In the middle of nowhere..

Fifteen years ago I start this journey of extreme excitement, where I stepped into the unknown. Nothing could have prepared me for this, not ‘what to expect when you’re expecting’ or any other bible on parenting. I happily receive what my husband gives me, pray for it to plant inside me, and when magically the two parallel lines appear, I am on top of the world, or so I think. Every day after that was a wait for that magic door to open, for me to attain the ultimate purpose of being a woman (really? was I that stupid that I literally thought that the purpose of being born a woman was to bear a child). Anyways, I regale at the tummy grow, jump at every kick, announcing to the whole world, that this tiny being inside me decided to move in the cramped space and in the process pressed against my belly. Everything you can imagine about pregnancy and labour I embraced with open arms and rolled out the red carpet, throwing rose petals all around.

I went through the one, the usual call the whole world, first birthday party. Then the words came, one by one, then sentences, the cute pronunciation and I went oooh and aaah.. the party that has been going on for generations, except that now we have more props. The threes came quickly and I decided I wanted to have another one. So repeat. The reason for this is funny, when I think of it now. My brother was born when I was 5 and I had a friend who has a brother two years older to her. I loved the camaraderie between them, as compared to the little thing in my house who always fought with me for the remote, or chocolate and made sure I got the beating. Those two seemed like two peas of a pod and since that day I had decided (yes, decided at the age of thirteen) that I would have my children two years apart. So I have this second one, happily receive what my husband gave, double purple lines, and all the drama with two.

In a couple of years they started daycare, school, getup in the morning (I HATE IT and there is no two ways about it), pack the lunch, drop, bus, blah blah blah.. Before I realize I am blowing the candles 4 and 0 on my birthday cake. From the one instant of stepping into extreme-excitement zone till I saw 4-0, it has been a loooooooooooong fifteen years. When I think of the future, it seems like it went by so fast, but when I look at the past, Oh my God!! it took so long. It ate up a good fifteen years of my life. Now what? That is the reason for this write up.

As physically straining as it has been, as I look back, it’s been such an emotional and mentally stressful journey. My brother has a wall full of our childhood pictures (yes the same one who fought all the time with me to hold the remote). My fourteen-soon-will-be-fifteen fella tells me the other night, “Amma, you look the same now, from when you were a child…”. He pauses for a moment and continues.. “except that you looked happier then, now you are grumpy all the time…”. WOW!!! I thought… Before I entered this extreme-fun-thrill-ride as they claim it to be, I had to think only about myself. My happiness depended solely on me and the people I wanted to be with. I wanted to see my parents, I’d take the next bus and go home. I wanted to hang out with my friends, I’d plan something and do it. There were no strings attached anywhere. People who know me from that time, will remember me as a carefree person who did what she liked, all the time. So why am I grumpy now, what changed. The belief that my happiness depends solely on me has receded into the background. I have to think for these two two-year-apart fellas and every moment of mine rides on what they are upto or their needs or something about them, before that thought travels to me. I am not a control freak, I pretty much let them do what they want to do, yet, I cannot stop myself from thinking. I know this is the most common motherhood phenomenon that every mother goes through. But I have reached a stage where I want to regain the strength of my happiness from within me.

Some of you may say, this is mid-life crisis, but I don’t think so. This is motherhood crisis and only a mother will go through this. This is probably when she really releases the child from the placenta and regains her womb to herself. Maybe this is when she starts to feel like herself again and think of her and her children at the same level, versus the children on top, she below that she has been used to since they were born.

As I was telling a friend (who is running behind her two year old), the other day, that I would swap places and do the two year old again and again instead of dealing with the teens. The reason being, when the children are in their teens, that is when you start seeing the results of all the years, your sweat, your every emotion since the day you conceived them. I know everyone can’t be perfect, but when you see some basics missing, you think, what the f*** have I been doing? But you didn’t have a textbook either, you did not come into the world with a degree in parenting. Then this whole easily-blameable destiny / karma.. That is his/her karma. So now you see the am-i-to-blame AND may-be-its-not-my-fault jugalbandi playing in my head. Then my son gives me the second gyaan. We were seated at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway to watch ‘Phantom of the Opera’. I had no idea how this place looks and based on some reviews and guesses bought mezzanine seat tickets. When I sat there and looked around, I thought maybe the orchestra seats were better. My fella understood my predicament and said “Amma, stop thinking you failed..” WOW-WOW-WOW!!! Again.

So that’s where I am. In the middle of nowhere. Wanting to be worried about nothing, but absolutely worried about everything. Killing my inner happiness over ‘nothing?” The strangest thing in this world is the mind. Extremely powerful, yet so brilliantly stupid! When it is so simple to keep things simple, it convolutes and plots to make everything complicated, chaining you down, making you feel inadequate, when there is no need to feel that way in the first place.

Still searching… !

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Choices..

As a mom, nurturing my babies has been a learning. Just as I was getting the hang of it, it was time to start cutting the cord. Yes start cutting the cord and not cut the cord because the cord is never cut. It stays intact in a virtual form for all of your children’s life. There is only thing you cannot replace and that’s your parents.

The strands starting withering away when my younger one just around ten started making choices about his clothes. He knew exactly what he wanted to wear, including his socks and innerwear. It is funny but he started developing his individuality very young, let’s leave it there.

I was talking to some colleagues yesterday, one of them is the father of two young children in their ones and fours. The other is a mom of two college graduates working in different parts of the county. Me with my middle and high schooler was somewhere in between. The lady colleague has been an inspiration for me in the context of letting go or loosening the reigns. She was telling us how there is no one shoe fits all kind of parenting. When she is asked by other parents how she does something, she says, it’s your child, figure it out.. that is absolutely true, when you start cutting the cords and which cord depends only on you and your child.

Since a few years ago, when I bring my boys to the saloon, we google for “boys hair cuts” and start browsing. They have the choice to pick their own hairstyle. To me, giving them the choice to decide how they look, whether it’s their hair or clothes or shoes helps them develop their individuality and confidence.

As my older one sits at the hairdressers chair and gets his first out of the way hairdo I sit here smiling…

The cords are going away one by one, there are more opinions he forms and decisions he makes. It won’t be too long before I take a step back and watch him pick up the baton and tread forward on his lane. From all the children I have seen and parents I have met, I realize that Parenting is an art which nobody masters. There is always something that you will not do and which is fine.. it’s okay. What is important is to let them make choices while you are around to tell them to get up when they fall. I am what I am because of all the choices my parents gave me, good or bad.

I’m learning.. each day.. it’s the toughest yet most fulfilling thing to be – a parent!

The best lesson…

My mom has taught me a lot of things… like every other mother does. Some she was vocal about and some by example.

1. When her mother was not well, she was there to care for her no matter what. Her selfless love towards her mother was a perfect example of how children should care for their parents in their old age. In this she taught me to be there for your parents.

2. She fought with the institution to ensure my brother got admission to Bishop Cottons. She urged the principal to reduce the admission fee, borrowed money to pay it and ensured my brother was enrolled to the school. He was 6, I was 11. She vocally taught me that it was important to be fair to your children and give them equal opportunities. What they make of it is beyond her control but as a parent it was her responsibility to be fair.

3. Every night we ate together, my father, her, brother, uncle and I. At that time it was just the norm for me. She cooked, I helped, we sat down on the floor, spoke about school or current affairs or anything and ate the meal. Now when I have a family I realize the importance of that simple act. At the end of the day the family comes together and shares their day or thoughts or whatever, but essentially what builds there is a bridge of communication. Everyone talks to everyone in the family.

4. She taught me the value of money. She told me the income and expenses and how to make ends meet. I was 12. I saw her struggle quietly at various things we never had. Money is essential, but not everything. She always said, a path will carve itself out, some door will open and a door always opened.

5. The relationships you make whether blood or not are to be kept. Blood does not make anything thicker. Having people around, you can turn to was the important thing. She respected every person who she came across, whether young or old. It was of utmost importance to treat everyone with respect.

But of all that she taught me the one I value the most is what she taught me silently when she passed, that I have no control over anything except myself. That lesson walked into my life when I most needed it. I cried after she went about the what-if possibilities, when my dad told me, that it was her time to go, and there is no point in any what-ifs.

The only thing I can control is my part of the relationship with another person, my reaction to a situation or to what another person says to me, my thoughts about a situation, my words that I choose to utter, my emotions. Everything else is not mine to claim or change. This simple but powerful truth has changed my life. And she is my teacher.

I love you Ma, Happy Mother’s Day!!

This to that to this

I need to walk in there in ten minutes

And change the credit card info

So all I have is ten minutes

To write as I think

Or think as I write

Credit card reminds me

I need to change the info on txtag

Or it will go to the credit agency for collection

Friday is pay day

Yay!

Mortgage auto deduction, yes I will check that

Saturday is his science Olympiad

I wonder if he’s done the project

I just told the other guy to put up sticky notes

That needs to be checked

His bed was delivered today

Hmmm! When do I fix that

The grey bed looks good

But dinner should be cooked before the bed

What do I cook for dinner

Hmmm! Maybe chapathi curry?

Kids may want pasta for tomorrow’s lunch

The mushroom will rot, so yes pasta

I need to do some work as well

Oh the application, reminder again today

It’s already six, and it’s been five minutes.

Now I am going blank

She wanted a photo, when should I do that

I need to go through my reminders list

That’s something I don’t like

Maybe this weekend I can watch the movie

I should write my book

Duh! It’s already March.. when? when? when?

This weekend maybe take him to Capitol

Oh shoot! Just three more weekends

I should take him to NASA before he leaves

That’s the only place he asked for

Ring ring, got a call asking for shopping list

I don’t know

Music starts to play, kadhal rojave

Such a depressing song

Time to turn off

Time to stop

Time to update my credit card inside

Time to tick off another to do..

There comes a work message…

And.. that is how a woman’s (aka mother’s) mind works.. constantly from the moment she wakes up to the second she falls asleep..

My little one

Your eyes filled with a million dreams

Tears that roll down your little cheeks

A scary dream about me shatters you

Lying down on my lap

Is your happy moment

When you are happy you have to share it

With me

When you are disturbed

Telling me reassure you

This trust you have in me

That I am there for you

How did you learn this my little one

Was it when I held you

As you took your first steps

Or when I fed you as your little tummy growled

Was it when I held you

Each time you fell ill

Or did it form deep within

Even before I held you

This trust is the strongest of the strong

That I strive everyday

My little one

To hold onto

With my every being.

Coffee house…

“Hello Shalu…”, said the male voice on the other end. Shalini recognized the voice instantly. She had heard it many times before. The number was new, not what she had saved on her phone as, ‘Think before you pick’.

“Hello Gopal…”.

“I am in Trivandrum, shall I come over for sometime?”, he asked. She wanted to ask ‘why’. Common sense prevailed and she quickly got into the skin she had shed ten years ago.

“Okay Gopal. Let us meet at Coffee Day at Kowdiar”. Shalini had moved apartments almost every other year when the rent went up. With her meagre salary from the job at the library, she could afford only so much. She tried to live as close as possible to the library, so she could walk and get her legs move. It felt eons ago when she drove her Audi car into the driveway of the public library at Houston to drop off books. She did not want Gopal to see her current living conditions.

“Ok at 4.30?”, he asked.

She looked at the clock and saw that it was 3.30 in the afternoon. It gave her enough time to dress up and get an auto to get to Kowdiar.

“Yes, 4.30 is fine.”

Shalini seldom heard from Gopal, maybe two or three times in the last ten years. She had shut that door when she walked out of the house with two bags of her clothes and jewellery. She left everything behind. The sprawling house, the luxury, friends, her job, she had left it all.

She got to the coffee house on time and saw Gopal sitting at a table. He looked younger than she remembered. Life had treated him well. She thought she should have colored her hair, she was greying everywhere. The little make up she put on, did not conceal her wrinkles. She turned to look at the glass door and saw the reflection of an old woman.

“Hello…”, she said and sat down across Gopal. He looked up from his phone and smiled.

“How are you Shalu?”

“I am good, and you?”

“I am doing very well. How did you come?”

“I took an auto. Are you in Trivandrum for work?”

“No, my wife’s family lives in Trivandrum, so I came to visit them”.

“Oh!”, said Shalini and instantly regretted the reaction.

“I have been married for about three years. She is from Trivandrum, moved to Houston after the marriage…”

“You live in the same house?”

“No, I sold it. I live in another neighborhood now.”

“Are you happy?”, quipped Shalini.

“Yes Shalu. I am happy.”, said Gopal, looking down at this hands.

“Good for you…”, said Shalu, with a tinge of jealousy and self pity.

“And you?”

“I work at the library, live with books, write when I can. It’s going on… Why did you want to meet me, after all these years?”

Gopal was silent for a few minutes. The waiter came, we ordered our coffee and I looked up at Gopal, waiting for the answer.

“Shalu… I wanted to thank you…”, said Gopal.

“For what?”, wondered Shalu.

“For leaving me….”

Shalini burst out laughing.

“I realized that when you left me, you were giving me back my freedom.”

“And you realized that now? After ten years??”

“Took me a while… you know me…”, said Gopal coyly.

“Gopal… it was obvious to me like it was to you, that we were not meant to be. I don’t know why we decided to get married in the first place. I tried in my way and you tried in your way, but the puzzle never fit. I waited for a long time for you to leave. I understood that you were scared and I had to be the one to let go. It was not what I wanted to do, but I had to do, to give us both our sanity. I was getting sucked in my depression and you didn’t want to hear about it. The best thing was to stay away. I never met your expectations, you looked at every other woman and thought what a wonderful woman and wife she is. It is not that I am bad, it’s just that I was never enough for you, I always fell short… anyways, there is no point of talking about all that and digging the past… bottomline is you are happy now. I am glad I could give you atleast that.”

Gopal took Shalini’s hands in his, looked into her eyes and said, “I am sorry”.

The waiter brought their coffee. Shalini withdrew her hand and sipped at her coffee. She avoided eye contact with Gopal and looked at others who occupied the coffee house. They drank their coffee in silence deep in their own thoughts. When Shalini was done with hers, she got up, smiled at Gopal and left the coffee house, without looking back.

Now, it was truly over.