A little while ago you and I had a moment that I wanted to store up. A cool dark room – the hot, Delhi summer raging outside. A mother and son skipping lunch and sitting on the cool marble floor, eating ripe peaches and mangoes, dripping juice over themselves and the floor. Your eyes twinkled in the dark. Your mouth curled up at the edges, a little pink tongue darting out to catch the runaway juice.
This is our last day in this home as a family, darling. I’m taking you to visit with Nani-G’pa and when you return, it will be to a new home. In the suburbs. A new life beckons.
Why are we doing this? Well, because you’ve finally got through a lovely school, all by yourself. Oh they grilled your father and me. But they talked to you and the Bean too and you got in on your own steam. Something I am grateful to the good Lord for. I really didn’t want to be beholden to someone for getting you in and we’ve been spared that situation.
When you got through the school, we were overjoyed, your father and I, mostly because it was a school that fit our philosophy and ideology. It wasn’t like getting into just about any old school. And then they dropped the bomb that we’d have to move closer. I will admit that I went home and cried into my pillow. I don’t know what to say. It’s the end of an era. I’ve enjoyed every bit of motherhood until now. Your father and I have been the parents who took our 4 day old to a car show room, trekked with our 5 month old in a sling. Partied, picnicked, shopped, travelled, done late night drives with the baby asleep in his car seat… the list is endless.
I’ve not grudged you the years of my life I stayed home with you, the cesarean, the colicky nights, the puking down my front, nothing. But if there was one thing your father and I clung to, it was the life in the city. We’re good parents if we say so ourselves, hands on and enjoying it. But what kept us going was the ease with which we could slip out after you’d gone to bed. A movie, a night out at a pub, a walk around one of the old monuments… anything. A quick cup of coffee with friends.
I’ve often had debates on this blog where people said – “Oh, you’re staying home with your kids now and you’ll end up being the mother who tells her kids she sacrificed so much for them, and guilt trip them endlessly like most SAHMs.” After a point I didn’t bother to correct them. I knew I was happy and I knew I had never done anything for the kids that I didn’t want to do. I was expecting you at 25 and I know I’ve missed out on a lot of fun that others have had, but I didn’t really mind because your father and I really do live it up. No real regrets. But we didn’t want to become boring old suburban parents who were exhausted after the long commute home and only crawled into bed and turned on the TV. And yes, very frankly, the resentment raged on for a couple of days.
And then we had no more time to think of it because the madness began. Househunting and looking for a school for the Bean. I don’t mind admitting that I carry some more guilt over that. It’s quite unfair for a younger child to get dragged around for the older child and it’s going to take some time for me to make my peace with that. At some point as we examined houses and checked them for playgrounds, security, safety within the home, proximity to school, ease of getting to work from there in the hot blazing, Delhi summer, dehydrated, cranky, snapping at each other… we forgot to be resentful.
It must have been the nth house around which your father and I forgot the heat, the sweat, the distances and began to have fun. Between the hand holding and the running around to smack him on the head for making fun of my tired bum knees, a broker asked us how long we were married and looked surprised when I mentioned that we had two children waiting for us at home. I doubt it’s because of your father’s shock of black hair (not!!) and my slender (not!!!) figure. It was because we were just having so much fun.
And just like that, we went over to the dark side. Sold out. And made our peace with being suburban parents. And began in earnest to look for swimming pools, tennis courts and all those amenities that make the suburbs tolerable. I’ll tell you my prob with suburbs in India. They’re the frickin opposite of suburbs abroad. You move out of the city and instead of ducks and rabbits like Tambi maama has frolicking in his garden, the skyline is dominated by high rises, concrete and neon signs. Its quite disgusting. Try any of the major cities and that is all you will find in the suburbs. Or else you will find neat little row houses that are too small to accommodate even my big toe and all that remains is to have Noddy come around the corner honking in his little red and yellow car. The grey dreary buildings all have awe-inspiring entrances and lush green lawns but the sameness of the buildings makes my skin crawl and it doesn’t matter how well you do up the inside. I refuse to accept my home beginning and ending within those four walls. I hate opening my doors into a balcony that has another along side, where our conversations are overheard and we’re subjected to someone’s early morning love of *gasp of horror* Himmesh Reshammiya, maybe!
One of the complexes we saw had young mothers with babies in strollers, maids walking dogs (!) and old people watering their hedges. Dada looked approvingly at this picture of suburban bliss while I felt panic fill my heart and I looked around for a hole in the hedge to escape through.
What’s wrong, asked your father, sensing by the look of absolute horror on my face that something just might be. Astute man, this one.
I’d rather die, I confessed.
You weird, twisted woman, he grinned… I love you.
And so it is that after much debate we settled on one of the complexes. We have friends nearby, a nursery school for the Bean at hand and it fit our budget. We’re not over the moon but we’re already seeing the silver lining to this cloud. You’ll have friends in the complex, your security is taken care of and I might even go back to full days of work because you’ll have a half day of school until three, after which you will come home and wash up, have a snack and probably run off to play with your friends. You won’t miss me. (Cue for mournful music). You won’t need me
I feel like a bit of a traitor moving houses while you are away and I have told you about it but I don’t know if you understand. I shall bring you here to visit when you come back from Nani-G’pa’s house.
For now my darling, soak in this moment, this home that has been ours for five years. With its three stories of endless, bone jarring stairs, its wide open balcony where the winter sun warmed our frozen limbs, your sunshiny room filled with music, the cool darkness of mama’s bedroom, the corridor you learnt to cycle in, the windows we sat at and watched the skies darken and the rain come down, the always occupied guest room, the lawn that you played ball in, the driveway where you stood and watched traffic go by. I’m glad you’re going away. I don’t do farewells very well. I don’t want you to watch your mother break down and cry as I leave the home you took your first steps in and your sister was born in.
Tonight I take you to Allahabad, to your grandparents, uncles, aunts, dogs and fish. And then I come home to a house that has sent its soul away… and soon I will leave the empty shell and move on too.
I write this to you so that you know why we moved to the suburbs inspite of my strong feelings on living in the heart of an ancient and strong city like Delhi, feeling its pulse and soaking up its history. And should you ever feel that I resented doing this for you, let me tell you, that in that one moment when you looked up at me, your innocent eyes shining, your cheeks pink with health and mango dripping down your lips on to your little Batman-vest encased belly, I lost my heart all over again. And all I could think of was how I’m going to spend my life ensuring that you never lose that light in your eyes, that you keep smiling as delightfully and that we’re always in Delhi in the mango season!
I love you sweetheart