Planet Organic

19 June, 2013

Last weekend saw the Festival of the Chariots go through London, from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.  It’s a traditional hindu festival imported to London from Puri, a city in the State of Orissa, on the North East Coast of India.  The festival revolves around three huge brightly decorated chariots being pulled by ropes along the streets.  A deity sits on each one.  The meaning of Ratha-yatra, is fairly literal.  The Journey (yatra) of the Chariots (ratha).  Ok, maybe it should be called Yatra-ratha, but it’s not, ok?

Rathayatra London. If you think this is busy, you should see it in Orissa

Stupidly, one time I must have mentioned to the kids that there is an Indian myth that if you die beneath the wheels of one of the chariots, you will attain liberation.  I can’t remember telling them this, but god do I wish I hadn’t.  All day long, I got this sort of thing;

Amba:  “Oh, I can’t look, has someone died yet?”
Me: “No, no one is going to die.”
Sami: “If someone fell and died under the wheels, would everyone be happy for them cos they’re liberated or sad that they’re dead?”
Me: “No one is going to die under the wheels, it doesn’t happen, ok?”
Sami: “But if they accidently fell near the wheels and didn’t get up in time, and the wheels crushed them flat like a pancake. Would their family be happy or sad?”
Me: “Neither.  No one is going to fall under the wheels, it’s doesn’t happen, do you understand?  It’s just a nice family day out, at which no one ever dies.”
Asha: “When are they kill someone under the wheels, do we all get pancakes?”
Me:  “There’s no dying and no pancakes.  Do you understand me?”
Asha: “That is so rubbish.  Sami, when’s the killing bit on?”

Rathayatra in Orissa. Did anyone die? Who knows.

The festival came to a close and we went back to the car in Queensway.  Sami waited with our friend, Sri, while I took Amba off for a desperate wee.  She was running out of time, I dodged round a couple of skinny chicks in designer jeans, strolling in front of us, and ran across the road into Planet Organic (PO) with Asha following behind me.  I found the loo for Amba, then browsed the Organic Pizza Tofu Fillets (£2.99) with Asha, while we waited for her.  At this point, the two chicks in skinny jeans passed us.  Unexpectedly, one of them launched into a tirade about what a shite parent I was.  Apparently, I’d crossed the road and accidently left Asha on the busy street outside, when I rushed Amba in.  She made it clear that people like me shouldn’t be raising kids, because we’re too stupid (and I suspect a bit too “high street”).  It was a full-on sneery bitchfest, with a  “I’m so much better than you” undercurrent.  Initially, I was just shocked, not at what she said, just at the nastiness that it came with.  I brooded over it, as I considered the Green Spelt and Hazelnut Cutlets (£3.39).  It required a response, I considered chucking a Dr Hauschka Deoderant (£11.99), at her.  But it was too risky, they might make me pay for it.  I considered coming back  with a devastating put down, but the real problem was  she was right, I wasn’t watching him properly.  Ok, it maybe a reoccurring theme in his life, but hell, she didn’t know that and she’d been a total bitch about it.  Then, I remembered the festival.  I remembered that in conflict the spiritual position is to use humility to disarm the ego.  I was still wearing a sari after-all.  So I went over to them, I drained all irritation from my face and anger from my body; and with all the sincerity I could muster, I said “Thank you”.  She was more than shocked and tried again to tell me what a crap parent I was.  So again, I listened and just said “Thank you.”  Nothing more.  Then the other one had a go too, but she was a bit nicer, so I gently put my hand on her arm and said, “Thank you so much.”  I left them wide eyed and totally speechless, as I walked off to find Amba in the loos.  Oh yeah, top-that bitches, I thought.

Amba had made it to the loo, just in time. If the last person in there had only left the seat cover up, not down, then there it would have worked out so differently for her.  It was flooded, there were no staff around and no mops.  So, I held my head high, passed the bitches again and swooned out of there, sari swishing, Amba’s shoes sloshing.  Self esteem in pieces.

We got back to the car, found Sami and Sri, and said our goodbyes.  Amba made me promise not to tell Sri what had happened.
“Is she coming back to our house?” Asha asked as we drove off.
“No, she’s getting the train to the airport, she’s going home now. “ I replied.
“No. “ said Sami, “She’s going to use the loo in Planet Organic first.”

Planet Donut

Bye   x

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Phone call from school

8 December, 2009

The school rang me at 3.30pm today. School finishes at 3.15pm and it’s generally not a great thing for me to get an out of hours call. Basically it means they’ve missed the school bus, or worse. One time last year Sam’s teacher rang at about 4.30pm. She was “very concerned”.

There had been some mix up at breakfast club and my six year old son, Sam, hadn’t wanted to pay for the food he’d taken. His teacher said he’d got confused with his free school dinners and thought he didn’t have to pay. Fair enough. But the reason she was ringing, was that when she talked to him about it later in the day, he got very, very anxious. Apparently he said that sometimes his sister steals money from his money box but then she lies about it, and he gets into trouble. His teacher was concerned that he was so visibly distressed and wanted to know if he was okay now. I looked over at him stuffing chocolate chip cookies, “Well he seems alright, but of course I’ll talk to him”, I replied, a bit confused myself. I have a feeling that it is me on his teacher’s “concerned” list, not Sam. Just something about the way she talks (down) to me says, “families I’m keeping an eye on”. Having her check up on my domestic bliss, out of hours, adds to my paranoia. Very casually, I broach the breakfast club subject and ask if he got something nice. “Yeah”, comes the reply. Chewing cookies and watching TV, has left only one brain cell available for sharing his life with me. I pause, then try again. “So, no problems then at breakfast club?”. He looks at me sideways, then his eyes sparkle.  He knows I know. He smiles and tries to avoid further discussion, to avoid being busted.

Me: “So, what happened? Mrs M’s been on the phone saying you were really anxious?”

He begins a long winded explanation about breakfast club and repeats himself again and again. I can’t really follow his stream of consciousness, but eventually I tease out the line, “I never pay for breakfast club”.

Me: “Whaddayamean you never pay for breakfast club?”

S: “I don’t pay”

Me: “Yes you do, I give you a £2 a week for it”

S: “Er, well,” He’s shifting his feet and definately looking a bit anxious now. This is how he looks when he’s making up a lie story to placate me. This means I’m getting to the point. I have to act fast and interrupt his thoughts before he has a scenario in place of reality.

Me: “Why don’t you pay?”

S: “Er, well”. I’m on him now, but he’s stalling for time.

Me: “So, c’mon, how come you don’t think you have to pay?”

S: “Mrs J never charges me, so I don’t pay”.

Me: “What?”

S: “She just never charges me, so I never pay. But today they wanted me to pay. So I told them I don’t pay, but they kept saying I had to”.

This is a difficult one. I don’t really know what’s said about me at school. I don’t go in that often. We are blessed to live in out of town in a village.  The real blessing is the free school bus.   Consequently, I only collect them one day a week on a Tuesday, and that means I don’t hear the playground gossip. But what I suspect is, that everyone knows that my husband has left me. Everyone certainly knows that I’m pregnant. And lets face it they probably all know I’m flat broke, skint too – these things have a tendency to show in one’s face and in one’s demeanor. The fact that Sam hasn’t paid for breakfast club in over a year may possibly be someone’s generous oversight. I’ll never know. But, what I do know is that I’m not finished with him yet.

S: “Then Mrs M. kept asking me loads of questions”.

Me: “So, if you don’t ever pay, then what happens to the two quid I’ve been giving you every week?”

S: No answer, shifting his feet again.

Me: “What do you do with it? Tell me.”

S: “I bring it home and put it in my money box”.

I am incredulous.

It explains a lot. It was Mrs M’s concerned questions that were making him anxious, and rightly so. His terrible worry was that he was going to get busted for nicking both his breakfast club money and his breakfast, for over a year. I smile as I remember how diligently, (and now I think of it, how quickly), he saved up for his Playstation 2 and his Nintendo DS. I’d refused to buy them for him (or so I thought).

What can I do? I can’t tell his teacher what he’s been up to. I would be wrong to grass him up for saving his breakfast club money. It’s a christian school and technically, he’s been stealing from them and from me. I’m going to have to take this on the chin and continue to be on her “concerned” list. The poor, single mum who’s not quite coping with it all.

But we’ve all moved on a long way from that time.  Today the phone call is not about stolen bagels. It’s 3.30pm and they should be walking through the door – unless they’ve missed the bus.  These days they can never remember whether they’re on the darned thing or not. They ask me to write it on their hands so they remember. But I totally refuse to do that. They can remember to get on the bus four days a week, for god’s sake. It’s just enabling their infancy and disabling their brains.

I listen to the school secretary on the end of the line, “Mrs. V.?”

“Yes,” I reply, trying to be nice, although I’ll kill them if they’ve missed the bus again.

“Your children are in the office”.  The secretary is also trying-to-be-nice, I can hear it in her strained voice.   “They say you normally pick them up on a Tuesday.”