Sunday, September 17, 2017

It's early in the morning

And I woke up before dawn, as happens when I sleep at a decent hour, unfortunately. I thought I'd work but instead I stayed up listening to music and wondering, for millionth time, why things that should fill me with joy make me sad.

It saddens me to watch the boys grow. There was a time when I couldn't wait for Rahul to grow older, easier, less demanding, and now that he is, I fight the urge to cling on to him for my own selfish reasons. I get fed up that Beni needs me... but when he's playing quietly by himself I go find him and make my presence felt. When they come to tell me they love me, I revel in it, knowing it's vanishing even as I do.

I've been looking at my world as though it might vanish at any moment, hating it fiercely for existing so differently from how I'd wanted it, and holding on desperately to every part of it because I built it and it's mine.

Now I'll go watch the unrelenting rain. My thoughts can remain in my head. Not everything always needs to be written down.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Love letter

This summer I learnt to love, all over again.

If you were to ask me (please don't ask) I'd have to admit that love scares me.

So every day of my life I crush my pride and tell people they matter to me.

This summer I learnt to let the last vestiges of pride go.

My little one, you come knocking to my door and ask me when I will have time for you. Not the daughter I longed for, but ever so infinitely precious. With your coming I was gifted an insight into the depths of my heart. I learnt to understand my father's heart.

And my firstborn, that keeps me awake each night petrified with fear because the world will hurt him, but the world will also welcome him and celebrate him, because that's his blessing, you make me confront every childhood demon, every maternal fear, and show me my love is bigger than my parenting shortcomings.

If you ask me (please don't ask) I'd tell you this summer I learnt to love. Without pride, without reservation, without hesitation. If you call, I'll come running. Call me and see.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I was looking back

at who I once was, and I felt this ridiculous urge to hold myself close and feel safe and comforted. For a girl who got so lucky, I was quite unaware of my riches and quite miserable.

So, I want to tell her, it's ok. I turned out all right. A little messed up, patched up, cracked up, but I still have my spark somewhere inside me that apparently nothing can douse.

Spark reminds me of an excerpt I once painstakingly typed out from my copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover
“…So they won’t be able to blow out my wanting you, nor the little glow that is between you and me. We’ll be together next year. And though I’m frightened, I believe in your being with me. A man has to fend …for the best, and then trust in something beyond himself. You can’t insure against the future, except by really believing in the best bit of you, and in the power beyond it… So I believe in the little flame between us. For me now, it’s the only thing in the world…Only you. And now the little flame is all I care about in my life. That’s what I abide by, and will abide by…  
“…That’s why I don’t like to start thinking about you actually. It only tortures me, and does you no good. I don’t want you to be away from me. But if I start fretting it wastes something… I stick to my little…flame, and have some peace. And I won’t let the breath of people blow it out… We fucked a flame into being. Even the flowers are fucked into being between the sun and the earth. But it’s a delicate thing, and takes patience and the long pause.  
“So I love chastity now, because it is the peace that comes of fucking. I love being chaste now… when the drawing together comes, then we can fuck the little flame brilliant and yellow, brilliant. But not now, not yet! Now is the time to be chaste, it is so good to be chaste, like a river of cool water in my soul. 
“Well, so many words because I can’t touch you. If I could sleep with my arms around you, the ink could stay in the bottle… But we have to be separate for a while, and I suppose it really is the wiser way. If only one were sure.  
“Never mind, never mind, we won’t get worked up. We really trust in the little flame, and in the unnamed god that shields it from being blown out. There’s so much of you here with me, really, that it’s a pity you aren’t all here.
Sometimes I miss the girl who would be so blown away by the writing that she would sit and type out entire excerpts. Sometimes I wonder if I've forgotten how to be so moved. But I haven't, of course. It's just that time is touching me and I don't yet know how the changes will be.

Over a dozen years ago, on a pensive afternoon, thinking of the sea at Vizag, I wrote this

For A~, with love

On an unaccustomedly sunny day
You think of the man of your dreams
-- Not all he was cut out to be --
And it seems
As though you’ll have to make it do
And you never thought that you
Would be satisfied with that.

With the sea-breeze in your face
You will never be lonely again
The pain
Of it is now an old memory.

You will wish you had been more specific
When you’d asked, made a more complete list
But this
Is what you’ve got.
And it’s good.
So it must do.

In the unaccountable sun,
As the wind makes love to your hair,
Somewhere (not very far away)
As you think of what you once felt
I’ll be thinking of you
-- With love --
And you can consider yourself held.

So, yes, at 4 in the morning today, I shall consider myself held. Thank you for reaching out over the years.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I see me.

We went out for dinner on Friday, Ro, Mon and I, and a propos de I forget what, Mon remarked, "When I look into the mirror, I don't see fat, I see me."

Now this is not going to talk about what an absolute inspiration that woman is (because she might read this and get ideas above her station -- hi Mon!) but that sentence has stayed in my head. She captured perfectly the change I found in myself in my late 20s as I gradually learnt to love my body for all its shortcomings.

Of late, I've been struggling with my knee pain, very few days go by without several hours in bed. At times like these, I used to loathe my body. I still occasionally do feel sad when I see myself in the mirror, but it's the exception, not the norm. I've come a long way from the skinny teenager wishing she looked like anything except the way she did.

Now, when I look into the mirror, I see me. I see my eyes, always the most expressive part of me. I see my hair, dark and thick and covering my bottom. I see my arms, strong though not muscular. My breasts that fed two children and won't ever look like they once did. My waist with its sagging skin and plentiful stretch marks, but just right for sarees. Thick thighs that make me sigh but don't somehow stop me from wearing short clothes. An ankle adorned with my Nakhrewali anklet that jingles faintly as I walk. My nose with its little ring, due to be replaced with my customary solitaire. I'm slowly regaining my interest in jewellery and makeup, always a sign of inner happiness in me. I see marks of age, and signs of a life lived, of desires fulfilled and dreams to pursue.

I see, as Mon put it, me.

And today, I like me. For a while I was losing myself and not liking who I was becoming, but not any more.

This makes a difference to me in ways most men will never understand. It gives me the freedom to dress as I want (as sloppily, boringly or colourfully as the mood takes me). It puts a spring in my step, and the confidence to hold my head high. It insulates me from people's opinions. I don't think I've ever cared as little for what others think as I do today. And that's a lot of growing up for a girl who used to go over and over every conversation stressing over nuances she might have missed. I am not unconcerned about people, I just limit their space in my head.

Mon took this photo of me the next day. Now you can see what I see in my mirror.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Appreciation

My head's been processing a LOT of things these last 4-6 weeks. I suddenly want a lot of things, don't feel the need to bend over for many others and all this change is leaving me a little breathless. I'm doing more than my body can handle, and that's leaving me exhausted. Not unhappy, occasionally overwhelmed, but mostly quiet. For somebody who has felt miserably alone for a long time, I find myself now craving time to myself, time to listen to music and think.

One day I found myself thinking of how grateful I was that I found V. I don't often feel this way because for the most part he is a very annoying person to live with. But at this time, when all I want is my space, he has been graceful about finding ways to let me be. Smitadi, on her last visit, remarked with her smile that she knows why I married him: because he gives me the freedom to be myself. Glossing over my irritation at the thought of anybody 'letting me' be anything, I know what she meant. I think, say and do a lot of things that bother him and I am aware would be deal-breakers in many other marriages. Honestly, I am not sure I could have stayed married to most men I know (or they to me, to be fair). While I'm good at adapting to my circumstances, I'm liable to wake up on odd mornings prepared to chuck off all the adaptations and revert to self. I can see how this might be a major disruption in a marriage because it's disrupted mine a few memorable times.

He deals with it. Sometimes he doesn't deal with it very well, but eventually he finds a way to cope. I know that's marriage but I also know it's not easy. I'm grateful that of all the men I might have married, I married this one who may not be able to give me everything and may not even want to, but who does accept what he gets. I mean, there's a lot to be said for a husband who is resigned to his fate!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Ground Rules

1. Remember that I'm more fragile than I declare myself to be. So if I ask for an affirmation, just give it to me. I only ask if I really need to hear one. 

2. I'm also much stronger than most people realise. So whatever you need to say, just say it directly. It might break me, but I'll survive. 

3. My yes is yes and my no is no. If I say yes, please accept that I have thought it out and made my mind up for myself. 

4. I don't give in to pressure. I give in to the people I love, because giving in makes me happy. Let me do it. 

That's all.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Affirmation

I will not be treated like I don't matter.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Talking about it.

Yesterday I tweeted a piece written by a woman who has stayed faithful to her husband though he won't sleep with her.

It came to me hard on the heels of a weekend where I was evaluating my choices and reflecting on how we don't -- we really don't -- advocate for ourselves in our bedrooms.

If you spend any amount of time in 'mom groups' or similar forums, eventually the question of sex will arise. It is usually somebody braving embarrassment to ask about post-partum sex, but the answers often go much wider in their range. You have women asking how to deal with demands when their bodies have only just given birth. How to make sex more interesting. How to be interested in sex when you're severely sleep-deprived. How to find interest in your husband once more. How to, in short, meet their partners' needs.

Over the years my groups have had their children grow, and the stresses change. In these different conversations, some of the women got back in the game, some did not. And when I say some did not, I mean there continued to be a mismatch in libido and expectations, not that they kept refusing sex. You see, I find that it's more common for the women to sadly talk of being refused than actually refusing. Women who refuse tend to reach out for strategies or help. Those who are refused really have no recourse. As women we appreciate the importance of consent, and that means accepting the No.

What women don't recognise, are never taught to recognise, is when the No is being used to control and manipulate them. Without being a slave to our bodies, we may yet crave touch. Being refused physical contact (and sex) consistently has an adverse effect on one's emotional and physical health and I think it's important to acknowledge this.

I have no real answers. For the longest time I tried to understand where the No came from, but since it was not my No, and very few men that I know are honest to themselves (or for that matter their wives) about why they do what they do, I really don't know why they say No. I have my theories, but when you're craving touch, theories are pretty cold comfort.

Instead, turning 35 has flipped another switch in me. I don't yet clearly know what I want, but I do know some of the things I want. I'm giving them priority. Sex is one of them, as is touch. So are conversations. The woman I want to be must be able to talk about things that matter. She must be able to speak up in bed and explain what she wants. She must be able to fantasise freely, with no shame for doing so. I am not generally very reserved about sex as a subject but I don't often explain what I want to the one who needs to know. I'm changing that. And I'm going to be kind to myself when experiments fail. And no embarrassment! It is terribly difficult to ask for things that you've been conditioned to not even discuss, or tell stories that you don't usually tell your men, but it can be done. And I am determined to do it. Telling my stories also helps me understand where I myself come from, so it's important to tell them well, truthfully, with an eye to detail. I have no idea where this is going to lead, but I do expect good sex to follow, so it's worth the work.

Sometimes you just need to be militant to get what you want.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Birthday Wishlist

I'll be thirty-five (35!) in ten more days and may have gone slightly overboard with the gifts I've been giving myself. I've pretty much gifted myself a small terrace garden, and it's not come cheap! So I was sitting here ignoring deadlines and wondering what else I want for my birthday and here is my list:

1. I want the boys to stop growing. It's ridiculous that Rahul will be 11 and Beni 3 this year. I never gave them permission to grow.

2. I want my baby back. Beni was to be my last baby, my do-over, and instead he's become Rahul's disciple. Before his third birthday he lectures me on superheroes and does 'origami' for fun, exactly like Dada. It's not acceptable.

3. I want to look pretty. I mean, I've been wanting this for thirty years now, surely somebody can wave a magic wand and make this happen?

4. I want to travel, and I know a woman who earns only enough to pay the bills and has two kids to raise cannot afford such a luxury. Sue me, I want it anyway.

5. I want to visit my friends around the world and give them a quick, fierce hug. You all matter to me and I understand I'm a terrible friend for not keeping in touch better, but you all are a part of my life anyway.

6. I want Vicky to get younger. He's getting alarmingly old in his head, just got bifocals and no longer enjoys driving. I didn't sign up for this and I want it to change. He can age when I'm ready for him to age.

7. I want a beach within short driving distance of my house. Wtf Bangalore, couldn't you have organised this better? 7-8 hours by car is not short 'driving distance' and you need to look into this right away.

8. I want my new plants to survive. I'm looking at you, curry plant sapling with one green sprig and everything else shrivelled. Also you, jasmine cutting with two brave green leaves where none of your peers have any and show no ambition to grow any either. Begging you here, please survive me.

9. I want my car to grow magically bigger when I need it to. It can remain its current compact size at all other times, since it's about the right size for city traffic and city parking spaces.

10. I want my body to not give up on me. Please don't. I'm only 35 (and that not yet) and it's too young to be sick and sickly.

* Bonus wish: Not naming it, don't know if I'd have the courage to ask for it even (opportunity to ask arising) but I have been wishing for it for many years now and it's my extra wish for luck this year too.

Friday, May 05, 2017

That holiday

Every so often I try to remind myself to let things go. I am terrible at it. However, whenever I do, good things happen.

Days after I forced myself to stop whingeing about a holiday, Vicky suggested a staycation right here in Bangalore. We checked into Hotel Ivory Tower for a day of air-conditioning, room service, television and a giant bed! I don't know which was my favourite. It's been brutally hot in Bangalore this year and all my usual ways of keeping the house cool aren't working beyond a point. Anyway, so the AC was a delight! I also want to mention the room service. While it's quite true that Vicky is generally good about bringing me snacks and tea and breakfast, it's equally true that all these need some prior organisation and later cleaning by me, so it was lovely not having to think of any of that.

The very first thing we did after checking in was to have a late lunch at Lakeview. The food was strictly ok and it was pretty hot since it doesn't have air conditioning but the boys were happy with the desserts and I was happy with my spicy mutton cutlets.


Our next move was to put the boys down for a nap. Rahul doesn't really nap but he was ordered to stay in bed and not move so it comes to the same thing.



As Beni slept and Rahul listened to music, Vicky worked on his calligraphy and I on my tatting. As a family we are pretty low maintenance, I'd say. These hours of calm were long overdue and they were very soothing.



We surfaced in the evening for tea and snacks and popped out to the bookshops. We first went to Bookworm (?) in Shrungar Shopping Mall and I quickly made a side trip to the Auroville shop at the back to fondle their crocheted pretties. Yes, I'm aware I sound vaguely demented and have given up caring. Meanwhile the boys browsed.



Taking them to book shops is great fun. Rahul jumps around from aisle to aisle and alternates between exhilaration at new finds and absolute depression when he's not allowed to buy. all. the. books.



Beni quietly potters around finding books for himself and then settles down to leaf through them. Rahul is the reader I couldn't help and Beni is the 'reader' I haven't needed to help. So much for me and my determination to bring up readers! Let me just take a moment to ponder on how terrible parenting is for my ego.

After a room service dinner, we went to bed early too. I let the boys have the bed with Vicky and went to sleep in the large sofa in the sitting/dining space outside. I cannot tell you how lovely it was to just sleep and not worry about absolutely unimportant things. I woke up before them, which never happens, feeling pretty happy with life. You can see it on our faces, right?



Then the rest of the family woke up and we had breakfast and got ourselves tidied up. Sort of.


Then, since we were on MG Road and it was a Sunday morning, we checked out and went to the new Blossoms. (We had, of course, visited the old one the previous evening. We are thorough like that. We are also out-of-towners who make the most of visits to town.) We bought a bunch of books but at the checkout there was a family, also with two boys rather older than mine, who were buying a couple of cartons of books. I asked if they were buying for a library. The woman smiled and said no, it was all for them. They don't spend a lot, she said, but what they do, they spend mostly on books. I think I should have taken down their numbers so I could make friends and raid their library. We bumped into them once more at lunch in the little burger shop next door.



And that was the end of the little holiday. We drove back home, full of food and with bags of books. One little boy valiantly fought off sleep till he couldn't any more. It really was a lovely break.

Friday, April 21, 2017

On Grief

Eight years ago I wrote about mourning rituals and how I found some solace in them, in their very austerity. While I know not everybody feels the same way about them, they helped me a little and I wanted to understand how it worked.

Mourning is a little part of dealing with grief, but grief seems to be so much bigger. Once in, it seems to become a part of you, a permanent sadness in some. I lost my grandfather 25 years ago and if you ask me about him, sometimes you will still hear the anger in my voice at his daring to die on me, on us, ending the best part of our childhood. For years I suppressed all my memories of him, and later, when I realised this and went hunting for them, my memories had grown dim. This loss is now a part of the loss of my grandfather, to me. As an adult, it shocked me to realise that I react to loss with anger. And guilt, because, somehow, I should have done something to have prevented the loss. So funerals often leave me angry.

Grief is a very strange part of life. No two people seem to grieve the same way, over the same person. When I was younger, I judged people for grieving 'wrongly'; age brought a little wisdom and insight that just because they grieved differently, it did not change the fact that they too were grieving. Some people prepare for or even deal with loss by becoming even more selfish, insisting on centring their own daily troubles. Some fall physically ill, even though they were perfectly healthy till then. Some, more experienced with what is ahead, turn to therapy, medication, counselling.

I remember my mother-in-law being criticised for being perfectly turned out at her husband's last rites. Now I think, if I were married to a man who adored me and took pride in my looking good, I would dress up for him too. How could I not dress up for him one last time? In any case, how is her dress anybody's business but her own?

Nor does grief come with an expiry date. A dear friend, no longer young, still mourns her parents who died many years ago. And why should she not? When my parents go, as they will, will I be automatically be able to switch gears to a life without them around? Will my thoughts stop factoring them in? In recent years very close friends have lost parents and parents-in-law. I watch them deal with their own grief, the loss faced by their children, and also their mourning spouses.

I remember being impatient with Vicky, expecting him to now pick himself up and let his father go. It's a feeling I deeply regret, though I do have some sympathy for my younger self as well. It's not easy living with somebody who is mourning. A large part of their self is no longer available to you -- and this does not come with an end date either. You don't know when you'll get them back, and in what shape. Vicky often lashed out at me, and I found it difficult to understand and accept. Looking back, I have a great deal of compassion for us both. I expected the early upsets but I never realised it would go on for so long. And he, well, he never knew his father's death would change his life as profoundly as it did. How could he? He only had the one father to lose.

Recently two very dear friends lost their fathers. They each grieve in their own ways. One of the hardest parts of this is knowing there is nothing I can do to help. I can be around but that only goes so far. For the rest, this is their path to walk alone. That I think is the hardest part of grief, how solitary it is. When my grandfather died, all his grandchildren were shaken with the loss, but each of us lost something unique and none of us grieved together because our losses were so different from each other's, so private. Do you know somebody who is grieving? Please don't judge them for whatever form their grief takes. Who are we to tell them how to handle their loss?

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Holiday

I've been boring the ears off anybody who listens about how I want a holiday. Truth is, the four of us haven't been anywhere without family since, well, ever. We haven't been on a holiday since Beni was born. We did have a trip to Nepal over winter, which my uncle and aunt made very memorable, but it wasn't us four.

And all our attempts have been so jinxed! Coming to Bangalore I was very optimistic because there are so many lovely weekend getaways nearby, but soon after our arrival Ally broke down very badly. She broke down in spectacular fashion while we were driving to a little resort for Rahul's ninth birthday. The engine froze in a tiny town and since none of us speak or understand Kannada, the situation was rather fraught. We got her back to town after a fashion and for the longest time afterwards she was only just able to survive short trips around town. Recently though we seem to have found a good mechanic, somebody who has been able to restore her to what feels like her old self. We promptly booked an Airbnb in Pondicherry for this weekend. And then first I and then the boys fell ill, and ultimately Vicky did too. So that was cancelled.

So here I am, letting this longing go. It's not that important. It'll happen when it does. We live in a lovely little place with our own gardens and access to sports and a pool, which if you think about it, is almost a resort. (All that's missing is room service lol!)

I've also been wondering why I want a holiday so badly. What do I want from it? The answers are a little unnerving. I want to stop being so tired, so burnt out. I'm burnt out all the time. I recover and promptly burn out again. I haven't read a book in weeks or touched my crochet or knitting for more than 10 minutes -- because I can't focus. I fall asleep at odd times and then stay awake at night. I want a hard re-set. To stop, sleep, wake up and start again. This time a little slower, less resentfully, more lovingly. Trying to work from home with two kids is exhausting me this summer, even as I enjoy having them around. I am exhausted juggling so many balls and constantly watching one or another fall because I'm too exhausted to keep them all up in the air. I want to do better than this. And ok, a holiday won't wave a magic wand and make that happen. I accept that.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Kids are embarrassing

At the mall yesterday we met a woman wearing her baby facing outwards in a narrow-base Baby Bjorn carrier. Rahul commented on this (in his lucid, bell-like tones, unfortunately). He said, "That baby is literally hanging in that carrier."

He's right, of course. It's also worth noting that the baby was and will be fine, though the carrier might end up a little painful for the mother's back as the baby gets bigger. It's just that I've never discussed the ergonomics of baby carriers with him, and was surprised he even noticed the difference!

Being him, he also had to back this up by informing the startled woman that I 'make' baby carriers and know all about this. I'm not saying he was wrong but... I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Kids are embarrassing.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Happy Anniversary to me (tomorrow)

It's now eleven years since that night I sat on my bed terrified at what I was about to do.

I just wanted to say that somewhere and I'm drunk enough to, here, tonight. Tomorrow we can go back to my regular radio silence.

Hello, all.