For about three months this year I have been off the radar. My father in law suffered a cerebral stroke in mid-September (as most of you know) and until he passed away six weeks later, I spent almost every waking moment by his side until they frog marched me off the hospital premises. Now after everything is over and I am coming back to the world of the living , so to speak, I find my daughters have done quite a bit of growing up. The whole episode was in any event very traumatic for them. Not only were they very attached to their grandfather, it was Isha who found him in the bathroom when he had the stroke and ran and alerted us that morning of 16th September. Somehow for a while she blamed herself. I was too busy running circles around the hospital to realise how much it had affected her until one night I found her crying quietly into her pillow and my husband and I gathered her in our arms and gently explained it was not her fault and in fact she had probably saved his life by alerting us when she did. I realised that day that I needed to tune into their lives a little more. Fortunately the puja vacations popped up and I was free once again to stare desolately into the Critical Care Unit leaving my daughters to the care and affection of other members of our XL family. Somehow they managed. I was myself impressed with the sense of responsibility they showed in organising things at home even when we had no maid. Homework was done, studies were taken care of and exams were prepared for without any help or prodding from me. Late at night I would return home and find them quietly asleep, uniforms neatly left on their chairs ready for the next morning. I kissed them goodnight, turned off the lamp and each day I thanked someone up there for looking after them. I had visions of happy, well-adjusted, disciplined children and was covered in the warm golden glow of motherhood. Somewhere amid all that Isha turned 13 and Amisha turned 12. They did not crib once that their birthdays were low key affairs or they could not have their friends over or that there was no party with the works. They were content with whatever was arranged and never complained. I have to thank the rest of the family and a few friends for making the days a lot brighter than it would've been without them.
Isha's become a teen-ager. Add to that all the horror stories you have heard about teen-agers. She is more opinionated, more aggressive, more irritable. Her favourite words are "it's complicated," followed by "you won't understand". Hence anything you ask her is complicated. She does not ask to be cuddled as much and when she is not fighting with her sister is content to watch whatever nonsense she watches on uTube or TV. At 7 pm week nights, without fail she begs to watch some shit called "dil dance and dosti" or whatever and devours each episode of Grey's Anatomy! Once in a while you will call and call and call and she will not reply because she is sitting inside the television and can't hear you. And the phone calls. Even past ten at night (sacrilege, my father would say) a small voice says "Aunty just once please, can I talk to Isha pleeease, it's very urgent?" I growl. I want to ask who has died. But my daughter has run into the loo or the guest room with the cordless phone, obviously, these "complicated" conversations cannot be held in front of a parent!!!! Being naturally talkative, sometimes when she is in an amiable frame of mind she volunteers some information about some school friend she or some friend has "problems" with and I quietly listen, not daring to offer unsolicited advise, grateful that I am being allowed a foot into her complicated world. It's on the tip of my tongue to tell her that if they watched less TV they would realise real life is less drama and more about being who you are and accepting others for who THEY are. But I hold my tongue. Obviously I do not understand. And obviously she does not want me to complicate her life any further!!!
As for the younger one Amisha, THAT I can understand. Or so I thought, until she has now taken to keeping a virtual pet called "Poo"! Imagine, late at night she cuddles up to me on my bed and says "Ma, tomorrow in the morning before you go to Court can you feed Poo a hamburger and wash his bum?" I almost fell off my bed in shock! She is someone who reaches home from school and the phone rings. That friend she had spent the last five odd hours with is calling to tell her that she too has reached home. I do not know what they talk about but she and her little group of four friends drive me up the wall with their constant calls. At least it's not complicated. It only makes me, my husband and the phone bill go through the roof! Amisha, when she is not busy fighting with her sister is creative, she likes making things. Some of them I must admit are quite impressive. So now our house has become the dumping ground for every scrap picture frame, art paper and other knick knacks she picks up from her piano class! Her piano teacher has a picture framing studio at home and happily encourages her creative bent of mind. Only here I find strange packets in the wardrobe stuffed haphazardly so the door cannot close. I take them out. One has about a hundred one inch pieces of wood. The other has bigger pieces. Another has pieces in different colours. The next one has bits of plastic. I threaten to throw them all away. "But I'm making something," she insists, " please let it be." Endearingly, she throws her arms around me, she can be very sweet when she wants something. I surrender quietly.
Yes, I have been quiet lately. Can you blame me?