Sunday, April 21, 2013

One woman's heart.....

A woman’s heart is as complicated as her handbag. There are compartments and there are compartments. There are those usual odds and ends which constitute daily living, like that engagement diary or the notebook, the wallet, the chequebooks and the n number of pens, even a few glittery ones she will never use, the sunglasses, those cloth bags she will need in the supermarket to save Rs 2 on the plastic ones. Then there is that old face powder cracking away at the edges along with that barely used lipstick and comb, all left there for “just in case”. And of course there are those safety pins, toothpicks, congealed throat lozenges, dried face wipes, keys, a lighter, a pen knife and that pack containing three cigarettes she has been planning to smoke someday. Then there are the odd bits of paper, a bill from the tailor shop promising delivery of an item she collected six months ago, the credit card receipts she has been meaning to throw away and that ticket stub from the first time she took her toddler on a ride in the metro. A flat round stone her three-year-old gave her for safe-keeping “for always and for effer”. And there’s that old picture of her dad and another frayed one of some God that someone gave her and she does not believe in, yet cannot throw away. And then there’s a special compartment for the smiles she reserves for her children and the one that holds her fears. The fears of a young mother who is afraid to sleep for she thinks she might smother her new born baby, the fear of going too close to the balcony for fear her child might slip from her arms, the fear of letting the child’s fingers lose hers in a crowd, the fears of anything, ANYTHING bad happening to her child, which she would happily take upon herself to spare her children.
Today I sit and imagine that poor mother who sits beside her five year old daughter brutally raped for no reason and I can feel her fears biting into me, gnawing at my very core. Although I do not pray what I am doing now is akin to prayer: hoping the reconstruction surgeries will come out successful, that she will recover, (physically at least) and the scars will fade somehow…..Thankfully none of our clever politicians or erudite fellow countrymen have come up with any enlightened comments on her dress, choice of life style or have said she was asking for it. Not yet.
My heart goes out to the parents who were offered a bribe by the police who wanted them to hush up the case. To the angry young girls who demanded an explanation and were slapped by the cops. To every person who is helpless in their anger and want these crimes to stop. To the little girls mouthing prayers on TV not understanding why their mothers worry about them the way they do. To every person who is outraged and is protesting in whatever way they can: begging that somehow, SOMEHOW these heinous crimes must stop. “Stringent rape laws”, “Capital punishment for rapists,” they are screaming from the streets. Again. Only no one’s listening.
What happened to our humanity? What is wrong with our men? What soulless creatures reside in these rapists who portray themselves to be normal, God-fearing, sometimes even educated persons and integrate themselves into our lives and neighbourhoods and even sometimes break bread with us? I see reports that the rapist had raped his wife and had been ordered by the Panchayat to marry her. What kind of people think that is a solution? Where does the madness start and where does it end?
All my answers have no questions.
All my questions are a shout in the dark.
All I know is that my fears have raised their ugly little heads and are threatening to slither outside its’ compartment. And I am afraid. Afraid for my sons and daughters who are still testing their little wings, who are still learning how to fly. Shall we shoot them down mid-flight or shall we let them soar?
Answer me, dammit!
Or have I said too much?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Escape to Adventure

While I was growing up I was the swashbuckling heroine of many a thrilling adventure involving brutal killings, kidnappings, piracy and war. Dressed all in black, with or without a black cape with red lining, I would fearlessly fight my way through disasters, lead loyal men in uniform (who  owed allegiance only to me)  into the jaws of death  and emerge unscathed. Of course I wasn't short and fat, I was tall and slender and most men and women alike looked up to me in admiration and wonder while I would send villains to their death with a careless wave of my hand.
Of course a husband, family  or (God-forbid!) children never featured in any of my adventures save to be stunned when they came to know about my secret life as I raced off on my sturdy motorcycle, yacht or private jet (I disliked horses, I could never visualize myself elegantly or smoothly jumping onto one!) headed towards the Himalayan dirt tracks or rain forests or into the open sea in the eye of a storm to rescue the world or whatever... you get the drift?
Now having said all that, marriage was obviously not a feature in this long running fantasy. I imagined a steady stream of boyfriends and lovers who I would discard at will. Love, commitment, romance were trashy emotions for the weak-hearted and feeble-minded. So when I met my husband and found myself actually contemplating a commitment, believe me, I almost disowned myself!  But the fancy stuck and there I was, slowly adjusting myself to erratic domesticity. Yes, it got to me, that marriage thingie and that violent leading lady  raised an eyebrow and retreated into the wings.
Before we had kids, understandably, I thought about it for a while. I saw those cute little cherubs in ads and in movies and I decided I wanted them, not just one, but at least two, maybe three. Preferably twins. Two little ones smiling cheerily in the crock of my arms, sitting on my lap while I effortlessly went about my chores, smiling at me through their meal, running about in the tall grass with me, snuggling up to me and sleeping contently smelling of soft love and baby powder.....I was ready for kids. Yup. Two little angels who would love and cherish each other and be friends and companions through life.....
Now firstly. I did not have twins. I had them one after the other though and that made me feel as though I had twins so it had the same maddening effect of twins. And they did not smile cheerily from the crock of my arm. More likely they were bawling in my arms, after having pulled my nose and brought up milk in my hair. They never sat still long enough for me to get round do any chores with them on my lap and more likely spewed food and spit out of their mouths while at their meals.
No. I never had kids like the cherubic angels on TV but they were cute enough. And I loved them. Most of the time. Okay, as long as they were not smelling of puke or poo. But yes, they were sweet, I had my 'aww' moments and 'let's melt mommy' smiles. I will not forget how each one felt in my arms when I held them that first time or how their tiny fingers felt on my cheek and I wish that I could hold on to each smile and each hug from those tiny arms.
I remember when the older one, Isha, started going to school. The younger one, Amisha, who was just 13 months younger would toddle up to the head of the stairs and wave and their baby voices would go "ta-ta, ta-ta" till they could not see each other anymore. Then Amisha would run to the window, clamber on to the sofa and go on saying 'bye' to her sister and her sister would reciprocate with equal enthusiasm. See, a mother's heart can swell with all those baby coos and all the sisterly affection spilling out.
More than a decade has passed. This morning Isha left for some social service thing she goes to sometimes. She is  grown-up now, about my height (which isn't much) smartly dressed in jeans and kurta and dangly earrings that  I swear I have never seen before.  Amisha had just  woken up and was yawning her way out into the living room. I suddenly remembered my babies from years ago. "Ami", I said,  "Isha's leaving, say bye". Isha didn't wait, she just left, muttering something incomprehensible under her breath.  And Amisha? The one whose adoring eyes followed her older sister as a baby?  She didn't even stop rubbing her tummy over her shorts, much less run to the head of the stairs. She just pulled a face and loudly said "Bye, Isha...diidii," sarcastically. Very sarcastically.
You see, there is no one quite as awful as the other sibling. There is never any real peace in the house. Always, whenever both girls are at home there is the constant low hum of "stopits" and "shuddups" interspersed only by sounds of slapping and kicking. And then there is that special whine saved specially for me when I return home after a long day. Along with that high pitched shriek that is for my ears only ...should I make the mistake of imagining that they are doing something peacefully together.
I should just kick start my bike and drive into the wild to save the world, it's friendlier (and quieter) out there!