I thought this post over for days and just haven’t had time to write it down. Well, it was a little of that and a little of – how do you write about the decade that wrought the most change? I went from college girl to mother of two school going children. From utterly dependent on my parents to being home to my children and husband.
Bear with me if the post is incoherent. I learnt a lot about myself and not all of it was pleasant.
– I realised that my image of myself as a career woman was a bit of a joke. I have endlessly put everything else before career – health, sleep, family, love, friends. I’m surprised I still work. I am also a bit of a jack of all trades and willing to put a finger in every pie available.
– I am not one of the better writers I know, but I don’t know too many people who enjoy the process of putting thoughts into words as much as I do. My writing runs in my blood and I’d be less of a person if I didn’t get this space to express myself.
– I was always a black and white person but I am learning to see greys and appreciate them for what they are. I don’t judge as easily as I did when I began to blog. That said, after much soul searching I realised that the one set of people I judge are *gulp* people who dye their white hair. I know!!! It’s ridiculously silly, but I find myself unable to get over this silly little thing. Hopefully the next decade will make me get over it. Until then, I run my fingers through my old man’s grey hair and kiss his head with a lot of pride and contentment. Thanks for keeping it natural, OA!
– I always knew I wanted kids. I just didn’t realise what it meant to have them. Not even wanting kids can prepare you for what having children can do to your insides. They turn to mush. They also turn your knees to shit. No seriously, I have had a terrible time learning to be a mother and this considering I so badly wanted it. I have much empathy for unprepared mothers and unwanted pregnancies- imagine how much harder it is for them.
– I am less sympathetic to malingerers and hypochondriacs (in college I’d have indulged them anyway) and have a lot of time for those who don’t fuss. A good pregnant friend just went in to hospital yesterday to get a stitch taken out of her cervix. I was praying for her all day and sent her a text, fully expecting to get no response. I got a reply within seconds. She messaged me while still with the doctor and there was no fuss – just a cheery ‘Yep, it’s out.’ I mentally bowed to her. I am so sick to death of women who act as though they are the first to give birth ever. Just as I am full of affection for those preggies who don’t demand special treatment – I bend backwards to give it to them.
– My cell phone and I no longer have any relationship. From being the person who had a mobile surgically attached to her fingers, I now don’t bother with my phone. I only use it to take pictures. Most often I don’t answer or return calls or text messages for days. I don’t even know where the damn thing is lying and it often runs out of charge and switches off. Friends get mad at me, but I ensure that I reply to emergency messages. At some point I felt this whole immediacy thing was taking over my life. I’ve given up on urgency. If I miss a train, so be it. If I miss a party, never mind. If I don’t talk to you this afternoon, I’m sorry, I still love you, but I just don’t want to take calls when I am working, when I am gardening, when I am reading to my children… I miss the days of landlines when you simply said that ‘Ms XYZ is not available right now.’ End of matter.
– Some things though, never change. Music still makes me tick, big bikes still make me weak at the knees and bad boys still appeal. Books are still the best gift you can give me.
– I’ve discovered a deep love for home and garden. It’s no surprise because I come from a family that has green fingers, but then I never did appreciate or take any interest in it. It’s funny how these things are so deep rooted and surface unexpectedly.
– I’ve tried unsuccessfully to drink and drive – not simultaneously. But I still don’t drive. And I still don’t drink. I am rather tightly wound and the OA and everyone else says a drink would be the perfect answer to my problems. That I’d be able to relax and let go at the end of the day. I did go through a wine phase but I lost interest in that too. I hereby announce a reward for anyone who can teach me to drive. A bigger reward for anyone who can teach me to drink. I assure you, I won’t do them together.
– Given a chance I’d live my life over the same way again, but I can’t help but notice that I’ve done little in the line of self improvement. Most friends are doing yoga, salsa, studying further, forging ahead in their careers, gymming, travelling, reading and doing much more. I on the other hand planned life such that I ended up with two babies by 27 and have never really done anything else. I am hoping that I’ll be done with them at 45 and free to dance, travel, read and salsa, uninterrupted.
-I’ve figured out the meaning of feminism and what it means to me. I’ve also figured out what humanism means – sometimes they are the same thing, sometimes they contradict each other. And I’ve finally figured out that all the -isms on earth mean nothing if you’re doing them only to make a point. They’ve got to mean something to you. And in between this I retain my maiden name and stay home to make a home for my husband and children. I fight for children’s rights, I still dither on my anti-abortion stance and believe in euthanasia. No, there’s no simple answer.
– I’ve learned the meaning of the dead becoming ghosts. They aren’t floaty white figures. They are people who live on in your life. It’s been five years since I lost the mother who raised me, my maternal Grandma. And I still find myself storing away things to ‘go home and tell her.’ I turn around to talk to her. I laugh crazily at a joke she and I are still sharing. I look at the Bean in pleasure and know my grandma is in her in so many ways. Yes, this is what you mean by ghosts haunting you. And its not all bad.
– They say you marry the man who reminds you of your father. The OA is nothing like my excitable, hot headed, passionate, dark father. The man who brought me up was my tall, calm, reasonable, very fair, Garhwali grandfather and I guess he lived on in my mind as the standard. Which is why after the maddest, wildest relationship with a musician who was just like my birth father, I gave it all up to marry the OA who is exactly like my maternal grandfather. The bitchier people thought I married him because he was a better prospect. The truth is, I married him because it was like coming home after a wild beach party.
– I’ve learnt that love comes in many shapes and forms. It’s a form of energy so it doesn’t really go away. The love that burned wildly and brightly will evolve and become a deep affection. And should you hear that he has had an accident, you’ll still run barefoot to the hospital and offer blood. If you’ve lost the friendship along with the lover, I have deep sympathy for the two of you. And if you ask me, I’ll tell you that I still love them a lot. When I count my blessings, I never fail to count the loves I am still in touch with and who will take my trip royally if given a chance, but still give me a kidney if I need it. I’ve had some wonderful men become part of my life and the time I spent with them and the relationships I’ve had are priceless. They’ve shaped me and made me the person I am. The OA should send them all Thank You cards.
– I’ve made and lost more friends than I can count. I first thought of it as a personal failing but after a few chats, I’ve realised that a lot of people go through this. Different friends at different times and then you drift away. You still come back if they need you, but you no longer talk twice a day. On the other hand, I was told that you make your best friends in school. I find that untrue in my case. Some of my best friends came after. Some of them were made online, no longer bound by geographical and community constraints. I’ve had some terrible experiences on the net too and been badly betrayed by people I thought were friends, but if you tell me you met your wife online, I no longer judge – I completely understand. And yes, the internet changed my life.
– I’ve faced up to a lot of failings. I hate to be contradicted. I don’t take criticism too well. I hate failing and have no perseverance. I don’t do politics. I have no ambition. I often find I am wasting days and wasting my life. From small things like rearranging my children’s sock drawer, to re-reading a book, I often just wake up to realise that others are getting a lot more done and so could I, if I would just push myself to it.
– On the good side, I realise that I can be generous to a fault and I believe in spoiling people. Everyone. I forgive easily. I love living in the moment. I treasure small things. I work tirelessly if given a job that requires physical labour. I am great in a big crisis although cranky if I break a fingernail. I am passionate about things that matter and my family gets the best of me.
– I have learnt I can lose weight in a jiffy if I put my mind to it but I’ve come to love 34B over W -24. Size zero looks great on a magazine cover, size 14 looks great uncovered. Okay, all bad jokes, but all stuff I really believe. It’s sad that the way we look in photographs matters so much to us that we get them airbrushed. Is that how you capture a beautiful moment in life? To be false? What a waste. This is something that has come to bother me hugely over the years. Also, the weight obsession is scary. I have random people telling me I need to lose weight even as I look at myself in the mirror and love what I see. I eat carbs at every meal, I drink two cups of milk a day, I eat chocolate, I put ghee in my food and I love my life. I could remove all that and cut sugar out of tea and sacrifice my reading hour to the gym, but then what? Skinny and miserable? On the other hand the OA says we’re both complacent because we don’t have a real weight problem yet. Hmmm… he has a point.
– I’ve learnt that I am a tree hugging, earth hugging, cloth diapering, free spirit. And it was all brought out by my children. It’s only when you have someone you want to give your bes tto, that you dig deep to figure yourself out. On the other hand, I am very middle class in a lot of my values and as Dimple Kapadia said in Dil Chahta Hai, I have a huge issue with people and their ‘Chalta hai’ attitude. Sab kuch nahi chalta hai, so please don’t send me SMS that says Dis and Dat. I’ve also gone from the pushover who did others’ laundry at the hostel and woke up at 4 am to make tea for random people, to the woman who only invests time and emotion in those that return it. In that sense, I’ve learnt what matters – finally.
– 17 years in a small town and I was embarrassed by my lack of a simple answer to the question – What are you? Today I smile mysteriously and say ‘Guess?’ or ‘Exotic’. I revel in my ethnic background where once I longer for an answer as basic as I’m Bengali. Or I’m Tamil. Or I’m Gujarati. When my kids ask, I tell them that they’re interesting. They’re unique. They’re special. There is no one on earth who can claim to be like them – Brahmin, Christian, Tamil, Garhwali, Bengali, Konkani, UPite and Delhiite. Is there anyone else with just that blend? Anything less, would be boring. And as I watch their little faces smile and their little brains soak it up, I know that they will deal with it far better than I ever did. I am glad that I’ve learnt to love me.
– I’ve embraced from my heritage what I pushed away thirty years ago. I am more willing to teach the kids to speak Tamil, I make idlis for breakfast twice a week (still no dosas!) and after fighting with the OA to move out of Madras, five years ago, I am now willing to reconsider. I guess I’ve come in to myself and am no longer threatened by what I think will make me lose the essence of the person I am. This time in Madras (yes, I spent X’mas there, which is why there has been no posting), I actually enjoyed myself and realised that I’d manage to deal with the cultural differences if I had to move there. Hey, we even checked out property there!
– As we ran through a check of what we’d have to do if we moved to Madras, I realised I was mentally ticking off the house, the school for the kids and the job for the OA, but nothing for myself. Coming from a family of working women (how many of us had two working grandmothers?!) I am slightly surprised. Clearly this is not social conditioning, but who I am. Family always comes first and this freezing winter evening as the kids, OA and I huddled around a heater drinking hot soup in our bedroom, the Bean singing Sheela ki jawani (she exists to bring me down a peg or two), the Brat chanting dinosaur names, I breathed in deep and stored up the moment. This is what I want and I can take it with me to any city and any state and still be happy. Everything else is so …. unimportant.
– I’ve learnt that the heart is 50% muscle, 50% lycra. There is always room for more. I thought I’d love my parents and brother less once I got a husband and children. But nothing has changed. I still love them to bits and my heart just stretched and accommodated more. It’s like always having room for dessert, no matter how much you eat at dinner.
– I’ve learnt that you can’t change your basic dislikes. I still hate the kitchen but I’ve made my peace with it and I can throw a good dinner party because I have a good cook, caterer and bakery on speed dial. The idea is to make it happen – you don’t have to do it all yourself. I’ve also realised that the best parties are not those that have the best decor or food. It’s the one with the warmest hosts.
– I’ve learnt that one single word or moment can take away something beautiful and give you heartache for life.
– I’ve learnt that I have more to be thankful than to regret so I should take that and run with it.
– I’ve learnt to walk up to strangers and tell them that I love their boots or that their skin glows like a light bulb. It makes them happy and it makes me happy too.
– I’ve learnt that you have a choice even when you think you don’t. There is nothing you can blame on your husband, father, mother, boss, or neighbour. You have a choice and a voice. Use them.
– I’ve learnt that some people will dislike you no matter what you do or say. There is no pleasing them so it’s better to move on instead of offering them a foot rub. In such cases, don’t even begin to try. Ignore them, even if its killing you on the inside and watch them shape up or ship out.
– I’ve learned that just when you think feeling the waves tickle your toes is the best feeling in the world, you’re proved wrong. Actually watching your child feel the waves tickle his toes is the best feeling in the world. If you think you’ve already felt your heart ache and break, wait to watch your daughter’s heart ache, to know real pain.
– I’ve learnt that my wedding day was actually the day I loved my husband the least. It only grew from there.
– I’ve learnt that you can’t define family. It is made up of all sorts and you may not be proud of each one of them but they are all yours anyway. I have also learnt that this lack of definition is what makes it easy to create your own family and your own definitions.
– I’ve learnt that cliched though it is, my children are my life. I may not be a patient or gentle mother, but I am a mother who has enjoyed every bit of being with them and looks forward to another ten such years. Yes, I’m the mother who would happily have two more little brats.
So, what did you learn this decade?