Column: The children and the couch: a stained relationship

My wife and I are in the market for a new couch. And by that I mean that she’s looking for a piece of fineCouch
furniture that will enhance the decor of our living room, matching the other furnishings and creating an atmosphere of warmth and comfort, while I’m looking for something long enough to sleep on.

Our old couch has become rather ratty. We don’t want to keep it much longer, even if we can get rid of the rats.

Actually, we don’t have any rats. We have something worse: brats. Three of them, to be precise. There’s a 5-year-old named Lekha who likes to jump on the couch, a 3-year-old named Divya who likes to spill food on the couch, and a 20-month-old named Rahul who likes to jump on the food on the couch. (Someone has to work it into the fabric.)

Rahul hasn’t yet learned how to drink from cups, but when his sisters are drinking on the couch, he insists on doing it too. And when he’s done, he’s often the only one still sitting on the couch, though he’d feel drier and a lot more comfortable sitting on the kitchen sponge.

As you can imagine, Rahul has left a number of stains on the couch. I’ve tried to have a positive attitude about this. I’ve tried to think of him as an artist and the couch as his canvas. I’ve tried to move young Michelangelo around, so he can create a symmetrical pattern.

The problem is, the couch has been partitioned, in much the same way that India was. The left side belongs to Lekha, the right side to Divya, and the middle to Rahul. (I have to give my kids credit: they did a better job than the British.) What this means is that Rahul cannot move around freely, not without getting a visa.

Divya is like North Korea — she usually denies visa requests. Lekha
is more welcoming, but her fee can be rather excessive. And she insists on being paid in one of three currencies: cookies, cake or candy. If
you look suspicious, as all boys do, she might put you through a search at the border. And if you don’t follow her rules, she’ll be
quick to deport you.

Every now and then, I see my three children sitting together on one
side of the couch, arms around each other, and it warms my heart, makes
my day, as though they’re Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi. I
usually run to fetch the camera, but by the time I return, the borders are
being enforced again.

If you’re wondering why they’re so protective about their sections of the couch, it’s probably because they’ve buried some treasure there. Just stick your hands under the cushions and you’ll come across a variety of treasure: hairpins, rubber bands, crayons, pizza slices. Yes, if you’re hungry, don’t run to the refrigerator — make a dash for the right side of the couch and grab any food that doesn’t have Rahul’s footprints on it.

Before getting rid of the couch, I’ll have to turn it over and get Lekha to jump on it. But I’m a little afraid of what might fall out. 

It’s been a few months since the neighbor last saw his cat.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Nice one! Reminded me of my childhood days when there used to be heavy duty fights between my sister and me for the corner seat, that which was not reserved by shouting “caught”, out loud.
    And, my namesake likes spilling food and resembles North Korea!!! Way to go!
    Best wishes for the holidays.
    Divya Rao

  2. rahul may have just discovered a whole new genre of art right there! 🙂

  3. Very succinctly you have reminded some of us, the new generation, how brothers/sisters of the same mother (Mother India) were divided into three, whose coming together even for a flash of a second make us run for “moment of truth” but alas religion overtakes the “cultural bond”.
    We appreciate “cultural bond” more out of Indian continent and realise that our culture (way of life in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) is distinct and alien to the thinking imposed through religions who had relevance in the context and time of where they were born and exported/imposed by conquering masters from Middle East and Europe, and business-oriented, caste-based selfish/decayed religions who were breeding grounds for further divisions, and looking outwards than inwards.
    (submitted by email)

  4. Divya, your namesake is the naughtiest of the three!
    Aniche, do you think I could put the old couch in the art category of eBay?
    Ashok, the world would be a better place if everyone focused on what they had in common with others, instead of the differences. Easier said than done, of course.

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