Rule No.12 in my Book of Rules For Successful Parenting reads, “ Never place bets with your kids. They have this nasty habit of calling your bluff and making you pay for your blunder.” One may wonder how anyone can keep up with rules while maneuvering the intricacies of parenting. I suppose parenting is a trial and error venture…Well, I, for one, can. I have had to – each time after I landed in the proverbial soup while dealing with my twin sons. It had seemed quite innocuous at the time. ‘Give your child a challenge,’ said the article ‘How to Bring Out the Best in Your Child’ that I happened to be reading at the moment. I did just that. The mid terminal examinations were peeping round the corner, and I threw the gauntlet at their feet in a nonchalant manner. As usual they were glued to their computer involved in manipulating Dave through some warp zone or the other. “If you guys come first in class, I’ll do whatever you want me to do.” I looked at them with baited breath. No reaction. “Did you hear what I just said?” They looked up with the exasperated expressions that thirteen –year- olds sport while facing their impossible mothers. “You mean, beat those bookworms of girls?” said one. “Nope… It is not worth it,” said the other. “Hah!” I said. “And the grapes are sour! You know you can’t do better than girls. “Well, maybe we don’t want to. Girls are such goody- goodies that teachers give them more marks…”said one. “They certainly don’t,” I said sharply protecting the integrity of my ilk. “ Besides, they have another advantage over us…handwriting!” said the other. Well, this was true. My twins had the handwriting which was as easily decipherable as a typical doctor’s prescription. As for being goody- goody, the mother in me grudgingly acknowledged that my twins were anything but that. I was well conditioned to receiving complaints about their twisted sense of humour from my colleagues who happened to be their teachers. ‘Chips off the mother block’, I’d console myself recalling what a dreadful prankster their mother had been in her school years. The twins were looking at me, wondering why their info was taking time to sink in. I snapped out of my musings and raised a couple of eyebrows at them. “ Ok, I said,” trying to put on my fairy godmother expression, “if you guys get the first rank, I’ll grant you one wish each. I’ll do whatever you want.” They gave me a look that spoke volumes of what I didn’t want to hear. One made a circle near his temple with his forefinger and got lost in the warp zone. I was forced to concede defeat and return to my world of home management and reading more articles on parenting. Roughly one month later, one Saturday afternoon the twins faced me with superciliousness writ bold and clear on their identical faces. “At your service, Mom!” they chorused in unison and dropped the precious yellow booklets onto my lap. The looks on their face and the élan with which they flung the report card made me wonder- had they really conquered the Mt. Everest of academic achievement? Slain the mythical dragon? Yes...Yes…YES! They had. Their report cards had those magic words which all mothers of school going kids crave to see. Forgetting that I was a mother of two, a teacher and an amateur psycho analyst (who is supposed to stay cool always), I let out a blood curling scream, threw the report cards into the air and did a wild dance around the room like a Cameroonian football player scoring the winning goal! Then I behaved like a typically normal mother-- hugged them and planted noisy kisses on their cheeks. “Cut it, Mom,” they said rubbing the kiss off their cheeks but I could see they were pleased as punch too. I knew I was right in taking advice from the article and bringing out the best in them. “Anything dears,” I said wiping one tear of joy after the other. “Anything you want!” I was ready to even go to London and steal the crown jewels at that moment. “We’ll tell you what we want, Mom,” came the reply. Dinner time. As I rolled out rotis for the family, I casually asked them if they had decided on what they wanted. “Yup!” came the reply-- in unison. “Well, what is it?” I said and waited for new Levi’s or a day out in the theme park…or even a...” “We want you to cook us a chicken dish.” Pooh! That’s all? Cook a chicken dish? My heart asked till my brain registered the words. CHICKEN??? I yelled. To my bewildered readers, I take this opportunity to explain that in our coop I am the only vegetarian, who out of sheer loyalty, tolerates her family’s barbarian eating habits outside the premises of her house. “You are kidding, of course,” I ventured. “No Mom” “We want you to…” “cook for us…” “tomorrow, for lunch…” “here… at home…” At this point I turned to the silent spectator of this melodrama, my partner in the crime of having conceived and raised such sadistic specimen of offsprings-- my husband. He looked like an average roman waiting to see the gladiator tackle the hungry and vicious lions, barehanded! “Prakaaash!!” I yelped beseechingly, seeking the support that I needed very badly. “I understand you had solemnly promised them to grant their wish…and promises are meant to be kept,” he said smugly. Rat! It had been his pet peeve that instead of changing into a meat eater like him I had conditioned him to enjoy my vegetarianism… at least at home. What they ate in restaurants was their business. Besides,I saw to it that they all brushed their teeth and gargled with mouthwash after they returned home. But this was no reason for him to abandon me at my moment of crisis. “I will not, I repeat, WILL NOT cook anything non –veg at home,” I said firmly. “But Papa, she promised to do whatever we wanted,” one wailed to his father. “Well, madam… You have to keep your end of the bet,” came the verdict. I realized the umpire had been ‘bought’ by the other side. No amount of coaxing and cajoling worked. I even threatened to run away and never, never return… It was of no use. Next morning, after breakfast the three traitors left to buy me the ingredients. “God!” I prayed fervently. Let there be a miracle… Don’t give them access to chicken… May all the chicken on this earth vanish.” I knew miracles were passé as an offensive looking parcel was dumped on my dining table. “Here’s a recipe to help you, Mom,” said one twin, thrusting a small booklet into my hands. I looked at my death sentence. ‘Lemon chicken’ it read. Lemon Rice? Child’s play. Lemon tea? Cool! But lemon chicken? How could I? All these years I had guarded the virginity of my vegetarianism so vehemently. Now I was to sacrifice all I held sacred. …. Just because of some silly promise I made to my kids. For a moment I hated the author of that confounded article. “He and his cockeyed ideas!” I muttered angrily. Obviously there was no way out of this maze. Okay. I’ll show them what stuff I was made of. Valiantly I tied my apron on and took the recipe again. STEP 1. Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl. Easy enough. Slice onions, crush garlic, chop parsley, extract juice of two lemons, put salt and pepper and olive oil... Olive oil? Where do I go for that? All I used was sunflower oil…and sometimes coconut oil. Suddenly I remembered. Last month, my sister had visited me with her toddler. She’d left behind a small bottle of olive oil she’d used to massage the baby! I retrieved the precious bottle from the myriad of odds and ends in the darkest corner of the medicine cabinet. It hardly looked like two tablespoonfuls. I emptied the whole lot into the bowl and mixed the concoction with a wooden spatula. STEP 2. Place the chicken quarters in the marinade and turn them in the mixture so that they are well coated. The plastic cover in which the odious chicken waited for me was knotted. Carefully I opened the knot making sure that my fingers did not get into contact with anything. The sight of fresh meat at such close quarters was a terrifying and I was on the verge of upchucking. “You can’t touch it…” I silently screamed to myself! I closed my eyes to fight for self-control. Funny how you can see clearly with your eyes closed. I saw a new pair of gloves I had bought for ‘tinting’ my hair tucked away inside the dressing table drawer. I quickly retrieved them and slipped them on. Gingerly, with one gloved finger I touched a piece of chicken expecting it to squawk in protest. Nothing earth shattering occurred. Gathering courage, I picked up one piece and dunked it in the marinade… The others soon followed suit. ‘Turn the pieces once or twice in the marinade’. Gloved finger came in handy again. ‘ Leave aside for 1 ½ hours.’ If I had my way, I’d have left them alone for the rest of my life… STEP 3 Drain the chicken pieces. Keep aside the marinade. Out came the oldest plate in my collection. I wanted to use as few utensils as possible, for I didn’t want to miss them when I threw them out after this ordeal… STEP 4 ‘ Melt the butter and brown the chicken all over. Easier said than done. When the smell of frying invaded my nostrils, I ran to the bathroom and brought out the breakfast I’d had. After running back to save the smoking chicken, I managed to remove the gloves wash my hands, pop a couple of cloves into my mouth and put the gloves back on… ‘Remove from heat and place in a pan.’ I need new pressure pan anyway, I consoled myself as I poured the marinade over the meat. ‘ Add stock.’ Stock of what? After trying to puzzle that one out, I decide to look it up in the twins’ pocket dictionary, which clarified that it was ‘ liquid produced by boiling meat, fish bones or vegetables.’ Since I hadn’t boiled any of them I decided to improvise and added a good measure of good ol’ Adam’s ale. ‘ Ingenuity! Thy name is mother!’ ‘Pressure cook for 20 minutes.’ While I waited for the cooker to merrily whistle, I recalled my childhood days when it was indoctrinated by a pious grandma that ‘killing animals was sin and eating them a punishable crime.’ Poor Grandma. She must be looking down at me from heaven with a disapproving look on her stern face. But then again it had been she who had also told me that I should always put my family’s happiness before my own. “That way, you will be a successful daughter- in – law, wife and mother,” she had advised. “Well, Grandma, I violate your first advice to keep the second … so forgive me!” The cooker seemed to have approved my sentiments as it gave a couple of appreciating whistles. 20 minutes over. I waited for the cooker to cool before opening it. The chicken seemed to have enjoyed the ordeal more than I had. A succulent limb seemed to wiggle at me. The smell was no longer nauseating… Only the fact that it had been a living being offended my senses now. STEP 5 ‘ Transfer the chicken onto a warmed serving dish. Add corn flour blended with a little cold water into the cooking liquid. Cook till it thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Pour the sauce on the chicken. Garnish with parsley ( no parsley at home…) and lemon twists…(that’s ok). Done. PHEW! My non- vegetarian nightmare was over. Lunch time. My family lunched on the first dish I had prepared in 23 years without tasting at various stages to ensure quality. “Rather leathery... but not bad for a first timer, Mom,” said twin One. I was sitting at the far end of the table. The preparation of a non-vegetarian dish had not been as earth shattering as all that, I had to admit to myself. But I was not ready to give up my own beliefs and practices. “Look here,” I said firmly. “This is the last time you pull such a one on me, ok? Don’t ever try this again. It was the most unpleasant thing I had to undergo in my life.” “But Mom, it was you who started it all off. You had only one unpleasant morning. We had to suffer one whole unpleasant month...” “Yeah! 30 Unpleasant days of not getting into mischief, of improving our handwriting, and slogging when we could have enjoyed ourselves!” “It was as difficult for us as it was for you!” I looked at my twins with dawning respect as the import of what they were saying hit me. I had committed the greatest blunder of forcing them into something they disliked. I prayed to God that I hadn’t managed to kill their natural curiosity to know things and eagerness to learn with this foolhardy venture… My twins had that day taught me a valuable lesson. I have thus added another rule to my book of Parenting. Rule No.13: Sauce for the gosling is sauce for the goose. Treat your children as you would want you to be treated - with respect. Amateur psychology is okay for publishing. In real life only fair deals and common sense help.