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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 fine furniture that will enhance the decor of our living room, matching the otherfurnishings 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’m going 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.

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