Sunday, January 11, 2009
A cup of tea
An interview for LIPSTIX was no big deal, then again; that the interviewer was “ Naz” definitely was a problem. I had been ignoring her requests to join the group id of our batch mates, make efforts to come for the reunions. I had not replied to her gifts and cards which were regular on my birthdays and celebrations for the past 12 years.
Maybe this interview was her way of getting straight with me. I used to watch her on TV tearing down big shots into pieces with her words which she used meekly like a lamb but “ferocious” like a lion from within.
From where had she acquired this ‘tough nut persona’ of hers? How different was she when we were together? Why had I been avoiding her all these years for that matter anyone who reminded me of my past?
It all looked funny those moments at college those fighting with guys, those euphoria of being worshipped and proposed and the satisfaction derived from breaking hearts. Those gossips behind the basketball court, the pretence of being uninterested in guys and reading every Femina to find possible tips to attract guys. Those cramming for exams, dissecting cockroaches in exchange for “dairy milk”, how did we transform from those innocent souls to obsessed automatons?
Suddenly the thought of giving an interview to her made me want to go through the autograph diary , maybe I should impress her by quoting what she wrote to me to remind her I have not forgotten her. But where had I hidden it? He never touches my stuff - he says I turn a lioness guarding her cubs the moment I see him near my things. And when would he have time to search them too. He would either be off territory or sleeping dead each time I reach home.
We promised never to crib on schedules and priorities and the traveling we both did. Bt when we made these decisions we were Post modernists radicalists, asserting independence, but maybe the vicious circle of life brought us to structures .It definitely used to hurt initially to return home and see stick pads on refrigerator reading “off to Chennai back in a week”. Then it progressed to “off to Chennai and then to Singapore back in a fortnight”. But that did not foster the spirit of radicalism which did creep out in form of disagreements, theory of being good partners, parents.
My silence was my test too I had no rights to complain as I had people to prove that I did right choosing ‘him’. Not that he ever stopped loving me, not that he ever compromised anything when it came for me but only that he got busier to give me the best that I slided to the bottom on his list.
He had his explanations. To live this comfortable life he had to work and he had no fortune like my dad and fortune my dad would never share because I was with him though he never said the latter sentence I could understand he meant that.
Very often when we quarreled and I said Suman’s husband does not work like you or Ann’s husband can cancel his meeting for her he would quote Suman’s dad bought them the flat and Ann’s dad has always given Ron the option of joining their business when he quits job. We have no support and no option and we can’t lose this race .I don’t need anything from your family but I want to give you the best. I try believing he has good intentions and he loves me.
How I wish I could be back to college edit my life rewind and take away those moments that pain me today. How I wish I could go early morning without breakfast and crib to Naz on why mom makes us girls wash our clothes and the men at home kick theirs off for mom to pick.
“That’s how it is” Naz would say and I would argue why. “You will wash your husbands one day” she would explain and I would say” in your dreams” and she would then tease “we will advertise for a groom who is willing to wash his own undergarments”.
To think of it now the aaya washes both our clothes .
but to think of, after I fell head over heels for ’him ’ I wanted to do all chores I could or I am expected as a woman, no, rather society expected from a woman, Naz never knew that phase in my life and after we left Intermediate I never let anyone know anything about my life partially because I was immersed in my life with ‘him’ and partially because I had nothing to offer than my problems.
Each day fights with mom who believed my frequent fevers were because I lied and which later turned out to be a case of typhoid and I lost my hair due to her superstitions.
My dad who constantly nagged me for being born as a girl and a stubborn one who would displease her in - laws and be kicked back home. Life never made sense to me then and even today it doesn’t make much sense. I badly wanted to leave home because it made me mad. When all girls cried at the thought of it, to me it was a sign of freedom.
I took up every job that came my way though they never matched my qualification but it never mattered as long as it fetched money.’’ hated the idea because he earned enough but he had no voice because he was mostly out and he knew if I was not occupied I would demand his presence. And of course we set out with radical ideals, though he had realized they were expensive to practice. ‘’ who loved poetry, who had difficulty keeping his eyes away from the sports track , talked about radical ideologies, was smart to give them away for livelihood, but maybe to me he then ceased to be what I thought he was.
But roaming from Academic research to social work to counselor, I began to write initially to ease my mind, to find serenity and later to realize this is what I was destined for. Never in my wildest dream had I thought ‘’ could he replaced by my writings. when people bought my books and took keen interest in my happenings I was a celebrity and also my in-laws knew their daughter- in law was destined to fame so they could never reject me .
That pain was something I could not overcome and ‘he’ suffered sadly for it. He was sure he would give me everything I had not got in life and he promised his parents would accept me. But the fact they refused hurt me because it made me conscious about my appearance, my background and instead of hating them I hated my parents more.
Today the world thinks my stories reveal my inner strength but I realize how futile they are , for I still stand where I started, I still struggle in my sleep crying for the acceptance of those who mean everything to me.
My life has turned into a cup of tea which I drink realizing has no sugar but try to drain through my throat helplessly cursing my aaya only to realize that the sugar was left undissolved at the bottom of the cup. At the bottom of my cup I see ‘him’ struggling to keep me happy. Naz trying to meet me eagerly and my mamma who still expects me to bring Sid and Diya to meet her , my in-laws who want to love me and long for their son.
I know ‘he’ takes kids to my in-laws as well as my parents but he never forces me to do so. We are together because we comfortably avoid confrontation. And luckily our kids picked the skill too. They never ask us where we go, when will we return, neither have I spotted them with regressive behaviour or behavioral problems people expect from children whose parents are too busy to care for them.
Mamma used to say that I would realize her pain the day I become a mother but I feel guilty at my ineptness for not having planned to give them what I wanted, or having dreamt foolishly to give them what I never got. But I got frantic when I could not keep my word. Yet my kids tell me I am the best mom because without fail I take them on trips, conduct parties and never question their liberties , but I am not the best mom just a puppet who sways because it has to put up an act . My day begins with this play which out of sheer desperation I put up not knowing how to be a mom, no one taught me, no one taught me, I never had a real family.
“You must be busy writing your new story huh! Mom”? Sid came in. All says he looks like me, why hadn’t I noticed it before? Infact he looked like my brother. Where would he be? I heard he went abroad that was 9 years ago Sid was born that year. “Mom can we come and see you being interviewed next time”? Diya demands a lot with the for an 8 year old she was quite strong willed – was that picked from me or ‘him’, maybe my dad!! . She definitely looked like ‘him’ – those eyes, that innocent smile. When was the last time I saw ‘” smiling, twinkling his eyes. “Mom might be busy and we might trouble her said Sid though it looked like a preplanned skit to me and why won’t they after all if mom can bake cakes kids could manage cookies at least. We are all actors of a lot.
And I would follow their trail and say yes you can and no Sid you are grown up kids and I don’t think it would be much troule.”Where is your Dad?”
“He is sleeping and said it was due to jet lag and I looked up the dictionary it means” said Diya maybe trying to impress me and I followed her trail and said “that’s smart Diya I am proud of your interest in language”.
Why did kids have to try hard to please parents, I did my best too to bring marks, medals, certificates whatever it cost my parents to notice me who thought its my role to as the eldest to achieve these to set a model for the younger ones.
How helpless children turn when they want attention. I promised to pick up these cues when I had children and today my children are desperate for attention.
“How long have I been locked up in here I asked?” “Maybe three hours since we came from school” said, Sid and not much had been written I flipped the pages of my writing pad.
I really wonder how I switched these many jobs with these kids finally writing gave me some times to be present at home but I never gave up in those tough days as our neighbors say I was an iron woman to juggle all these responsibilities. ‘he’ was never happy at me traveling when Sid and Diya were small but we debated on egalitarian concepts of family roles and if he could travel why couldn’t I?
Eventually I realized I traveled to cover my complexes that my existence was unimportant to a man’s if I took up a 9 to 5 job but my new career in writing definitely got me off my complexes. I stared at ‘him’for a long time, it seemed like hours to me. I had not noticed his hair was receding, he still snored like he did 12 years back, and had gained weight, I used to tease him that if he did not put on weight I would he would not be able to carry me. All those awful remedies we tried to make him look healthy and the efforts went in vain when he played on ground draining all the efforts I put on him.
He woke suddenly and smiled seeing me. He would always tell me to be in front of him with a smiling face when he wakes up. But, was I smiling now, because he seemed happy. One nice thing about, him ’ was that he saw each day as a new one, never carried baggage’s like me. To him, his wife is the same cute, smart woman he met 12 years ago. He cannot think beyond that and he calls it a man’s shortsightedness.
Can we go for dinner with the kids I asked?
Have I ever refused your request madam, he asked? And you can rest for a change, I tell you often not to strain yourself don’t i? “We are going out for dinner to Mc D’s I announced”.” but today’s Thursday and we got class tomorrow mom”, Sid said.” And dad hates Mc D’s Diya said”. Perhaps mine cutting off the conventional timetable surprised them.
“But we could go out for a change” I said to see their eyes gleaming with excitement.
After ordering their delicacies Diya asked” dad can I call a friend from your cell phone”. “Yes darling you can but do you know her number?”. ‘He’ had a way with kids, his innocence was intact and with kids he was one, I always said I had three kids.” That is simple dad they are multiples of 4 and 9 .9844182724. Its simple mom. First 9 then 8 then half of 8 and half of 8, double of 9 and triple times 7 and triple times 8.”
”Another gimmick to impress you mom” Sid said.
And why would Diya want to impress mom and not dad?
” because you are so busy writing stories to listen to them”. And your dad? I asked surprised how he spends more time with them than me. Dad calls every night wherever he is so this is no big deal for him mom Sid says.
It shocked me how far I was from my kids being with them under the same roof. But that’s ok mom you have a tough job to write books .Dad says your job is tougher than his. I looked at ‘him’ with admiration why did he cover up my mistakes .After 5 years of courtship and 12 years of marriage what had I given this man. Two lovely children, ‘he’ answered and loads of love. “Pardon”, I asked “did, I speak louder”? “No you didn’t”, he replied. “Then why did you say two children”? Because I heard what you asked within he replied with a smile.
And there was Diya calling her friend and saying “we are at Mc D’s yes I know its only Thursday so what my mom’s a writer she does not work on time tables and my dads travels a lot so we are different. I got a supermom.
Her last sentence choked me “I told you I have the world’s best parents I trust them”.
‘he’ held my hand warning me not to cry. He always squeezed my hand tight before leaving it, after all these years even today when he held my hand he held it the same way, a bit shy, gentle as if the love that flow through them should leak out. That night when I believed I lost everything I discovered by mixing the coffee well you could dissolve the sugar crystals.
Back to home Diya slept on Sid’s lap and ‘he’ drove silently but like the old days he pulled my hand on to the gear each time he changed it as if he was teaching me to drive. And sometimes he pulled the pallu of my sari and moved the gear as if the pallu was my representative in driving. “Mom”, Sid cleared his throat as an introduction to what he wanted to say. Yes I replied . “Cant you meet Grams next time dad take us there they miss you do you know they renovated your room”.
I know you are too busy and they said you call them occasionally but can’t you join us next holidays.I will I told him.
“I have an interview “ , I told ‘’ plaiting my hair in front of the mirror a posture I took up to show I was serious. “You stopped oiling your hair ‘he’ asked”? Let me do it for you. ‘’ I can manage I am not a kid anymore infact I am the mother of two. But that would not change my feelings for you and I haven’t stopped loving you lesser after you became their mother. Perhaps he was answering my insecurities.
Why had I avoided even being touched by others why did I shrink? So the meeting you said something, he asked. Yes LIPSTIX wants to interview me and the kids want to see the shoot. That’s great taking them what’s wrong, he asked ? Naz is interviewing me.
So? I mean I never spoke to her all these years where do I start? Come on you know to deal these sort of stuff professionally. Yes , professionally but personally she is my friend best friend I avoided her for twelve years was I drugged all those years?
“I won’t answer you the way you want to hear , I wont, you have to search these answers. If you write sense you can think sense too. Confront your inner self and stop avoiding. Don’t you see how innocent Sid and Diya are? They are what you were 17 years back .I want that woman back. And you can do it.”
Maybe that’s what I wanted to hear I said. And I knew that he said smiling. Goodnight molu .Give her your best.
And you are watching Miss ‘T’ or Mrs. T . On LIPSTIX and I am your hostess Naz .
So are you still on for washing undergarments? That’s a personal one from my side viewers since she is an old friend of mine too.
Well do you mean I am old or the friendship is Naz? The same old wits huh! Well I would not remark on such personal issues.
So what’s your style being a writer large bindi, cropped hair, kurta or beads?
Well Naz seriously as you can see nothing, I am not a writer of poise but choice so no style.
Hey you don’t talk in monosyllables unlike other writers ‘T’?
Well I did not change my religion, marry twice or reject awards and create newspaper headlines Naz.
And any message for your readers ‘T’?
Yes do read my books not because you have options but I have no option to survive and do let me know why you read them because I hardly can skim them when I complete so just curious how you people manage.
So whose your secret to success your family, husband, kids, or your readers.
I believe it’s me because if I end despite these motivations there would not be a book so it’s me Naz.
That’s all for today and stay tuned till next week this is Naz signing off.
I never thought you would come to my show and I never thought I would face you again. Thanks for coming. No Naz , I should thank you . Thanks for making me come, pulling me out of my shell.
I won’t blame you because I know why you are what you are.
I read each book of yours and I knew u missed me in each book I could see excerpts from our life too. Maybe you needed those 12 years to learn the real you. You are lucky to have ‘him’ did you know he replied to each of my cards to you?
No I did not know but, I know he wants me to appear as goody good in front of everyone.
He loves you damn it, Naz said. And we smiled the way we used to in college.
Mom you were fantastic. Naz this is Sid and Diya my saplings. I know they look like you ‘he’ send their snaps once. Take care and keep in touch. And it felt like back in the old days I was not the old me locked up for 12 years I had changed within 48 hours and came out of my reverie that lasted for 12 years.
Why are you smiling that way mom Diya asked?
I have learned to dissolve sugar in tea darling I replied amusing the children who kept chattering to me.