Lost and Found

There’s no question in my mind that that letter came to me just when I needed it. I’m certain it came to make me smile on a particularly gloomy day.

And yet, after the euphoria faded, I cried for the first time in three days. Then the baby woke up and wham! Just like that, I got sucked into motherhood.

Between changing dirty diapers, breastfeeding, potty training, research on vaccines, gentle parenting, learning philosophies, playschools, and countless google searches on ‘is my child a psychopath’, I just forgot about the letter.

I remembered a whole year later, when Mister said that it was the anniversary of Z coming home in my arms. I didn’t remember what the letter said, but I remembered vividly how it made me feel.

So I spent the next few days actively searching for it in odd places, but I never found it. I eventually gave up any hope of seeing it again.

A month ago, the letter found me again when my child was sick and I was full to the brim with self-doubt, as mothers often are.

“Somehow whenever I think of you as a mother, the image of a woman who shares her stories, some funny and outright embarrassing and others that have a lesson or two hidden, one who is fiercely protective and also lets them speak their minds, never enforces her opinion in matters of love and religion and always a guide, friend and fellow traveler in the course of life” 

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Thank you, Nisha, for reminding me of what my true north as a parent is. I’m eternally grateful.

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of walls

“I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way. Maybe he was just joking!”

“No, he wasn’t making a joke. I could tell. Besides, words have meanings. Words matter. He should’ve choosen them wisely”, I said, pausing for breath, and continued.

“I know you’re fond of him, but wanting to believe the best about people doesn’t make it true.” A grimace flashed across his face and gave away what he was thinking.Wanting to believe the worst doesn’t make that true either. But he didn’t say it.

This is who he is. He believes in people. He’s not hiply cynical; he’s not comfortable making snide remarks about others. He’d rather believe that people are innately good, and he’s ok being disappointed once in a while. It’s why I love him.

But for now, he needs to say something.

“Say something.”

Nothing.

“Say something, baba!” I’m pretty sure I sounded annoyed.

“You think I’m irritating, don’t you?”

“Yes, but that’s not the point. You’re too fucking trusting and people take advantage of who you are.”

“Okay, I won’t do it again!”

“We both know you will.”

“All the more reason this debate is pointless, right?

So we stopped there. I’ve used up all the time I had budgeted today for banging my head against a wall.

 

My shit machine is here!

A quick word to say that I gave birth to a baby boy on the 13th.

One sleepless night at the heels of another, tiring days, dirty nappies, bleeding nipples, and general bewilderment is driving me crazy.

Then there’s the feeling that my body has changed beyond recognition, and I don’t mean just aesthetically. It feels like my limbs are falling apart and I have no strength left in my body.

And then Z cries and I somehow find superhuman capabilities.

I am, finally, a mother.

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of trouble on four legs

I woke up startled at 2:00 am with a parched throat and a head ringing like church bells. It was just another Friday night in Hyderabad, except for the loud squeal that had just woken me up.

Groggy, I stepped out of my bedroom, leaving the lights off and D sleeping. I walked into AP’s room and found him and N busy playing a Monopoly. N was bent over the board, displaying her substantial assets. Awake so soon?

It took me a few seconds to recover from the daze.

Yeah, I thought I heard a dog yelp.

I heard it too. Maybe a dog got run over or something.

Where’s Ben, I asked, concerned, though I still maintain that the dog was trouble on four legs.

He was right here! AP called out loudly: Ben!

His voice was drowned out by the sound of thunder, and a sudden gust of wind slammed the balcony door shut. I hadn’t even noticed that it was raining, or that the door had been open all day. And then, I heard a soft, mellow squeak.

Ben!

We ran to the balcony, looked down, and there he was, two floors below, lying on the cold, hard ground at the bottom of our building.

Oh Ben! AP screamed and nearly jumped off the balcony. We ran down, and his tail started wagging even as blood oozed out of his mouth. He tried to get up but couldn’t.

All three of us had tears in our eyes. God, Ben! What were you doing out in the balcony this late? How did you even manage to get past the railing?

We woke D up and made frantic calls to all the vets in the nearby area, but it was really late in the night, and nothing could be done. One doctor was kind enough to agree to seeing us, but when we reached, he said that since Ben couldn’t stand up, the fall had likely broken his spine, and he may have to be put down, but we can’t be sure until we x-ray him.

He gave Ben some painkillers, and sent us packing, asking us to return in the morning for an x-ray.

We spent the night cursing ourselves (yet blaming each other) for not checking whether the balcony door was latched.

Ben lay on AP’s chest all night, barely moving except to lick off the tears that were streaming down his face. Dogs can sense your grief, the doctor had warned us. Don’t look too upset, or he will know something’s wrong.

I was mad at AP for so shamelessly grieving, but couldn’t blame him. I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, too, thinking of all the times that I had jokingly said that this dog was probably a minion on loan from an evil witch.

In the morning, the x-ray revealed that the spine was okay, but two of Ben’s legs (the ones in front) had been badly bruised. Since he was young (no more than a couple months), the bones were still soft, and therefore, didn’t break.

Ben spent a month in a small cage with his legs bandaged because like I said, he was trouble on four legs and would not sit down in one place for too long.

When he got better, we celebrated by giving him some rum and coke to drink. He had grown fond of that particular concoction. He drank his share, then passed out flat on the mattress in the living room, as the rest of us proceeded to create an excel file with who spent how much this month on Ben.

There I was, sitting in front of the excel file that nearly messed up my finances for the next two months, wondering if getting a dog was worth the trouble.

It totally was.

Until he jumped (the kids downstairs witnessed it) from the balcony again and broke the same legs. Then I wanted to kill him.

of life, changes, and fears

I blacked out as I saw what I saw. I had to sit back down because the memories of my little brother that came crowding in left little energy for anything else.

I’m nine. My sister and I have just returned from school, and mom’s not home. We wear our lehengas, pretending to be princesses. Soon enough, there’s a bad fight. We’re rolling around on the bed pulling each other’s hair and screaming. Just as I break the rubber band that holds her ponytail, the doorbell rings. A wave of terror shoots through me. Within a minute I have straightened the bed, tucked my lehenga away and changed into regular clothes. My sister just stands there, holding the broken rubber band and crying. She is six. I marvel at how hair stays put in the shape of a ponytail even without the band. That makes me laugh.

I wait for the bell to ring again. It does. I open the door very gingerly, fully prepared to say we were sleeping. I don’t have to. My clearly overjoyed grandfather stands there. He ordered us to go with him. Bhaiya hua hai. You have been blessed with a baby brother. He doesn’t give us enough time to change or wear our slippers. Soon we’re in the hospital, and my mom is embarrassed. One of her children is wearing a school shirt with a lehenga and has on her head the remnants of a ponytail. The other one is not wearing any footwear.

We demand to see the baby, but he’s been transferred to the nursery. It takes a lot of pleading (me) and fighting (my sister) with the nursery staff before we actually get to see him. And when we do, I can’t look away. He is pink and his skin is peeling off in places. My sister asks the staff, iska chhilka kyon utar raha hai? I laugh and the staff tells me to be quiet.

Once he is home, mom becomes obsessed with him. So do I. Knock before you enter the room and don’t talk so loudly become our standing instructions to my sister. We start buying nursery print bedsheets and curtains in the hopes that he would like the colors. I draw colorful things for him. I pay more attention in crafts class so I can make him stuffed toys.

Soon he’s crawling all over the house. Once, he hides behind a curtain as we frantically search the house for him. Dad finds out and blows his lid. He screams at mom and amid the chaos, I find him tucked behind the Mickey Mouse curtain, sucking on his thumb.

When he learns to babble, he starts calling me eeya. None of us knows why. He calls my sister didi, but I’m always eeya to him. It’s like we’re communicating in a language that’s ours alone, and I like that. As soon as he is old enough to run errands, my sister and I send him to the market to fetch us aam papad and anardana churan on the sly. If he isn’t caught smuggling, he gets 10% of the contraband.

When I’m bored, I make him wear a dresss and my sandals and perch him up on a table to dance to Rang bhare badal se. He complies. He is an obedient kid, and I think I’m a pretty good mom. Then one day, after I am married, he tells me he has a girlfriend. I don’t tell him this, but I feel like he’s slipping from my grasp. The husband doesn’t get it – isn’t this something to be happy about? I tell my him he can’t possibly understand and that it feels like I’m losing my child. No you aren’t, my ex-husband says. Some day he’s going to get married and have children, and you’ll still be his eeya.

That thought brought me back to the present moment.

I have to call Mister and tell him was suddenly the only thought in my head. Calmly, I dialed his number. The phone rang for the longest time, but he didn’t answer, so I called again.

He answered the phone, and I started fumbling because I didn’t know how to say it.

Hey baby, can I call you back? I’m in a meeting.

Sure, I said, relieved. I sent him a text instead.

It’s a positive. We’re going to be parents.

Should I have broken the news to him (and to you) differently? How would you do it?