Tag Archives: Anger

Minority Report

I am of the firm opinion that if Salman Rushdie tried to make a living as an online writer, he’d starve.

Why? Because he’s a master of the loop, of delightfully long and punctuated sentences that would send editors of online portals, much like Microsoft Word, into a tizzy, and they’d both come up with eerily similar suggestions to the tune of: “fragment – consider revising”. The unfortunate truth is that few today appreciate the beauty of long sentences, articulately written.

Don’t get me wrong. I know well the use of periods and their impacts – as Isaac Babel the brilliant Soviet playwright who was shot by the Stalin regime, (not, I suspect, for his love of periods) put it : “No iron can pierce a heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.”  I am all for periods and their uses and well understand that brevity can have an impact in a way long-winded sentences can’t.  But, I believe that it takes a superior writer to write a lengthy, masterful sentence. There is nothing more pleasing than  reading a long, perfectly punctuated sentence, much like the ones Emily Bronte writes so adroitly in Wuthering Heights.

By whining about this issue, I am not, for a moment, pretending to be a superior writer, one that the world has not recognized yet but for whom it will hold a bicentenary two hundred years from now in a belated attempt to assuage the guilt of not having granted her due recognition (though that would be nice). I am merely lamenting the fact that editors today, and I generalize here so pardon me those who do not fall into this miserable category, are incapable of appreciating a bloody good sentence just because it exceeds what they feel is the right length.

Where is all this coming from? You guessed it. From someone who recently asked me if I could shorten my sentences – you write well, except that the sentences are a bit, er well, a bit long. That was his only gripe – that the sentences were long – the only disqualifying factor. If I made it short (like some of the extremely mediocre writing on his site) then he could consider hiring me for which, mind you, I’d be paid some measly amount until  “you prove yourself and get maximum hits”. It’s all about SEO, you know, he added sheepishly. Stuff it, I told him.  Not in so many words, though, unfortunately.  Gosh I do want to say it once to someone real and not on my blog!

We now live in an age of instant gratification – there is this mercenary, make-it-short attitude towards everything. Publishers look for the next quick book to become a best seller, one that’s produced quite magically and sells a million copies.  Who has the time for tomes, no matter how well written? So, what about the people who seriously love to read writers like Salman Rushdie? Well, one word clubs them all wonderfully together into a nebulous mass – minority.

And that is the essential problem. That I am in the minority. Not that I am not going to, or can, do much about it. I sort of like being here, in the minority I mean. Am used to it, really. Go to a shop and ask for party-wear dresses and be prepared to be treated to piles and piles of outfits that look more like layered, fluffy puddings than dresses. Ask for a shoe and you’ll be shown an array of super-shiny, high-heeled monsters that look more like miniature rocket ships than something you’d put on your little one’s feet.  Wonder aloud about who wears this stuff and you’d be told that this was very much in demand and was “fast-selling”.  Sigh.

Back to the editor, though, (yup, not going to forget him in a while) – maybe someday I’ll write that book which has been exploding in my head for, well for as long as I can remember. Then I’ll send him a copy with a note, which, of course, will not be short, but long, with many punctuations.

Now there’s a happy thought.

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Have It All. Why The Fuss?

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about women and their issues (not a fan of that word) – the whole work-life balance that’s quite suddenly become the thing to talk about in living rooms, when one is done venting about the government and the weather that is.  Not that I went looking for these articles in particular, but I guess it started with one article I read about women and related issues and surprise surprise suggested articles and blogs started popping up seemingly out of nowhere, but we all know how that works. Not that I care about being tracked, no really, I got bigger things to worry about.

Anyway, I digress (oh so easily). Point is, I’ve been reading stuff about how women can have it all if they do this or or if they do that (not relevant to the point I am making). It irritates me, this whole have-it-all discussion.

Who can have it all? Do men? Sure, in many homes they work and the wife looks after the family, but does that mean they have it all? I think not. Ask my husband. He’ll tell you about the grueling hours he puts in at work and only comes home to see the kids asleep – asleep when he arrives and out to school before he can say Johnny Cash, after a tornadoesque morning (three kids, two of whom are yet to be four, to get ready, feed and then drop to the bus stop by 7:20 – yeah, it’s a fun morning). He gets little time with them and does not have the moments I do with them (moments, I admit, I would now, after years of being home, trade quite happily for a teller’s job that requires standing on one leg – you can see I’ve had an eventful, tantrumy morning) But the point is, he has not had it all either. He’s missing their childhood in the aim to secure their future. He’s working his ass off, going through mid-life angst, well aware of the long road that stretches ahead of him. Not defending the men folk here before anyone accuses me of that (ironical that would be, really) but just making a point about this whole fuss about having it all.

What, by the way, is having it all? I don’t get it. Ask anyone if they have it all and you’ll get a answer in the negative. Any road to success (pecuniary success I mean) is paved with sacrifices and regrets, be it for a man or woman. Also, who says that having it all is the key to happiness? So much is in the mind. You could have it all (whatever that is) and still not be happy, or you could have some regrets in life and yet be content with the way things are. I made the choice to be at home and am living with it, angst et all. I got to do what I wanted with the kids – to bathe and dress them, to be there for the school drop and pick-up, to read to them in the afternoons, to take them to their tennis lessons – so I did. Now, I still want those things, but, my need to get out and work is higher, maybe because I’ve had enough of the domesticity and also because they’re settled in school.

I am also aware that for many women, it’s not a choice – they have to work and leave the leg-tugging baby behind. In my mind I was indispensable at home (with three girls I still think I am) and since the house did not depend on my income (though that would’ve led to less stress on the husband and thus on everyone else) I decided to stay at home with the kids. Sure they got looked after and the husband could work tirelessly without home issues clouding his analytical brain. But I too got to do what I wanted, at least initially. For many women, it’s hard because the house needs dual incomes.

What I want to say is merely this, as we were taught very early on in school – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This little adage, for me, says a lot about the whole discussion around having it all. No one can have it all. No one.  It may appear so, but it’s not true. So why the fuss?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t understand the issue at hand here. No one knows that better than me – since I’ve tried to strike that work-life balance and have, in vain, tried to get jobs that are satisfying enough and yet don’t threaten to consume you, leaving you to attend to your other full-time job of mommyhood in peace. It cannot happen. You either do some mindless work where you shut shop at five-o-clock  sharp and go home, or you find something meaningful, in which case leaving at will, or at a family-conducive hour,  is probably not that easy. Or you stay at home, and write (like I’ve been trying to do – yes, yes, a book is in the head). So I do get the point about how hard it is for women who want/have to work and have kids to go home to.

I guess what irritates me is a lot of hyperbole around having it all. I have a problem with the whole concept of having your cake and wanting to eat it too. Maybe it was how I was brought up, to believe that to get something you have to give up another. True, in an ideal world a woman (or a man) should be able to work and be there for the kids all at once. But, is that possible? Ask anyone who’s made it to the top. Or rather, ask the kids. If you are going to slave to get to the top of any organization, something will have to give. And that something will be your home.

Ask Enid Brighton’s daughter (or husband who she had a tumultuous marriage with) what they thought of their life with her. She wrote more than 600 books for children, but did she have time for her own? Did she have it all?

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Why do perfectly sane women stay in abusive relationships?

One of my closest friends has been in an abusive marriage for fifteen years. Fifteen years. That’s something. And it’s depressing.

It’s pained me no end to have been at the other end of the phone line all these years and listen to her life, as she has cried her way into middle age. Well, almost middle age.

Have I tried to counsel her, asked her to get out, asked her to seek help. Yes to all of that. It’s been in vain though. She’s seemed so this-is-my-destiny in her approach to her life that it’s been tough to help her. At one point I transferred some money into her account so she could fly back to India (she lives in another country) if it got worse than it was (though that was hard to imagine)

She never used that money, of course, because she never left. And I never understood it. I mean on a theoretical level, I did understand – kids, family, reputation, honor (whatever that is) and stuff like that. Apart from the first point, I didn’t quite see the relevance of the others. But the thing is that the abuse started way before she had the kids, which is when I pushed her hardest to leave. I could not understand it. She was young, very attractive, very independent, educated, extremely smart and the rest of it. Yet, when this happened she kept waiting for it to get better. Which, of course, it didn’t. She now insists it did though, because now he only hits out when he’s really angry and can actually be loving when he’s not getting on her case (puhleeezz). Also, somewhere in her heart she has convinced herself, and this is because he’s been putting her down for the last fifteen years, that she is the one who provokes him.

I cannot describe what it feels like to hear her say that. Provoked? What the ^%&$## does he mean by that? What is he? King of the world? And what defines provoked by the way? That she answers back when he tells her to do something, she says. It makes me mad, mad mad mad and I want to kick her ass for such spineless servitude. But then I check myself, that’s the last thing she needs, because she confides only in me.

Not that I don’t tell her how I feel. I do and sometimes in not so sweet terms. But it does not work and she stops calling.This man has worked her beautifully. When he thinks he’s pushed her too far, he does something nice. Nice meaning, not yelling at her for say about two hours and maybe taking her out to dinner. Guess what, she’s confused and wondering if she really is the one who starts the fights. I’ve tried everything, but she chooses not to leave.

Now it’s becomes like a cycle. She calls every few months and tells me about her life. We talk, or rather I let her talk. She calls everyday for a few days and seems convinced that life has a lot more to offer, that she still can do a lot with her life and move on. Then she brings in the kids and how they would be affected. She then, quite suddenly, stops calling. A few months later she starts again and it’s the same story.

She called today. Nothing’s changed. The kid are now 8 and 11. I asked her why she still wants to stay in this marriage. She said because she’s afraid of loneliness and of the fact that her kids might hate her for breaking up the home. Relevant points I guess, except I could not see why she would prefer abuse over loneliness. Would you not rather be free, I asked her? Imagine, I told her, your house the way you want it (this guy is a control freak beyond belief), that you don’t get told off because you forgot to put one book back in its place (the place he wants that is), that you don’t have to cook, clean, feed, for him and his mum (who lives with them and does not lift a finger) and who only tells her how mediocre she is and hopes that the kids don’t take after her. Imagine a life of dignity.

She could not. It was like I was describing a life on Mars or something. She was quiet for a while and then said “that would be nice, really nice”. But, the big but was the kids.

I know that kids are the worst affected when it comes to a divorce. But is it better for them to stay in a home where there is violence? No, its not. I’ve told her that many many times but she’s convinced that he’s a good dad and that she would be depriving them of his love is she separated. Sigh. I give up.

I cannot help her anymore than listening to her when she calls. She needs to help herself and till she’s not ready, there’s really little I can do. Sometimes when I call and the man is around, she talks in this eerily-cheery tone that gives me the chills and I end the conversation quickly. Also, he does not like her to have friends outside of “their” friends, so I don’t like to cause trouble (even though I knew her waaaaaay before the unfortunate day she met him)

I feel sad tonight as I think of her in her bed (she must be asleep now). Here’s a girl who cooked and painted, danced and sang, laughed and yapped and lit up a party. Now she’s a maid in her own home who works like a dog and then gets abused for one little “mistake”. How did you let this happen? How?

The abiding memory I have of you is that one night when we all drank a bit more than we could handle and you stood up, picked up a piece of fax paper roll as a make-believe mic and sang ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ at the top of your lungs. Well, tonight, I cry for you.

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Time to listen to the body, and unfortunately, to the husband too!

My husband has been telling me for a while to calm down, to not get stressed about little things, to learn to take things as they are and not look for perfection in everybody and everything. He’s been warning me of medical repercussions, which, according to him, are just a matter of time.

I, needless to say, have not been too receptive to such candid feedback, which I see as a bit unwarranted. Predictably, I’ve countered his observations by insisting that since he is not in the house, it’s easy for him to tell me to let it be. After all, if I let it be, nothing will happen, nothing. The dinner will not be on time, the daughter will not finish her schoolwork (or eat properly, drink her milk, get her hair combed, etc etc), the laundry will not be done in time, or, worse, if allowed to get done without my fine supervision, it’ll be done all wrong, with the red sock making its way into the machine and turning all his clothes baby pink, the car will not get cleaned in time for him to leave for work, the driver will not show up in time, till I’ve called him a zillion times and he’s claimed to have been five minutes away for the last half hour, and all the rest of it .I have to yell if I need to get anything done, otherwise it will not happen. That’s the truth, really.

Also, I make it a point, at the end of any discussions of this nature, to point out that I wasn’t always this way, that this is something I turned into and I don’t like it any more than he does.

But, the hard fact is, he’s right. (how I hate that – that “I told you so” look!) My head has been reeling with attacks of migraines, of the worst sort. I’ve had them before; it’s something that’s been handed down to me as a legacy from them forefathers. Yup, it’s in the genes. You can escape everything, but you cannot escape your genes – not a chance. I thought I had though, but hitting forty is life changing in more ways than one. Your body starts to tell you things, things you don’t like but have to stomach. And them genes, they decide to come out of their dormancy and say “aha, so you thought we’d spared you? nope, not a chance in hell!” (You know that box that you fill in a health form – “family history of” – that box starts to mean something). You think about the blood pressure your mum has, the stent in your father’s heart, the rheumatoid arthritis in your family, and you take a deep breath. Then you think about combat measures. How long can you delay the inevitable? How long before your genes get the better of you? You get into survival mode (for the sake of your kids, you better) Yoga? That’s got to help you. Isn’t it the magical answer to everything? That and a host of other stuff like: low salt, low fried foods, low alcohol, sleep in time (early to bed..) I can almost feel my genes smirking saying “you want to beat us? Go right ahead dear, live this way if you really want!”

Anyway, I digress. Point is, migraines have officially made their entry into my life. I’ve seen my sister suffer from them and, of course, have lectured her no end about the stress that she creates in her life (it’s always so simple to solve other people’s lives isn’t it? I mean all you need to do sis is blah blah and blah and boom problem solved!) Now I am eating my big fat words and holding the receiver five inches from my ear when I hear such useless advice from my sister and mother. (why, why, why did I tell them????)

So now it’s time for resolutions, again. I think it’s time I listened to my body, or tried to at any rate. Am not going to change overnight (if at all) unless everyone around me does! But I can try, which is something I am willing to do (again, for the kids, though they won’t see that. It’s weird really – I yell because I care about them and now I will stop yelling because I care about them and don’t want to deprive them of a mother and want to be around till they are on their way in life – whenever that is!)

What I will and will not do: Will try and not yell (ok I am going to try because sometimes yelling is therapeutic), won’t get stressed about the little things, will meditate (this I find hard to do), will sleep on time, not do any crazy diets, look at the positive sides of everything (ok, that’s a bit of a tall order – maybe not everything, but most things).

In a rare moment of confession I will admit that the husband is right about the potential risk of harm from all the angst. I have to find a way to lessen the stress – I know. I am going to try. The migraine was an eye opener of sorts. It was nothing serious but the pain put me out for two days and I am not going to let that happen again. I will take his advice, but will I tell him that and give him ammunition for the future? Not a chance.

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That Single Friend..

I am not sure how many of you have single friends, but, I do. Not a whole lot, but enough to make me think.

There are those who’ve never been married, while others have and then have moved on and taken to singledom with a vengeance (we all have those I can safely say).

What do you feel when you meet/see that friend on facebook? I mean that friend who does not believe that sweat pants were made to be worn all day, everywhere, who is thin, nattily turned out with a, I-just-threw-this-on kind of look, who works, of course, but finds the time to learn photography, fly to Caymon Islands, Amalfi coast and who knows where else (don’t want to know), who alternates between reading David Mitchell and Murukami with her feet up sipping coconut water in some off-the-beaten-track destination (how many of those are there, just by the way?), who watches every film worth its salt (Ukraninan, French, Algerian – you name it), who wakes up and dances to ‘Here Comes the Sun’ while getting ready for work, who takes holidays with her mum, twice a year? What do you feel? Honestly.

Now, I am not saying that I’d rather be single, my life is full and complete and I know better than to get swept away by impressions of a seemingly perfect life. But, here’s the thing. I am a wee bit jealous. It’s liberating to think about this friend’s life. And if my husband’s reading this (not sure I want him to, though), I am not comparing my life to hers, or saying that I cannot do what she’s doing.

It’s complicated. I am not sure how to explain it and I am not even sure if I want to.

But, since I brought it up, what I will say, by way of some sort of explanation, is that if I really want, I can probably do most of those “single” things even now. So, that’s not the thing. Point is, I don’t want to because they will come at a cost; at a cost of spending time with my family, or doing something for them. So, while I make the decision to do or not do something, that decision is made keeping a lot of factors in mind. And, it’s not as simple as you-decide-no-one-forces-you. Part of me wants to be like that friend, but part of me does not. Like I said, it’s complicated.

But (all these explanations aside) in all honesty, how many of you look at that single friend and feel, sigh? And, this does not have to be the reaction each time, by the way. Just sometimes, at some fleeting moment.

There are also times when I look at pictures of a pristine house with a lot of whites in the furnishings and that image (still talking facebook here) says so much, so much about the emptiness and absence of the comforting mess of children. To someone whose house is full of trails of mixed up puzzles from one room to the other, this picture-perfect image is too quiet; the image almost emits that unsettling sound of silence, that deafening vacuum.

And sometimes, when that friend’s eyes reflect this void, I say to myself – thank God for all I have, and damn that Truffaut film festival. Who needs it?

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Am crabby. Again.

We’ve just returned from a holiday in the hills. It was glorious.

But, what could be more depressing than coming back from a holiday and jumping right into reality?

My mom called. Her hello was enough to make me sit down, I took a deep breath and I knew she had something to say and I also knew it was about my father. He’s had a minor surgery for some “growth” which has been sent for a biopsy. She took him for a routine prostrate check up and they admitted him right away to take the stuff out. She was not even sure if they’d given him a general anesthesia or a local one. I think it’s disgusting how doctors take some special pride in keeping the truth about patients to themselves and treating the caretakers as irritants asking irrelevant questions. While I understand that the constant pestering can test anyone’s patience, they should be a little more considerate and at least give out some information. Here my mom was waiting outside the room, unaware of what “procedure” was going on.

Now my mom is not someone who loses her nerve quickly, but, today she sounded tense. That’s got me so upset. I feel helpless sitting so far away, listing to her say that she would be able to drive him home without a problem. I know that she’s worried. And, at 76, this is not something she should be doing – driving her 80 year old husband home after the surgery (the driver was absconding, again)

I can’t do much, except call. I wish, well, I wish for so much that I won’t even start.

My husband says that the reason why life kind if “hits” you when you turn forty is that you feel the stress from all fronts – your children are young and your parents old, and they both need you. The road ahead looks long, and all your fears begin with – what if?

Today, I am going to try and not think about any what ifs? it’s not going to lead to anywhere good..

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Work From Home. Really? How Do You Do That?

I’ve been trying to work from home. It’s a tiny little step, but am trying to take one step at a time and it’s hard. It’s hard not because I am not disciplined enough to do it (OK, that too, but that I can work on) It’s the disciplining of the people around me that’s tough to do. The trouble is that everyone is so used to coming to me with the little problems that I cannot have a moment of peace when I can sit and write (yes, have taken up some writing work). So, a lot of my time is spent in telling everyone to let me be when I am at my desk. And, it’s not the kids alone who need to be told this.

Before I launch into the angst and the rest of it, I feel almost obliged to say something. Which is this: I know I am fortunate to be in a position where I could choose to be at home with the kids. A LOT of women don’t have that option. As a fellow mommy blogger recently pointed out that I didn’t have to leave the kids at home and go to work, something she had to do and hated doing. For all my angst about staying at home, at the end of the day I did it because I wanted to and because I could.

But, having said this, what I will add is that maybe I would’ve gone back to work earlier, if I had a support structure to depend upon, where I could leave the kids and work without worry (not without guilt though, THAT never goes away) . But I didn’t and I decided to become a SAHM (have given in to that word/abbreviation).

So, now that the girls are a little older and there is some semblance of sanity, I have decided to work, a little.

Let me tell you what today was like. The morning started with the pipe of the wash-basin in my bathroom breaking. So I called the plumber, he was busy, his wife’s new-born niece had just got jaundice, so he was at the hospital. I could hardly press him to hurry. As I was talking to him, my maid, unaware of the broken pipe opened the tap. The next twenty minutes were spent mopping the floor. I didn’t have to do it, but had to make sure the kids didn’t go rushing into the bathroom to inspect damages, something they LOVE to do.

After avoiding slipping and breaking a leg, when I was settling into my chair to pound away at my keyboard, the electrician called. There seems to be some grave wiring issue that needs to be looked into urgently. He asked what would be a good time to visit. I gave him a time. Eight hours later, he’s still to show up.

The plumber called as I was ending the call with the electrician. He had decided to resume work in the afternoon. Great I said. But, he would need money for the pipe, so would come in a while to collect that (he asked me if I could get it, which, of course, was not my idea of shopping. Besides I had work to do) So, knowing well that he was going to charge me more than he payed for it, I told him to get it.

OK, I said. Now let’s do some writing. My cook then decided to ask me some irrelevant question about food. I told him to decide, only to have him give me options to pick from. I turned from my desk and reminded him what I’d told him a few days ago when he’d disturbed me while working. “That I should come to you only if the house was on fire” he nodded merrily. I asked him if the house was on fire. He shook his head and informed me that the real reason why he came to me was because there was no oil in the house for cooking.

Now, this seemingly innocuous declaration sent me into a tizzy. I lost it. I know it was an overreaction. Anyway, long story short, I gave him the money and gulped a glass of cold water and sat down to work. This is when the kids decided to invade the room. There had been a fight, of course, and it was impossible for me to decide who did what and when. All three looked upset and had a side of the story to tell. Sigh. I took a deep breath, and tired to solve it, which, needless to say, was impossible. The twins were not in a re conciliatory mood, to say the least. The older one, who has just turned six and reacts to most situations with a sulk, just walked away telling me that I was not being fair (why do schools have spring break, again?)

After the matter was amicably settled, with a bit of television thrown in, I returned to my desk. I’d lost my thread. I stared at my computer blankly. Nothing. So I got up, had a bath and returned to write. Just then the bell rang. The plumber had arrived.

There’s more to this story. But you get the drift. I turned Skype off, didn’t want my editor asking me how much I’d written. He didn’t want to know..

Ah, well. At least I’ll make history for having had the shortest job ever.

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