Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for unconventional

A few weeks ago, I was at a neighbour's baby shower. All the women there started talking about their own baby showers and one of them asked me how mine was. "Well, I don't quite know. I gave birth before my baby shower." I said. She burst out laughing. Tsk. No one takes me seriously yaar. She then repeated my answer to the others and they all burst out laughing. So I did too. Oh well.

Yes, I did feel the pinch of not having had a baby shower, but in the mayhem that followed, it didn't matter. I had a baby. The baby shower didn't matter anymore.

But when a dear friend got pregnant, I was thrilled. I had grand plans for her baby shower. Just like mine, it was meant to coincide with her traditional godbharai ceremony. And just like mine, her baby also turned out to be a premmie. Researchers should really look into premature births as a contagious condition.

At my birthday lunch two weeks ago, we were both lamenting the fact that neither of us had had a baby shower. And in the bus, on the way back, a tiny thought crept into my head. What if she had a 'post-baby baby shower'? Now that would be a real surprise. Totally unexpected, unlike birthdays, where the approaching date makes you more alert and hence less susceptible to being surprised.

Last weekend, she'd invited us all to her place for lunch and to meet her parents. That was my chance. However, I didn't keep my hopes too high because I have lost track of the number of times we planned a trip to her place and then cancelled it because of Xena's health. We live on opposite ends of the island, so going over to each other's place is not exactly a breeze. So I didn't do much till the day before. I checked Xena's blood oxygen level and it was fine. I concluded that she was ready for the trip, and furiously got to work. Props were made with whatever I could find amongst Xena's toys - crayons, balloons, fingerpaint, stickers, etc. I made a sash with the words 'SASSY MAMA' written across it with fingerpaint, and a banner that declared through crayons that it was a post-baby baby shower, and decorated them with Xena's stickers. Her doll's abandoned tiara was pinched and decorated it with... you guessed it -- stickers!

Then it suddenly struck me -- we needed a cake! She is on a dairy-free diet at the moment, so I couldn't get a regular cake. Even muffins and other such treats all have some form of dairy. One of the options I could think of was a banana (I imagined a candle on it, the way they stick agarbattis on bananas in some temples), which was rather pathetic, and the other option was a watermelon cake that another friend had suggested. The problem with that was that we were going to yet another friend's place in the morning for a shuddhikaran puja and havan, and I didn't think the watermelon cake would survive a havan and a 90-minute commute. It would be squishy and gross. No cake then, I decided.

And then I remembered something. That I'm an Indian. We are the jugaad experts of the world. And like lightning it came to me -- sooji ka halwa! Perfect to stick a candle into, and had no milk in it, unlike regular Indian sweets. So I rushed to the supermarket and bought semolina and ghee (to the readers who are raising their eyebrows, shaant gadadhaari bheem, shaant; keep calm and read on) and started making it the night before. As I added a dollop of ghee to the wok and it started melting, it hit me. Realisation, not the ghee. That ghee was a dairy product. Sheesh. Double sheesh. So I started afresh, this time without any ghee. It was basically semolina, water, sugar and cardamom. I knew it had the potential to taste like crap, but I was of the hope that she would be so touched, she wouldn't notice the taste. To further distract her from the taste, I decorated the halwa using cashewnuts and raisins.

The next morning, I packed the halwa, a candle, a lighter, the sash, the tiara, the banner, a couple of heart-shaped blue balloons, a pump, blue-tac, play-dough, and a bunch of other things. We attended the pre-havan puja at my friend's house and then set off. (We couldn't stay for the actual havan because Xena can't be in smoky places because of her sensitive lungs.)

We reached sassy mama's house and had a nice sumptuous lunch. She then retired to her room to attend to her baby's needs and all of us jumped into action. Viv and Pizzadude had been briefed beforehand, but we had to quickly brief her husband. The balloons were blown, tied and stuck, along with the banner. We got the 'cake' out and kept it on the table. Then we waited for her to come out and discover it all. To our agony, she came out and went straight into the kitchen, without spotting anything. So we sent our secret agent Xena with the sash to lure her out. Xena gave her the sash and we heard a delighted squeal from sassy mama, who thought Xena had made it for her. Soon, we ambushed her with the tiara and pointed out the banner and then she got it. We got her to blow out the candle (in collaboration with Xena, the official candle-blower at all our birthdays) and cut the cake. Then we ate it. She said she really liked it. Awww. That's what friends are for. Lying.

The no-dairy cake

She thought that was it. But of course, it wasn't. I had prepared some games, which we played after putting Xena down for her afternoon nap. The first was a Koffee with Karan style quiz, where questions were posed to the new parents about their baby. Some samples: What colour were his first non-hospital clothes? What does his name mean? Where was his first outside-of-diaper peeing experience? (In case you're curious, the answer to the last one is 'on the nurse'!). Everyone thought it would be a one-sided contest in favour of the mommy, when the daddy surprised us all by correctly answering the very first question -- the full name of their gynaecologist, while the mommy only knew the first name. She bounced back quickly and overall, he lost badly to her. And then she immediately demanded her koffee hamper. Gulp. Later later, I told her.

The next game was for everyone to write down two qualities that make her a great mommy. I'd handed out coloured pieces of paper shaped like speech bubbles for everyone to write their notes on. After they were done, I put a ribbon through the holes punched into the pieces of paper, tied it all together and gave it to her as a keepsake.

And then came the third and final game. I gave both of them a few containers of Xena's play-dough and told them that they had use it to make a baby each. He immediately protested because he thought he'd be hopeless at it, but we convinced him to give it a try. He asked if there was a time limit and I told him there wasn't. While she made hers fairly quickly, lamenting that it looked like an alien, he took ages and ages. And what he finally made blew us away. The level of detailing he'd incorporated into his work of art had our jaws on the floor. No contest there. He was the clear winner. Hence, I sneakily told them that since it was a tie overall, they could each buy a koffee hamper for the other. Or not. Hee hee.

Behold.... his play-dough baby vs. her play-dough baby!


Porkodi (பொற்கொடி) said...

awwww yaaaay! I just asked the other day what happened to your fun surprises! :D This is awesome!!!!! halwa looks great for the fact it was made without ghee.. I already exclaimed here when I read "sooji ka halwa" - oh no sayesha it still has ghee!!! hehehe.

(I wouldn't call it that unconventional though, it is called the "meet the baby" party around here in US, but of course I think it's the parents that throw that party anyway.)

Porkodi (பொற்கொடி) said...

oh oh late for yesterdays class.. :D I've always wanted to ask - what do you do about the TV ban when you go to other friends places, parties etc.? Explain pliss madamji!

Sayesha said...

Thanks. :)
PS: See, so you're one of the gadadhaari bheems! :D
PPS: When we go to friends's places, they know better than to switch on their TVs. :P She was at a birthday party recently though, where there was a big TV with cartoons playing and a big bouncy castle. She was the only kid jumping inside the castle while the others glued themselves to the TV. I think she doesn't see the appeal of TV yet, which is great. Even if she wanders over and starts watching out of curiosity, it's very easy to lead her away.

CookieCrumbsInc. said...

Aww, it was so sweet of you to do this for her. Nothing like a surprise out-of-the-occasion party to cheer you up :)

And very innovative games, I say. Looking forward to flicking a couple of them for our house parties! :D

kanz said...

SO thoughtful....

Thisisme said...

wow! tyhat was indeed very sweet of u yaar!

Its friends like y who make life so much more worthwhile! :)

and now that ur on U..i m wondering what whill happen once April is over :( i really wish u continue to post like this..its fun to read ur posts so much!

Arun said...

"And in the bus, on the way back, a tiny thought crept into my head." -

no doubt a smart phone would have insulated you from this great idea! :)

Sum said...

Ahhhh so nice of you... I wish I were your friend and we lived close by. :/ Seriously!