Friday, April 24, 2009

I've been tag-ed and I'm contagious

VJ, Chox and Tharini tagged me last week to list the five things I love about being a mum, and I just want to tell the girls that I'm going to do this tag pretty soon, just as soon as I'm done doing the things I seem to be doing endlessly these days.

I've almost written and re-written the post in my head, mostly while drumming my fingers on the irritatingly insufficient Times of India while on the pot, but getting the right words to queque up for the keyboard is taking a while. Hunting for five women in five different countries is part of the problem, but only a teeny part of it. Like the rai ka dana in my sabzi this afternoon. Sigh.

Chin up, Nino's Mum and girls, thankoo. *tight hug*

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In ode to the zzzs

Have you ever had that feeling that you're ready to crash, curl up and sleep till eternity, but you have no place to do it? It happens to me a lot - always in the middle of the afternoons on days that define the term 'bone tired', usually in the middle of the week when the deadlines are over and the next ones have not begun looming yet.

What keeps me in my fake-leather swivel chair, surfing the net to keep my eyes open, is that I don't want to go home. I can't crash there: Nino's nap times are non-existent, and going home in the middle of the day is like a treat for him: he wants to do so much stuff with me, I can never get over the guilt of closing the door on his face and going to bed. Who am I kidding. Closing the door on his face? He'll barge right in with his questions. (Did I tell you the cousins call him Mr 20 Questions? I think its mean, but sometimes I say it to him too.)

My bachelor pads were the perfect places for a snooze. Dark, empty, music if you please, with just the right small snack left in the larder. Quiet and devoid of people and children. In shady lanes of old localities, far away from the traffic and yet, close enough to hail an autorickshaw. Friends would pop by all the time, looking to recuperate bodies and minds and sometimes weary souls. For two hours, and a cup of tea shared with me. I often left my key under the doormat: I worked long hours in college and I knew the importance of an afternoon nap, given the emotional torments of a not-yet-adult heart.

I miss those places and spaces today, miss having something similar, not really mine, but open to me, to use. To curl up and sleep underneath blind-darkened windows, not worry about the cook, the kid, the boss or the help. Life can be faced after it's 4:00pm.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Everyone in Mumbai, listen up!

A dear blogger friend has just written her first novel and it's being released in Mumbai at the Juhu Crossword tomorrow.

Manjushree Abhinav's A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage, which I'm still reading, having picked it up on Sunday at a delightful read-meet which left me in tears of joy, is a beautifully honest book. It's resonance with my current state of soul was unnerving and humbling - it joins me and defines parts of me in my quest for labelling this 'quest'/'search' for the purpose of my being, that has gnawed at my soul since I could think and pen words down. The writing is so simple and lyrical, you'd think Manju is speaking to you from across the table over some hot coffee. It's the story of a young woman's search for spirituality and her love for a mountain. I haven't read it entirely yet, and I'm hoping to do a post on both - the book and the experience of the read meet.

In the mean, if you can, please go see her and say hi at the launch. It's at 7 pm, on Wednesday, 15th April, at Crossword, Dynamix Mall, Near Chandan, Juhu, Bombay.

You're likely to meet a mix of celebrities - Manju's a documentary filmmaker plus her sibling is a best selling author herself - but you're most likely to see a beautiful woman with auburn hair, most probably in a white sari and a big bindi, her face lit up with the most benign smile ever and wet, expectant, eyes. Give her a hug from me.

Summer Camp for kids in Ahmedabad

CEE, the Centre of Environment Education, is one of Ahmedabad's most cherished institutions. I've had several chances of working with the people there, and the campus, designed by the delightful Professor Neelkanth, is a treat to explore. With its ramps and dense foilage, the campus can transform into an oasis of quiet. Its easy for me to believe I'm trekking the Amazon here, so I assume Nino's imagination runs riot here. I take Nino there very often: they've a pond full of mouth-breeders, and Nino can stand and marvel at them for hours together. 'They really bring up their babies in their mouth?,' he asks everytime we go there, subconsciously lingering his gaze at my mouth.

CEE runs some fantastic camps for kids in the summer, and for all my enthusiasm and Nino's as well about the trees and the birds and the bees, the camps are for kids aged 6 years and older. Filled with hours exploring flora and art, there can't be a more satisfying pursuit in the city's notoriously hot summer afternoons.

If you're going, do let us know what it was like!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A selective epitaph

While compiling the details of a calender of prints by Indian masters, I was intrigued by the lack of details about the artist, P.V. Dongare.

A quick google of him yielded little. As I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I'd several paras on the other artists including Amrita Shergill, Chugati, Raja Ravi Varma, B Prabha and NS Bendre, but none on Dongare, I expressed some of my angst to the team.

Well if he's not on Google, he's probably not that important, they said.

While my glare was enough to silence that irreverential thought, I was left wondering if google is the latest of the hierarchies, the new great divider. Obscurity, importance, popularity, worth and influence - all decided by the a simple statement: are you on google?


ps: Anyone have any info on PV Dongare? One of the few advantages of this new hierarchy is that it can be suitably altered. I want to make sure he's on google.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The fear of fear itself

Motherhood is synonymous with change, and with that I mean more than our bodies and schedules.

With Nino, one conscious decision I've made, is to never transfer any of my fears onto him. No stray dogs, creepy crawlies, leaping off the bed so precariously close to the wall, kind of fear. Also, water. And running so fast that the only thing that is likely to stop him is gravity itself.

I'm wondering today if I made this choice because my parents were very effective in transferring their fears onto me. Both, Mum and Dad. I can't swim, even though I learnt how to. I've never fallen down hard in life (literally, although life tends to even things out emotionally) - yes, never more than one scrape. Mum's fear of animals transferred onto my sister, who can actually have a meltdown when faced with an exuberant pet dog. And this is inspite of the fact that Mum is one of those people whose childhood was filled with more animals than people. My grandad was a veterinary doctor and every possible animal lived in their huge government house.

One of the biggest fears ever, for both me and the elder sibling, is driving. My sister conquered that sort of, when she moved to Gurgaon, with a husband who's travelling for half the month.

I conquered that fear three days back. Don't be mistaken. I know how to drive, I've even got my license, even though it's long expired. I dread driving. In my youth, I fantasized about driving down long undulating highways in a red car, my favourite music and the wind in my hair. But I couldn't actually do it in real life. I've never driven a two-wheeler, even when friends my age were driving one to school/college. My dad forbade it, he insisted I'd get into an accident everytime I'd drive. It's not you, he used to say. Other people don't drive safely.

Nino's Dad taught me to drive the car sometime after we got married, and I'd mustered up enough courage to venture to work, run errands. Then, I banged the car. Nothing major, just rammed it into the gate when I was trying to park at too fast a speed. That was the bit I needed to let my fear conquer me. I soon got pregnant and gave up on driving amid juicy taunts from everyone else who knew me. I tried to make it cool, I even made it sound socialist and idealistic. It was easy, because I din't need to depend on anyone. I'm the unofficial ambassador of the humble rickshaw, and I've taken it everywhere I needed to go, and at every time conceivable.

And yet, I've learnt with time that it's not convenient. I now live in an area where getting a auto is as much luck as it is timing. Fares can be astronomical. And they refuse to wait till I fetch Nino from school. If he has playdate with friends, some of whom live on the outskirts of the city, I can't get a rickshaw to take me there. It was a handicap, in several ways, because it was a fear, a dread of trying, of doing something, and that's not a good thing to have in you, is it? Most of all for the fact that Nino had realised that it was 'odd' that his mother din't drive. He heard the ribbing at home and from my friends. And he sensed my fear.

All this time, in these four years since I've been married, my father-in-law filled in for me, quietly, unlike the rest of the family who goaded me to conquer this 'stupid' mindset. Whatever his work schedule, whatever his plans, he worked them around mine and Nino's needs. It was something given, something I din't even have to ask for. He never joked about my fear, never mentioned it. I know it must not have been easy, but he did it with a big wide smile, always, and everytime.

He, and my m-i-l, left for the US this week. Three months of a holiday, together, perhaps for the first time, by themselves. He was very concerned before he left about how I'd manage Nino's school, my work, the errands. Maybe you should give it a try, he finally told me, before he left.

And I did. I tried it. I survived. I haven't hurt anyone so far. Ofcourse when I get down from the car, I'm shaking. I can't type for several minutes. And I still panic, preparing myself mentally way before I'm actually going to walk down towards the car. Its not a bit as relaxing as people make it out to be. I'm sweating huge streams even though the a/c draft is on full force.

But it has been a milestone for me, one I hope to keep. I've earned my son's respect too. Very good girl, mama, he says, leaving me to wonder if he does realise what courage this has taken. I called my mum up last evening, wanting to tell her that I'd begun to work on beating this irrational fear. I wondered why I was telling her so late, so many days after I'd already begun. As she heard me out, she exhaled and I knew, right then, that my delay in telling her had been a subconscious reaction, because I was afraid she'd shake my resolve. She doesn't approve of my driving, thinks its too dangerous and that I'm putting Nino at risk. I was hurt and I din't say much, something maybe she also realised, because she told me before I put the phone down, that I must avoid telling her 'such things'.

I wanted to tell her it was unfair that she was shackling me with her fears and then I realised there are several such things that I've manged to break free off. I've never blamed them for my handicaps, but I got too comfortable with these fears and that has been my individual cross to bear.

Today, as I look at my son's shins and elbows and temples, all covered with multiple grazes/bumps everyday, I marvel at how he nonchalantly brushes my concern aside. Even when he dislocated his elbow as a two-year-old, he told me how to hold him so that I don't hurt him. He asked me to stop crying. He catches and studies lizards and bugs and spiders and I study them with him, hovering around to make sure his touch is gentle, and that he doesn't hurt himself. I've never shown him my grimaces, and I'm the first one to push him when he hesitates to try something new, something different. Because it is the unknown that is forbidden and what we fear, right? When it is known, it becomes a decision of choice. And then, no matter what you choose, that decision is acceptable, because you've been there, and you've learnt the lesson.

Most people don't put driving their own cars on lists of things they hope to do before they die. I did. I've ticked that out, one big bright red tick, and I'm a proud woman today. I dont' know if Nino will ever remember this week, this time when I pushed my boundaries, and faced my fears. When I changed, for the better. I know I will, always.


ps: my father-in-law is elated I'm driving. He said 'good girl', too. :)