Did I tell you that I am addicted to The Sopranos? Earlier in the year when Partner returned from his Christmas-trip-back-home, he got Season 6 and recently when we went to KL-Melbourne, we got Seasons 1-5 and boy, do I LOVE that series. More than the gun-toting, boob-bearing, swearing and the pizzazz with which the series proceed, I love the way the story is developing and how the writers get the better of me in most episodes.
I wrote sometime back how if I am reading a good book... Bollywood movies (by the way, the Hindi film industry is NOT known by that name officially but has unfortunately been called so ever since some movie mags called it that, sad; if at all there is an official name, it’s Mayanagri, the city of dreams) Our movies do have a certain predictability to them – and am being rather polite here – where usually you know what’s going to happen. I can also blame my outguessing-the-author syndrome to the trashy television serials we have, prime examples of how to blow money creating nothing original. We shall do TV bashing another time.
In one Sopranos episode, main protagonist Toni Sorpano’s 19-year-old daughter Meadow has a party at her recently-deceased grandmother’s house. Like MOST teenagers-having-party-without-parental-knowledge sequences, the party gets out of hand with drugs doing the round and people generally spewing and pissing all over the house. The parents want to punish Meadow and a heated argument follows. This is also a time when Mrs Soprano, Carmella and Meadow are going through a very bad phase as mother-daughter don’t see eye-to-eye and argue a lot. Meadow blames her mother for interfering with her life and being over-bearing.
Given the child protection laws in the US – unlike India where parents can freely thwack their kids, you can’t do that in the US – the parents are worried about taking the right disciplinary action against Meadow. If they are too strict the girl could perhaps complain of child abuse and if they are too lenient, the girl gets too cocky knowing that her parents are helpless in punishing her. After finally deciding to cut her pocket money – and disgusted that the girl is not taking responsibility for her actions – Toni Soprano hires a cleaner to tidy-up the mess that his daughter’s party created. Upon reaching the house Toni notices someone inside the house and when he peeps in, he is shocked to find his 19-year-old, rebellious, argumentative, irresponsible daughter, sitting on the floor, scrubbing the vomit and piss. The episode ends with Toni Soprano looking thoroughly confused.
There have been some interesting responses to Mishraji checking his 22-year-old son Tinku’s wallet and subsequently finding a condom in it. Most of you have written that children should be trusted enough to understand the right from the wrong. Perhaps sometimes trust coupled with ‘proper parenting’ is enough to keep children/ adolescents from doing stupid things (like drugs or perhaps random sex, different from responsible sex, but more on that some other time). Perhaps good parenting alone is not enough. At the end of the day, a child or teenager is also a PERSON who thinks and for better or worse, will usually take his/her own decisions. You can give a child as much freedom and s/he might not ‘misuse’ it or it could backfire and s/he might take you for a ride. Conversely, you can perhaps be as strict as you want and yet your child will do exactly as s/he pleases. However, what we do need to remember, understand and hope for is that maybe, just maybe what parents teach a child will be enough to take them through life and show them the right way… NOT the way that is deemed right, but the way the child feels is right for him/her, by him/her.
Thank you to all those who’re aware of the earlier parts of the Mishra series, I request a little more of your patience as we are almost to the end of the already-published parts of the story and new ones are ready. This happened during Christmas 2007…
Mishraji’s Musings Chapter 4
Meri Christmas ya teri…
The atmosphere in the Kohli household - Canada-returned and celebrating Christmas - was quite jubilant and spirited. Since Mrs Kohli refused to buy a plastic Christmas tree "to save mother earth", the Kohli's had decorated their rather healthy Money Plant (Devil's ivy, pothos) as a 'Christmas tree'.
On the ground floor, at the Mishra's, things had been very silent since the day the condom had been discovered. Overnight Pinkiji had become a 'good girl'. Though she always wore her tortured-with-love look, she was now very clean and had given up her jeans to wear only Indian outfits. Somehow her father's silence seemed to have affected Pinkiji more strongly than his admonishing.
No such empathy was evident on Tinkuji's part: His wallet had been confiscated and he had taken to singing Michael Jackson's "They don't really care about us" under his breath. Mishraji sulked on his verandah over numerous cups of tea. Mrs Mishraji lovingly provided those cups, stealing worried glances at her husband.
Everything was silent. The silence had reached palpable decibels when shouts of "Merry Christmas!" came from the Kohli household. Mishraji was sitting out on the cold verandah that was unlit except for the twinkling glow from the Kohli's fairy lights. He had his monkey cap on, muffler around his neck, his pyjamas stuffed into his socks and his shawl tightly wrapped around him and was sipping a steaming cup of brandy, one of the rear occasions he picked up alcohol.
Even as holiday cheers echoed around, the Mishra doorbell cried out shrilly. Mishraji was startled and shouted "Who are you?" with such volume that even the Kohli household grew silent to listen-in. Everyone was quiet.
"Who are you?" bellowed Mishraji.
"I am Sam," came the response. Everyone's collective gasp was loud enough to be heard in the next colony.
There was a "Pinki you stay here," in Mrs Mishraji's hushed tones. Mishraji opened the gate. Outlined against the darkness was a slim man in jeans and a white shirt. Each time the twinkling lights danced on his face, one could see he was very handsome.
"Why are you here?" Mishraji asked without preamble.
"To wish you a Merry Christmas and..."
"We don't celebrate Christmas," replied Mishraji.
"...and I come in peace," ended Sam.
"And you will leave in pieces if you don't go immediately," answered Mishraji.
"Your daughter is the most beautiful woman on this planet," declared an undaunted Sam, hand upon his heart, he had come rehearsed.
"No she's not and I have been looking at her since her birth," replied Mishraji, "You are 22, every girl will look beautiful; she is 19, she will believe anyone who finds her beautiful. You don't even have a job," said Mishraji."
I work at a call center," came the prompt response.
"THAT is not a job. What if the call center shuts down tomorrow? How will you support my daughter?" Mishraji's case was final.
"Support your daughter? But why? I love her..." Sam was a bit confused.
"What do you mean "I love her"? You love her to take her to movies and sit behind you on your motorbike? What do you mean WHY support? Support because you will marry her... Will you marry her?" glowered Mishraji.
"Marriage? Now? I love her! But marriage... I came to wish Merry Christmas..." Sam faltered and the hand on his heart shook.
"We don't celebrate Christmas," replied Mishraji with finality. One could sense Mishraji's triumph, feel the boy's confusion (does love have to mean marriage?) and even hear Pinkiji's breaking heart at that admission (if he loves me, why can't he marry me?) when a whiff of something absolutely exotic invaded everyone's nostrils.
It was a bad imitation (bought in Gaffar Market, Karol Bagh) of Chanel No. 5 but was exotic nonetheless and it was coming off the very curvaceous body draped on the Kohli staircase banister. It was not a cat, it was Catrina Kohli: Colonel Kohli's very single I-am-US-citizen, 33-year-old, strange-English speaking sister who wore only salwar-kameez. But she wore such fitted salwar-kameez that it could put a "mini skirt's imagination to shame" according to Mrs Mishraji. Catrina looked like Lara Croft in Indian outfits and currently Lara Croft was holding an A-4 sized sheet in her hand.
"Ji axecuse me," purred Catrina, her kurta threatening to rip at the seams as she looked at the men. Mishraji nearly dropped his chai-cup and Sam who had been standing open-mouthed, started spluttering. Catrina cooed, "There is a Residents' Welfare Association circular that I forgot to give you Mishra sahab... for the annual colony Xmas party you have been chosen to play Santa Claus... My brother, Colonel Kohli will provide comic relief by playing your long lost twin brother, Banta Claus... After all Mishra sahab, let's spraad the true meaning, there is no meri-Christmas or teri-Christmas..." (meri = mine, teri = yours)
Sam whirled to look at Mishraji and pointing a finger at him said, "If you are going to be Santa Claus, you DO celebrate Christmas, why the bloody hell did you lie to me then?”
At that precise moment, Pinkiji who had been quite irritated with Sam for staring at Catrina walked up to him and slapped him. "How dare you use bad words in front of my father and call him a liar? We don't celebrate Christmas. Xmas party is just minority appeasement," and with that Pinkiji summarily dumped Sam.
(to be continued)
...I tend to start competing with the author, trying to outguess him/her and trying to think of how the story would proceed. I guess some of it comes from watching