#homeiswheretheheartis #foreign #lovehome

As far back as I can remember, everything outside India means foreign to me. Despite living in Singapore for nearly 16 years and loving my life here, I am still a foreigner here and this is a foreign country. Not quite for my girls.

A typical mid-afternoon scene in my house represents a living room looking like chaos with the three of us sprawling over the sofa, spreading all the way down to the floor with books littered around, struggling to finish the daemon of the day – homework! I find myself gasping for breath, trying in vain to overlook the sad state of both my living room and my deprecating mental health. I give in to gadgets while making sure I keep a hawkish eye on my brats, lest they escape their responsibilities and lie through their teeth. In my mind though, I find myself in the shoes of the boy from the children’s story, ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, being forced to tag along the herd of sheep that are busy grazing in the meadows while feeling bored under a tree, only to come up with a plan to fool the villagers to keep himself entertained. Poor him, there were no gadgets and no internet back then. He couldn’t even blog. Worst still, the devilish idea of his entertainment is somehow revealed to the wolf who gets the better of him. Oops, I’d rather keep my focus.

The older one loves to order Alexa around to play her favourite music while solving Math. Little surprise then, we always have Alexa to blame for all silly mistakes. Music and calculations are exactly like the husband and wife – always at loggerheads and ready to pick a fight.

The 7-year-old on the other hand still loves to fool around and pick on anything I utter in my mother tongue language – Hindi. The moment I go off guard and hum, ‘Saawan barse tarse dil’, a favourite song from a Hindi movie from the 90s, pat comes the rhetoric question, “Oh, so does Saawan mean the music app Saavn?” followed by her monstrous laugh. And much as I try to look sombre, I end up chuckling which makes matters worse. We waste the next 20 minutes deciphering words from Bollywood song lyrics that we have decided to call Cross-Language-Homophones. Can you get creative and think of some?

Speaking of Hindi, shall we just declare it as one subject that could teach the concept of inertia to my children way better than presenting itself as a language? The 11-year-old shows vivid signs of outwitting me faster than I would have liked. She displays her prowess of evading the subject by shielding herself with excuses of hunger, sleep deprivation and poop-time, making me wonder whether we live in Singapore or Somalia. I could dedicate a book listing only her excuses. But I decide to stay determined and away from my hyper-imagination. I threaten to let her go hungry for the night and use sermons and even give her my scariest look. Unfortunately, she knows her mother is a softy.

She gets into a whining fit. She complains there are boring situations provided for essay writing. She complains the stories in Hindi books are anything but riveting. She complains the Hindi they are taught is too bookish to be fun. And although I agree with each and every qualm she makes, I am not allowed to support her claims. I am the responsible mother after all (that’s a boring role to play every single day). That would act as the official ticket to shun the subject off completely. My mind nudges me of slipping grades and I end up putting up my best act forth, trying in vain to motivate her to support my dying mother tongue language in this age of global civilisation. It is the age of ‘Speak Good English’, no matter where in the world you go.

She opens her book with a bored face and much reluctance to start off on yet another predictable, accident-based essay when she suddenly breaks into a smile to find a rather interesting situational prompt:

‘Describe your foreign trip during summer/winter holidays where you spent time with a relative.’

Now the show-off within me is doing my victory dance for the sheer desire to display how the girl must watch her smart mother and learn in order to craft a commendable composition in Hindi. As we brainstorm, my mind flies back to one of our most memorable holidays in Dubai with my brother and his family many years ago. But my 11-year-old has different ideas (I should have known). She is neither interested in my ideas nor in getting any better at my mother tongue language. She just wants to get homework out of her way. Nonetheless, she starts talking. I am left startled. She has our December 2018 trip to India on mind for this essay. I tell her she is missing the point. The question mentions a foreign country. And she reiterates, “Yes Mom, didn’t we go to India and live with my cousins?”

I drop my jaw like a goldfish. India, and foreign, I wonder. We go through the rest of the day without any adventures. She crafts her essay beautifully and the evening ends on a happy note – that kids will finally go to bed while I can let my hair down sipping on Baileys. Why Baileys? Well, a cup of coffee promises me a splitting headache that the better half is busy playing cricket on a weekday evening while it cost me an arm and a leg to get Hindi homework done, only to discover the country where I hail from is foreign to my offspring! Never in my wildest dreams did I think the stress of mother tongue language and a cricket playing husband put together would bring out the drunkard in me. Fortunately, I am sane enough not to offer the same stress relieving formula to my kids.

P.S. Home is where the heart is. Home is also where you spend your most impressionable years; where you go to school and make friends and dream; home is a comforting environment where children thrive and begin to understand what life is. And home certainly doesn’t depend upon the colour of your passport. Everything else is foreign.

Kids are so adept at giving you the most profound insights about life via these tiny snippets called perceptions. This one has certainly been one hell of an eye opener.