Friday, June 26, 2009

Daddy’s girl

"How are you? Everything okay? Under control?”

It was a first from my dad… okay, it’s a first for me to be pregnant and ready to pop and all of that, and I notice the dynamic around me slowly change with every passing month, but still… this degree of articulated concern from the father is something I haven’t been used to. And I have been through enough to deserve it.

For the longest time, I was always ‘one of the boys’ as far as my dad was concerned. We went to the same salon for a haircut when I was little, watched matinees together, played rummy, I was his errand girl for ciggies till my mother put a blanket ban on it, he inducted me into watching test cricket… exploring obscure places on the map, and quizzing. What we also shared was a passion for cooking, in which we collaborated quite often, to produce delicacies ‘off the rack’

Of course he also took me shopping, but it was always, “One, two three… pick up something soon, while I have a smoke at the door. Five minutes?”

Later, as I dated suitable and unsuitable boys, he had just a peripheral interest in what they were all about, and rarely went beyond a handshake or a grunt in his communication. To him, they were mere distractions, something that his "limited attention span Gemini daugher" would soon lose interest in, and until I announced I was marrying the man, he was never of any consequence.

It’s true that he never thought I needed to be ‘escorted’ for an early morning class that I had to take a 5.30 am train for (and the railway station was a good twenty minute walk from the house), or even fetch me post a late night excursion. As my mother whined about how times were bad and one had to take special care of daughters, my dad puffed away, “She is a tough one,” he would say. “I wouldn’t worry about her..”

I guess I was, and amply demonstrated it at age fourteen on a trip to Delhi, when a country bumpkin tried to paw me in one of the Teen Murti Bhavan museums… I picked up a stool to hit him with before dad arrived and tried to calm me down. He realized then that I was a woman.

Now, as I waddle into my last stage of pregnancy, dad can’t help but notice how vulnerable I am, physically at least… and I can sense that there is a lot he wants to say and ask, but all he manages, on the phone or in person is, “How are you?”

I guess it’s a big deal for him being a grand dad and all of that. More importantly, he realizes that finally, we will be even. We will soon both be parents, and that’s a bit surreal to deal with.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Some mothers do 've them

"Lap it all up now. Very soon, it will no longer be about you,” said one veteran mom who dropped by last week to check on how I was doing.

She is not the only one. Every woman has something to say about the imminent ‘storm.’

“Try and get all the sleep you can now…you ain’t getting any for months now..”

“ Don’t worry, all the pain will be worth it, when you hold your bundle of joy…”

“Watch TV, lie on your side…”

“Listen to music, read, talk to your baby…”

“Whatever you do, don’t use disposable diapers.. take it from me…”

“That’s the end of your life…only susu-potty now…”

Believe me, these are not regressive, low self-esteem, purposeless women—most of them have been high achievers, super-bright and super-creative, held or still hold good jobs, are attractive, articulate and make good money, but somehow transform into mommy divas the minute they know you are expecting.

Unlike marriage or career, motherhood instills a cockiness in all women, as though they have got a booster shot of hormonal confidence. Everyone, right from the lady in the lift to the maid to random woman you met at the CafĂ© to the sales assistant at the mall has this “We know.. we have been there” look and some advice to offer.

I wondered how such martyr mothers get created. Is it that some women use motherhood to create a new power equation that is so fuzzy that the world lets them have the benefit of doubt, because it’s pointless challenging it anyway?

But one friend Vasu who will remain my inspiration said something to me that stuck. “You will realize that there will always be another way … that you could have done many things differently. That someone else always knows more than you do. But when it comes to babies, expect the unexpected… just do what instinctively comes to you.”

It’s surreal, but I feel something is going to irreversibly change about me by the time I write this column again, which could well be next week, or a few weeks from now. I just hope it’s for the better.

Of course I will do exactly what seems right to me, even though I feel more laden with an information overdose than the 13 extra kilos on me. Yes, I am fully aware of the divide between natural birthing and epidural infused labour, of the politics of C-secs versus vaginal deliveries, of actual labour versus induced labour, of nursing versus formula, of super-lactating cows versus existential milk machines.

I do not know where I will fit into all this motherhood hierarchy and frankly, I don’t care. All I know is that I will be one cool mom. And hopefully, I will have enough chick and wit in me to last a while, mommydom notwithstanding.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Parent trap

The mother is over to ease me into childbirth, as I waddle through my last days of pregnancy. We haven’t shared a habitat in a while and have different approaches to things—life, people, food—although when it comes to hospital visits, my mother has much more bravado than I do. She has, after all, squeezed twins out, had valve replacements and dealt with ICUs like it’s second nature to her.

We are both currently in parenting modes in different ways, as she cares for me and I do the same for the little one kicking away inside of me. And then of course there are my two resident feline offspring, who have also sensed that something’s up, so they are ever so gentle and clingy with me, and we also have conversations about the same. The husband, who still doesn’t speak Cat finds it fascinating to hear an ongoing dialogue that me and Nadia (my first born) or Bravo (my three legged James Bond of a cat) have at 6 am every day. Nadia seems concerned that our relationship will change, and I assure her that it won’t, and before she knows it, my child and her will be buddies. Bravo doesn’t have any such apprehensions, and is in a “more, the merrier” kind of zone.

I have always wondered whether I’d make a good mother—even though I have had (and continue to have) a pretty good innings with four legged babies— the fact that one day, my two-legged offspring could tell me (as I do to my mom) that what I’m doing doesn’t make sense, and here is a better way, rattles me.

I also have a high benchmark to live up to, as mine is nothing short of a super mom. She has balanced work, parenting, social life and family ties immaculately, and is a top scorer in each of these spheres. She loved her job till the very end (after having worked close to forty years) and won many accolades in her long career, and is still fondly remembered as a teacher. As a mother, I think she did a pretty good job of us, me and my twin siblings, though she still laments, “If only I had more time. If I could only have stayed at home..”

The problem with being a parent is that one never ceases to be one— it’s a process that begins, but never ends, like it hasn’t for my mother— I had better come to terms with that. And it’s not about cleaning poop or washing butts or feeding or any of the chores. It’s about always putting someone else’s interest before yours. Marriage doesn’t necessarily teach you that; hopefully, becoming a parent does.

Am I ready for it? I don’t know, but will soon find out.