This year, I turned 46. It’s a time when you know that there are more years behind you than in front of you. It’s when there are fewer years to get things right, but also fewer years to make mistakes. It’s also a time when your ‘some days’ are shrinking into oblivion right in front of your eyes.
In the eyes of the world, I had it all. But there was a deep sadness within. My life was like a timetable that I never really approved of. A logistical complexity, a trapeze act that I kept adding to instead of subtracting and I never understood why. I was so busy looking out that I didn’t have the time to look within.
I was also becoming the person I scoffed at. The person who got told by her child, ‘Don’t look at your phone mamma, look at me!”
And there was so much to look at. That impish grin, those bright shiny eyes, that crinkly nose, curls that never tired of defiance, a body that was in a constant state of dance.
There was always so much to talk about. But our conversations were getting shrink-wrapped into morning-at-the-bus stop and evening-in-the-car pockets. The rest of the day, we spent doing things that were mostly not us.
When it got to me, I put my thoughts out there. Of course social media lapped it up. There were likes, shares, retweets, followers, favourites, fame. But this was not the legacy I wanted to leave behind for my child. I wanted something more real, more tangible.
I wanted the moon. I wanted to be overwhelmed by the sun and the moon and the stars and the sky and clouds and trees and birds – all of it.
My grown-up mind could not process what was so evident to a just-turned-five year old.
“The moon will come wherever we go mamma,” he told me one day on our ride back home, in which we often pretended we were being chased by the moon.
The rest was serendipity. A school on a hill. Trees to climb. Brooks to chase. Jhoolas off trees. Sounds of sitar and piano wafting through. Hidden paths. Open paths. Naked clouds. Zero network (the best bit). Children being children. Grown-ups being children.
I wanted a piece of this sky. They wanted an English teacher. My timing was perfect.
Teaching? Are you sure? asked the outer circle.
Teaching! That’s so you! said the inner circle.
The thing is, I was scared as hell and that was reason enough to do it. Fear is fertile. Fear has velocity. I was a body in constant state of motion. I had zero acceleration.
A few months later, Re reminded me. “Let’s go to the up-of-the-mountain school mamma,” he said, in the midst of a pirouette. He needs more space to pirouette, I thought.
I never realised leaving would be so effortless. All that we needed fitted into five cartons. The cat didn’t want to miss out on life in the wilderness, so he came too.
What about the marriage? Won’t Re miss his father, they wanted to know. What I knew was that in our cocooned excesses, there was a kind of bankruptcy, a void that kept getting bigger the more time passed.
We were a weekend family then. We are a weekend family now. The only difference is, at least three of us are fully oxygenated for the week. The fourth comes up for air.
Re believes in magic wands and pixie dust. He believes all of us can turn into mermaids if we hold our legs together long enough. He believes that if you talk to the moon long enough, it will talk back to you.
It’s been over a month. Some days he returns home with a muddy moustache, leaves and twigs in his hair, a bruise well earned. Some evenings, we read aloud on the hill, wondering if there’s anything the wind cannot blow. He picks his favourite vanilla cream cloud to eat, and I know I’m leaving something behind. For him. For us. For our children’s children.
(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 7th July, 2014)