Friday, 14 July 2017

It Was My Last Day In The City


It was my last day in the city.

As always, Mondays are a busy morning. I had a whole day lying ahead of me before I went away but all I wanted to do was sit here and revel in this city's in-your-face beauty.

And so I sat by my window sill, in the quiet humdrum of a busy day, to the constant noise of cars, buses, motorcycles - their blaring sirens, their screeching tires.
A million dreams and aspirations whir by a narrow street, in an organized madness, trying to make it through the mist of strangers to their higher purpose.

I looked on from a vantage point and wondered to myself, "This city takes so much from you everyday. To find meaning to your life here can be a fatal thing."
Faceless crowds pushing and shoving you into rapid movement when all you want to do is slow down and catch your breath.
Empty eyes in untold time follow you off-handedly until they lose sight of you in the blinding beat of the jarring city anthem.

I vividly remember walking along the streets of this city in the afternoon, as a new city girl.
Signs telling me where to turn, where to look, when to stop...
"I don't think I know how to get home." I feel the restless hustling but I don't quite know where to go.

At every turn, the city got bigger; all I carried within me is a tiny, microcosmic world of my own, a small speck in its jutting vastness.
The only thing binding me to it was the interwoven sunlight on my street, the corner Alphonso vendor and....
Ah! Just then I saw you from a distance wearing your usual flashing smile when you look at me — me, a tiny, spacey-eyed girl in her grungy tee.
Almost immediately, I remember feeling hope — of knowing that I had just made it somehow.
Of course, you were just suspended on a loud billboard, coated in dirt, slowly being washed away.

Every time I step out in the city, I am flushed. I feel exposed. My rhythm is broken. My voice is muddled with anxiety. I don't want to leave home.

But for all you know, just once in a while, this city pursues you. Perhaps when you're in a rickshaw and you stop at the red-light signal long enough, let's say around twilight, and the city becomes your muse. 

I peered out of the rickshaw and saw little faces, breathing in the musty air, looking down from their matchbox houses.
Drafts of their evening cardamom chai-scented breeze reach out to me.
Homeless children sell balloons — they criss-cross through cars caught in a signal, moving from bumper to bumper. I follow the trail of animated balloons crowding into one another, grinning down at me from a distance.
Lovers leaned into each other in a side-walk, bright-red petals from broken flowers cling to asphalt, the smell of wet concrete in the air.
Stray dogs scavenge near garbage bins. Birds fleet home. Pedestrians, rushing past the traffic which was beginning to inch forward, let out fire with their protesting mouths, igniting a trail of city lights.

In this city, beauty lies in the ordinary, in the everyday.
I know nothing of wilderness and lush green fields. I know only of sparse trees decorating the city landscape.
I am not familiar with clear open skies and starry nights, fireflies lighting the path to constellations.  I am familiar with the dark depths of the ocean surmounted by hope springing up in the horizon as skyskrapers reach for the stars.
I am at ease in the harsh anonymity of my existence in the big, bad city. I'm wary of friendly neighbors showing up at my door with casseroles and getting freebies at the local bread shop.

I  am  a  city  girl. I sit by my window pane, looking at life scrambling at every corner of this cramped urban jungle and in my heart I just know, even though I'm going away, this is my home — this is where I belong.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Why Would You Want Your Husband In The Room When Giving Birth?



I've often wondered about this. Isn't it strange that you'd want a man to partake in an event that seems uncomfortably private in the feminine sense? When I gave birth to my daughter in the town of Bokaro, I had with me in my room, three doctors, two nurses, my husband and my mother-in-law. It wasn't a complicated labor. It was easy.

But I was a hot mess.

And not just physically. It was like I was temporarily schizophrenic, fighting within me many voices - one that craved peace and quiet and a single point of direction from the calm, even voice of my mother-in-law, another that sought attention, that clung on to everybody at the table to explain to me what was going on, why my body was in a battle with me, what was happening down there, and if I would I make it to the end of this...And then there was also this tiny voice growing within me, rising to the surface in a mob of questions. These questions were directed at my husband. "Why do I get to go through this while you stand there looking at me sympathetically? "Why couldn't you put your foot down and get me that f***ing epidural? " "Yes, here I am in enormous pain, sweaty, smelly and unattractive. Do you realize you did this to me?"

I wondered then, "Did I really need him to be here?" He could have just hung out at the coffee shop while I went through the agony of it all. I mean haven't men skipped the blood, poo and gore all along to hold their new babies while looking adorably at their post-workout glowing wives?

It was a hot day in peak northern summer when my daughter arrived. And yet when I gave birth, I had both chills and sweat trickling off my spine all the way to the cold steel of the theater table. I looked at the jubilant faces of all the people crowding around me telling me it's all over and that my beautiful daughter has arrived. But the face that I sought, even before the face of my new angel, belonged to my husband.

And here's why. I was in pain and gripped by fear. And even though my husband's face was causing me great anguish when the contractions were getting gritty, it was also a source of gleaning comfort. He stood by my side telling me to let go of the feeling of misery, let go of the sense of time, guiding me how and when to breathe. Even though the process of labor had nothing to do with him whatsoever, even though it wasn't a pretty sight to take, even though I was giving him the silent treatment and deathly stares, he stood by me and saw me to the end of it.

And then it was all over. I had given my final push and my daughter had been declared as arrived.

Here is what I was doing when that happened:
I was laughing. Uncontrollably. With me eyes closed. I was so happy that it was all over that I didn't even crane my head to steal a glance at my daughter.

Here is what he was doing when that happened:
He was squeezing my hand in victory. And then he gasped in awe to take the sight of our beautiful daughter covered in blood and slime, still pale from the womb. And when she let out her first cry and turned pink, he held her in his inexperienced arms, strong but slightly tremulous from the miracle of birth.

In effect, her dad was the first point of contact with her family when she stepped into the world.

Before I asked my husband's presence in the delivery room, I did this quick visualization about how awkward it'll get later. It'll take all the feminine mystery away and maybe mess up things for us intimacy-wise. There are contradicting theories about whether men should be in the delivery-room. One school of thought talks about how a man's presence in the labor room is redundant and a man can never look at his wife the same way after he's had a first-hand look at childbirth.

I can safely say now that I don't care much for that school of thought. I couldn't have done it without him. I look at childbirth for two life partners as living a world of raw emotions together - pain, anger, fear, joy, sensual pleasure, love...If your partner sits by you on this ride, there isn't another wild adventure that'd ever come close to giving him that kind of rush.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Darjeeling — Where The Hills Laugh And Sing

Wait a minute….did I just hear laughter? Can you hear it too?”
En Route To Darjeeling
Somewhere before Darjeeling, we had been stuck — maybe that’s the wrong word — I mean soothingly waiting in a line-up of cars that wouldn’t budge and wouldn’t be ever-so-aroused by any blaring horns or impatient tip taps on windows. It was a little unusual for an unending line of cars to be standing there like that. Only the faintest murmurs and dull revving of engines express their quandary. If we had been in Mumbai in a debacle like this, we’d have had some form of road rage to alleviate or participate in by now (ie if somebody hadn’t already been beaten blue). Yet, here we were, with people who had no rush to get anywhere, no profanities to scream at each other, all thrown together in a very Ohmmm-inspiring backdrop of ascending hill silhouettes interrupted by clouds that were flushing pink with twilight.
And then among the racket of crickets and low grumbling of engines, I hear laughter. An unmissable, strange, divine echo of a chuckle that was too unfeigned to belong to a human.
We had been traveling for almost ten hours now so maybe I’d been hearing things. From Bagadogra airport to the the roof of the world, Darjeeling, is a breathtakingly beautiful upward spiral of a drive, one that makes you wonder why you’re squandering your life away in the city. We took the same route as the Himalayan toy train, moving against it on one side, as it shone majestically, slowly breathing white puffs in its trail. We spiral steadily upwards alongside green pastures and rock-strewn mountains with white explosions in the sky every now and then. Of course, in this delightful place, who could resist a warm cup of chai, a valid reason to stop and lech at our picturesque surroundings (and the gorgeous hill people with no acne wrecking their lives)? 
Kaali
So we stop by at Kurseong, a hill station around 5000 feet above sea level, at a tea stall located on a bend with a canopy tucked perfectly between the hills. My daughter played with a dog called Kaali. My husband and I order tea far too delicate for my taste but it really doesn’t matter. We’re pretty busy chasing the delicious view of the Himalayan range peek-a-booing at us from between the clouds. We talk about how we’re in this strange, peaceful but convoluted territory of India’s ethnic Gurkhas who have been fighting for a separate identity — Gorkhaland — to define life in these winding hills and their habitations. “I think the government should give them everything they want. And more,” one askance look at their benevolent faces and I could feel myself believing in their cause.
Sharing laughs with a view to die for
We continue our upward climb. At Ghum station, which happens to be the highest railway station in India, we’re greeted by glowing teenagers. They wore distressed denims and understated sweatshirts with their jackets cinched around their waists, sharing smokes and stories as they wait for their ride to come along. I think about their life in the hills. I mean can you imagine any crisis whether one of the heart or any other form of longing that cannot be cured by this glorious evening weather and a panoramic view of the Himalayas? No wonder they look so radiant and pink. Of course I was romanticizing everything. I was a traveler. Sadly for me, there were many fleeting moments that I missed capturing on my camera, such as this group of young students sitting and waiting. It would have helped bring forth the seeming transparency and simplicity of mountain life.
Woman At Work - Tibetan Refugee Center

Just as mysteriously as we had been arrested in a traffic block, we’re lifted from it. We start pacing towards Darjeeling. I’m left pondering about the origins of that laughter but there is the slow-winding climb to brave so who cares about weird cackles straight out of the Poirot series? Before planning this journey, the only calling that Darjeeling had for me was four strong cups of first flushes of tea a day, perhaps a cursory stroll in the tea gardens… Though I was a tea addict and the tea gardens would’ve been my Napa valley, I wasn’t exactly too thrilled about touristy Darjeeling. Little did I know that this elusive city on slopes, dwindling between the past and present, the one our driver called “The Queen Of The Hills, had so much to offer.
At 6700 feet above sea level, when you’ve been slowly winding upwards, you don’t quite get to appreciate just how thin the air gets. Not until you climb a flight of stairs anyway. We get to our abode, Ivanhoe House, a quaint Victorian heritage house known to be the favorite haunt of the likes of Sir George Everest and British Raj families. 
Lobby of Ivanhoe House
We greet everyone enthusiastically, trying to match the speed of the Gurkha women, who are doubling up as porters, lugging our heavy suitcases. One long flight of wooden stairs puts my adrenaline levels to check and sends me reeling from shortness of breath. Which is when we’re informed that in the hills you have to take it slow, follow through your breaths and find your rhythm. It is this advice that served me well as I managed to go on multiple hikes and long uphill walks feeling invigorated as opposed to my initial sensation of crashing and burning.
Cosmic forces ar work
To me, Darjeeling has been like a swift-paced period drama, shuttling between different temporal boundaries, changing sky landscapes as though they’re linens. One moment, you’re sitting on your green porch with clear blue skies and sunlight bouncing off your gleaming coffee table, planning your busy itinerary for the day. The other, you’re hunting down the mall market for umbrellas, looking towards the great black clouds on pale skies that threaten to warp every idyllic vantage point that you cared to devour. One moment, you’re congregating with townspeople and other visitors at Glenary’s, sipping Himalayan coffee in the backdrop of the evasive Kanchenjunga. The other, you’re staring at old pictures of British Raj families, appreciating expensively ornate chinaware carefully strewn around your dining room, remotely hearing yesteryear tunes on the old piano now sitting upright and silent in a corner.
At Glenary's
In Darjeeling, you’re among fresh, dewy faces, soaring pines, clouds that slide to your table, mystic mountains in the distance and the whiff of freshly plucked tea.
Darjeeling, you’ve been a darling. A delightfully capricious one to say the least.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Honey, What’s On Netflix Tonight?


“Yo babe, have you decided what we’re watching tonight? Oh, and I’m not watching another sorry ghost story.”
“OH-kay…I’ll pretend you didn’t say that. Anything you like lovebug. Just make it a good thriller.”
“Hmm, that’s narrowing it down. How about Once Upon Time in America? It’s a mafia…”
“Tttt ttt…no mafia movies. Baby, you know how much I hate them.”
“Oh, but you did like Godfather. What if I’d said Godfather?”
“I’ve already seen it.”
“So then you don’t really hate mafia movies.”
“Uggh…I don’t want to see a mafia movie tonight. Not Godfather. Not any other Al Pacino or Robert De Niro movie.”
“First of all, just cos they’re Italian, it doesn’t mean they play only mobsters. Racist much? And what’s with you shooting down my ideas all the time? It’s almost like you want me to suggest something so you can just say it’s not good enough.”
“I only like to have options. OK how about we watch…”
“Nope. Not another depressing, artsy-fartsy movie. And for God’s sake not 13 Reasons Why. We don’t have enough Nutella to survive it.”
“Now what’s that you’re doing? I was gonna say The Office marathon !!!”
It’s yet another Friday night in happily-ever-after land. Married couples, let’s face it. The weekend isn’t “Honey I so wanna grow old with you” until you’ve demonstrated to your partner with deep, contextual examples about how painstakingly dumb and thoughtless he/she is about art, cocktails and life in general. For us, as just another city-dwelling couple, Friday night marks the beginning of the plopping selves in front of TV ritual. You know, just some good old-fashioned way of spending “quality time” together in the eternal quest for entertainment. Maybe, it’s followed up on Saturday, maybe not. But Friday Night is our thing. Speaking of TV, remember the time you both got equal and fair play on your TV remote? Yea, me neither. The only time I recall as when we both got absolute control and were pretty satisfied with our watch list, drinking cocktails and leaning romantically on each other’s shoulders was when we were way up in the skies, among two hundred other peace-loving couples.

I could watch what I want on my laptop and likewise for him but then ‘Where’s the we in that?’ as couple therapists would annoyingly point out. Besides I can’t watch anything by myself. I’m the kind of person who prefers solitary reading to watching. Anyway, coming back to this age-old conflict. We have tried to resolve this by negotiating turns to decide what to watch and allotting time-slots. But every time we do that, one of us ends up grumpy, wondering out loud, “Since when we have become those boring couples who behave like brother-sister?” And then when you’re seven years into marriage, that kind of prefix summons up an entire Pandora’s box. Since when are we the kind of boring couple that don’t go out on Fridays…that choose TV over other things…that need alcohol to get high…Besides, in my experience, having complete watch-power leads to bad decisions. So maybe it’s best to get your partner on board first. (No pun intended.)

Before we do become one of those couples whose TV gripings have gone a bit too far and public, settling scores on Facebook with passive-aggressive status updates and gritting our teeth over another bad movie suggested by the other, I thought why not put some people-negotiation tactics at work? Here are a couple of negotiation-cards that I’m going to put to use. I mean before eventually giving up and declaring our house a No-TV zone.
  1. The Getting-into-the-groove Card:
    "Are we really in the mood to watch that sugar?" [Slowly, gently, runs fingers through his hair.]
  2. The Unexplored-terrain/ Adventure card:
    “Sure, I’d love to learn about Star Wars. In George Lucas, we trust. But how about we watch something we both haven’t seen today? I mean, wouldn’t it be wild?”
  3. The Nausea-inducing Love Card:
    “It’s got terrible ratings, I know. But when was the last time a bad movie came in the way of true love?”
  4. The Downright Despair-filled Defeatist Card:
    “Oh, have I picked the wrong movie? Well, here’s one more thing I suck at.” [The tone is everything here.]
  5. The Not-so-subtle, Mildly-threatening Card:
    “Oh, sure. Let’s watch, “The Jihadist Next Door”. Who knows where they are and what pisses them off? I mean you may be very well be married to one without even realizing she’d be ready to suicide-bomb the apartment over TV control repression.”
  6. The Yes-I'm-Judging Card:
     “Wait, who’s recommended this movie? Your friend Paul? The one who badgers and harasses his wife with really sexist comments at parties? Yea, let’s watch what Paul says.”
  7. The Passive-Aggressive Card:
     “Oh, of course honey, I’d love to watch that! It’s the perfect movie to fall asleep to on a Friday, especially on a night like this, with no better prospects.”
Of course, if this doesn’t work, there’s a more philosophical, love-affirming question to ask each other, before letting go of the cable and choosing real conversations over TV to solve our spats. “Do we really want to be that couple who doesn’t watch Netflix?”

Monday, 27 March 2017

How To Be A Morning Person - A Personal Experiment

Image Source: Thought Catalog


I am not a morning person. I wake up at about 7.45 am on a weekday and on weekends, well, let’s just say I don’t get to exchange morning greetings. Here’s why I am not a morning person. ‘Cos I usually wake up to a racing heart. Like I've already missed my morning bus. (Not that I have a bus to catch.) In my ideal world, the first fifteen minutes of the day would involve a sun salutation and morning kisses and a dramatic “It’s a new dawn” kind of curtain-sweep. This is what I tell myself every night when I resolve to reform my morning routine. In my actual world, I am swiping snooze about three times on my alarm and then addressing more alarming emergencies of my mind.

On a weekday, I wake up groggy with my left eye. That eye scrolls through social media while the right eye is deciding how to overpower the other with the ruse for a few more winks. A cursory look in the mirror. As expected, washed out.

And then my mind starts running.
“You know one of these days you should buy a night cream that elevates your morning look from toilet to passably regular. What are those funny kinks in your hair? Anyway, gotta get Saanvi to school. Yea, yea, she’s just in pre-school but school’s important. Must pack her a healthy snack. No, not another cheese sandwich. First, I need a strong brew of tea. But there’s no time for tea. And whatever happened to oil-pulling? Can I oil-pull at night? [Googles that.] Focus. You’re running late. Why hasn't the house-help showed up yet? Of course she’s not coming. What does she care? Only if you were more organized….Can I go back to sleep? Where are the bloody socks? One day, I'm going to have a meltdown cos of the damn socks! Sleep-deprived mum loses shit over a pair of socks. It’s possible. Why does she have to wear them anyway? Look at your cracked feet! You should wear socks at bed-time. Ooh you could get those cute kitty ones. Unlike her, YOU DO need socks. [Googles cat-print socks] Woman! You can do this later. We’re late. But why are you breathing so heavily? Is this a heart attack? [Types “Signs that you’re having…] Fuck no! You don’t have time for a heart attack!
And my mind goes on…

Some day, if I ever make it to the papers, they’re going to ask me for some wise morning routine advice. Sista, let me tell you now. I don’t have any. I still can’t tell when I should oil-pull or do stretches or take my vitamins. From the moment my day starts, all I deal with is fire-fighting level emergencies. Tiny details and chores that if missed, threaten to pull my day under.

And I realize that all I'm doing is getting through a normal day of a stay-at-home mum with some bits and scraps of writing jobs here and there. It’s not like I am managing multiple charities or feeding a million people, or saving dolphins or umm…fire-fighting. I talk fast. I eat faster. I don’t stop and chat thereby offending my neighbours. I am on the move even when I am at rest cos my mind’s either racing to the worst possible “What-ifs” or happy day-time fantasies that are entirely illusionary and have nothing to do with the present.

So you see the inside of my head is a confused battle-zone that doesn't quite know which side it’s on. As a close friend of mine once told me, “I'm my own worst enemy.”

When it gets too much, I escape to this fantasy involving a month long stay-cation. One fine day, I’ll hit the mountains alone in an idyllic cottage with just the right amount of people in the neighbourhood (I cannot handle being secluded) with enough money to survive, three changes of clothing, books and multiple bottles of shampoo and conditioner. There will be no wi-fi, no day commitments, no errands to run for others… I’ll write if I want. I’ll eat when I want. I’ll listen to music and go for long walks. I may even climb trees. I’ll clear my day of its mundaneness and reclaim whatever it is that is essential to being happy and in the moment.

But here’s the downer. I have no fuckin’ clue what makes me happy. I can pray for it all I want but I cannot define it.

I do know what makes me unhappy though. I guess it’s more or less the same things with everybody else.
  • I don’t like being told what to do or how to feel. I like making my own mistakes and drawing up my own judgements and revoking them if needed.
  • I don’t like nitty fault-pickings. Not just with me but with anybody.
  • I don’t like worrying about everyday things like what to eat or drink or what to wear or how to impress someone.
  • I don’t like feeling like I'm the only one going through the shit I go through. Cos I know for a fact that there are people who have it much worse.
  • I don’t want to race to the top. I’d like the freedom to take my own time to get there. If at all.
So with that bit of wisdom unravelled, I thought I’d make some amends to my existing lifestyle. At best, it’s a personal experiment bordering on being a social one.

I
Skip the morning alarm (and snooze):
From tomorrow, which is a holiday here, and a perfect day to wake up to make-believe coffee from the hills of South America and smell the fuckin’ roses, I'm going to start my morning without being assisted by an alarm clock. Yea. You don’t need a godforsaken blaring alarm to remind you that you have a day ahead of you. Your body is enough for that. How does that make things better? Well, for one there’ll be no snoozing the alarm so you’re up the moment you open your eyes. Of course, I can’t go back to sleep, no matter what. I don’t know how this will pan out but we’ll see.

II
Find A Sleep Schedule
Which obviously means that at some point during the week, I’ll also figure that I need a somewhat consistently boring sleep schedule. I'm kind of a night owl cos my me-time begins after my daughter is safely lodged in her slumber land. So I won’t be forcing myself to go to bed early. But I won’t be stifling yawns to watch late night TV. Instead, I’ll read a slow-moving classic at bed-time cos I don’t want a gripping one to ambush my sleep-centre.

III
Stop With The Micro-Managing
My nerves may be jumpier than usual. So we need something for the nerves. The good ol’ letting the controls run loose. For the first few days, I’ll have no fixed human/super-human goals or food menu to achieve or errands to run. I’ll conquer the day as it comes. That can’t be good for the nerves you’d say? But I think there is a natural way to finding your rhythm and the first step to doing that is assuming you don’t have one. It can’t be from following the habits of most productive people cos well, everybody’s mind and body work differently. Sure, maybe I’ll figure that some things are not working or worlds are falling apart or I need more caffeine than usual.

IV
Control Caffeine Intake
Which brings me to the fourth part. There’ll be controlled caffeine consumption. What! I might as well give up on this whole bizarre Namaslay mumbo-jumbo, right? See with this death sentence right here, I don’t quite know if I'm going to make it through the week. But all I'm basing this on is some tenets of good living. I cannot, as a matter of habit, give up tea/coffee altogether. But I can get it down to two cups a day. The first cup of the day can be any time I choose but the second one will have to be before 6 pm. I could however flirt with other hot, sugarless pseudo-tea imposters in between meals like say cinnamon tea or lemon-grass tea or spearmint tea. (When I say tea, I mean hot water here.) I am more of a hot-beverage person so this may actually bail me out.

V
Eat And Hydrate
What will we be eating for the day? Anything at all we feel like along with the recommended eight-ten glasses of water. We’re more or less on the track of healthy eating already. We try to eat a balance of everything, including fruits. I don’t eat fried food. I don’t eat processed foods much. Serious. I don’t even like mayo or ketchup. I make my own dips and salad dressings and pasta sauces. Sometimes, I cheat with Maggi noodles but that is once in a blue moon when I don’t feel like cooking. I'm down to two small squares of chocolate in a day from wolfing down an entire bar. So I am leaving the pantry open for the sake of my sanity and with the blind faith that I don’t have an eating disorder... For the first few days, we won’t follow a set meal-schedule. I have a feeling we will arrive at the most optimal one in time.

VI.
Amp Up Exercises
Now, I'm assuming with all that, I should be able to gain back lost time to binge-watch the shows I've missed on Netflix or go on spontaneous dates with the hubby. Wishful thinking that. So what are we doing with the extra time? I'm going to try and amp up my exercise routine. Right now it’s about twenty minutes of yoga. So to that, there will be an added routine of moderate cardio and skipping. I’ll go slow and see if it makes me super-human any time soon — I’d settle for a smiler version of me. And I hope that the extra endorphins translate to more quality human interactions.

VII
No Gossip, no slander:
But socializing comes with its own cautionary levels of slandering and mean gossip and ill-founded comparing and spiralling into negatives. I have noticed that most of my conversations of late have revolved around that. As a result, my poetry is grim. So I'm introducing a curb. Whatever is going on in the head rarely translates into reality. Your worst fears have not yet happened. Your empty head is just killing time by drawing irrational conclusions. Unfortunately, I have no control over what happens in my head, only my words. So for this week, there will be no gossip or slander. No “He did what?” or “What was she wearing?” Unless it’s really gnawing at me from the inside and occupying all of my mind. I'm going to try and channel my free mind-space into creating something or discussing ideas or writing more poetry. I'm also going to try and explore the much-fussed about “good in everyone”.

I'm drinking my second cup of tea as I write this down. In between laying the table for breakfast and getting off the phone with an old friend. My mind is surprisingly still cos I have this seemingly genius plan to reset my mornings and my lifestyle. Everything seems perfect.

And yet, there’s a new dawn to dread, when it all really begins.

Stay with me to know how I made it through this week. And if at all, at the end of the road, I'm going to find a morning person :).

If you enjoyed reading this, please slam some motivational hearts back at me :).
XOXO
Shalini

Thursday, 23 March 2017

My Funny Valentine

Image Source: Amazon

“Open your eyes. Right about now will be good.”

She felt the warning signals before she could entirely leave sleep behind. It was like her mind had been fleeing, cluttered and troubled as it would've been, before her body could arrest it with the ruse of caffeine. As soon as she woke up, without habitually drawing the curtains to usher the morning sun in, with some degree of comic agility, she went into the kitchen.

Her skin tightened as she took in the frosty sight. First, she hears her voice. Tall and trembling, it seemed as if it belonged to a stranger. “Is that what you want? “Cos I've been waiting to walk out that door!” Did she mean it? Then she heard his. A pleading, calm voice. A voice that in its evenness bore resemblance to reason. Well, until you heard the words that escaped his mouth. “Fuck the roses. Fuck Pre-valentine’s. You always wanted it this way, didn't you, you fuckin’ control freak.”

Broken shards of glass. Liberated, lone petals slow-dancing in the wind with glass crystals. Roses on the table, still perfectly wrapped in their smug prettiness. Aha, these silent roses. Aren't they a perfect weapon of mass destruction? He’d got them for her, holding them by his teeth. “Pre-valentine’s is it? Do you have any idea how much this hideous bouquet cost me? No, you don’t! Cos you think you’re entitled to them, especially on days when they’re selling at airline prices, don’t you my precious?” She briefly thinks of the alarming frequency with which she went for his face with them. “How many times have you lied to me, you lyin’ piece of shit?”

She broke into a chuckle. A startlingly self-assured, upside-down kind of giggle. Before she knew it, she was laughing so hard that she collapsed on the floor with one hand on her jiggling belly, her knees scraping through the jagged broken glass. She was oblivious to the pain, to the oozing blood. She continued sitting there in a kneeling position, very still, in a brown lace negligee that was falling out of her slouched shoulders. Her brain often sent her signals of levity under intense pressure — didn't her therapist call it fear-grinning — as a voluptuous, unstoppable giggle. One that got her into trouble at funerals or on stage when speaking about something as morbid as sexual predators at the workplace. And there she was now, pretending this whole situation is just really a giggle explosion and it’ll pass. How long should she laugh about it, not moving from that ridiculous prayer position, not addressing the bleed, not pulling up her negligee, and not feeling anything? She could very well be sitting right there eating canned beans or frozen pizzas without a care in the world.

“The good news is I don’t have to clear this mess,” she announced to an invisible audience. The kitchen floor now resembled a crime scene with intermingled spats of blood, roses and broken glass, all the no-brainers to a crime of passion in a deserted, untidy apartment.

Three nights ago, over coffee, her friend had brightly suggested the idea of them spending Pre-valentine’s together. A couples’ soiree at her house. Valentine’s Day could be their private thing then. A fetching idea.
The conniving whore! Oh, she’d been so blind. The stolen glances between them, the morning shower humming, the sudden cell phone secrecy, the inexplicably vacant conversations and mood swings…He was having an affair with her, you dim wit.

Of course, she was no saint either. But she still held a shred of sanctity to chain all her possible betrayals in her mind. Fantasies, possibilities….wasn't that what separated romance from reality? If at right this moment, her ex-lover was to walk in and hold her in his arms, planting her with soft, comforting kisses, whispering carelessly-soothing words, wouldn't she have fallen sloppily back in love with him? Even if he had, a really long time ago, in a badly-fused moment, broken her heart into tiny, crystallized pieces? Would time matter? Does the space between her and her ex, with whom she’s not had a single exchange of endearment, for a decade, still hold true? Time and space — aren't they just optical illusions?

But she had loved him then. And she loves her long-time husband now. A little less today probably. And as she walks out that door, she’ll have wavering indices of love reserved for either of them with each passing day, and maybe just like that, one day she’ll snap out of it for both.

She took one last, long breath, coming a full circle in that position, staggering to her feet. Her long yogic limbs were strong enough to pull her out of any misery. A wave of nostalgia. Last night, after a heated argument and a grislier scene on a battlefield of a bed, they lay side by side one last time, sharing smoke and flicking ash all over her brand new red-roses satin sheet. She pictured wafts of smoke from a moving train. She wondered where she would go next, what she would do for a living, how her days would inch forward…

Climbing out of her languid life, she reaches for her trench-coat on the stand. Suitcases, change of underwear, lipstick…they could wait. It was a wintry morning but she could see the beaming sun in the horizons. Dramatic much? She walked out of her house, giving one last, longing look to House № 57. As she averted her face towards the dawn, she saw him from a distance sitting outside on a sunny bench, evidently at the edge of a rough night. The last time she saw him, she wanted to strangle him. She picked a pebble from the ground and pelted it at him. He ducked, even though he was nowhere close to getting hurt. They smiled. He screamed from across the street, “Come on now. I know you want to kiss me. It’s Valentine’s.” Strangely audible words to My Funny Valentine rose above the noise of morning clatters and revving engines.

And she knew she had no choice but to kiss him one last time.

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Big Mysteries of A Mom's Life - Unearthed


If they were to draft historical accounts of my life say, for the purpose of studying a life unexamined, there would be two significant periods that would emerge. Before the birth of my daughter (Pre-Saanvi) and after (Post-Saanvi).

Now I have vague recollections of what my life was before my tornado-swept daughter came along as a moderately-turbulent upheaval in my life — I cry myself to sleep when I think about it just how much room there before was to sleep in peace.

Pre-Saanvi, I got my beauty sleep, preceded by a cup of chamomile tea and a feel-good classic (*cough* Lady Chatterley's Lover). I skipped work/college to watch pretentious movie marathons at the International Film Festival. I didn't break into songs like Skip to my loo at any given time of the day. I NEVER stepped out in starry PJs and flip-flops and giant heart-print bags doubling up as bottle-holders.

You can say in the pre-Saanvi period, I always held it together. [Carefully wipes off memories of drunkenly-throwing wooden straws on random people at a bar.]

My older sister was one of the first people who showed me the other side of parenting — you know the scary-ass, SOS side. I was in my late teens, fighting acne and sleep, worrying about lesser mortal things like what to wear or how to tame my curls. And my sister - she always looked like she could really use the snooze button on her alarm. She was the world's fastest Indian to shower. While I gave myself bonus shower time to recuperate from the horror of her uncomfortably short one, which was always interrupted by a loud "Ma" on the door.

Her life was a big mystery to me back then, just as much my current life situation would've been.

So it occurred to me, there are some things that one may not necessarily relate to (or "get baffled by") until one steps into parenthood:

1. What multi-tasking is really about:
If you are the sorts who thought doing Math while listening to music is multi-tasking, wave hello to newborn-parenting. While the entire process of reproduction may have involved a lot of parallel activities in the background, here's when it gets out of control. You're wearing a baby sling with your baby somewhat trying to latch on as you do laundry, chop vegetables in the kitchen, attend an urgent phone call, fight back a pressing bladder and sometimes, in dire circumstances, stuff your face with leftover food like a crow.

2. Why a mom's social media feed looks like she's running a little crèche all the time:
I mean there may be new world orders, earthquakes, change of presidents but a mom's social media feed is always talking about poo or sleep-deprivation or potty-training or DIY costumes, right? I mean isn't it annoying?

No, it's not. When your kid reaches the coveted potty seat, it means you don't have to sniff diaper pants any more, a welcome graduation to merely washing and perfuming his/her bum. It's cause for wide celebration. And the cute pictures? Let's face it. Kids in costumes are adorbs.

3. The curious case of the mom bun and ill-fitted shirts:
The 24-year old me used to see these moms, all sporting the same messy-bun hairdo and wearing ill-fitted gingham shirts with leggings and I, the aspiring fashionista, would be like, "I could so style these women."

Guess what? OOTD and style quotient are miles away from a new mom, buried deep underneath fantasies of long hairwash rituals and reading beauty magazines. She may be the most organized mom, running her baby five-course meals by the clock, or a klutzy, house-upside down mom perennially out of time. What she's wearing, in terms of being fashionable is usually the last thing to cross her mind, well, after she's convinced herself to not use the 15-minute beauty time-slot to take a nap.

4. Where's the father/father figure in all of this:
I remember as a kid we had these family lunches with all my friends and their families assembling at somebody's house, playing memory games that involved figuring out, quite literally, "Who's the Daddy?" We rarely met anybody's dad so it was all a bit confusing. Three decades on now, we're still somewhat struggling with getting dads to participate equally, perhaps with some trite hand-on dad definitions like "Oh, look. I can do her nappy." or "Come sweetie, let's take your cycle for a spin today."

Fathers are unsung heroes, "bread-winning", saved-the-day-by-showing-up parents. Even though I'd say my husband is a hands-on dad, we, as a culture, are still miles away from equal parenting.

5. Why do you have to bring kids to the movies if they're not going to be watching it?
I remember how I used to dread going to family movies because there'd be dozens of kids ruining the movie for me with spoiler alerts, loud ill-timed chuckles, antsy walks and screeching wails. And then I'd come back thinking, "Why can't parents control their kids? Why do they have to bring them to the movies?"

The answer is they need to get a break too. They're people. They don't have any other place to leave their kids. Besides, they probably wanted to watch Deadpool but picked this one cos it's appropriate for child-viewing. So cut them some slack.

6. Contemplation is a luxury. But hair-washing?
 I used to hear all these new moms go, "Oh, I cut my hair cos I had no time to wash it, let alone de-tangle it." And it crossed me as strange. All they have is a little human, incapable of walking and running into trouble, sleeping most of the time, perhaps, just crying for milk and attention occasionally.

What we don't see is baby vomit and food getting in her hair. All the freakin' time. What we don't hear is attending phone calls and cooking and cleaning after her baby's mess and juggling kids' activities and grocery-shopping (with a baby) and scavenging for food. What we sleep through is her baby wailing through the night that got her to hit the snooze button eight times to let go of her mid-week scheduled hair-washing at 6 am.
With a baby, hair-washing is a pampering ritual, at best reserved for Sundays.

7. What sleeping like a baby really means:
And if you have one of those rare, miracle-of-life babies, who do actually sleep 12-14 hours at night, even through their post-midnight snacks, pray to God everyday. Cos you will need God to fight venom from your sleep-deprived peers. A typical night with a baby involves a lot of fumbling in the dark and rocking your baby at different hours of the night. You invariably keep a tab on the party people as they come blaring back at 2.00 am, listen to the chirpy birds who seem pretty pleased with their life, and appreciate the gorgeous sunrise horizons with misty-eyed, blurry vision.
As one of my mom-friends put it, "The person who coined the Sleep like a baby idiom didn't really parent any kids."

8. Why do moms carry a hideous, monster bag:
My sister would be taking her babies for a stroll till the end of the road and she'd be armed with an intimidating bag with refreshments and tissues for a year. I didn't get it. You just fed your baby. What could possibly happen?
Well, maybe she was standing in the line waiting to board a flight with her baby for the first time when her baby threw up and started producing these supersonic-frequency wails. And while she rummaged her fetchingly gorgeous new travel tote to fetch tissues and prepare milk under piercing, judgemental looks from the other passengers, she was internally telling herself, "Must buy giant bag with ugly, accessible pockets holding ready-milk and tissues at all times.

Any of these things eye-opening for you? Well, I'll come back for more while you go hug that tired-looking, unkempt mom in your block :).