Lessons from a sling

In the beginning, it was overwhelming.

My new house on the hill. Becoming a teacher. Birdsong. The gulmohar shielding my house. The possibility of a jhoola on it. Or a hammock. The fact that I didn’t have to commute three hours a day any more. The fact that I didn’t have to wait until sundown to see my child after dropping him off in the morning. The fact that I didn’t have to jump at every honk, ringtone or ping.

On day four, after setting up home with my favourite things, getting the lighting, curtains and rugs right (it’s all that matters), I decided to lounge in my garden and make a list. Yes, I am a list girl. I love lists. They give me purpose, goals, order, direction, whatever you call it.

I was finally time-rich, though money-poor. I had to do ‘things’ with this precious, newly acquired time. Like run everyday (I bought new shoes). Do yoga. Start birding maybe? Write those pending books. May be 2000 words a day? I had planned for 1000, but then a friend told me it was better to set tougher goals, so I upped the ante. I had to bake more. I had to learn weaving, crochet, a musical instrument. I had to grow herbs, now that I had a garden.

And just as I was about to sit down to put these things on paper for posterity, my chair toppled over. Next thing I know, I had a dislocated elbow.

Everything that happened afterwards was in slow motion. The pain was excruciating and I let out my loudest scream down the valley. It was my first bone-related injury and I had no clue that a cast could be so debilitating. Days ran into weeks and nothing changed. Every night was agonising. My cast was a reminder that my body was asking me to slow down.

My list was out the window. I was ready to take each day as it comes. My sling became me. We were one.


Re asked me why I was wearing my bandage (his word for my cast) everyday. I told him it was important to rest my hand so it doesn’t hurt more. “Oh, your hand wants to sleep,” he said. Then he announced to all his friends that his mother’s hand was broken so she wouldn’t be baking any cookies for a few days. It really was that simple.

While I struggled to slow down, Re held my hand. I was a girl in a hurry with a child of leisure. There is a certain languidness with which he does things that I am still trying to get adjusted to. I had to remind myself that it was perfectly okay not to have items to check on a daily basis. That I should focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t.

Some days we have ‘fancy parties’ and our house has to be ‘decorated’. Re goes around draping chairs with stoles, dupattas and ribbons, the telephone with speckles and the walls with freshly painted rainbow strips. He is very particular about how we entertain and I play along. Some days, Rapunzel wants to wear Cinderella’s gown or wants her hair braided. Some days, Cinderella is tired of her glass slipper and wants to wear something different, something pink. Some days, the mermaid Maria wants to color her hair purple. Some days, Re wants to teach me the “Frozen‘ song, followed by the “Frozen’ dance. And I have to do it over and over again, at his pace.

He tried many things to assuage me. He brought a wand that promised to make my hand straight, to make my pain go away, He would open doors for me and hold them. Now, he watches the physiotherapist intently and tries to mobilise my wrist and elbow exactly as he does. He insists he can hear the heartbeat of my hand and thinks it’s working fine.

By week four, my left hand was so numb, it wanted to be held, just so it could feel something. When the cast was off, I didn’t realise holding my own hand would feel so good. Or rubbing my hands in glee. Or cupping my own face with my hands.

My handicap (although temporary) taught me how to live my life at the pace of my child. It taught me to sync my rhythm along with his. Mostly, our children teach us way more than we teach them. Mine taught me that life is too short to make lists.


(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 28th July 2014)




4 thoughts on “Lessons from a sling

  1. I learned the “too short for lists” thing during the pregnancy and embraced it the 2 years I stayed home with Em. Now getting back to work (even though it’s from home) the lists are back in, and we’re trying to figure out that balance, so Em and I can continue with slow walks, examining every bug and snail. I’m trying an alarm system this week – one that buzzes so I can shut off the laptop at 8 hours and go no further.

  2. Agree. Agree. A-gree!
    Everything moves so fast these days that sometimes I find myself not even bothering to spell a word entirely, when I’m sending a text, because I know auto-correct will, generally, save the day.


    I teach English, here, in Washington, DC, and think I will share your blog post with my 9th grade students, once school returns from summer break, next week. I think it’ll be a rousing and worthwhile introduction to the vocabulary we will accumulate, together, throughout the school year.

    Thank you for this tender yet compelling post: thanks for provoking me to slow down and enjoy the whole word.

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