It’s been a month since I promised to try to be still and I have to say I’m rather proud of myself. The only posts up have been alerts, campaigns and such, mostly copy pasted. I’ve really lost the urge to update you with my kids’ daily bowel movements, so to speak. I did tell myself ten times at least ‘I must blog about this’ only to realise later that I had no will to put fingers to keyboard. The laptop might be to blame. I miss the PC.
That and the fact that I now have no maid for my kids, I am doing laundry, feeding, bathing, dusting, doing Diwali cleaning, running errands and frantically trying to end my notice period that is stretching like a wad of stale chewing gum. I really should be done now, but I keep offering to help until a replacement is found (stupid me). I also got involved in the Violence Against Women month and at Saffron Tree we have our annual festival CROCUS 2011 on. None of which I’d factored in. And then the Bean fell ill – her annual Diwali asthma attack. And in getting her through I passed out with the exhaustion and finally crowned it by as usual blacking out on the stairs and tumbling down. At last count I have a cut and twisted ankle and bruises down the length of my back and legs. In the midst of this I am sunning winter woollies, attending birthday parties and doing much more.
But it’s Diwali and we must talk. I must tell you so much. I must tell you that the last month of working on the VAW blog has depressed me. It has reminded me of the amount of violence we live bang in the middle of. And then when I turn to look at my children and my life I remember how blessed I am, broken bones, lack of coordination, annoyingly anal husband and all.
We’ve been struggling with our social life since the maid left. This is a kick in the pants from fate for cheekily telling the pregnant friend that we’re done with the popcorn and movie evenings and are now ready to party. We’re humbled and back to babying our days and nights away. I wish I could tell you I didn’t enjoy it, but I am loving it. I think its because this is a choice. They are no longer just kids. They are entertaining company. Sample this-
The Brat and I are discussing something about behaviour and what is correct. And so I end with – “So you have to do what your heart tells you. What does your heart say now?” Brat with a wicked grin – My heart says don’t listen to Mama at all!
Me and the Bean chatting about the environment and greenery. She responds by pointing to the hibiscus and bougainvillea and saying, ‘Yes mama, I do like greenery. But I wish there was more red-ery, pink-ery and blue-ery.
The Brat and I are fixing something and I struggle with it and curse the electrician who didn’t show up, ‘Why is it that they all treat me like I’m a fool?!’ I mutter. The Brat looks up in all earnestness and seriously says, ‘Maybe for a good reason, Mama?’
The Bean’s clogged up nose is a matter of dispute. I try to chase her with a tissue and she wants the joy of shoving a finger up her own nose, so she says – “Mama, you always say, do you own work, do your own work. So I’m going to clean my own nose, and you clean your own.”
The Brat explaining ocean animals to his sister, “The squid has ten-tacles and the octopus has eight.”
The Bean watching an F1 driver head into a pit stop, to her father ” Now those people are going to beat the driver because he didn’t finish the race.”
The Brat is chasing a fly that keeps sitting on his cup of milk, and ends up whacking it with a dino on the TV screen. I scream. The Bean responds, ‘Flies bring diseases Ma… do you want our TV to catch some dirty disease?’
I’m chasing the Bean and telling her to wear her slippers. When health reasons like her bad cold don’t serve the purpose, I resort to vanity – “Do you want your feet to be cracked and ugly?” She stops and considers and responds – “You mean like yours?”
Me: Brat, will you hurry up and finish your breakfast? What are you waiting for? The Bean responds – ‘Christmas?’
Me: No more TV for you today Bean. Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you watch all day. Bean – I haven’t watched any today, Mama. You’re fooling yourself.
Anyway, I digress.. but you get the picture.
Also the brat is now in big school and by the time he gets home it’s 4pm. It sunk in as winter began to set in and his evenings got shorter. It hit me with the force of a truck. My baby. My little bachcha… only spends about 4 waking hours with me. Is that all I want of my life with him? Is it already time to take a step back and accept that I am no longer the one person who spends the most time with him? Too late to ponder since it is all I am getting. Maybe it’s because I enjoy his company. He drives me nuts with his non-stop chatter so in practice this is not the same as theory. I often shoo him away, but he grins and ignores me. And I like that. I like that he is old enough to know I am busy, that I am serious, but that he can bend that rule. But the four hours are not enough to have his milk and biscuits, play outdoors, bathe, have homework, watch his daily hour of cartoon. And as I frantically schedule his time he looks up at me simply and says, ‘Mama, when can I do the things I want to?’ And it was a revelation. He has no time to just be. I want him to get his sunshine and fresh air, I need him to bathe, to eat, to do his homework… he watches some TV… but he no longer has any time to crawl on the floor and set up forests of dinosaurs and venomous snakes and spiders.
I think my favourite milestone has been literacy. I have wanted to share something with him for long and since he shows no great talent for music or dance (yet!) books were my last hope. I walk out of my bedroom and trip over a figure sitting in the corridor, hunched over a book. I scream blue murder and he looks up at me absently saying, ‘Oh, I was reading my book and sat down… forgot where I was.’ That’s my son! He reads hoardings, he reads shampoo bottles, he reads newspapers, he reads everything he sees and I feel a thrill bubbling up in my tummy. This is my son. He reads. He enjoys it. He and I have something in common. We can be friends. We can talk. We can discuss this. What could be more thrilling? My son reads and he loves it – proof? I walk into his room at night and see him crouched on the floor trying to read by the light of the dim nightlight. I want to scold him and tell him his eyesight will go to the dogs but I only grin stupidly. This is my son. He likes to read.
The maidlessness this time has left me determined not to depend on anyone else, no matter how hard it is. And so the kids are fetching and carrying like crazy. All of which might sound normal except that I know that for the income bracket we are in and the social circles we move in, it is a rarity. This is neither judgment nor pride, but simple statement of fact. Our kids never need to make their own beds, put their plates away or helpfully pass guests the coasters, but mine are doing it. They found it strange earlier when there was a didi to do it yet their mother insisted, but now there is no didi and they do it matter of factly. Yes, it means everything takes 20 minutes more, but it’s fine. We’re cosier and we’re more independent and I enjoy watching the Brat hold the hammer for his father, not because he’s cute, but because he is actually of some use. I notice the Bean helpfully take their damp towels out and hang them to dry without a reminder. Their nursery has been surprisingly tidy for a room that belongs to a 4 and a 6 year old.
And I’ve begun to see why a daughter is important. Bean, get my orange purse, not the office one. Bean, where are Mama’s gold chappals – the ones with the beads, not the kolhapuris. Bean, can you get some sugar from the kitchen? She’s been sorting out Diwali decorations, struggling to help me carry stuff and criticising my taste – ‘Why do we need to use that orange runner? Can’t we get a new one? I’m sick of this one.’ It’s nice to have someone to talk to even if it means only getting a tongue lashing from her about every 4 hours, as opposed to the OA and the Brat who wouldn’t notice if the curtains fell off the windows and draped themselves down the staircase.
The OA has taken a hit too. His come-home-from-office-and-relax-time has turned into work time so he comes back and helps with homework, cleaning fans and whatever else I haven’t been able to get done that day. The kids get up to all sorts of antics the moment he gets home and its pretty amusing since they don’t give me half as much trouble as they do him. The Bean and he argued for a good 7 minutes over what shoes match her outfit, delaying their trip in the bargain. He turned to me for help in frustration but I ignored him and he left home with her swearing that he’d kill himself rather than suffer through her teens. I sort of see his point.
With winter around the corner the oil massage before a bath has come back and although I’ve rarely sat at my mother’s feet and had my head oiled, I’ve found a great joy in doing it for the kids. I put on some music, heat up the oil and then they both lie there chatting while I massage first one and then the other. They’re big babies now so it’s only once a week but I enjoy the way it relaxes them and in a strange way, me. It makes the Brat’s rough thatch of hair softer and I have been harassing him by burying my nose in the softened curls and kissing his head. A few days ago I literally squished him up and kissed him for a long time. This is a rarity as he is growing up. I finally gave some thought to his dignity and apologised – ‘I’m sorry I harass you so much, Brat.’ He rubbed his pink face wearily, gave me a long suffering nod and then walked away… only to come back a little while later, fling his arms around me and say, ‘Harass me more, Mama’.
And in case you think I’ve forgotten the most important bit, I haven’t. My nephew was here. A post on that shall come later. He doesn’t deserve to be bundled in between randomness.
But it’s all good. There’s a lot more we’re involved in that I can’t really blog about but I know I have your blessings. One final thing before you set off to string up your lights, please again consider helping this family or these kids. So many people are losing a lot more in a game of cards, spending so much on Dhanteras, burning so much up in fireworks – this Diwali, please add a little light to their lives. The more I thought of it, the more it upset me. We all talk of the environment, but they are the ones whose child took a cycle to school instead of the car. Please give generously. Every bit will count.
And now I must rush back to the vegetable stew and parathas for dinner. Kerala beckons tonight and apparently I am cooking. Yes. Pick your jaw off the floor, will you? Apparently I don’t have enough on my hands. Have a safe one.