Losing me, finding me

me time

Every now and then, and sometimes for periods longer than you can control or imagine, you do lose track of the one thing that makes you “youer than you”, as Dr Seuss would say. When you have a child, you may go for a long period before you decide to do something about it. In my case, luckily, I am quick to recognise the symptoms (Re’s reminding me of my shouty voice is usually an alert) and sometimes, being a person who does things on impulse helps. There is only so much you can plot your life; everything else is chances you take (or don’t take)

This weekend, I packed Re and one of his friends into the car and took off on a road trip to escape the festival din in Mumbai. The idea of course was to shut down (at least temporarily) the several channels of communications that had once again, become a part of my life. Of course reuniting Re with the landscape where he had spent a great year and made some good friends was part of the plan. But mostly, it was about me.

I know putting the self before the child is not a parent thing to do; we have often been conditioned that parenting (at least lead parenting) is the road to continuous martyrdom. But I decided to rewrite the rules a long time ago, realising that only when I am happy can I truly and completely give to my child. Or anyone, for that matter.

Re and I have reached that place of peaceful coexistence where he and I can do (separate) things that make us happy, as long as our channels of communication are fully open. He still needs to share a lot with me, as do I, with him.

We went back to the school where I taught for a year, and just being reunited with the space that calmed us down, and distilled us a wee bit as human beings did great things for both of us. While Re was busy reclaiming the land, the lake, the mountains, the trees, the swings and his friends, I was finding the me that actually stopped to stand and stare. The me that found hidden treasures in every square inch of the landscape, sometimes in the faces of the children I taught and those I didn’t teach, but who shyly made eye contact with me. The me that found new stories unfolding in trees that had been standing for years. The me that gazed for an hour at a wild banana plant that had flowered for the first time in four years. The plant that had sprouted out of nowhere by the roadside and grown unattended, untended to, weathering sun and hail and heavy monsoon, and often appearing to have died. I had an intense conversation with a botany teacher who was excited that I was interested in the backstory of this plant, and she told me how it revealed layer after layer before it announced it’s grand finale as a full blossom. I could see myself in this plant. I felt as though Re’s arrival in my life had actually helped peel several layers of me, revealing my true self.

I signed up for a folk dance workshop with my students on campus. I have been a dancer in my early years; it’s something I was trained for and good at. But somewhere along, I had stopped being a student and that was the end of me. Now, inspired by this banana plant, I was ready to start all over again. I was weary and tired and my body didn’t feel lithe and graceful like it once did, but hey, I was on the road to learning.

I then realised that being a teacher has it’s limitations, but if you are a learner all your life, the sky is truly the limit.

(A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 22nd Sept, 2015)

 

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Lost in Translation: Mom in Tokyo

various baby food options availableBY ALOKANANDA MUKHERJEE

Thank GOD, the parcel was out but I was scared. Dead scared that they were sending us home alone with something about which we hardly knew much. Well, I was equipped with knowledge. I knew about burping the baby, bathing her, feeding her every two hours. I had helped my friends with babies in times of need. Yet I was apprehensive on how we would fare as parents.

Postpartum pains, bowel movements, elderly advice, booby politics, a hand-me-down breast pump and a month later I came face to face with a thought that we are to leave for Japan. Good thing for my husband for sure, he had stayed in the country for three years before and was rejoining the same company, but for me not really. My settling down with the baby with ample help from the M and MIL were shattered. Sleepless nights began again. Misha was a darling. She slept all night since she was just a few days old. The “everything will be fine” husband assured again that “we will manage”, but I knew that this was probably the end of my dreams and plans.

The day came and we did move to Japan with a 3 month old Misha. The long flight went off smoothly, apart from the continuous wailing at the Yokohama station, but the feeding rooms across stations helped me pacify her and here began my first experience of the country. She was exclusively breast fed till 6 months.

The Indian doctors had advised us to give her food jars when she was 6 months. But the “only Japanese” labels makes it difficult for us to understand, and good or not was another issue altogether. So home cooked pureed food it was. That meant more back-breaking work for me. Barely two and a half people at home and each ate a different kind of food, with too many variations. The baby had to be introduced to new flavors and a variety to top it all. Once again I went to seek the blessings of “Google baba,” and the first food for her was avocado.

I was never a tech geek. But today, Google translate is one of the most cherished tools on my phone. It even translates labels for me. The biggest concern of staying in Japan is that you hardly know what you are buying. The milk is milk because there is a cow on the cartoon. And if you want to know what percentage of fat it has, may god help you.
Having said that language is a big constraint, Japanese are very helpful and polite people. All babies are required to register at the block office and treatments along with vaccinations for babies are free. The baby record book is detailed and even has a few English pages. I was overwhelmed because the lady at the ward office was using the Google translate as well, but she was translating Japanese so that I understand that in English. Then there was a search for a English speaking pediatric, which we found easily and thankfully.

Misha is a happy and hungry child. She loves the ladies in the train who usually cuddle her for her Indian features. She flashes those gummy smiles at the old women who are amused that she is “kawai”(cute) and “indie”. Maybe she misses the coochiecoo of grandmothers back home and the big Indian joint family.

I miss home too. And realize that it’s important to be thankful for whatever you have. A maid, a clean house, clean clothes and many other little things are not your birthrights. Having lived here for a few months, I have realized that there is a language of motherhood. Whenever I come across a woman who is accompanying a baby, we look at each other and smile. Maybe to say, “yes we understand”, in spite of having nothing apart from that pint size baby in common. Smile truly is the universal language that doesn’t require a Google translate.

 

About the author:

Alokananda is a dreamer and a full time mommy who thinks human babies are not too different from her kittens.