Eight

Childhood was so perfect! Sometimes I wish I could be eight again, she said. More freedom.

Freedom from what? I asked, curious.

Freedom from having to think twice about everything I say or do, of course, she giggled. You know how it is with in laws – they find reasons to get offended. I would fight back, but my husband does not tolerate that kind of stuff. Plus I can’t wear what I want anymore – can’t just step out to go meet a friend when I feel like it.

I understood.

R came from the ideal family – doting parents, independent children, enough money to keep squabbles at bay. I was jealous of the way her parents spoke to her, always lovingly and with concern. She married her college sweetheart and has the most well-behaved children but the most boring life.

Me, I come from a far-less-than-ideal family that liked to pretend otherwise. My parents hated each other’s guts, and ours. We were the reason why they had to stay together – this was my mother’s ultimate sacrifice, and we were painfully aware of the burden our existence was for her. But if you were to look at our photographs from back then, you’d see only oblivious children with glazed, glassy eyeballs. You’d have no idea how fucked up we really were. I grew up to become a socially awkward person with the decision-making ability of a saucepan.

 

And now, in my thirties, I am finally discovering what it is like to think and feel like an eight year old – a luxury I didn’t have in 1990. (Because when I was eight, I was battling agony, indignation, confusion, self-loathing, betrayal; and a few years later, even arousal.)

I am filled to the brim with love and contentment. I am truly happy for the first time in my life. Not because I have a family that loves me – but because I am finally able to understand and love myself.

Maybe my childhood is only just beginning. Maybe I was meant to live my life in reverse.

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What about you? Are you happier now that you are an adult? Do you miss your carefree childhood? Did you have a carefree childhood?

 

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Dirty Laundry

She sits there, unapologetic, explaining that it was okay for her to be rude to Mister at first because mothers have the right to be concerned about their children’s decisions.

My mind immediately darts back to moments from a lifetime ago.

A neighbor asks how I fared in class 10 board exams – and before I can open my mouth, she says 82%, beaming with pride. I am astounded, because it is a gross exaggeration – a full 5% more than I actually scored. The man in the kurta pajama congratulates me, tells me how proud he is of me, and leaves. Mom instructs me to tell everyone the same figure, because 77 is not good enough.

S., my cousin, is upset with me, and I am crying because the phone is locked and I can’t make a phone call. When she gets home, she asks me to stop bawling, because it isn’t as though his world will collapse if he doesn’t talk to you for an hour. 

I have just broken up with my boyfriend, whom my mother likes and wants me to marry. Who will marry you now, you skinny little scarecrow aren’t exactly her words, but she finds a way to convey it regardless.

When I finally tell her what her nephews did to me when I was a kid, she refuses to believe me. You must be imagining it.

I have always known that my existence was meaningless and feeble, even inconsequential to hers – and I was basically just a burden she couldn’t seem to get rid of.

And she is looking me in the eye and telling me: I was concerned about you. 

This, coming from a woman who never said a kind word to me in her life; had nothing to convey except her disappointment at how I turned out. Blind, hot, white rage flashes through me like a lightning bolt.

I scream until my head explodes, and then walk out.

I step back into the room only to overhear what my sister has to say – she needs to understand that the past was equally difficult for all of us.

Equally difficult? Rich, coming from our mother’s favorite child who has never been abandoned like I was.

of motherhood

Your baby? She asks, visibly amused.

You’re beaming with pride as you talk. Yes, my baby. I am the one who tells him bedtime stories, wakes him up with kisses and irons his clothes and cooks for him and packs his school bag and helps him with homework and goes to his PTA meetings. I am the one who hand-painted the t-shirt he’s wearing right now. I am the one he comes to with bruises on his knees. I’m the one he counts on to protect him, you know. So yes, he is my baby more than he’s yours. Continue reading of motherhood

of hope

So the fiancé met my parents yesterday. I’d like to think it went well, considering the warmth with which he hugged my father before he left, but it didn’t start that nicely.

I’ve never really thought much of my parents, and don’t get along with them at all. Mom was basically away a lot; she was (still is, actually) a struggling actor, which, by the way, I would happily give an eye and an arm to be. The thing is, she was really good and deserved more chances than she got, and I always sympathized with her on that front. The trouble is, she is always play-acting, and will mostly choose from among the following parts: Continue reading of hope

of hangups

You remember how, when you were young, calendars were meant to be hung on the wall. You liked being the one to see it first – to check if they had mountains, or flowers or deities on them. You always hated the ones with the deities; the house was full of their pictures anyway!
As soon as a new calendar arrived, you’d turn to February. Your birth month. The picture on this one was always the best. Next, you’d go to October. Your brother’s birth month. You’d show it to him, but he would be unimpressed. He didn’t care much for calendars anyway.
Dadi would look for a clean spot on the wall in the kitchen and hang it there, out of your reach. You’d loiter around for a while, but eventually forget all about it.
At the beginning of every month, dadi would take you to the kitchen, where the calendar was hung. Smiling, she’d tear out the first page from the calendar, almost in slow motion. She’d look at you intently as she gave you that old, yellowing month, stained with turmeric and oil and memories. You’d hold the sheet in your hands, look at the new, glossy picture that had just been revealed, and wink gleefully.

Continue reading of hangups