Monthly Archives: April 2013

Ok, so the angst is back. And this time, it’s brought Shelly and Frost..

Does it ever go away? I mean completely go away – as in, never to return, go away? I think not. It’s a bit like psoriasis, you can suppress it, but it will eventually come back, if only to go away again.

And, this is the angsty age anyway – by age, I mean both my age (40, sigh) and the age we live in (Kalyug, or the age of downfall, as it’s called in Hinduism). So the combination is pretty crappy. I know this is a bit of a pessimistic take on a pretty perfect life, but that’s the way I am feeling right now.

Why? Not sure. I have all the makings of a great life – three wonderful kids, a nice, big house (nightmare to maintain), a loving husband (trapped in the wheel of life, would ideally like to quit work but that’s unimaginable with three kids in junior school), supportive parents (old, frail and alone), caring siblings (sister has been menopausal pretty much for the past ten years), an affluent lifestyle (thank God, no really)..You know, all the ingredients that one needs to be happy.

And yet, I have the angst. Does this prove, then, that human beings can never be truly happy? As Shelley writes  in ‘To A Skylark’ (Gosh I still remember this, bless you Miss. Mehta, my English teacher in the year of the Lord – 1988):

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Good Lord, I am quoting Shelly. I think I need help. That, or maybe I need to get out of the house and do something that does not involve sorting fights about who snatched whose pen first, or being told that life was not fair, or calling the plumber to fix a pipe, then calling him back four hours later. Maybe I need to be talking to adults during the day for a change, and adults who are not the help or, worse, my mother-in-law, whose perennial problem is trying to work her iPad. Yes, I now have the itch to get out of the house. And I can’t.

To be honest, I’ve always had that itch (take it from me, every women who gives up work does) but now it’s becoming unbearable. You know you’ve been home too long when you tell your seven year old about the sacrifices you’ve made for her and expect her to understand the magnitude of your decision. Worse, I now say this to my three and a half year old twins. Of course, to them I say it more like a threat – “mama will go to office if you don’t let her work”. Again, I expect their little minds (quite capable, might I add, of impressive analytical reasoning when convenient) to take me seriously and leave me and my computer, and my iPad, alone.

Do I succeed? Do I really need to answer that?

So, the angst grows. Husband has his own angst, so I don’t dump mine on him. Also, mine sometimes involves gripes about his mother (we live together) and that’s never a great topic, to put it mildly. To be fair to him, he does not talk to her much either, he’s got quite the male, if I shut my eyes it will go away, attitude towards his mother and my relationship. Well, it does not go away and every so often blows up in his face, leading to more angst all around.

Anyway, coming back to the current anxiety in question, I am not sure why it’s bonked me on the head without warning. No, it’s not PMS. Well, unless, unless, PMS now takes over half the month? Hmm, possible; forties have lots of surprises and I have been craving chocolate lately..

But, the reason this has caught me by surprise is that I would’ve thought that now my restlessness would wane a bit – twins are in school, I’ve started to work from home a little (though that’s hard to do with the motley group around me) and we even had that splendid, splendid holiday (just husband and I) which I actually described as honey-mooney (blush, blush). So, then? Why all this fretfulness about what if I’d taken up that job?

Not sure I want to answer that. Somewhere deep down, I may know why, but I’d rather let that lie where it is. Tugging it out will bring up other stuff and before we know it, I’ll be quoting Frost.

Well, what the hell. Here it is:

‘The Road Not taken’

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

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I have no words. Sickened to the gut.

The past few months have been shameful for any Indian with a conscience. Or wait, I correct myself – I cannot put a time frame on this. The past few months have brought to light what has been happening  in the Indian society for, well, for more years than anyone can put a number on.

I am talking about rape. Rape in it’s worst form. I never thought I’d put an adjective before the word, because ANY form of rape is violent and needs a swift and un-bailable  march to prison,preferably to the gallows. However, when one hears of little toddlers being raped and being subjected to unspeakable torture, one starts to believe that one rape is worse than the other. Extremely unfortunate, but true.

Four months ago, a woman was gang-raped and brutalized in a Delhi bus. After she was tortured (an iron rod was inserted into her which reached her intestines), she and her male friend were thrown out of the bus.

The nation erupted in arms – from candlelight vigils to angry protests – the country came together to say that it had had enough, that it would not take police apathy and political reticence to crimes against women anymore. The media feverishly covered the protests (where girls were roughed up by policemen) and brought in experts to talk about the “problem” at prime time.

That was then. Nothing happened. I say nothing because if some micro change took place it was not noticed and frankly it was too small a step to make any difference. The system needs to be shaken up and revamped. A revolution is needed. Nothing short of that will do.

There have been more heinous rapes. If you are in India right now and watching ANY national news channel, you’ll be sickened to the gut. Little girls (ranging from two to thirteen) are battling for their lives in hospitals after being repeatedly gang-raped and brutalized.

The people have taken to the streets, again. They can do little else to show their anger. Again, women have been roughed up (slapped) by policemen. It’s deja vu.

As a mother of girls I cannot tell you what that TV image of dolls kept on the stretcher of the girl who is being wheeled into Emergency at AIIMS does to me. My hair stands on end and I cannot imagine how someone can do this to a child. What’s even harder to imagine is the reaction of the police. They refused to register the complaint and then told the parents to shut-up about the incident. Goddammit, what the F are they made of? Here’s a five-year old girl, found in semi-conscious state after three days with stuff inserted up for vagina and all the cops could do was offer the poor (as in literally, poor) parents money to stay silent.Do we even have words to describe such behaviour?

The distasteful truth is that such an attitude has pervaded the entire (well, almost) police force. Rape, even of little girls, is so common that the police do not even register the complaint. We all know that. They may do it for the rich, but almost never for the poor.

Scores of children go missing every day in this country. Nothing happens. They get sold, abused, killed and no one bats an eyelid. Sure there are “measures” taken, but that’s a pile of BS – ask any domestic help about this and they’ll tell you that the cops do nothing. In fact, they make it worse but rounding up innocent people to show action. It’s a pathetic state of affairs.

The system is not going to change. Pardon my pessimism, but I can’t say it’s unfounded. Some say that the people must bring about the change, as they have in other societies. I guess, that’s the only way forward, but to me it seems a tad bit unfair that we must now take to the streets, neglect home, work and children to make our voices get heard and win safety for our children. It makes me wonder if we live in a civil society? Do we? Is this how modern, civilized nations treat their women? Is is asking for too much that the police punish, swiftly, those who brutally annihilate lives?

There are too many questions and not near enough answers.

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We did it. And it was heavenly (pun fully intended)

The world, I believe, is divided into two kids of couples – the ones who holiday with the kids, and the ones who don’t (there are, of course, those who fall in between, but they remain irresolutely on the fringes).

We, till about a week ago, were quite firmly and utterly incontrovertibly the former. All our holidays for the past eight years – i.e. pre-first baby- have been with kids and all the paraphernalia that goes with it – you know, the occupy-them-on-journey games, the read-at-bedtime-books, the what-if extra pair of clothes, the can’t-leave-home-without them toys, the worst-case-scenarios medicines, the diapers, formulas, sterilizers, towels, potty seats, agh- the list is endless, and yet, totally relatable (not a real word but oh so apt) to any mother (not going to say father. Yes I know there are exceptions) who has packed for a holiday with the kids.

That, however, changed last week. And in such an unplanned and completely out-of-character way that it still makes me wonder if we really did this. But we did and I’ll tell you, it was the best thing that happened to us. Don’t get me wrong, I felt guilty about leaving the kids (a guilt that melted away, quite magically, as the aircraft lifted-off towards our holiday and hubby and I played scrabble on the iPad in an almost unsettling  silence, without some kid snatching it to play Temple-Run, or, worse, Dress-Up! See what I mean?)

So how did it happen? Well, I was talking to husband about a friend who lives in Goa (for those who don’t know, it’s a beach haven in India) and before we knew it, he was searching for flights in a general,  how-much-does-it cost kind of way. Cleartrip threw up some very enticing numbers for a weekend, with air-fare and hotel costs bundled into a most alluring sum.  It was a random Sunday evening and we’d had some wine; I sighed and said, only half-seriously, that we could think about it. I didn’t think he’d react, more because he knows my obsessive mothering disposition only too well. But, he’d had some wine too, which had probably had the dual (and extremely fruitful) effect of dulling his doubts and honing his confidence in my letting-go abilities. Anyway, long story short, we bought the trip. That was that. There was then no going back (Cleartrip does not let you).

In the next two weeks I went through mixed angst, which, of course, I completely shielded from the husband. I wanted him to see the new-me, the new, I-can-do-this me. So I nonchalantly walked about the house ignoring and pretending that the storm in my head was really my imagination; that I was this cool mum who was not going to fret about what time the kids would sleep or if they’d eat well and all of that. I completely resisted any what-if scenarios and did not even tell the kids till much later.

Instead, I called my mum. Wonderful as she is, she promised to stay the weekend (they live six hours away). And that was it. I knew it would happen.

Not only did it happen, it was glorious. Like a love-soaked honeymoon. It was hard leaving the kids, yes. And my older daughter (who knows only too well how to touch those buttons) was upset and cried a lot. She understood but didn’t accept it. Once my mum came, she was better. Once I was out of sight she was better than better! (any mother can attest the fact that kids reserve their worst behavior for their mothers – I still do.)

The weekend was unreal, and not only in a no-wailing-toddlers way (though that was a welcome change that took some getting used to). It was splendid because of the time that we spent together, most of which was spent talking, and not about the kids – something we tend to do so much when we are home. We talked about sundry things, drank copious amounts, unabashedly slept-in till late – sigh, it was perfect, so perfect that when I returned, I refused to jump back into reality (of course, I was pulled into it headlong)

So now we are one of “those” couples. I’ve crossed over to the other side, one to which I did not ever imagine I would. It is a side towards which I have always looked with a covetous (though detached) distance. And now, here I am, with a foolish grin on my face, completely rejuvenated, basking with contentment, glowing with utter joy and wondering why I didn’t do this earlier.

Our next holiday will be with the kids. Yes, that is true. The guilt has not left me. It had dissipated temporarily, but has been cajoled out of its dormancy by the kids and the control-freak mommy in me.  Also, it’s not about guilt really. We do love our holidays with the kids, the paraphernalia notwithstanding.

We’re not making any rules about this or that – some holidays make sense with kids and some don’t, that’s the reality. Earlier we’d just never consider the latter. Now, we’ve tasted blood, and also realized that some things are bigger in your head.  Of course, it’s not like one can mindlessly get away without thinking about who will take care of the kids, but the thing is that it can be done, with a little effort.And that effort is so so worth it.

I feel connected (for lack of a better word, really) to the husband again. Our lives have been so different in the past years, with him sinking himself into work and me into the house and kids, that this time together has breathed new life into our relationship.

I will always remember Goa as the place where I fell in love with him all over again. That, for me,  is a priceless. Hopefully, when my kids grow up and do this for themselves, they’ll understand why their parents needed to do this.

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