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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Parrot Saga Part II by Subha

Sankaran, our pet bird is neither a talking bird nor a friendly one for that matter. I was amazed to see a TV clipping about a parrot in Ernakulam, which learnt to speak Malayalam just by hearing TV show dialogues! I told Sankaran,“ Silly Sankara,see how one of your species is talking! Except for ‘Kyun, kyun & Tha' you don’t seem to say much!”

Sankaran has made me look around for other birds and watch their behaviour. Our neighbourhood, particularly, our mango trees, jackfruit trees and other shady trees attract many a bird, which are mostly unidentifiable to me. Am I becoming a bird watcher? What is the definition of a bird watcher? Should I read about birds? Should I take a tour to the forests? Should I attend workshops on bird watching? Anyway, I know my Sankaran- the green parrot with a red ring round his neck and his daily friends, the crows, and his enemies the tomcats and the garden snakes!

During our recent visit to Singapore, we planned a visit to the Jurong Bird park to fulfill one of my criteria for becoming a bird watcher. I expected to see the usual and unusual birds in cages. To my surprise the very first birds that we encountered were parrots- multicolored, green and red ones put in a spacious ground cage with a wire mesh canopy. One could walk in to be with the birds. No claustrophobia! I was mentally comparing them with Sankaran. There were at least 50 to 60 birds.

We were allowed to feed the parrots with honey and water mix. Of course we had to pay 2 S$ for a quarter cup. As Sankaran, my pet parrot, did not allow me to hold him or pat him; I wanted to at least feed these unknown birds. I held the cup in my left hand keeping it stretched for the parrots to come and drink. Two multicolored parrots came and drank from the cup. Wow, what a nice feeling, - the parrots were perching on my wrist and they did not hurt me at all. Being very small birds I did not feel them heavy too. I had a broad smile on my face. (I made up my mind to tell Sankaran about it).

One minute later, two red parrots came and started quarrelling with the earlier two birds for space. They wanted their share of the drink too. I was a bit scared, but held on to the cup and the four birds. Finally the red ones drove away the multicolored ones and were having a jolly time. I smiled once again. Ah, another photo with the red ones on my arm! (Hoped my husband did not miss to capture it in his camera!).

While I was enjoying every moment of this feeding, suddenly I felt so heavy with 8 to 10 birds landing on my head, shoulders and all over my left arm and hand trying to take a sip from the cup. (Were they really starved or just that they loved honey so much, which was offered as a treat by the visitors? Or was it their feeding time?).
I got terrified and closed my eyes fearing that they might poke my eyes. I thought,-“Are they going to shit on me? – Oh, no, I have to march to the wash room straight away.” All the while, my husband was trying to focus his camera to click a photo of me engulfed with a crowd of parrots. The parrots were too quick and flew away and only one was left on my head when he did click the camera. Still it was fun! Till the cup became empty, the parrots were with me. Fifteen minutes of bliss!

Back home, I showed the photo to Sankaran to make him friendlier. He replied,
“Kyun, Kyun (BIG DEAL!!)”.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Parrot Saga Part I by Subha (Sujatha's Mom)

It was in August 1987. My younger daughter N, the 4-year old, demanded a puppy for a pet. The reason she gave me was quite funny and somewhat logical: - “ You have given me to akka (her older sister) to play with, but you have not given me a younger sister. So I need at least a puppy to play with”. She loved to boss others around and she thought that she could do it with a doggie.

But I put my foot down and declared that I wouldn’t have a dog in the house, as there was no one to take care of an animal, leave alone training it. She cried and cried and left it at that. A week passed and one afternoon she came home from her nursery school carrying a parrot in a small cage.

Her face was glowing with triumph.“ Amma, see what I have! Ammini chechi and her family have gifted me this nice bird! They have one for themselves. This is going to be my pet, a real living parrot! What do you think? It is not an animal, it is a bird!”

I looked at the teeny weenie bird with its feathers trimmed off so that it could not fly. It was trembling a bit and wouldn’t allow us to touch it. Though my heart was inclined to keeping it, I wanted to play it safe in case some untoward things happened to it. So I told her,- “Look, parrots are likely to live only for a short period as there are a lot of predators around and they don’t like living in a cage. We have a number of stray cats in our neighbourhood. You should not feel bad if it dies.”

She screamed “ How dare you call my parrot dead? See Amma, it is moving and flapping its wings”.

I said, “Ok, we will bring it up and you have to help us to take care of it”. She jumped for joy and promptly named it “SANKARAN”, a male name, even though we didn’t know the bird’s gender.

We also presumed the parrot to be a male considering the ring around its neck to be its sex indicator. (By the way, how does one determine the sex of a bird?). Anyway, till today we consider him a ‘he’. Sankaran’s feathers grew in due course and we got him a bigger cage. It was an ordeal making him move to the new cage! The cage was hung from the ceiling in the work area where the walls were just made of wire-mesh so that he could see the outside world and feel more comfortable.

Sankaran loved to eat paddy grains, apples, guavas, mangoes, jackfruit, country beans, ladies finger and sweets. He hated cooked rice and bananas. N was happy to visit the parrot morning and evening. It was a sort of ritual for her. All of us tried to teach Sankaran to utter a few words, but in vain. Slowly he developed his own way of communicating with us. We, as in the case of a newborn baby, decipher his unique types of noise! With his distinctive noises, he attracted other parrots to our enclosure that was constantly closed for fear of cats.

Seven years after Sankaran joined our family, N wrote a short story based on Sankaran and it was published in a children’s magazine, Gokulam with lovely illustrations. She was proud to receive 50 rupees for her contribution. Sankaran made her a budding writer indeed!

The year was 2000 and our Sankaran survived and was happy to be with us. N left our home for college while Sankaran remained with us.

Sankaran is now 19 years old keeping company to my husband and me. He had my elder daughter to take care of him till she got married and then, the younger one left home to take up a job in another city.

The parrot, which I thought would not survive for more than a year or two, is still with us (Touch wood!). We got him a bigger cage in which he could fly a bit or flap his wings at ease. He still refuses to come out of the cage and does not allow us to touch him. The only concession we get is to put our hands inside the cage for cleaning and placing his food and water. He recognizes our daughters whenever they visit us. Our grand children love to talk to him and feed him during their visits.

Sankaran is a good watchman. Any new comer to our backyard will be announced by his screeches. We in fact got rid of some intruders at night on two occasions by his screeches. Sankaran is surely an asset, though he is not an accomplished bird with other talents.

(Note from Sujatha: I found out that Sankaran is actually a Rose-ringed parakeet (see here for a photo of this type of bird) a widespread species found all over South Asia, parts of Africa and even in feral populations in the United States and Europe. More information on this species at this link.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Kitchen Adventures- Conclusion

The children jumped up and down in anticipation. "Hurray, today's ice-cream day!", as my husband wrote down a shopping list for ingredients. My kids happily went with him to the grocery store, while I cleared the counters for the inaugural ceremony of the ice-cream maker.

I opened the box and picked up the instruction manual to glance through it, and froze on page 2.
"Place the outer bowl in the fridge for at least 2 hours to ensure that it is thoroughly chilled".
That didn't sound very high-tech to me. What happened to the all-in-one claims of 'Perfect ice-
cream in 20 minutes' plastered on the box? Was there any mention at all of having to pre-chill the bowl? That would make it a '2 and 1/2 hour ice-cream', not a 20-minute wonder.

The kids trooped upstairs, babbling in excitement, and my husband dumped the supplies for the goodies on the counter. I waved the manual before him and said "Looks like you need to chill the bowl for this one, just as we do for our low-tech icecream maker."

"What??!!??" He gaped at me.

"The instruction manual says so".

"But that isn't the impression that I got from the details on the box."

"You've been deceived. I thought it sounded too good to be true," I said as I sauntered to another counter to start preparing lunch.

"Hey, kids, we'll just use the old bowl to prepare the ice-cream today. This new one is no good.
I'm going to return it". Out came the trusty old rotating handle version with its frozen bowl that always had a reserved space in our freezer.

Moral: When modern technology doesn't really turn out to be modern, stick with the Stone Age implements!

The next day was the food-processor's turn. This time, I offered to go to the supermarket for supplies (and a break) while my husband parsed every sentence in the instruction booklet, to make sure there were no nasty surprises.

I returned with cans of chickpeas, tahini paste, parsley, garlic, kosher salt and lemons and the first experiment was on. One by one, the ingredients went in and out came the freshest,yummiest, creamiest hummus that we had all tasted in a long while. The only problem was that we had enough to feed the entire neighborhood, so my husband packed off generous helpings to friends, while the kids ( not hummus-fans) still looked askance at the capabilities of the new machine on the block.

"I'll make you salsa", my husband promised, as my kids rattled the large Tostito corn chips bag from the supermarket. Tomatoes, onion chunks, cilantro, jalapeno, lemon juice- some preparation was required to make sure the vegetable pieces were small enough to fit in the mouth of the feed tube. Was this extra work really necessary, I wondered, as he set to chopping the vegetables.

Once the 'prep' was done, it took all of two pulses to get the perfect salsa consistency. The kids gobbled up a goodly portion of the fresh salsa, without a fuss. But for the next week or so, the remaining salsa languished in the refrigerator. "Should have used the Spanish sweet onions", my husband muttered. "This salsa tastes a bit bitter with those yellow onions that we used."

Next came the 'slicing capabilities' test, with my husband trying out cucumbers, onions,potatoes, green peppers, just about every vegetable in the fridge, trying to see how well the slicing worked, while I struggled to use up the sliced vegetables as well as I could in recipes for which I would usually dice them.

The verdict was a mixed one. He concluded that the slicing would be thinner if we could adjust the size of the slicing blade opening, but discovered that purchasing a separate blade to match the thinnest slices we wanted would set us back another $50/-. So that put an end to that idea.

The final test was the pizza dough. He tried out the basic recipe in the instruction booklet, and added the usual toppings for a very nice, if rather low-calorie pizza. "Tastes a bit too much like bread" was the general consensus.

"That's because you need to use more than the two tablespoons of olive oil in the recipe. The more generous you are with the oil, the more crispy golden the crust" - Mom, the veteran of a few dozen home-made, hand-mixed pizza dough and pizzas.

I still failed to see why the pizza dough had to be mixed in the food processor,but enthusiastically applauded the idea of retaining the appliance, given the fun that my family had joining the cooking process. I put aside my prejudices and gave it a worthy welcome by wiping down my appliance counter and letting it usurp the space earlier occupied by my cookbook collection.

P.S. And, I finally gave in to a long-time wish and ordered a slow cooker for a new round of experimentation in the kitchen- My turn, this time!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Kitchen Adventures- Part I

After about 14 years of life in the States, we finally took the momentous plunge into the world of haute cuisine technology by purchasing a food processor. That's not to say that I didn't pull out every possible Luddite argument against it, but my husband was insistent. He snorted at my brand new sharp-as-a-sword but not as fearsome 'Santoku' knife, my trusty pair of ancient "Laser" brand vegetable knives from a decade ago, and our Antiques Road Show candidate of an Osterizer. "Time to enter the 21st century in this kitchen", he declared grandly.

He pored over the Consumer Reports Online, Epinions.com and Amazon.com customer reviews for at least a dozen different brands. Every time we visited a store, we made a beeline for the home electrics department to check out the latest Food Processor offerings and religiously tabulated their prices and features.

In the meantime, I continued to soldier on in the kitchen with my knives and cutting board, kneading chapati and pizza dough by hand, grinding chutneys in my leaky- at- the- bottom Osterizer.

'I'm going off to check out Macy's and Sears, want to come along?', he announced one evening, as I was preparing dinner. Exhausted by having to opine on practically every possible type of food processor and free-standing mixer, I sighed "Just go ahead and check on your own. You know what I want." ( I really meant to say "You know YOU want!")

An hour and a half later, the door from the basement opened, and he staggered in with two large boxes.
" I got the Cuisinart 11-Cup food processor, and also found this Ice-cream Maker that automates the whole process of ice-cream making!" ( He had always found fault with the ten-buck handle-rotated cheap version that I had nabbed at a clearance sale last year- 'How prehistoric! Icecream makers should be able to cool the cream as well as stir it with the push of a button- None of that silly pre-freezing of the bowl nor the turning of the churning spatula by hand should be needed!').

So now, we were in for many treats. The kids were jubilant, I was ambivalent, swinging between enthusiasm at his efforts to try cooking and scorn at the 'modern equipment' needed for the simplest results. Plus, I needed to figure out how to clear out enough counter space to host these clunkers.

He rubbed his hands in glee, and diligently started studying the recipes for fresh salsa, hummus, pizza dough, ice cream recipes collected over the months before. Our mouths started watering at the mention of dizzying array of gourmet (and not-so gourmet) food that he planned to concoct with our (rather, his) newest toys.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Nuts about The Nutcracker- Conclusion

The first stage performance sailed through without a hitch. I did manage to get a couple of audience- heads-and- blurry M-onstage photos, and some bootleg video ( ‘No videotaping or flash photography, please’) of the times M came to centre stage.

There was confusion aplenty when it was time for the Little Sisters and a host of other Party Girls to rush onstage and take their positions .“Don’t trample the babies!”, the director warned the dancers stampeding into place, more like wildebeest than gazelles.

The footwork and leaps of the principals were impeccable, unlike in a previous year’s performance when the Sugar Plum Fairy ignominously landed on her bottom from a complicated set of pirouettes and sautes. This year,every dancer did his/her part with grace and verve. The Little Sisters looked charming, complementing Clara's moves and mimicking her gentle ministration of the Nutcracker doll with their baby dolls. The baby mice were adorable, as were the youngest dancers of all, the Bonbons scampering on stage from under Mother Ginger's voluminous skirts.

M’s ringlets held through performances 1 and 2, but on day 3, I made the mistake of attempting to wash out the industrial strength hairspray out, and the ringlets wilted. Her hair started to straighten out minutes before the performance started. Oh well, at least her ringlets were perfect for 2 out of 3 attempts.

A final almost-disaster came in the form of home-baked cookies for another fundraiser sale of snacks for the last performance. I forgot to pick up 2 dozen cookies from the local supermarket, and was reduced to riffling through the pages of an unopened Maida Heatter’s Cookies in hope of finding a recipe that would work with the meager ingredients I had, having run out of eggs, butter and chocolate chips.

I found one that seemed healthful as well as unappetizing enough to scare away most buyers- a honey raisin oatmeal cookie needing vegetable oil rather than butter. Perfect, I thought. It would have been perfect, except that the cookies got a little black on the bottom, since I forgot to adjust the baking time allowing for my black cookie tray.

As it turned out, even slightly blackened cookies had their takers, especially when labeled in a pretty script and packed 3 to a Christmas themed bag tied with ribbon. I only hope the buyers didn’t get ill- I certainly didn’t from the couple of sample ones I tasted!

M had a prodigiously good time fulfilling her dream of dancing in the Nutcracker, and just as well. This will be her last year in ballet school. Scared of the physical demands if she continues long enough in ballet to go ‘en pointe’ ( tippy-toe dancing)- which places prodigious demands on the foot as I saw from a photo of a leading ballerina’s unshod and distorted feet, I will be switching her to Bharatanatyam this September.

That will be a story for another day.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Nuts about The Nutcracker- Part III

I had been relieved that we weren’t expected to sell a dozen tickets to the show, as had been the case the previous year. But that relief was short-lived, as the list of expected “Donate or pay to cover the cost” items grew – Cookie dough fundraiser, item for Chinese Auction gift basket, Program ad to be sold or pay- for- the- program- printing costs. “They stretched in never-ending line.”*

The cookie dough was an unexpected hit – never in my years of Boy Scout/Swim team/School trip fundraising sales have I been ever asked by a friend for the actual material that we were supposed to hawk. This time it happened, but just my luck, after the fundraiser was over.

Of course, there was the mandatory rush at unholy hours of the night to collect the cookie dough from the ballet school, having completely forgotten about pick-up day. The ballet school director was kind enough to leave the outside entrance doors unlocked for unfortunate stragglers to rush and pick up their packages, “I’m sure that the cookie dough will stay frozen, since the entranceway isn’t heated,” she cooed. Oops, I forgot that frozen cookie dough needs to stay frozen before it reaches the buyer.”Better to rush out at 10 pm and collect it sooner rather than wait till the next morning.”

I called my husband, who was helping with home improvement at a friend’s house. “Can you pick up the cookie dough from M’s ballet class, when you finish at R's place? It’s at the front entrance near the umbrella stand. The outer door will be open.”

With a mouthful of nails, he mumbled irately into the phone. “Never mind”, I intoned in resignation. I bundled up M in her jacket and did the fastest round trip to the ballet school and back that I have ever achieved- 20 minutes flat. The traffic was close to zero, I had all lights green, and drove at normal speed!

The days for the performance drew closer and the whole ballet school was in a frenzy of rehearsals and practice sessions. It was amazing to watch some semblance of order emerging from the chaos of dozens of girls of various shapes and sizes milling about the largest ballet studio. M’s rehearsals went by like clockwork and soon enough, it was time for the performance.

I scrambled to get her hair in hot curlers and ready for costuming just after she got home from school. We rushed to the school room which had been designated for them to dress and set up shop, the tables covered with ribbons and sashes, moms with mouthfuls of pins, valiantly attempting to tame sagging sashes and bows.

At last, it was time to go onstage for a short practice before the actual performance. M looked adorable in her costume, and I took a few photos of her which ended up showing her with closed eyes in 8 out of 10 shots. I had just finished putting away the camera when she piped up “Amma, my shoe is messed up!” Sure enough, the stitches from the home-trimmed split sole had completely given way. I was at a loss for what to do when one of the costume moms suggested I run to the prop room behind the stage and see if the props manager had a glue gun.

I didn’t break any speed records getting there, though I nearly managed to crash into one of the show’s stars, a professional dancer who was performing as the Cavalier who partners the Sugar Plum Fairy. With barely enough apologies, I continued my race against Time and reached the prop room.

The gentleman there seemed remarkably relaxed, chewing gum as he waited for the start of the performance. He amiably plugged in the glue gun, which was supposed to reach the ideal temperature after a couple of minutes. Tick-tock, tick-tock- 5 minutes and still no sign of melting glue.

“Aren’t you M’s mom?” I heard the voice behind me and turned to see the ballet school director. She took one glance at the sad shoe in my hand and said “I may have a spare shoe she can use. Let me check my bag.” She rummaged in her capacious handbag and held aloft the Holy Grail, excuse me, a substitute ballet shoe. I grabbed it from her with profuse thanks and high-tailed it back to the dressing room line, just in time to shove it on M’s foot as they started to skip their way to the backstage.

* From 'Daffodils', William Wordsworth

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Nuts about The Nutcracker- Part II

Update: Since a lot of people are landing on this page looking for Nutcracker ringlet options, I recently added this Primer on Victorian ringlets, if you are looking for information on how to achieve the ringlet look.

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Before I knew it, audition time was near. The ballet company was casting for its annual Nutcracker performance. M staged a huge tantrum insisting that she wanted to be in it, egged on by fond Daddy and not-so-subtly discouraged by unenthusiastic Mommy.


No prizes for guessing the outcome of that battle here. I caved in and was promptly punished with an information handout blithely chirping:

We request parents to volunteer for a variety of tasks listed below : Group mothers, costume design, costume repairs/adjustments, snacks and food service, ushering, programs, flyers, etc.

The small print stated
All parents with children performing must volunteer and undertake to sell at least one program ad

This was followed by an impressive looking blast of legalese that would have us turn over our children to Rumpelstiltskin if we veered from the terms of the contract. I gamely volunteered to be on the ‘Programs’ committee and never heard from anyone after that, my role having been compressed to zero by other prima ballerina moms who danced the whole sequence with the expertise of several Nutcracker performances.

M had been cast as a Little Sister, who shares a couple of nanoseconds on stage with the lead dancer and a host of at least 5 other Little Sisters, swaying and rocking baby dolls in their hands. The costume supplied by her ballet company was mercifully simple, a white smocked pinafore top with matching ruffled lacy bloomers, along with a large pink satin sash and matching pink ribbons for the hair, not the nightmare of pins and braid that were part of the Seraphim angels costume, for which M was deemed too small. Also her hair, being long would look good in ringlets, as required for the role of Little Sister.

The Hair! It was to become the bane of my existence. The Little Sisters had to have Victorian style ringlets (reminiscent of the ever-so horrid Nellie Oleson portrayed in the TV series Little House on the Prairie). To make matters worse, I managed to miss the evening ‘costume and makeup’ meeting at the ballet school. I went into a panic realizing that I had no clue how to generate ringlets.

Google to the rescue, I decided. Sure enough, there was the cheap as well as authentic option of using an old lint free rag cut in strips. I experimented with M’s hair, producing numerous ringlets which might have passed muster, if it hadn’t been for the tiny bits of towel lint sticking to them. My husband asked “Are you sure this is the right way to go about the ringlets? Perhaps you should schedule her for an appointment at the hairdresser’s” (And spend another $30 a pop to get her hair styled three nights in a row- No way!).

I purchased rollers at the Dollar Store- no good, since these had a Velcro cover that M’s fine hair was getting horribly tangled in. On the advice of a ‘Been there, done that’ mom at the ballet school, I got a set of small foam rollers and resigned myself to sending M to school in those for a couple of days. The logistics seemed as appealing as days-old-refrigerated cooked rice.

On mentioning the hair travails to a good friend, she was kind enough to bring out her hot curler set. We spent a frenzied evening experimenting with M’s hair, trying to see how fast we could achieve the ringletted look. With heated curlers, industrial strength hairspray (and a super-chemical smell to match), we managed to achieve a suitably Shirley Templesque look in about one hour. ( Never mind that my friend's experimentation on her own hair had led to results that she termed " Baby Jane" curls- something that I thought was supposed to be cute and even complimented her on, until I googled it and found scary looking pictures of Bette Davis as a child-singer grown up with a Baby Girl fixation. I immediately followed up with an apologetic email for the faux pas)

At least for now, M's hair problem was solved, I thought.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Nuts about The Nutcracker- Part I

I grew up on a steady diet of ballet stories such as Noel Streatfield’s “Ballet Shoes”and Rumer Godden’s “Thursday’s Child”. Like the enchanting paintings of Degas, the world of ballet seemed exotically ethereal and mysterious, swathed in layers of tulle, satin ribbons and flower wreaths. Words like pique, entrechat, arabesque and pirouette conjured marvelous visions in the mind’s eye. All that was about to change…

Thinking back on it now, I should never have purchased that Nutcracker videotape. After the millionth rewound tinkling of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, I was awfully tempted to recycle the videotape into curly gift wrap ribbon. “I want to dance in the Nutcracker ballet!!!” screamed my little Drama Queen. Peace could be purchased only by promising her ballet lessons.

With a sweet-faced teacher in charge of the small group of budding ballerinas, dressed identically in black leotards and pink tights, I was enchanted by the strains of lovely piano music wafting from the half-ajar studio door, with tantalizing glimpses of little legs and arms. Visions of tutu-clad little angels started floating in the collective imagination-mine and the half-dozen other mothers waiting with me . “Aaaaawwww…aren’t they precious!” declared a lady near me. I nodded in smiling agreement, not being an “Aaaaawww” expert. (I’ve never been able to say it without sounding patently insincere.)

The sweet-faced teacher belied her appearance and firmly insisted that even beginning ballet students were to practice the basic positions of the arms and feet at home. Ever eager to set a good example, I struggled to achieve a perfect resemblance to the poses in the pictures sent home. M looked witheringly at my efforts and said “That’s not the way to do it – this is!” and demonstrated perfectly turned out toes. I gave up supervising her practice after that.

The teacher earnestly informed me, “Her technique will develop perfectly if you get her a split- sole shoe. See, the ones you purchased are too stiff to let her point her toes just right . You should buy the shoes from a proper dance store”. Mumbling to my self about the costs of a genuine split-soled shoe, I started looking up local dance stores in the telephone directory when a brain wave struck. I made a couple of strategic cuts in the leather soles with a pair of kitchen scissors and voila – instant split-soled ballet shoes, which lasted all year before failing at the worst possible moment, 5 minutes before M’s stage debut.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Icescapades

Some random stuff written a couple of years ago:

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I had decided, at the ripe old age of 30-plus, to take up ice-skating. Visions of spangled glittering airy-fairy skaters twirled gracefully in my mind. I sighed over the childhood dream and stared longingly at the hordes of happy-go-lucky skaters wheeling about in glory at the Blade runners ice rink. Now it was going to be my turn!

Oh, the humiliation of being surrounded by swarms of kids half my size on the ice! The adult instructor was off for the day and I was grouped with the little ones on my first lesson.

“First, we need to learn how to fall. Bend your knees so that you’re out of balance and ready to fall. Fall without letting your hands come in contact with the rink.” Easier said than done. Ouch, I have an extra 100 pounds or so of body weight adding momentum to my fall. Remember about Action and Reaction- in this case, Ground meets slightly Overweight Body had the most uncomfortable results possible. And, I did use my hands, resulting in a spectacular blue-black bruise on my palm that doubled for henna all week long.

“Stretch your arms out and look ahead, not down”, instructed the instructor. That sounded easy enough. Done.

“Next, march or wobble slowly to the front, keeping your arms out”.

March, wobble- what do they mean? I can’t lift my foot off the ice well enough to march. Let me try the wobble. Well, I think I’m moving forward now. Oh no, I’m sliding too fast! Wham! I hit the ground in a spectacular flurry of limbs- but appear to have landed on the well-cushioned part- not too bad. “ That’s the BEST fall that I’ve seen today!” the instructor tries to cheer me up. Small comfort when I see that most of the swarm of kids have made it to the other side of the rink, while I’m last.

“March one, two, three… Glide”- the next phase starts. I manage the March, but have no luck with the Glide. I seem to be moving forward 2 inches at a time- not a good thing when I have to cover a distance of about 50 feet. I need to speed up if I want to reach the other side before the end of next week. Promptly, slide into Big Fall # 2- this time, I land flat on my back and my head makes contact with the rink. I can see what appears to be Orion’s belt shining in all its glory, but come to the realization that I’m not in the great outdoors when the concerned face of the skating instructor looms over mine. “ We’ll spot you for this last round,” she promises and sets the assistant to gliding gracefully backwards in front of me, to encourage me and help if I show signs of wavering. “March, one, two, three… Slide your hands down to your knees and stop!” I have better luck with this. At last, I’m getting somewhere- or rather learning how to stop sliding! “ You can slide your hands down to your knees if you feel that you’re losing balance and might fall” - Why didn’t they tell me this the first thing before I went through all those nasty falls? At last, something I can do to prevent them. The last 5 minutes of the lesson consisted of my trying to move to the other end of the rink, punctuated by my sliding my hands to the knees every third step or so.

Lesson 2: I moved apprehensively on the ice, sure that I was going to have a repeat of session 1, but I made it to the middle of the ice without mishaps. I grew bolder and tried some 'marching' for about 5 minutes, starting to feel almost in control of the gliding movement so basic to skating. 5 minutes. That was all. The instructor blew her whistle, rounding us up for teaching us some new technique. I turned too sharply and promptly dipped forward, hands stretched out to break my fall, and pressed down on the exact same spot that I had injured earlier. I felt nauseous with pain, teetering on the verge of a blackout, when the instructor rushed to my side. I had to be helped off the ice.

Lesson 3: I chickened out and sent my husband( an already accomplished skater-and-faller-on-ice) to hone his techniques. As for me, I decided that my skates were going to stay in the closet till my pre-schooler was old enough to start using them.

Welcome to my blog!

This is my first blog post. I hope to update this blog every other day or so, and plan to persuade my sister and mother to contribute to this as well. Let's see how this goes!