Death of a relationship

BY SANTOSHI JAIN

marriage

Helen of Troy had a face that launched a 1000 ships. Menelaus, her husband, a central figure in the Trojan war, didn’t understand her and she spent enough time with Paris, best known for his elopement with her, and directly causing the Trojan War. All this only to realize – all glory no guts.
Arthur Miller, best known for writing the screenplay of Death of a Salesman, invented sexting by writing his then to be wife, Marilyn Monroe, a racy letter months before their impending marriage.. Final destination?  Divorce.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton kept running to and fro each other’s arms.  They’d get married and the “D” word would happen..  Must have kept their lawyers busy and dizzy all at the same time, let alone us poor readers..

Lesson learned – Marriage is the Death of a Relationship

A beau knows it’s not safe to walk out of the loo with the toilet seat raised up. But give him a couple days after he gets married.  The toilet seat is in a perpetual position of exposing its business in full view.  A belle dolls up till the day she gets married.  The advent of the frumpy nightie or for the westerners amongst us, the plaid pjs, and oiled hair with glasses or equally, the mask and the cucumbers that could only be defined as makeup prep for halloween, then makes the foray.  The smell of roasted garlic in mustard oil with methi leaves apparently is a perfect embodiment to encompass the scent of this woman.

Oh, the beau isn’t far behind.  His fingers will perpetually smell of raw onion and freshly oozed sneeze, if not worse (lord help me).

But sex is convenient and the baby happens.  Baby sleeps in the middle and has 2 distinct P sessions.  Pee & Poop and just for good measure, introduces a third, Puke.  Whatever romance was left in the darkness of the night and the painful struggle of a long day has now been flushed down the toilet which has its seat up in beautiful view.

But homosexuals have mostly cracked the code at this marriage thingamajig.  Why else do you think gay couples roam around all happy? The toilet seat is always perpetually up or down depending.  The raw onion and sautéed garlic make a happy harmonious blend in with pheromones with an organic call out to nature.

The heterosexuals haven’t yet figured it out though.  They are cursed by Huffington Post doing rounds of “toxic marriages”.  One of the reasons quoted (and sometimes used as clickbait) is:   “You can’t remember the last time you were really happy in your marriage”

Well paint me green and color me insensitive, but have you seen the service tax we pay on F&B at restaurants?  Not to mention the mandatory service charge. Of course the beau uses his depraved brains and wants to get some more wads of cash out for the pretty young waitress.  While the belle fumes over how a conversation-less meal should have stipulated costs especially when she’s on the wrong day of the cycle and of course the food was completely unappealing!

Another reason quoted is: (another clickbait)  “Your interactions with your spouse have turned downright mean”

Like helllllooooooo! The British may have defined the “divide and rule” method of politics but the beau never really wrapped his little head around division of labor.  The labor pains: hers, the labor of rearing: hers, the labor of rearing him: *also* hers.  While he’s caught wondering where is my fun-spirited girl who’d enjoy doing nothing but chatting and watching movies and bowling and all those fun things has disappeared, she has at some point in the exchange of I do’s, decided that she’d turn from his fun girlfriend to his mother from another mother.  And what do you get with shifting of roles?  The choicest of hurling abuses interesting enough to contribute heavily to the Urban Dictionary.  I’m sure though that was the beau’s idea. Her idea would have been to charge royalty.  Last I checked its still free so I guess she quit on him and never forayed into that space 😉

And then we move down onto: (clickbait hell)  “You fantasize constantly about leaving your husband”

Let’s blame the media for this one too!  The mirror ain’t our best friend and with Megan Fox and Channing Tatum taking over screen space, of course, the eyes do wander and wonder.  I’d like to ask Jenna Dewan Tatum about Channing’s “aim and shoot” ranges vis a vis the argument of having a urinal at home so the toilet is left clean.. And Megan Fox has walked out and all on over Brian Austin Green still parading around the streets with his wedding ring on despite the D-ivorce word shining bright like Miley Cyrus at the VMA’s this year.  I’m guessing he isn’t too good on following instructions as is with his species.  Of course that would upset Fox who has given up believing in “Transformers”.

It really gets my goat this one:  (click .. ohh you get the drift)  “Your spouse finds fault with everything you say or do”

When’s the last time you’ve known a woman who gives *space* to the man in her life?  Why would anyone be in a relationship if they needed *space*? The very definition of *space* leaves no room for “coupling”!
And what’s with the “I have a headache”?

How do you go through school, graduate college, work for a living with such poor communication skills that Tylenol /Panadol/Ibuprofen/<insert your name of drug or equivalent generic here>  ends up making money off of ur inadequate ways of conveying a message?  Often in a young family, I find the 0.1 year old more mature than the two people who have been given licenses to vote.  No wonder the political climate of a country is the way it is.. Look at the kind folk who chose ’em 😉

Lastly we have the  (cl…. I don’t have the energy anymore) “You find yourself sad, crying all the time, or much more than usual”

Thank God we are finally OK with men crying.  I enjoy making the beau cry.  I have a little of the Christian Gray spirit I guess in me but the breakdown in tears melts my cold cold heart and gives me material to blackmail him with in front of his friends.  And God forbid I cry.  The beau is rendered defenceless.  He has no clue whether to call my mom (and get whooped), or call his mom (and get questioned about semantics), or attempt at poking the bear (moi) and dying a ghastly death.

Moral of the story – Marriage is the death of a relationship.  

It should be mandatory to sign a prenup that reads a one and only lonely blanket statement.  Get wedded at your own risk.  All of the expensive divorces like the rumored Roshan one, the nasty ones like the Cruise one and just to keep it all real, the Rakhi Sawant-Abhishek Awasthi potboiler for good measure should be made compulsory to research and watch and read about.  Notes should be taken and maintained on how to avoid similar pitfalls.  Like Aniston should’ve just dialled up the crazy and had Pitt’s blood in a vial around her neck to save her from impending D-oom.

How else do you explain Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp surviving celebhood and sticking it together for 17 years?  They evaded this marriage route entirely.  Mark my words, in my lifetime they will pull a Burton and Taylor again.  They have to.  I am a complete romantic at heart after all.  I have the faith.

Even the Indian Supreme court got out a ruling earlier this year.. People who cohabitate without officiating their union earn the same benefits post fatality of the partner.. Who are we mere minions under the law of the land to refute that?  What makes the whole nine yards appealing anymore?  I’m sure Modi and his name woven suits are enough to sustain the economy that weddings in our country generate 😉

Que se ra se ra is alright for the french.. But if we’ve adopted their kissing style shouldn’t we adopt their ways of relationships entirely?  Isn’t it fun to read about Bruni and Sarkozy unlike Hillary & Bill?
Even in the movie Hitch, dude only shows you how to get the object of your affections.  Beyond that even God couldn’t save you.

Yours in reality,
The Relationship Gourmand

Disclaimer – This article was not remunerated by Kohler for their ad on the launch of Veil.  Despite that, we thank them for small mercies on a toilet seat that is in fact more intuitive than the beau.

About the author:

Pour oil into fire only to pour water into the fire. Santoshi is the igniter and the extinguisher. Womanhood, nay peoplehood is her playground, and the sinister mind, her weapon of choice.  Through the flowing, dripping, oozing coloured oily liquid that was once known as ink she explores and meanders for the semi conscious mind from the shallows of the depth that is loosely termed as humanity.

On single parenting and how two is not always better than one

So, why haven’t you written about single parenting yet, asked a reader. I didn’t really have an answer to that, except the fact that I write mostly about what I know, and I don’t think I know entirely what single parenting is all about. Because technically, I am not a single parent. This means that I have a spouse on paper, and he does pitch into the financial aspects of parenting, but for the most part, I feel like I’m parenting solo.

I once wrote that I was practically a single parent in one of my columns, and got a rather acerbic email from someone who was one and who told me I had no right to accord myself that status until I was actually one. She was right. But that got me thinking. What made me different? Just a technicality?

We all know what a tedium collaborative parenting can be, although I do know a few people who are winging it. But they are still exceptions. We have seen our parents at cross-wires when raising us. We don’t have to do the same thing to our children. Very often, two-parent households are a sham, a window display for what actually is single parenting.

Okay, pull back those daggers.

Of course raising children alone is tough, but sometimes it may be psychologically tougher in a two-parent household. I often see couples with children at malls, brunches, movie halls and holiday resorts, resentfully going through the motions of parenting while staring at their screens or avoiding eye contact with each other. And I wonder: how exactly do children benefit from this? When I see couples arguing at airports, restaurants, fitting rooms, toy and bookshops over trivial things escalating to big things, I wonder: is it worth it to stay together ‘for the sake of the children’?. When I look at my own friend circle and see robotic marriages and equally robotic kids, I know the togetherness is plastic, because even their shiny happy selfies look unreal. Because life is not Instagram.

It’s better for the children, they say, and stick around, silently killing each other and their children, every single day. When they talk to single parents, they are often looking for stories of behaviour disorders, psychological breakdowns and other lurid details in the subtext, trying to console themselves they are glad they ‘stuck it out”. But they are often disappointed to find out that the kids are alright.

Children need to see you as whole, and not just a part of a dysfunctional parental unit, which is what happens in most ‘normal’ households, and that’s perhaps why single parenting is more harmonious. Once freed of the ‘spouse’ tag, fathers and mothers have more room to be themselves and hence, better parents. Being married often comes in the way of being a good parent, because the person you married is also the person who questions and contests every parenting decision, big or small. Or whose point of view (however polar it is to yours) has to be factored in, because that makes for a good partnership. Sometimes, being a single parent might just be the thing that makes you like the person you married a wee bit more. I find that once you get past the financial implications of it, single parenting may actually be more efficient. I also know the D word is not to be taken lightly, but in today’s world where single parenting is more the norm than the exception, it might just help to say some things out loud:

  1. That doing something alone may actually be easier than constantly arguing about who does what, and then making sure the said person does it.
  2. That making the rules without having to go through the charade of having someone “on the same page” can be liberating.
  3. That unilateral choices do more good than harm in the long run.
  4. That having someone always undermining your authority is neither good for you, nor the children, in the long run.
  5. That divorce may actually be the thing that sets you free to parent solo and bring back the focus on what is important.
  6. That there is a certain distilled quality to the way single parents bring up their kids, and it comes from being able to pick your battles.
  7. That most mothers are single. They just don’t know it.

A few years ago, I read an article in Slate that said, among other things, that single mothers raise better children. While I am not qualified to comment on that, I can say without generalizing that more often than not, whenever I have met a child who is empathetic, observant, willing to take responsibility, is kind or generous— it is from a single parent household. I am sure these qualities come from a place of consciousness that frugality or a lack of abundance seems to initiate. They also seem to have come from learning to appreciate what they have and realising that not all that is a ‘must-have’ needs to be had.

While a lot has been said and researched on children from ‘broken homes’ or the rising ‘single mother syndrome” , there are almost no reports or studies that quantify the damage of ‘staying together for the children’. That perhaps explains the hypocrisy of a society which believes that dual family units (read marriage) are the platinum standard for parenting. Yes, we have all been raised to believe that two is better than one, but it might be worthwhile to ask some relevant questions.

If I have to explain it in mathematical terms, let me redefine the clichéd, “Two is better than one” by saying, “Single is more than half of a parenting pair”. Because coupledom always comes with a huge dose of parental compromise at every stage. ‘Your’ way and ‘my’ way sometimes takes a lifetime to be ‘our’ way and not everyone has a lifetime.

(A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 10th August, 2015)

Family and other anomalies

photo(3)

This year has been a year of repairing estrangements for me. In the course of this, Re met an uncle and an aunt, two of his second cousins in New York (they had him at Elsa and Anna), and two long-lost (and I don’t even know why they were lost) second cousins in Bangalore. They bonded instantly and Re was teaching Alvi (the one nearer his age) his ballroom moves while we adults chomped on Tex-Mex and found that we were related in more convoluted ways than we thought. “It’s blood,” said the just-found cousin-by- marriage, looking fondly at the kids bonding. But I feel blood as a currency is overrated. It was definitely more than that.

He also met his chittapata (grand uncle, my father’s younger brother). When he was confused what it meant, I told him it was a junior taatha (Tamil for grandpa). Oh, he said. That’s why his voice is like taatha!

I was visiting my uncle after nine years in his retirement home in Coimbatore. I had, in the meanwhile, grown a husband, a child, two cats, a paunch, greyed all over and switched multiple careers. But my uncle and aunt were arguing about dates and family trees just like they always did and it was as though time had stood still. My welcome meal was chittappa’s famous chinna vengayam (baby onion) sambar and potato podimaas (mashed potato curry). That seemed unaltered in its aroma and taste and something told me all will always be well with this family. Chittappa had Re at his favourite semiya payasam, which he had multiple bowls of and declared his stomach was singing a song. Re had him at you-look-like-that-man-who-comes-in-that-ad (read Amitabh Bachchan)

The baby onion sambar assumes a different varietal with every member of our clan. While chittappa allows the baby onions to flirt freely with capsicum and bhindi, my mother would never allow it. She would of course chop the larger ones to equalize them with the smaller ones. She always has an economic agenda which often camouflages as aesthetic. My father would be more flamboyant about his preparation, given everything else he does. He would sautee the baby onions separately in ghee before releasing them into the ocean of sambar. I do my own thing of adding a chopped spring onion garnish to it, which my father finds interesting, although I always thought he would frown at the lesser onion polluting the higher onion.

Family is people who meet you even when it’s not convenient. They show up, even if you don’t like them very much. They never miss a wedding or a funeral. We all have our own take on things, as long as we are allowed to express them. But we have to meet enough to be able to do that. When I was little, there were always weddings, thread ceremonies, house-warmings and whatnots. There don’t seem to be enough of those now, and we have to manufacture reasons to meet family. But sometimes, desire is enough too. I have 15 first cousins. Re has four. He hasn’t even met two of them. I need to manufacture a lot of family for him.

With friends, it’s different. We meet our friends in airbrushed, manicured, orchestrated settings, the stomach is tucked in, the hair is in place, the food is molecular, the lighting is just perfect for ‘likable’ photos.

With family, we are our jagged, bad-haired, out-of-bed selves

I recently messaged a friend who I had been planning to meet when I was in Bombay. She wrote back saying her parents and sister were over, so could we meet another time? I just felt I was not family enough.

Part of the reason I moved out of the city was that I could never count on friends to be family for Re. They always had something more important to do, like family or activity classes or birthday parties, and I was tired of explaining to Re why he wasn’t priority. Since I moved out of the city, I use every opportunity I have in Bombay to reconnect with old friends. Food always catalyses such  reunions and the higher the possibility of it being involved, the greater the chances of my meeting them. Friends or families that don’t do food enough usually fade off my radar.

My friends know that I always show up. So asking me a lame question like “when do I see you?” is not a good idea, because I always come up with a plan and mean to execute it. I make friends so that I can take them home. I make friends so I can find more people I can be myself with. I make friends so they can feel like family.

I was recently at Delhi, spending a few days with Usha Aunty and Vijay uncle. I do this whenever I get a chance. They are not family. They are my dear friend Reshu’s in-laws. I meet them more than I meet Reshu, since she lives in Dubai. We go back as long as her marriage, which I think is 20 years. We discuss recipes of lauki with kalonji, stuffed baby karelas, apricot and tomato chutney. We recently found connections in our families, and realized what a small world it was.

In the end, we all want friends who feel like family and we want family that we can be friends with. But the key is, you have to show up. Eat a meal. Cook maybe. Talk some. Cry some. And no, clicking ‘like’ on Facebook does not count. So before the year ends, try and locate someone from your family tree or your friendship universe. Go meet them, have a meal with them. Tell me how it felt.

(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 17th November, 2014) 

Festivals and other reminders of family

photoMy mother is always the first one to wish me on Diwali. My aunt is next. In their innocent questioning — have you taken a bath, have you lit the deeyas, what sweet did you make — lies the reminder of my childhood, how we grew up and what we shared as a family. It was a lot. Somehow I always felt they were subtly reminding me to never forget to be myself, no matter who I married. After all, there are two things that can happen in mixed marriages. Rituals either multiply or cancel out.

I am good with the motions, and I have been going through them diligently, even after leaving my parental home, long before I got married. I have tried to make each festival special, and even invented new ones for Re. But sometimes, motions create fatigue, and when you succumb to that, it’s a slippery slope for our children, because they have nothing to hold on to and it’s a long way clambering back.

Diwalis of our childhood were about being rudely woken up at 4 am, doused in oil, and asked to take a bath with homemade exfoliants. It was usually cold that time of year and the bath hurt and left us even more bleary eyed. Sometimes, cousins were over and they followed the same ritual. Then we were given new clothes (sometimes we had a say in what was bought, but usually they were home-stitched). There are no photos and that’s perhaps that’s why the memories are so vivid.

Each year, the money allotted to firecrackers began to buy us less and less and we often measured the fun we had in minutes. Sometimes we even managed to make them last by taking them apart. I remember my brother and I would spend hours over separating the laal ladis, and lavangis which we would ignite as singles than as a bunch to make it last. It was fun. Soon our cousins picked up and did the same. Even when money could buy us less, we still had more.

When we were growing up, cousins were people you met because of the grandparent connection — you had to share them (the grandparents), whether you liked it or not. Now that the grandparents are no more, the cousins are more or less redundant. They show up randomly on Facebook, want to be added as your ‘relative’, they post comments on your photos, and make fleeting plans to ‘meet up.’

When you have a child, festivals become indicators of a family that was. And cousins’ children become more important than the cousins ever were. You look through their albums, you ask if their children are crawling or teething, you find bits of them in their children — the bond is renewed.

A strange thing happens when the festive season sets in. Families begin to coalesce. They begin to feel grateful that they are still families. Friends begin to remember they can’t take friendship for granted. Couples begin to find joy in their coupleness.

And colleagues, whose kids you yet don’t know the names of, send you a text and put a smile on your face. They say that when you say something positive long and loud and repeated enough, it becomes a truism. May be that’s why even couples in dysfunctional relationships send out messages and cards in the festive season that end with Mr, Mrs and Master/Miss. I get them all the time and they still put a smile on my face.

And it’s addictive. Soon, you begin to Whatsapp or e-card people who you have never thought about in the past year. You text numbers from your phonebook that have been never texted or called before. You even call. You begin to add instead of subtracting.

Festivals remind me that despite all our virtual connectedness and real disconnectedness, we are still not bankrupt as a people. Yes, we do click ‘likes’ on online rangolis and diyas and pretend we’ve made our own. We raise a toast to goodies people have pre-ordered and a small corner of our heads says we should have tried harder.

Family has various meanings, but it’s in festivals that it reveals itself the most. It’s a connectedness that is palpably real, a camaraderie that no selfie can capture, a boisterousness that cannot be contained, a memory that age cannot wipe out.

There was a time we weren’t even aware we were making memories. Now, if we don’t manufacture them, we will have none. Next year, I’m going to wake up Re on Diwali and douse him with oil and exfoliants. He may not like it, but he will have a story to tell.

 

(This piece first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 27th October 2014) 

Why parenting drives couples apart

My heart broke when Gwneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their conscious uncoupling.

In a different time, I would have wondered why such a seemingly well-matched couple fell apart after so many years of marriage. But the more I read about their different approaches to parenting, the easier it is to believe. She was organic and macrobiotic, he was mac-and-cheese and icecream tubs. She was about food, he was about treats. He loved television, she banned their children Apple and Moses from it, except for television in Spanish and French. It all makes sense now.

When you think celebrities are messing it up so often, it’s easier to accept that parenting does create a huge divide between couples, however unified they were to start with. Look at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorcing over protecting their daughter Suri from Scientology.

Every now and then, I find myself comparing my vegetarian, recycling, anti-consumerist beliefs with the husband’s “Eat everything that eats vegetables” or “Why buy one toy when you can buy ten?” philosophy. It’s year five of parenting and seven of marriage and we are still learning how to agree to disagree. He still thinks a game on the iPhone is the best way to diffuse the child’s meltdown and I still feel it’s taking the easy way out. I hope we meet midway at least as long as the child is still a child, but when I look around, I find most couples are like us.

The trouble is, we all get into relationships with our own set of beliefs, stemming largely from our upbringings. But when it comes to raising your family, these things often do not cancel out. In fact the differences become more glaring than they ever were. We may talk endlessly on food preferences, books, religion and politics before tying the knot, and we may probably have a conversation about whether we want children, but do we ever talk about the kind of parents we want to be? No, that doesn’t happen till we are hit by the diaper truck. Suddenly you realise who you really married. And very often, it’s a couch potato who can sleep through the loudest of baby cries and for whom bath is often optional.

Even if you have a lot in common with your spouse, there’s a good chance you have different parenting styles. And your style is probably influenced by how you were raised. The trouble is, both parents always believe they have the child’s best interests at heart, it’s just that they might qualify “best” differently, and hence end up arguing about everything from toys to television.

The irony is, you may still agree on the big things. Like the importance of kindness or respect or being polite. But very often, it’s the small things that make you feel that collaborative parenting should never have been invented.

Food is a huge one , and we often underestimate our own food memories and how they lie buried deep in our subconscious. There is often an ‘eat’ parent and a ‘treat’ parent and it’s not hard to figure who the child will tend to favour as the years go by.

Sleep is another differentiator. Having a baby makes you realise that your partner and you have hugely different sleep cycles, that you are a morning person and he is an owl and how come you never noticed it all these years?

Another bone of contention is your attitude to money and how often you use it as a crutch to win brownie points with the child. Money can buy things, yes, and children love things. And so, they often see money as power and in the long run, it can really skew things between couples.

But one area where parents can’t afford to agree to disagree is discipline. If you’re polar opposites in terms of the way you approach behaviour and discipline issues, the kids will just end up having a stronger relationship with the lenient parent, and that can get really complicated. The strange thing is, whatever your approach, parenting is often a push and pull, and defining new boundaries on a daily basis. As long as you know that you are working towards common goals, your differences will not drive you apart. The truth is, no one wants the bad cop’s job and yet someone has to do it, and it is so very often the mother.

There’s a reason why you’re not supposed to have a baby to save a marriage. Having a child is definitely not about bringing a couple closer. If marriage is fragile, children make a tsunami out of it. They take a small crack and turn it into a fissure of irreparable magnitude. They are a reminder of a life and a spontaneity that was, they make us realize that the gap between our fantasies and our reality is huge.

But in the end, they are our only chance to be better people.

 

(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 25th August, 2014)

 

Together in separateness

Three cities. Two kids. One family. In my new life, this is more the norm than the exception.

Among my new friends are an ex navy official who has now turned educator after a 20-year career and a globe-trotting life during which his wife was primary caregiver to the kids. To call him a multi-tasker would be an understatement. She is now finally pursuing her academic dream with a PhD program while he is a full time parent to their son on our school campus. They are both long-distance parents to their older daughter who studies at a residential school near Bangalore.

The boy, who is all of eight was one of my earliest influences at the school I now teach in, with his keen observation and his Zen-like stance on most things. On day one, he invited me to go swimming with him in the Bhima river and when I hesitated, saying I didn’t have a costume, he said, “There is no point being shy. It just wastes time.” Not to be deterred, I went along, and jumped into the river in my tunic and jeans.

Every weekend, this family of two turns into a family of three, when the mother comes over and once every term, they become a foursome when it’s term visit time at their daughter’s school.

Another colleague who teaches Physics lives on campus with her  daughter while her husband lives in the Nilgiris, where he runs an NGO. During our walks in the evening, she and I share a lot about parenting, the need to find the self and what makes us who we are. Her daughter, all of seven, is so free-spirited that no school could contain her thus far. They have finally found their haven on our hill.  The girl is also a buddy who takes me and Re on expeditions and claims to know all the ‘secret spots’ on the hill. I believe her. She is that kind of girl.

This is my new family. We look out for each other. We keep it simple. And mostly, it makes sense.

When I moved with Re to teach at this school, speculations were rife. Was I leaving my husband? Was this a sign? Was it really about Re? Was the marriage over?

Few ask me. Fewer ask him. Most ask each other. Some read melancholy in my writing and send me “Is all well?” messages. And some get it.

I wonder if they would have made such a big deal of it had my husband moved cities or country to follow his dream. “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do,” they would have said. “It’s important for his career,” they would have proffered. The child is still small, this is the time to experiment, they would have assuaged.

We are suckers for symmetry, structure and composition, never mind if it’s filtered. We want singletons to be married, married ones to have a child, one-child couples to have two children, and so on. We would rather gloss over the quasi perfection of the family picture postcard than wonder what really makes them tick. Collaboration is the biggest myth of parenting. A family that drives together while each stares at a screen is not a family. Neither is a group of children and adults that brunches, goes to Hamleys or posts selfies.

What we cannot bear is when sometimes, people, like electrons, have a mind of their own and want to see what a new orbital feels like.

But I am beginning to realise that sometimes the decisions you make for yourself can result in the collective good. After all, parenting is about finding ‘us’ in the spaces. It’s also about reclaiming ‘me’ sometimes. Having a child can obliterate your sense of self to a large extent, particularly so for the woman. If you are not the same you, how can you be a good wife, a good parent, a good anything?

So we are finally the family that meets every other weekend and walks, treks and jumps on puddles. We are long-distance couples, parents and children. We talk more, we eat more, we laugh more. We certainly breathe more. We have moved from separate together to together separate. And it feels infinitely better.

 

 

(This post first appeared as my parenting column in Pune Mirror on 11th August, 2014)

 

Why have children?

You know the feeling when you start a post by writing the headline first and then begin to wonder whether you are actually qualified to write it? It’s what I’m having right now.

Once upon a time, I was a serial singleton and all my friends were making babies on loop. I was then the cool aunty who bought the best gifts, treated babies like grownups and humored mommies. I could do all this, and go home, to my bed and get my nine hours of sleep. I didn’t have to spoil it all by becoming a mom.

Having a child was not the most strategic decision of my life. Nor was it the most emotional one. Having done it, I went through the motions. I am good with motions. Then my friends told me I was such a natural as a mother and I wondered. Me? Natural? Yes, I did cats, and could fake excitement at baby photos or children’s birthday parties. But that was about it. Unless you held me for the fact that I had become a mother to my mother through her double valve replacement surgery. Did that really qualify me to have a child?

In the loneliness of stay-at-home motherhood, the internet became my best friend.  I began to read arguments and even research papers in favor of and against children. I could only think of it as a conspiracy theory. Why now, I thought. It’s already done.

May be my reasons weren’t deep enough. I never thought having a child would complete me, or for that matter, marriage would. I am not afraid of being alone, in fact I usually crave it. I’m not generous enough to love unconditionally, nor have I been worried about being looked after when I’m old. It’s unlikely that I will join the ‘Parenting was the best thing I did with my life!’ cult. No thank you.Well, once you have done it, it’s like you don’t want to admit you screwed up, so you may as well celebrate it.

I waited for that moment when holding a child in my arms would evaporate every other sadness in my life, but sorry to report, it didn’t happen. Plus, it was way cooler to be a pet-parent. We can all lead exciting, chaotic lives, make love to our smart phones, travel, have recreational sex, back-pack on a whim, live life to the fullest. Who wants kids?

So then, what was it?

Could it be about happiness? But the internet tells me that children rank lower in pleasurability than cooking, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, or even housework (yes!). (I was nodding through the list)

It’s definitely not about bringing a couple closer. If marriage is fragile, children make a tsunami out of it. They take a small crack and turn it into a fissure of irreparable magnitude. They are a reminder of a life and a spontaneity that was, they make us realize that the gap between our fantasies and our reality is huge.

For a lot of women it’s about getting something right. If not the man, the baby. Haven’t you noticed that people who actually end up with their soul-mates take much longer to make the babies?

Yes, children do the most unexpected, kind, and loving things that send a rush of hormones to your brain. Or whatever it takes to feel good. Like Re built me a house with his blocks. Or massaged my stomach when I said I had a tummy ache. Or shouted at a taxi for trying to overtake me.

Then there are gentle kisses. Cheeks to bite. Baby breath. It’s addictive.

Yes, the moments of joy are pure and unparalleled. But so are the moments of frustration, despair and anxiety.

Every year, on Re’s birthday, we sit together and watch videos of the past few years. It feels gratifying and so much fun, although it did feel like tedium at the time.

But I think what I like the most about having a child is that every once in a while, I get to see the world without a lens.

Because I want to believe that if the moon does not ‘follow’ us when we drive back home from the park, it can actually lose its way.

Because I want to believe that every watermelon has mamma slices, dada slices and baby slices.

Because I want to wake up when it’s sun o’clock.

Because I liked that part of me that is less impatient and self-involved than the me that was.

Because I was the kind of person who was likelier to regret the things I hadn’t done than the things I had.

Because sometimes you need to slow down. And that’s what a child does to you.  But innately, you should want to.