands of people in a large space? And what about weed? I had assured everyone that if there was any difficulty for the children we would simply return to the hotel. No big deal really.

I wanted to do this. Maher suggested we go to the concert, but only if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. I knew this was a big deal for him, so trouble or not we would try. Maher’s main music idol as a child and probably always has been Bob Dylan. He often sang BD songs with his high school band. He introduced me to some of the songs and music over the last few years. M and his brother who was also somewhere in the audience with his girlfriend and mum share their admiration for the artist. They were happy there “together”.  All in all it was a special moment for us.

When the music started, Leila was one of few people in the entire stadium of many thousands to bounce in her seat. She smiled, danced and clapped her hands. In typical China concert style, everyone sat put in their seats and bobbed their heads from time to time. Rahul slept through the first twenty minutes. The loud music couldn’t have been that bad after all. When he stirred I wondered if he would be shocked by the context. He looked out towards the stage and clapped his hands! We laughed. What joy. One clapping the other dancing.

Never mind that BD is 70, his style was different yet again, and his voice even more raspy, we were happy to be there. He was criticized for accepting to give a set list of songs that he would perfprm to the Chinese authorities. He was not to sing “Blowin’ in the wind” and a few other pieces.  Apparently he doesn’t do them in concert anymore anyway. He is still on his “never-ending tour”, and we caught him in Shanghai. For Maher being there was an hommage to the artist he adores.  We took L and R to their first concert. It was BD. Only while we were at the concert did I realise that Maher’s first concert was a BD one. It was in Paris. His father took him when he was ten.

A little after Rahul woke up, L started to cry from exhaustion. I carried her to the back where a few people were dancing. She fell asleep in my arms as we danced. Maher carried Rahul over to join us. They both seemed happy listening and moving to the music. A man asked if we always took “the kids” to concerts, and said he wished that his parents had. We didn’t stay till the end; missed “Like a rolling stone”, and his usual show ending song “Forever young”. But we had our moment and won’t forget it.