Folks in Town: How to Parent-Proof Your House

Modern Family

Folks in Town: How to Parent-Proof Your House

Illustration: Akshita Monga

I grew up in a conservative, religious family.  Not the “Don’t have a love marriage” conservative, but “Who is this girl? Why are you talking to the other gender? Where is your janeu? It’s 7 pm come home and say the Hanuman Chalisa seven times” conservative. Being a ’90s kid, I was expected to be a rebel, but unfortunately, I wasn’t. Instead I chose the path of being an outspoken liberal guy in the streets, and a religious, paavam one in the sheets.

I have always lead two lives. One for my parents and one for myself. Years went by and I got really good at juggling the two. Aditi’s numbers were saved on my phone as Aditya’s, dates were called tuitions, and cigarettes were always followed by 65 rings of Polo. This is how I survived college and the day my last college exam got over, I got the hell out of my hometown.

In the big city, I learned that to be truly independent is an amazing feeling. But my mom’s suspicions that I was using my wee-wee for purposes other than peeing, carried on long distance. So during every phone call, she would insist on visiting me, but I always had my excuses ready. They varied from “This weekend isn’t possible, I am going to visit Trimbakeshwar that famous Shiva temple near Nashik. No, no, it’s not near Sula Vineyards.” Or “Oh, I have Independence Day plans, I am visiting a nearby army camp to show them my support.” But deep inside I knew that the excuses weren’t going to save me for long.  So finally, after three years, my parents paid me a visit. 

As any boy living alone will tell you, cleaning the house is a task in itself, but cleaning the house when your parents are about to come over takes it to yet another level. Anxiety attacks were arriving like Mumbai locals. One every two minutes. “Oh shit, what if the condom packet slipped under the mattress. Let me turn it upside down to check just in case” to picking up longer strands of hair from every possible cloth in the house… that’s what it takes to parent-proof your house. I checked everything I owned at least thrice. I ordered two room sprays online, just in case the first one didn’t work, bought 15 different kinds of agarbattis, and told all my househelp to keep quiet about anything that goes on in my house. Three times. At two hour intervals. For a week before they arrived.

“Yaad hai na kya karna hai? Ekdum chup rehna hai.” On the day that my parents came over, even my bai got an anxiety attack. And I could only hope that I would not have to pay for her therapy.  

The next few days, my paranoia reduced a little, but it would spike up the moment my mom would open any cupboard or touch a drawer I had left unchecked before their arrival.

Finally, D-day arrived. My parents entered the house, glanced at my hall and strode immediately toward my bedroom, fully expecting to find a girl in my bed. I knew there was no girl in there, but could they get a whiff of that lingering smell of cigarettes or spot a hair strand longer than mine? “Hanuman ji, aaj bacha lo. Saat Hanuman Chalisa karunga,” I prayed. My eyes were closed and then I heard, “Room toh accha hai.” I exhaled.

My parents settled themselves in the living room and began the task of seeing if there was even a hint of the outspoken, liberal guy (who is sexually active) from the big city in their son. There wasn’t any. I had done my job well.

The next few days, my paranoia reduced a little, but it would spike up the moment my mom would open any cupboard or touch a drawer I had left unchecked before their arrival. But thankfully, she found nothing. 

During their time here, I tried to show my mum and dad everything worth showing in Mumbai, not because I am a good son and a host, but also because if they are out of the house means that they have less time to investigate the house. They clicked a picture outside Mannat and asked me, “Yeh ghar kitne ka hoga? Kabhi aisa ghar banane ka sapna hai, ya puri zindagi naukri hi karte rahoge?” Just basic questions asked by parents that make you doubt your existence.

The next day, we went “shopping” but purchased nothing; the day after we visited all the temples and bought a lot of stuff for different gods. We even decided to have a movie marathon, where I chose movies that would not make things awkward for us. Sadly, Netflix only had Dangal in that category and we watched it thrice, without saying a word.

On most days, my mom would cook meals for us, and if I would offer to order in. The she’d get upset and accuse me of not liking her cooking. I explained the phenomenon called feminism to her, she listened intently, and then proceeded to the kitchen to cook anyway. 

They were here for five days; I believe for the sake of everyone’s sanity parental visits should not exceed that. Though three days would be ideal, I’d read somewhere.

On the morning of their departure, I recited the Hanuman Chalisa seven times and thanked the Gods for their munificence. All their bags were backed and they were ready to go. But just before my father was stepping out of the door, he whispered, “Cigarette ki smell thodi bahut aa rahi thi, par koi baat nahi mummy ko mat batana.” Goddamnit! I should have purchased three room sprays.  

I dropped them to the station and bid them a sentimental goodbye. As the train chugged out, I lit a cigarette to celebrate the return of my independence.