The first movie that Re and I formed a bond over was Finding Nemo. It’s a story about an ocean fish who one day, finds himself in an aquarium and how he and his friends mastermind his escape. For a long time, I watched it at face value, making appropriate exclamation sounds when Nemo gets trapped by the deep sea diver, his dad’s search mission with the absent-minded Dory, aided by the turtles and finally, Nemo’s grand escape.
But one day, close to Re’s second birthday, it hit me. I was Nemo. I was the ocean fish who had been moved into a tank. I had actually walked into the tank with my eyes open, thinking that I would really love it there.
Till I became a mother, I was always a get-up-and-go girl. I had quit the comfort of my parents’ home, jobs, hostels, apartments and boyfriends to break free, to pursue my dreams, however short-term they were. So the one thing I was missing the most in this whole motherhood business was me. The me that took off to Pondicherry or Gokarna on a whim. The me that wanted to open a bookstore and cafe at Thekkady. The me that wanted to grow coffee. The me that wanted to go to Jomsom so bad that I checked into the Kathmandu airport six days in a row hoping to hear that the weather had improved enough for flights to take off. The me that joined salsa, taichi, capoeira, dance meditation, pottery and film-appreciation workshops because I wanted to. The me that quit advertising to run an animal helpline.
Now, even going for a book reading or a tea-tasting is a multiple-backup project. It was hard to live life with a little person always to account for. Even if that little person was something you birthed and loved dearly. And it was not about finding help, or a day-care or calling your mother. I remembered something someone said. “The day you have a child, you are finished. Your life is no longer your own.” At the time I heard it, the free-spirited soul that I was, I brushed it off. That can never be my life, I thought.
My new universe was full of women who lost themselves after they had children and then blamed motherhood for it. I didn’t want to be that woman, but for the first year or so, I found myself drowning in the quicksand of motherhood. I was no caterpillar, but I was struggling in my motherhood cocoon. If you are a working mom, you legitimately claim it back as soon as you can. But I had let that universe go. And there was no turning back for me. I realised I hadn’t thought it through. There would be enough left of “me” after a whole lot of “me” had been spent by motherhood. And that “me” needed to be nurtured as much as my baby.
I found my ways. I wrote a book. I started a blog. I started tweeting my highs and lows. I was writing and reading more than ever before. Morning shows were my new thing. I found coffees and cupcakes. I found graphic novel libraries. I found every little place that set me free.
When the husband asked me what I wanted for my recent birthday, I said, “I want a real holiday.” “Okay then, why don’t you firm up the dates and book us tickets?”
“You got it wrong. I said I wanted a holiday, not we.”
He looked a tad disappointed, but then, I reminded him that political correctness was never my suit. He smiled. I plotted.
Someday I may want to go back to school. Or just backpack for six months. I didn’t marry spontaneous, so I know it’s going to be tough. I’ll figure out how to make it happen. And if I want it real bad, I can.
A few weeks ago, I joined a street jazz class. I am now learning to pirouette and have just mastered the choreography of 4 minutes by Madonna and Justin Timberlake. Most of the class is half my age, or perhaps younger. Sometimes they call me aunty, sometimes ma’m, and sometimes, when I take Re along, they don’t even look at me. It’s only about him. They have lean, fit bodies, shapely legs and they move with style and attitude. I am having a tough time keeping pace with them, but feeling inadequate has never felt this good. It’s not about getting my body back or shedding that flab or getting into a bikini. It’s just about feeling free, feeling me. I practise hard, it takes me longer to learn the steps that the youngsters have such a natural flair for. But for the first time, I am not afraid to say “I don’t know.” Or “I didn’t get it.” Every Wednesday and Saturday, I put on my dancing shoes and I am out of the house, in a world all of my own for two hours. I am trying to find my inner Nemo, and I must say, I still love her.
This post was first featured as my column for the Freedom Special Issue in the Indian Express Sunday Eye on 12th Aug, 2012