About myriadrantings

This space is a vacuum for me outside the bubble of normal life. A vacuum full of oxygen ;)

Welcome 2016 – The year of imperfection

The daily grind has this ability to stealthily wean you off the core attributes that define you. Your inner calling. Some of us have just about enough silence to hear the faint inner voices. The rest of us create a din in which the inner voice slowly dwindles away.

There was a time when I relished solitude and every single opportunity for solitude that I stumbled upon. I would rush to seize a book and read as much of it as possible, even though I may have a read it a bazillion times in all the years gone by.

I saw some of the subtle changes coming and I missed seeing some. My library membership going unused for months. My diminishing usage of flavorful words in conversations :). I started finding a spare hour unsettling as there was so much to be done. The spare hour fuelled a need to prioritize long pending work tasks or home chores, and thereby to friction. Tussle. Working mother guilt added lot more layers to this – my urge to spend every waking hour outside work with S. It depleted the person in me. The days became longer and the nights became shorter. I was with S, but I was not. While she was wholly with me. There were other signs. The signals my body gave. Tantrums of me and my loved ones.

And then the numerous thoughts of quitting. Conflicting with dreams built up over the years. The determination, the sweat. The feeling of void in the stomach when I had decided to move out of my career. These made it difficult to jump to either side and I kept sitting on top of the fence.

The real call came when I started running out of stories for S. I embarked on a month off to slip into nothingness. To experience the sound of silence, just as I had, three years ago during my sabbatical. To make amends with my oldest paperback friends once again. To just experience the passing by of a day, in all its hues. The simple charm of routine. The comfort that nothing (other than S) can wreck havoc on your unhurried schedule. Rambling meals. The heaviness of a 9 hour drugged sleep without the shrill of an alarm waking you up. Meandering books. Offbeat movies. Stumbling conversations. Art exhibitions. Puppet shows. The month was planned across a Srilankan visit, Bangalore laziness in all its glory at parents’ place and the final stint at home – comforting Pune sunshine in the biting cold.

It takes time to mend old ways. So I started my break with a to-do list which went like this –
1. Bring back health on track
2. Write
3. Read
4. Plan terrace garden
5. Complete art projects
6. Catch up on ‘movie to watch’ pile
7. Organize photos repository
8. Give away old clothes and toys of S

At the end of the month which is today, I am glad to say that I didn’t do any of the above except walk everyday and just spending time with S, K and my parents. The days just slipped through the cracks. Which is exactly how I realized I had wanted it. Yes time was peppered by a couple of books and movies here and there, but nothing concerted and planned. Nothing to break the monotony. No SOS calls or a problem dying to be solved. Nothing on rush mode. Yes there were distractions. Social media. Yet it co-existed in an unobtrusive manner. A companion when I needed it. Though I may not have wanted to resort to it as much.

That is probably what this year is going to be all about. Of imperfections and of the raw beauty hidden in it. More vulnerable moments. Allowing myself to open up more before I ones I care for. Going with the flow, but not hesitating to break into a slow rivulet rather than moving with the speedy current. More respect for the body. More early mornings. More aimless long walks. More awkward silences. Not wanting to be the best in every single thing, every single time. It requires numerous inner demons to be conquered and its definitely not easy to erode years of mental conditioning. More unknown answers to questions asked by S. And more struggle to find the same. More often than not, she and I are not looking for answers; we are just trying to hold simple moments together with some meaning. More attempt in some ways to create a sense of differentiation between the individual, parent, spouse and the worker. To bottle up and seal off work sometime during the day. So that you are eagerly waiting to open and lap it up the next day. More distinguishing lines between days and nights. More moon gazing. More random recipes that appear ridiculous to all but me and S. She surrenders completely and unconsciously for things I have loved all my life. Raw Maggi and sago vadaam maavu. Fried Mor Molaga stems. More train journeys and lesser flights. And to regain the ability to sleep on a train. More Tamil music. More books finished cover to cover in a single sitting.

Such resolutions have been made umpteen times. However there is a difference now. All the above without pressure or compulsion to achieve the same. A resolution, if only, to be imperfect. Sounds like a mirage but we shall see. That will be another post at the end of 2016 🙂

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Natsamrat – the movie

It has always been a dream to write about something few hours after I have experienced it, before the night passes away. Sleep has this beautiful ability to mellow your feelings, thoughts and even experiences, and here I am sitting well past midnight and typing this before I sleep over the movie Natsamrat. Spoilers ahead.

I went for this unprepared, solely based on K’s review that it’s an extremely brilliant award winning movie, me being a sucker for all things offbeat. I then read up about the fact that the movie is actually based on a highly acclaimed and successful play by the same name, on the life of a theatre legend.
Since I have watched the movie first, this piece is only for the movie.

Nana Patekar is one actor I have admired a lot through the years, and he being the protagonist is three-fourth the battle won. He paints a vivid character faultlessly – Natsamrat or Ganpat ‘Appa’ Belwalkar, an excellent and eccentric play legend who is so full of himself and always believes the world is at his feet. He chooses the day of retirement, and proceeds to move away from the lure of the stage. Yet he doesn’t leave the stage behind; in his wife’s words – he gets the stage home. What she means is he has got all his theatrics home. ‘Nautanki’, his friend Rambhau calls him. The friend is a beautiful character etched by Vikram Gokhale. A theatre actor himself, he drinks like a fish and freely criticizes Natsamrat as a half-baked actor. The banter between the friends is enjoyable – funny and heart wrenching in the same shot. Conversation between the two flows freely, much like the alcohol they talk over. Considering the era in which the movie is set, the wives of both these artistes are subdued, traditional yet have a voice in their head. The scenes between Natsamrat and his wife ‘Sarkar’, as he lovingly calls her are beautifully delivered and shot. She is his anchor, the bullock that pulls the wayward carriage that he is, the placid sea behind the tumultuous wave of the artist. She has taken care of the hearth and home for years, so that Belwalkar can focus on becoming and being Natsamrat. Yet she hates it when her husband apologizes. To her he is an idol. She accepts him with all his flaws, Natsamrat the philanderer, Natsamrat the spendthrift, Natsamrat the raunchy conversation embarraser. Though this may seem far fetched, too patronizing and idealistic, it’s probably a fair representation of the times they lived in.

The story is primarily about how Natsamrat wills all that he owns to his son and daughter, and how he ends up uncared for. The scenes of conflict between the couple and their children remind us of Tamil Visu movies ‘Samsaaram Oru Minsaaram’ or a Baghban. Only thing being the scenes leading to the conflicts are more brutal and extremist. They may appear jarring in modern times. The sympathy and tears of the family at the end of the movie seem artificial. Vidya’s (Natsamrat’s daughter) husband Barve is an interesting character but he is depicted in too much white without any shade of grey. Whereas all the other characters are shown with traces of grey. Rambhau when he admits he fears his wifes death because of a selfish motive – that he doesn’t want to be alone. Makarand (Natsamrat’s son) who has pre-planned that his dad could probably move out of his ancestral home and stay in the village home. Neha (Makarand’s wife) who wants her privacy and to set her home as she wants it. The home that Natsamrat bequeathed to them. Vidya’s character is layered, she wants to support her parents come what may, but there is probably some trace of a guilt in her heart, which makes her behave in a vociferous and overly righteous manner, not giving her parents any benefit of doubt. She sheds silent tears after her outbursts. In some ways she is similar to her father in constitution – impulsive and temperamental.

Well then – the movie might make you sad a bit, K couldn’t sit through the movie so he left the movie midway. The plot may be age old, the scenes may be naïve. But Natsamrat’s dialogues are powerful, and relevant for any theatre artiste today.

Moments of truth –
when Dikshit’s son (Dikshit – Barve’s boss) wants to hear true feedback from Natsamrat’s mouth on his Shakespearean adapted play
Vithoba – Vidya’s chubby cook and househelp who keeps watch over the main door at night, sees the couple escape and yet lets them go to protect their self-respect
The Natsamrat edited spiteful ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ rhyme sung by Belwalkar’s grand daughter and her friends in school
Rambhau slapping Belwalkar when he has forgotten him for few months after Rambhau’s wife Kumud passes away. Rambhau is endearing even in pain. In his scathing words to Natsamrat after the slap – ‘Even a disease keeps you company, and walks with you’.

A lot can happen over coffee…

She left office and was waiting impatiently for the lift to arrive, her faux leather bag clutched in one hand, and a working laptop in the other. The plush lift arrived and she threw a quick glance at the people she was going to share the lift with. And then saw him. Composed and unruffled, he looked as charming as he had done on the day they had first met. Just at that moment, his eyes looked up from his Blackberry to the woman who had just boarded the lift. He looked clearly intrigued, even a little amused, and attempted a half-smile. She fumbled and just about managed to look confused.
In the twenty second journey together that followed, their minds unconsciously did a wild run through all significant moments they had spent, and the heart-breaking separation that had then seemed inevitable. She was in a heap of emotions, desperately trying to put up a show bordering between irritation and nonchalance when those clearly were not the emotions on top of her mind. On top of her mind, rather annoyingly, was pure worry about how she looked right now, and whether her recklessly loud heartbeats were audible to everyone around. He hopelessly continued staring into his BB, but couldn’t help the flutters in his heart that she had just caused.
It was a year since they had separated. After a year of marriage. A struggling marriage following a sensuous courtship. The inter-cultural marriage for which they had fought everyone who mattered. The marriage that had eventually succumbed to their own ‘lack of compatibility’, as the lawyer had so effortlessly put it.
The lift reached the lobby and they stepped out, more slowly than the others. “Coffee? For old times’ sake?”, he asked, with what appeared to be genuine warmth. “Why not?”, she felt the words tumble from her mouth. And they stepped into the coffee shop, both their heads spinning with excitement and anticipation for what lay ahead. All for old times’ sake.
She was surprised when he remembered exactly what she preferred in coffee, and confirmed with her before ordering the same. “I see your tastes haven’t changed very much”, he laughed. She didn’t know what to answer then, for anything she felt she answered may turn out to be a cheeky response. She gulped her intense desire to retort immediately (one of her worst traits that), and smiled, tilting her head to one side. He still remembered the devastating effect her smile could have. Her face and demeanour took a completely new persona when she smiled. Her eyes smiled along with her lips, and made her appear like a mischievous reprimanded child, suddenly buoyant on being asked to leave the classroom.
There was an inevitable silence while both of them scanned for safe topics in their heads. Family. Dangerous territory. Personal life. Too personal. Work. Seemingly the only potentially safe topic in the current situation.
“So tell me”, she said, “What are you doing in my building?”
“Well, I needed to tune in with a client whom my team had long written off. I thought we should definitely give a second shot to the business case.” The first word that had come to his head was ‘relationship’, but he had feared the innuendo in it and had hastily replaced it with ‘case’.
Coffee acted as an effective ice-breaker. They chugged along effortlessly about work, her new wins, his expanding team, and she realized they were actually having quite a pleasant conversation, any initial discomfort having evaporated. She still remembered, with a flash of regret, that this was a meeting which had to end, and that she couldn’t just hop on with him to a home they both belonged to. And then she felt ashamed at her regret.
“So shall we leave?” she asked, careful not to appear over-excited by the meeting.
“Sure”.
Gentleman that he is…or rather appears to be, she thought, bitter memories resurfacing. Her train of thought was broken by something that caught her eye. He was still wearing his wedding ring. What a show for nothing – her bitter subconscious rebuked, while her upper mind was very surprisingly, still calm. She had already removed hers. She was clinical and procedure oriented that way, and had ticked off box after box in the separation checklist.
“Do you need a lift”?
“No, I have my car”, she lied. Her car was off for service today. The thought of tottering home in a rickety old auto, or worse, booking a cab now and waiting back in her office cubicle till it arrived, was sickening. She still managed to put up a brave goodbye smile and waved nonchalantly in his direction. She was expecting him to walk towards the parking lot, and then realized that she too was supposed to be headed there. She walked alongside him, thinking about an appropriate excuse for her car having suddenly disappeared from the parking lot.
“Uhmmm… I have to pick up a friend”, she offered.
Oh…sure. Shall I proceed then?”
Of course. Happy weekend.”
“Thank you. And thanks for the nice evening, and for agreeing to stop by.”
He smiled, and proceeded towards his silver Passat, and she pretended to dabble with her phone to trace her non-existent friend she was supposed to pick up. He half-waved as he drove away, and she felt her heart grow very heavy suddenly. She walked past the rickshaw stand, deciding that a quick walk would do good to clear her head.
She thought it was so ironical to have had a nice sweet date with her ex-husband. He, of all people, with whom she couldn’t even stay in the same house, and had hence fought for a formal separation. She thought of what her parents would say if they knew she was gallivanting in a coffee shop with that guy. She chuckled when she thought of her over-protective, mother-hen best friend, gaping with her eyeballs wide, on getting to know who her smug evening coffee companion was. And most importantly, what he thought of their meeting today.
As he was driving back, his mind went blank for a while, and then the memories of the evening he had spent slowly crept up like the muted scents of a potpourri lapping up a room. The first crystallized thought that came to his head was that it was the best evening he had had in a long time.
She dug her mind for bits of bitterness and anger, but she found those were rather miniscule compared to the excitement of having bumped into him again. She just wasn’t angry or avengeful, however hard she tried to focus on being so. She felt uncannily composed, almost like a precocious child suddenly struck by a flash of wisdom.
He thought about the churlish and immature fights that had eaten up their precious limited time together. When both had careers that almost threatened to consume their lives, it was no surprise that their relationship had required an extra dose of special care and effort at both ends to keep it alive. And they had impatiently given up. Just like that. Unable to take on the pressures of sorting it out. Feeling a mad urge to escape, to run away from it all.
Of course, having a coffee date and living under the same roof are not the same. Clear your head. You can’t afford to once again be swept off your feet by that overly romantic guy who has no clue how to deal with marriage.
If I could objectively name a single trait of hers as the cause of our rift. Well, everyone has theirs. And I was no hero either.
Well, its not as if he had an affair or something. I mean, people make mistakes. Why didn’t I just stick around? Or maybe he couldn’t have an affair, just because he didn’t have the time for it. He didn’t have time for himself, for me, or for the marriage.
He realized that his parents never attempted to settle their arguments. He appreciated their ability not to interefere, but the way they had coldly distanced himself from his life was at times more disconcerting to him than their interference would have probably been. He felt it would have been much more natural and spontaneous, had they just picked up the phone, or arrived bags in hand, as soon as they heard about the serious discord between their son and his wife. Much as he didn’t want to blame them for his separation, he couldn’t now deny there was a part they could have played, but simply didn’t, maybe because she was not initially their choice or from their culture. He felt a sudden and unexpected tinge of warmth towards her parents, who had stood by her like a rock, and taken over charge completely from their beloved daughter, without even once belting out the ‘we told you so’.
She believed her parents had played an overwhelmingly dominating role in this episode. As soon as their differences started creeping up, they had always blamed him for not being able to cope with the technicalities of a married life. She, their darling daughter could do nothing wrong and hence was never on the radar. She had known this upsetting fact all along, and was surprised how conveniently she had managed to ignore it and effortlessly concur with them on the blame game.
He felt he could have given some more time to the marriage and realized, with a shudder, that he seemed to have so much more time on his hands after the separation, and even returned home from work earlier than before.
She felt they could have simply planned better outsourced more work rather than perpetually blaming each other for not being able to contribute.
He had been introduced to a few women by his friends, but none of them could even appear intelligent enough to hold his interest for more than a few minutes. All they could talk about was latest fashion trends, best deals, best brands and he felt suffocated by the retail shopaholism. He wondered if she had already found someone.
She remembered the lonely nights she had spent in the last one year, often missing his comforting silhouette. But she had also been largely at peace, and even relieved, as if a pesky ingrown toenail had been snapped off. Back on her usual well-oiled routine, with nothing threatening to upset it.
The weekend went by slowly, and was uninteresting. He couldn’t wait for Monday. He knew she liked to spend her weekends at home, fully for the family, with the family, and that he had no chance of bumping into her.
She took her parents out for shopping, and had lunch at her best friend’s place. All along, she felt she was hiding a part of her soul from all of them – who had stood by her in her moment of crisis. She resolved not to behave like a vapid schoolgirl, but woke up on Monday morning with butterflies in her stomach – the first waking up thought one gets on stumbling upon a new crush, with endorphins coursing madly through the head. Aaah, to be in love again – she stretched languidly, and then hastily reprimanded herself she wasn’t that vulnerable to go for an affair on the rebound. And that too with the same guy. She proceeded to get ready for work, and selected an especially nice ensemble, the ones she only reserved for high profile meetings. It irritated her that he still held her strings somewhere deep inside her, and resolved to change into something else, but then decided to go on as changing would mean she had worn it in the first place only for him. Her mind was thoroughly distracted. The coffee shop seemed to mock at her as she walked past. The day went on like any other, barring the fact that she was all dressed up and utterly restless. She kept her phone at direct view, almost as if she was scared she may not hear him call. It was ironical that until only a few days back, she had been so motivated and charged up about her work. The day passed without any milestone or drive. She reluctantly shot out the only important email for the day to a client, pushing herself to do it so that it solaced her that she had not been entirely unproductive and tranced. When she finally could take the inertia no more, and picked up her bag to leave, she heard her phone buzz. Her heart leapt when she saw the number. She had removed it from her contact list, yet she knew very well it was his.
He asked her if she was free and ready to leave office. Not wanting to appear so readily available, she said she would need another half hour to wrap up her work. He asked her if she could join him for a drink. She wanted to be prude and decline, but excitement got too much of her, and she decided it didn’t mean much if she went for a drink. After all, she wasn’t a child and there was no harm if she had a perfectly mature conversation with a perfectly known guy.
The following weekend, he couldn’t believe he had met her every day of the week. That he had had the balls to ask her out. And that she had agreed. They had enjoyed themselves, bringing back the fierce and tremulous attraction of their courtship days. No strings. Just a coffee or a drink and go back to your closeted lives. An esoteric hour in their clock worked lives. It was a heady experience to already have decoded the little details of the person you dated. Like how he always had to have a glass of water before having his tea. And how he hated ties. Like how she hated cooked tomatoes and would always pick them out from her meal. Like he wanted his curries to be slathered with gravy, while she liked them dried and roasted. Like how, when she nodded her head without meeting his eye, it meant she didn’t agree with him. Like how he always carried the faintest trace of a smile when he was not speaking the truth.
The lines they had initially drawn around sensitive topics had started to blur.
She came back home with a not-so-good-feeling, the kind you get when you have gobbled up an entire bar of chocolate while on a diet plan and its not a cheat day. It wasn’t that she had been forced into these dates. She enjoyed herself, enjoyed the conversation, the attention, his suave. But what she couldn’t digest or figure out was if she was once again moving towards a dead end. Scenes from their last few months together flashed before her closed eyes like the bitter insides of a sugar-coated pill.
Their marriage had started on a high note, fueled by explosive attraction and common wavelength. As everyday mundane took over, it became a challenge given that both of them loved to return to a running home set in motion – food on the table, essentials stocked, banal tasks managed. Their jobs were high profile and demanding, where work-life balance held no meaning. Work was life. There were always client deadlines to be met. Groceries to be bought. Office get-togethers to be attended. Kitchen cabinets to be sorted. Social circles to be entertained. Maids to be instructed. Books to be read. Conferences to be attended. Movies to catch up on. Cooks to be replaced. Bills to be tracked and paid. Cricket to be up-to-date with. Her targets. His KPIs. Car to be serviced. Bank matters to be sorted. Laundry to be managed. Professional certifications to be maintained. There was always, always, something to be done. Her to-do lists were painstakingly made and crossed out, but they never seemed to end. More than the magnitude of the tasks, it was often the sheer attitudes in friction. He often felt she was more clued in to her job rather than to their personal life or household matters. She felt it had just taken a few months of marriage to shake off the two inch layer of genteel, beneath which his chauvinism was now perfectly visible.
Her parents were certainly not happy with her choice and she could sense it right through. It was very disconcerting that the people who were the closest to her did not approve of someone as close to her as he was. Torn between two ends and eternally being asked to act out the peacemaker role took a heavy toll on her. With his parents she had a politely cold equation. Decrepit relationships seemed to lay trapped deep inside their apparently affluent and successful life. Their arguments steadily took over their intense attraction and intimacy. Things that had actually drawn them closer now seemed soporific.
The last two months had been the worst. He was hardly home before the wee morning hours, and that pissed her to no end. Weary of the constant nagging, to a point, which he felt ashamed to recall even now, when insipid conversations with his secretary had seemed to provide more peace and distraction. She just didn’t get how he always had late night meetings. He had client calls over the weekends taken from office. He started distancing himself. She tried to juggle the home responsibilities alone for a while, and then gave up, deciding she deserved better. And that’s when it hit her. She just moved back with her parents. And walked out of his life. It was she who had called up to let him know she needed a break. He hadn’t even called. That was what had hurt her the most, and pushed her to separation.
They couldn’t decide if they were overreacting, and they were too puffed up to go to a marriage counsellor. Some of their friends advised them that these issues were minor stumbling blocks that wiggled their way into every marriage. They retorted saying it was ultimately the little things and not newsworthy stuff that made up everyday life.
And so had they slipped effortlessly out of each other’s lives in the garb of mutual incompatibility. Escaping from something that created tremors, demanded multiple adjustments out of them.
This time around, they couldn’t place a finger on what had changed – whether it was his attitude, her maturity, or the freak coincidence played by destiny.
She resolved to decline any further invitations of coffee with him.
He resolved not to ask her out again.
No calls were exchanged on Monday. It was almost as if the week in between had never existed. She tried not to look at the coffee shop as she walked out of her office.
It didn’t take them long to figure out that their formal separation had been more of a relief, but the separation now was probably even more heart-breaking. The last week had thrown up possibilities that they had not known still existed. Moments that could possibly be recreated, over and over again, in their lifetimes. A relationship that could perhaps be held together by the power of emotions. Where, for a moment perhaps, the heart could rule over the mind.
That night, although they slept in different corners of the city, the same silvery moonlight slanted through their window panes. And spun their heavy eyelids into a deep, dreamless sleep.

A lot can happen over coffee – My entry for the Get Published contest

Plot idea:

This story is about a couple, who get deliriously attracted to each other, have a whirlwind romance and decide to share a lifetime, battling family opinions. Although hopelessly in love, they are both highly temperamental and perhaps not ready for the challenges of living a married life. Foibles and frustrations cost them their togetherness and eventually lead to a split. Family pressure that couldn’t win its battle in preventing their union, manages to accomplish a formal separation.

But that’s where this story really begins. They bump into each other a year later, causing those same butterflies to relentlessly flit around in their heads. For the single question that rings in both their hearts is whether their separation was worth it. Whether sticking around would have been a better choice to make. Whether they had really got over each other. And most importantly, do they really stand another chance.

Excerpt:

She left office and was waiting impatiently for the lift to arrive, her faux leather bag clutched in one hand, and a working laptop in the other.  The plush lift arrived and she threw a quick glance at the people she was going to share the lift with. And then saw him. Composed and unruffled, he looked as charming as he had done on the day they had first met. Just at that moment, his eyes looked up from his Blackberry to the woman who had just boarded the lift. He looked clearly intrigued, even a little amused, and attempted a half-smile. She fumbled and just about managed to look confused.

In the twenty second journey together that followed, their minds unconsciously did a wild run through all significant moments they had spent, and the heart-breaking separation that had then seemed inevitable. She was in a heap of emotions, desperately trying to put up a show bordering between irritation and nonchalance when those clearly were not the emotions on top of her mind. On top of her mind, rather annoyingly, was pure worry about how she looked right now, and whether her recklessly loud heartbeats were audible to everyone around. He hopelessly continued staring into his BB, but couldn’t help the flutters in his heart that she had just caused.

It was a year since they had separated. After a year of marriage. A struggling marriage following a sensuous courtship. The inter-cultural marriage for which they had fought everyone who mattered. The marriage that had eventually succumbed to their own’ lack of compatibility’, as the lawyer had so effortlessly put it.

The lift reached the lobby and they stepped out, more slowly than the others. “Coffee? For old times’ sake?”, he asked, with what appeared to be genuine warmth. “Why not?”, she felt the words tumbling from her mouth. And they stepped into the coffee shop, both their heads spinning with excitement and anticipation for what lay ahead. All for old times’ sake.

 

“This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.”

If you like this excerpt and would like to read more of the story, please go ahead and vote for my story idea at http://www.indiblogger.in/getpublished/idea/577 (click on the red heart!)

The Sabbatical Story

S is the only person in my lifetime with whom I have spent every waking minute for a year and a half. Waking minute may be an understatement here, we probably dream about each other as well. I had not planned for this long a break away from work, but so it happened. Overall, its been a great journey, though we have had our share of pitfalls, frustrations and disappointments. Its been a great journey because I got a chance to re-live my long forgotten childhood. Things I either wasn’t exposed to, or which I didn’t have the time to explore and enjoy. Most of my life, was spent busy studying and building a good career. As the offspring of a conservative Tam-Brahm family with no much fortunes to speak of as inheritance, you could probably take a blind guess on how programmed my life would’ve been. Thanks to S, I rediscovered bubbles, butterflies, and fairy tales. Eating to your heart’s content, the magic of morning garden time, and waking up free and bright on a Monday morning. I found my art for making funny faces which made the baby laugh uncontrollably. I found the amazing ability of a good ginger-lemon grass tea to break the stupor of a drugged afternoon nap. I found the art of healing my headaches on my own, without taking a pill. And the art of figuring of why the headache came in the first place (I have not yet developed an ability to prevent headaches, so let’s leave my spiritual quest there). I learnt to bake and realized that no matter how many cakes I baked, the excitement while opening the oven door to get the first glimpse of the cake did not wane. I am not saying I am a pro, but the cakes I bake are nice and tasty and enough to excite me and the kid. She devours them, even the wheat based ones (if you still didn’t get it, I am now gloating about my capability to bake maida-free cakes. Sorry!). I cherished reading every single day, whenever baby napped. I stumbled upon the amazing ritual of having coffee in my balcony. Such an irony that though we made sure we bought a flat with a balcony, we never ever found the time to have a relaxed cuppa, in all these years. The evening caffeine kick was at the office for sustaining our sleepy nerves and the mornings were too much of a rush.

                       

I had certain epiphanies and made some stubborn choices. Like I would stay at home for a couple of years before getting back into the (big bad) corporate world. I would not raise my hand on the baby, ever (although a number of my family members are waiting with bated breath for the day when I will lose my temper, just to prove me wrong). I would not wallow in self-pity for choosing to stay at home while others seamlessly pursued their career choices. I would not compare my spouse or kid with others. In the time I choose to spend with S, I would not just ‘appear’ to be available, armed with a smart phone or laptop. I would be available to my kid well enough to have a conversation with good eye contact. I would not push my kid into learning from a tender age (read educational toys, educational books, and all things educational). Kids are anyway naturally hyper-inquisitive, and have the ability to pick up a tremendous amount of skills themselves, which is one thing that amazes me till date.

                       

If I am going to rant on like this, saying that stay-at-home mommies’ lives are all about rainbows and bubble baths, then I am just overly romanticized and been wearing pink tinted glasses all along. Saying that I have absolutely enjoyed every single minute and every single day of my sabbatical would be like someone saying their favourite writer is Chetan Bhagat. A naïve, constricted view. I have realized that no matter how much ad films and magazine covers glamourize the mom and baby combo, its not entirely the truth. Those glossy pictures you see are a Kodak moment. There are other moments before and after that. I wonder why we relentlessly target the seven year itch for married couples while we still do not exhibit complete frankness about the roller-coaster relationship that one shares with children. One reason I can think of is that children, at least till the age of five, are beyond human weaknesses, and love you unconditionally, no matter what. Something like pets. The only difference being is that the amount of care and attention children demand are way way higher than your furry companions would.

                       

There are times of the day where S and I are inseparables, cuddling away to glory. There are also times on the same day, where we have got so tired of each other that we mutually agree to get on with our own separate activities. The third slot is the toughest – one of us has got tired of the other one. The other one is still eager to get along. No brownies here for guessing who’s who. Just picturize a killer client who keeps you on your toes 24/7. Calls you at the weirdest possible hours. Doesn’t let you eat your food in peace. Forget food, you probably even miss drinking enough water and postpone loo-trips. That’s the pressure full time baby-raising can put on you. The only big difference is that the baby will give you a joyous gurgle at the end of the day, that has the effect of Ctrl-Z. Your lunches have to be planned well so as to attract minimum disruption. At least for the first six to eight months, you are reeking of baby food, Dettol and J&J. You feel like going to the mall to distract yourself and the baby, but the baby is too small. After few months, the baby is too cranky. After that, the baby is quite mobile and insists on running the length and breadth of the mall, making you appear like a joke to people around.

There are days when I yearn for the office goers look. A look practiced over the years, of posh Fabindia kurtas, unruffled silk dupattas, and printed salwars, with not a single nail chipped, eyebrows trimmed well at all times, coordinated earrings, footwear, bags, and ensemble completed with a smudgy kohl and an everyday lipcolour. Aaah, the simple things I wanted from life. Of course, sitting through office was by no means a la-la ride. We had to work our bums off. Pester clients, talk sensible stuff all the time, manage projects impeccably, hold attention spans, create favourable perceptions everywhere. Have an updated Linked in account, network well at corporate get togethers and be uptodate with the day’s business headline. Act as if you are born to handle crisis, at all levels, between your subordinates, superiors, clients, whoever. Move around with a Zen-like smile till you reach that place called home. Where the Zen in you crumbles, and all rules break. You are once again human, a daughter, a wife, a mother. You make up for all the calmness in daytime by unleashing the real ‘yours truly’ at home. Strangely, a part of me even today longs to return to this lifestyle. The lifestyle I used to crib about every weekend while I was working. The lifestyle I so badly wanted a break from. The lifestyle I had decided never to recommend to anyone. We humans are a fickle minded lot. We unconsciously adapt ourselves even to unfavourable environments, so much so that we even manage to create a comfort zone within it. We nevertheless keep cribbing about the negative conditions as that gives us some form of catharsis. Finally, when pushed out of the comfort zone, we miss those trying times badly.

During this break, I did try hard at times to don the avatar of a supercool mum and wife. Efficient, never clumsy, who knows her plain olive oil from extra virgin olive oil. Who rattles off clever tricks and tips to solve any household trouble. Who appears glamorous even while shes cooking. Harmonious and blended, with the ease and grace of a geisha. Who can switch fluidly between discussing money market instruments and idli batter recipe in a jiffy. Who makes lovely cakes without a spot in her apron. Who can say intelligible things like ‘The roasting and browning of the pumpkin is key for giving this soup its special taste’…and so on. But I was miserably unsuccessful. Though I did learn some survival tricks at the kitchen and the art of churning out my own dosa batter, I still have a long way to go towards being the queen of the hearth.

Despite all odds, when I look back at the motherhood experience that has been so different from the rest of my life, I am surprised that the only aftertaste I have is contentment. Of having invested time to bring up S in my way. I know some of this might get eroded but at least I gave it a good enough shot. Babies, though extremely demanding, come with inbuilt stress busters. Like a beautiful smile thrown at you. An unexpected peck on the cheek. An trusting finger curling around yours for security. Making you feel so so important in their scheme of things by wailing for you when you are away. Makes me forget, at least temporarily all the good nights’ sleep that I have missed. The innumerable diaper changes. And every other hardship. Maybe that’s why mothers generally develop short term memory loss. Makes life that much more beautiful.

I am now harbouring thoughts of slowly getting back to work. There are obviously mixed feelings. Thank you S, for having entertained me. And for giving me another chance to grow up once again. Only, this time around, I will take my own sweet time to grow up.

Why wish for a girl child

Ma, you tell me Papa and you always wanted a girl.
You told me to study hard, to find my rightful niche
You gave me all the freedom you couldn’t have
Why can’t I then stay late to finish that job at work
Why can’t I freely drive the car I bought
Why do I need to keep reporting my whereabouts
To you, or Papa, or Brother, or Husband?
Why do I need to justify going with my boyfriend
Why can’t I enjoy a girls night out
Why can’t I go dressed as per the latest trends
Why am I solemnly reminded at every step that women are equals
Why does it take so much verbal reinforcement
Of a statement so utterly meaningless and flimsy

Why did you tell me times were different before
When women were suppressed
Did you mean we were actually safer
Was staying at home much better
Than losing your life or breaking your spirit while trying to live this ‘equal’ life
I am torn between the values you gave me
And what I see in the world I live in
I don’t understand why we need to suffer so much agony
And loss of freedom
Just because we are women
Women with a heart
Who choose not to commit
Dirty crimes on men.

The law is blind
Goodness is dead
What for do we have goddesses in this country?
So why at all did Papa and you wish for a girl?
What were you planning to offer me in this world?

Gharonda

It’s been a really long hiatus from blogging this time. As clichéd as it may sound, I have been ultra busy with something, and that something is very predictably going to be the topic of this post.

The husband and I have started our house hunting yet again for the third time in the last four years. Now don’t give me that look. We are not into house hoarding. We bought a couple of houses in the past, which we had to sell due to totally different reasons. So this time around, I am keeping my fingers crossed, hoping this purchase will last longer than the earlier ones. Long enough for the walls to bear the stubborn pencil marks tracing the height of the growing child. Long enough for the rooms to be weighed down with the echoes of laughter and joy, of love and hope, of arguments and anguish. Basically, long enough for the house to become a home.

House-hunting, I feel, is akin to spouse-hunting in a number of ways. You feel the vibes, positive or negative, within the first ten seconds. You start fantasising. You start comparing the current one with the ones seen till then. You become anxious if you very badly want it.  You become touchy if nothing works out for a long time. You wait with bated breath for the right one to come riding one fine morning. Just like that. Unannounced, sweeping you off your feet.

Though I never had the fortune (or misfortune) of checking out multiple grooms before settling on Mr Right, the house hunting left me with much more on my hands than I could handle. Further, the tiring and stressful process of house hunting with a toddler in tow was made infinitely amusing, intriguing and frustrating, all at the same time, by the broker fraternity. They are, no doubt, an interesting lot. I understood certain tenets about the broker community. Their’s is a tough life in a highly competitive, disorganized sector, where transparency and work ethics are extremely rare. The brokers struggle to swim their way through turbulent waters, the bigger sharks gobbling up the smaller ninnies along the journey. As a result, many of them resort to umpteen tricks of trade to keep their hearths running warm.

Some excerpts of our routine albeit amusing conversation with brokers:

Scene one:

We were ushered into a seedy looking house with chrome lights and all, filled with empty beer bottles in every possible nook. The floor was strewn with cigarette stubs. So as not to appear extremely rude, we gave the place a cursory glance before hurriedly stepping out.

Broker (very smugly): Kaisa laga sir?

Hubby: Arre ghar dikhao, bar nahi

Broker: Saab yeh sab to common hai na. Bachelars toh gande hi rehte hai. Ye to phir bhi thik hai. Last week group of working girls key aha party leke gaya. Shorts me ek ladki ne cigarette ke saath door khola. Jain party toh udhar se hi laut gaya! Aaj kal ki ladkiyan tej hai na!!

Well well.

Scene two:

Me: Gym hai?

Broker: Pata lagatu hu

Hubby: Kabhi bataoge?

Broker: Ek do din me

Hubby and me: Huh???

Scene three:

Broker: Maam, yeh dekho. Proper 3 BHK hai.

Me: Proper matlab?

Broker: Arey madam, yaane ki accha 3bhk hai.

Me: Oh. Okay…Par yeh toh top floor hai. Aapne bola nahi mujhe phone pe!

Broker: Higher floor bola tha na madam…

Me: Uhmm…Higher floor…

Scene four:

Hubby: Arey kya mast flat hai.

Me: Wait, pehle compass nikalo (experience had taught me that the best flats were invariably south facing)

Hubby: Kya yaar, yeh bhi south facing hai!!

Broker: Par aapne bataya nahi vaastu compliant chahiye.

Hubby: Hmmm. Toh suno hamare requirements:

Vaastu, feng shui or jo bhi sab hai uske saath compliant hona chahiye

Bada balcony chahiye. Madam ko papad sukhana hai (winks at me)

Top floor or ground floor nahi chahiye.

Shaam ko 630 baje tak ghar me light aana chahiye

Aajoo Bajoo me kahi bhi road nahi hona chahiye

Khidkiyon se greenery dikhna chahiye

Aur haan, hamare budget me fit hona chahiye. Bas. Hubby turns to me, ‘Anything else’?

Me: (Now a bit unsure of the way the conversation was progressing) Hmmm…Balcony se sun aur moon dikhe to accha hoga…

Broker: (Visibly frustrated). Saab, main line up karke call karta hu.

Obviously, he never called back.

Scene five:

Me: Yeh ghar nahi jamega. Hame bada balcony chahiye.

Broker: But maam, log to aajkal chhota balcony maangte hai. Dengue bahut hai na.

Me: Kya???

Some of the other amusing events included the fact that the door of a house was wide open when we went to see it. Apparently some broker in a tearing hurry who had shown the flat before us had forgotten to lock it (!). We also got a lot of leads from quasi-brokers, typically housewives who leveraged contacts at kitty parties and bhajan mandlis to generate that ‘little but not-so-little’ side income.

Okay, for the record, we have, till date, seen only about 46 houses. If ever there is an award for accomplishing this with a very hyper toddler, you now know whom to nominate.

Seeing my crestfallen face, my resourceful maid who is socially very active mentioned that a house is available in our own society. ‘Didi main kal flat number laati hu, tension nako…’.

Hmmm…Tomorrow the 47th house then!!! Woohoooo