Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mum's hands

 I love hands. Nothing kinky – just ol’ fashioned love for hands for purely aesthetic reasons. As an occasional dabbler in the fine arts, the human body inspires me more than anything. But long, beautiful fingers sitting pretty on smooth palms attract me the most. Very often, I look at people’s hands first and their faces later. And God help them if they have handsome hands. I once told my boss that I was in love with his hands (really) and would love to sketch them some day. He blushed so much, it made me wonder…

So when my mum’s hands caught my attention today, I was surprised. Plain hands, non-manicured hands, cracked and even calloused hands. For someone so obsessed with the beauty of these limbs, noticing these ones was a little out of league. But then I realised that the person attached to these non-attractive hands was my mum. Hands that were absently caressing my leg as I lay down lazily on a summer afternoon. The same hands that have been doling out a million little messages of love, care and comfort from the day I was born.

Mum has always admired my hands. ‘You got your father’s limbs’, she has always said. Long, beautiful fingers; fingers that look real good with rings on them. Lovely, shapely nails too. ‘You must paint your nails,’ she’d say, ‘they look very attractive’. I’ve preened and preened for so long and took it that my hands were pretty, unlike her knobbly, stocky things. Her nails were also always chipped and so was that occasional coat of nail paint on them.

As I write this, I take the time to look at my own nails. Nope, no shape, no colour on them. Even a little rough on the tips with doing the dishes I suppose. So, these are a mother’s hands, I decide. Hands so full with things to do for her family that a manicure doesn’t even figure on the wish-list. The fingers are still long and pretty, but someone who notices people’s hands might easily overlook them, just as I have overlooked my mother’s for so long.

Now, in a mother’s shoes, I notice her hands – hands that still have those unfilled nails, hands still adorned with two gold bangles that clink ever so familiarly when she rolls out chapattis for dinner. She’s worn them for years now and been singed over and over when they heat up during her chapatti making sessions. She still manages to forget to pull them up before starting. I never thought much of the burns nor of the many other injuries these hands may have suffered in trying to protect me. Her hands have begun to wrinkle now, not just with age but with service - relentless, thankless service. And I see their beauty now. Not sketched on paper, but etched forever in the fondest part of my memories.

What a mother’s hands do second only her heart.

PS: Jishnu has my beautiful hands.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First kiss (and other firsts)

Before you get any ideas from the title, my dear readers, bored as you are, this is about Jishnu too. All first-time parents think it a great deal each time their child does something for the first time, and I am no exception. And how could I not be overwhelmed when this first something is a kiss! Jishnu is six months old today and has declared himself a big boy with a celebratory kiss. All the obsessive kissing by all and sundry seems to have finally taught him to reciprocate, because when I kissed him yesterday and then held his mouth close to my cheek, he half opened it, poked out his li’l pink tongue and gave me a little licky-kissy!! I was overjoyed! But, wait a minute; was this behaviour just part of his put-everything-in-mouth repertoire? Viren and I decided to repeat the experiment and this time, the J-by-now dad took his turn. Vir kissed him and Jish kissed him right back! Yippee! But hey, Vir and I will stick to our solemn promise that when he learns to point to his body parts and say ABC, we will not bore our guests with demonstrations. For a third party, seeing a baby point to his toesies and belly and nosie and stuff is utterly boring, while the doting parents coo with pride.
But, the incentives are starting to roll by. Though I still may not be at the point where I can claim that it was all worth it, I sure am beginning to collect my reward points. Wonder when I’ll be able to accumulate enough and claim that big gift. Although it is already kind of rewarding to see others covet what I own. My bundle of cuteness seems to win most hearts and leaves them wanting for more, especially my parents. My father is reportedly losing his mind in pining for his grandson and is apparently often caught talking to himself reminiscing about the time Jishnu and I spent there. He, of course, is getting ‘impatienter’ by the minute as the day of our visit to Nagpur comes close. We’ll be there on March 24, 2010 for his annaprasan that will be held the next day. I hear the obsessive grandparents have managed to increase the guest list from 100 to 200 already. Phew!
Even as I get ready to pack my bags, it seems surreal that my baby is already 6-months-old - old enough to be offered rice and a dozen other goodies and have a huge function in his honour. When I was spending those difficult first days, it seemed like he’d never grow up. But he has, and so have I. I am a 6-month-old mom too and no one’s congratulating me. Not fair!

The last six months have been the most eventful months of my life. Even as I fit into most of my pre-pregnancy clothes again, I don’t seem to fit into my old skin anymore. My being in now full of Jishnuisms and has been emptied of all sense of false ego. It hurts to falsify my very own, my precious ego, but once a baby comes into your life, there’s very little space left for anything else. The first thing to go out of the window is ones luxury to ‘eww’. Dude, when you gotta clean smelly shit every day off the baby’s bum and then his nappy and then perhaps the bedsheet, there’s no ‘ewwing’ away. Another luxury that is taken away is procrastination. You cannot not sterilise his bottles, you cannot not feed him, massage him, bathe him and of course, you cannot not wash his nappies. When a baby is hungry, he is hungry. Boss, you just have to get off your arse and feed him, even if it is bloody 2.30 in the morning and perhaps again at 5.30!
  Also, time takes on such value that you can never imagine as a non-parent. You sleep when baby sleeps, and of course finish as many chores around the house as you can. There’s little or no time left to sit back, relax with that proverbial cup of coffee or curl up with your favourite novel. Heck, there’s no time to even fight with your spouse. I’ve surprised myself so much with a change in attitude that sometimes I find it difficult to believe it is I who buries the hatchet so fast and easy. I could nurse a grouse for weeks before Jishnu was born. Now, I just get on with an argument and pretend it’s all over in a jiffy just so I don’t lose out on Vir’s help with the babyworks. I mean, there’s no point anymore in carrying on with an argument if it means I have to do the ‘night duty’ everyday. I know now where and when all mothers acquire the skill of making peace. Lack of time, my dears, teaches it all.

Babies also teach you patience. They teach you that even life seems like it’s offering you no choices, it’s not so bad; because every now and then there is a first that you can fawn over. Ever so often you realise how priceless the exclusivity of those first moments is. Whether it’s your baby’s first chin up, first roll over, first sleep on his own, first intentional smile, first crawl, first sitting up, first snuggle, first tooth, first standing up, first solid meal, first chuckle and a myriad other firsts, each one of them is special. As you scramble to get your baby record book to pen in the date and time of seemingly irrelevant information to a stranger, they become your most prized possessions.

And then one day, there is your first realisation that life without your little one isn’t quite fun.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dearest Jishnu...


My dearest Jishnu,

the use of this superlative endearment has never sounded so apt before. Yes, I may have used it for certain persons I've loved before, but I know now that it'll fit only you for the rest of my life.
       It's 2 a.m. of  a hot night of my first month in Mumbai and having woken up for your midnight feed, I can't go back to sleep. I have a rather vicious pain in my neck (literally) that even your daddy's magic massage couldn't drive away. It's good in a way 'coz it has my head swarming with thoughts that I need written down. And these thoughts, my son, happen to constitute the first love cum apology cum confession letter of your life.
This letter also happens to be from the first woman of your life. (I'm smug at the thought that I shall forever be the mistress of this title, whether or not you, your girlfriend/s and your wife like it).
       Yes, my darling, I love being the first woman of your life, but it has come with a lot of my neck and otherwise.The list of my complaints up to this point about pregnancy and parenting have been endless, but you know what sweetheart, if it were between your life and mine, I'd give mine away without a moment's consideration (yes baby, I know mamma's being a li'l dramatic, but that's her). I love you a lot now, even when you've not shared six whole months of your life with me and by the time you read and truly understand these words of your 26-year-old mother, she will have loved you a hell lot more.
        Anyway, coming back to this pain in my neck that led my train of thoughts from bad to real bad. I wondered what would happen if this pain were the result of some brain tumour and I died before I could tell you how much I loved you. I wondered what i would do if someone told me that tonight was my last night with you. And believe me, my light, I couldn't bear the thoughts. We all take relationships for granted, and you tell me Jish, how can I think otherwise of you when I made you, when you're part of me? Yet sweetie, life is unpredictable. If there were indeed no tomorrow, mamma would like you to know how precious you are to her.
         Mamma loves you Jish; but she'd like to add that she loves herself too. Your Diva (maternal grandma) taught me this valuable lesson. If you're not happy, you cannot make anybody around you happy. And my happiness, my love, lies in my work. It defines, to a huge extent, who I am. It gives me an enormous amount of self-worth. So, sweetie, each time I go to work leaving you behind, don't curse me. I know, there may be times when you don't want me to go, and I'll have to break your little heart; but when I am back from a fulfilled day, I'll enjoy every second with you. I don't want motherhood to be trap for me, sweetheart. This might sound incredibly selfish to you before you are, say, 25; but I'm sure you'll understand me and forgive me for the times I wasn't around when you needed me.
         These are the extents of my presumptions darling. These are the things I take for granted. I'm presuming you'll need me, you'll be angry with me, you'll forgive  me and at the end of it all, you'll love me. I hope for all this and more than these pages can hold. Jishnu, firstborns are always burdened by the biggest of their parents' expectations. And because I know that you'll never have any siblings, you'll have to deal with being an only child all your life. I also know that it will put on me the expectation of being the 'only parent'. I'll try to fulfill them all. I promise. Trust me, every mommy wants to be a good mommy. But I want to be one on my terms. I don't want you to idolize me. No, that's too great a responsibility. I'll love you and protect you with all my might, but I want my inner being to be content too. I don't want to go on making those sacrifices for you that will hurt my spirit, those which will make me want to ask you to return the 'favour', those which will make me wonder what happened to my life at the end of it all.
          Jish, I'm scared of the day I feel I've forgotten myself in raising you and find you retorting "I didn't ask you to". But, I'll try my best to never let that day come...if there is a tomorrow. For here and now,

I love you lots!

Mommy and me


“Hello. Is that Urmi…Chanda Vaz?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“This is X from Y company.”
“Yes X, tell me.”
“This is about a job opportunity. Is this good time to speak to you?”
“Yea, sure.”
“You were working with Pune Mirror before this, right?”
“May I know why you left?”
“Yes, I’ve had a baby. Been on a maternity break for six months now.”

This is pretty much the crux of every conversation between me and potential recruiters nowadays.
Five months of giving those answers and I still feel like I’m talking about someone else sometimes.
I have a 5-month-old? Really?
For a reality this size, it seems to be taking awfully long to sink in. Or perhaps I’m clinging on too tightly to my old self. But for all the shorts and tees, motherhood has been insidiously creping into my personality. It’s like a peel of cling-wrap that you can’t technically see, but know is there.
Urmi Chanda-Vaz, who famously hates kids and continues to advice child-free couples to stay so, is changing. Slow, but firm and perhaps permanent changes seem to be taking place, sometimes even without my permission.
Motherhood’s made me hard. And motherhood’s made me soft. I’ve hardened to Jishnu’s tantrums and can let him wail alone in the bedroom while I do dishes in the kitchen. But a softy has been co-created too, who’ll run from any end of the planet to her son when he bitterly cries for his mamma.
Speaking of hard, my hands seem to have become pretty hard too. Pulling feeding bottles out of boiling water after they are sterilised doesn’t seem to hurt when my baby is hungry.
Jishnu still seems like a big, irritating interruption in my life more often than not, but I almost fired one of my maids the other day when she dared criticise him. (Okay, it wasn’t that bad. She just said, “Kitna rota hai yeh”.)
  Motherhood has become an incessant struggle about integrating who I was and who I am becoming. For the greater part, it is a job I don’t like, but want to do it perfectly, because any job worth doing is worth doing well.
  Motherhood has meant giving up a lot – a city, a job, a waist, a life and heck, even whatever was left of my intimate life what with Jishnu sleeping in our bed! Also, Jishnu has come between Viren and me in more ways than one. I hardly ever have the time, inclination or mental energy to invest in what used to be a very interesting partnership. It’s scary. I’m definitely not liking losing out on Vir because of Jishnu. But I don’t see myself doing anything about it, coz I’m so zonked all the time. Perhaps when I start working again and become an equal on all terms, including caring for our son and the household, will I be able to achieve that elusive work-life balance. Because, right now, the scale is more than skewed by seven and a half kilos of that incredibly cute pile of flesh that is my son, drawing me deeper into that inescapable mire called motherhood.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Best foot forward


Day 4, Mumbai
        It's my third day alone with Jish in the new house of 'new' Mumbai and I'm sitting here on the window seat writing this. That must mean I've not lost my marbles yet. That must mean it's not as bad as I thought it would be. That must mean I had some unknown reserves of fortitude someplace. That must mean the theory of first impressions is true. And all that must finally mean that Jishnu is a hard core 'first impressionist'. 
         Vir has always maintained that of our son. He says that our 5-month-old always puts his 'bestestest' foot forward. He eases you into what could be a not-so-nice situation. He leads you to believe you can easily put him to sleep, for instance, and as soon as you start strutting your confidence, he helps you land ground.
         I am almost beginning to believe Viren about this. 
        After living in utter aaram for the last four moths at my parents', with all my support systems in place, I was in absolute dread of the first day when I would be left 'alone with Jishnu'. "What the heck?", you may say, "He is only a baby...and he is yours!" 
       Yes, thanks for that grim reminder of my no-escape situation.
       Anyway, coming back to my boy and his first impression thingy. He used his trick on me and it seemed to have worked. Jishnu behaved like an absolute darling on that first 'dreadful' day. He slept lots, he didn't cry (much) for attention, played by himself, and not to forget, fed properly too. With such perfection personified, I managed to steal a little bit of siesta too. Wow, what a perfect day! Fresh and rested, Mumbai didn't seem all that intimidating, the colony didn't look as unfamiliar, and even the RJs blabbering away on the radio all day sounded like friends. All thanks to that angel child who didn't even demand to be put to sleep. So there, first day spent with a fundoo first impression on Mommy and she was ready to take on the world. By the beginning of day two, Jishnu was ready to rock and roll that is.
         By the second 'alone' hour next morning, I was more than looking forward to my ever-obliging dad-in-law to come over and babysit both of us. Jishnu had thrown all the tantrums he knew of by then. But the day got over, as even the worst ones do. And when I lay down next to my baby, my back aching with carrying him around, my voice hoarse with singing lullabies, all I could do is feel sorry for the poor dear who had been bitten by mosquitoes all over his adorable sleeping face.
        By the end of the third day, I had not only managed to make sense of the stuff lying around the house, but also cooked a humble, but infinitely gratifying gobi ki subzi! Even while I fumbled around my new kitchen, Jish sat rather peacefully in his basket on the kitchen window and played with some of his toys. Joy!!
        That taking care of this little bundle of unpredictability by myself is possible, I'm beginning to believe. As I write this on my fourth 'alone, Mumbai' day, I surprise myself with what I've achieved. And to say the least, first impressions have definitely helped.