It’s that time of the year again, Amma

July always brings with it a strange melancholy. Call it Murphy’s law or anything else that you want to, July’s not been my friend for the past 9 years, since the day you left me  this month, Amma.

It’s strange how the sadness hits you. First in bite-sized chunks, then, all at once like an avalanche. It starts off with the small little remembrances of times in the past.  A song you used to hum, a wisp of the smell of early morning chai. You weren’t the mother who made us delicacies, you were the kind who thought it would be fun to eat a meal outside in brand new clothes, and would even shop for us in the clothes store next to the restaurant we were eating in, if we had to, and make us change in the middle of a meal even!

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You were the mother who’d buy me a bottle of champagne for our 5th wedding anniversary when the (then) husband forgot to. You were the mother who’d give me the monetary difference between the clothes you bought me and my elder brother, God forbid I ever think I’m any lesser than a boy.  You were the only one who looked me in the eye, the day I lost my first baby, and told me it would be completely alright if I never wanted to have another ever again and that it would not make me any less of a woman.

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I was hailing an auto today, Amma, and I saw a red bangle-clad hand grip the outer edge, firmly, holding her daughter in her arms, and my heart skipped a beat. For a moment, I felt like I’d been struck by lightning. That is how it hits me, now, Amma, the sadness. It disappears, as quickly though. And that is a good thing. Every year, it gets a little more easier.

I don’t know if life would have worked out any other way if you were here, but I do know I still have you watching my back – you’re in that wispy smile of Harshitha’s when she asks for a snack before dinner.  I see you in the curl of her upper lip, which shakes, just like your’s did when she gets angry. And I swear I can hear you in her little voice when she sings Paluke Bangaramaina, just like you used to. Musical talent that definitely skipped a generation, but is not all lost.

Here’s to you, Amma.

P.S. If you’re listening could you please get whoever’s up there to go easy on me for the rest of this month? Laptop crash, data lost, child’s spectacles broken, school bag torn, washing machine leaking, me falling sick  – I think I’m good until the next year, thanks 😀

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Of singledom and other things

It’s been a roller coaster ride the past couple of weeks – of intense emotions, of anger and resentment and learning to let go of things that were never truly mine. I’m officially separated now, and never have I ever been happier in my life. A friend asked me if it truly is happiness, but I guess if I could summarize it in one word, it would actually be *freedom.*

Freedom from outdated, insanely inhumane patriarchal beliefs, freedom from being boxed into a one-dimensional version of what I truly am. The freedom to choose what I wear, how long I’ll keep my hair, or cut it on the day I choose to, even on a Friday (insert dramatic gasp). The freedom to have a girl’s night out without having to stay over at a friend’s place but come back home to my own bed. The freedom to pick up a book and let the dirty dishes stew in the sink for an hour or two. The freedom to literally put my feet up at home, and not having to adjust my clothes to suit someone’s sense of decency. The freedom to write this blog and not having to take down a post because it has offended a distant relative’s sense of right and wrong.

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The freedom to raise my daughter the way I’d like to, without religion and customs being shoved down her tiny throat. The freedom to let her eat what she wants, without having to give code-names. The freedom to let her choose her future, academic or otherwise and putting an end to the never-ending cycle of people-pleasing. The freedom to adopt whichever four-legged creature I’d want to. The freedom to openly admit that am agnostic and might always be.

The freedom to be my father’s daughter, and love my family as much as I want, and not be told that my priorities should change.

In essence, the freedom to just be. The freedom to be *me*

 

P.S. If you are said distant relative and are discussing this post with other said relatives, please, for f***k’s sake, move on and get a life!

Happy Birthday, Amma!

When people talk about mothers, in general, they usually highlight their patience and the ability to take on bullshi* and not react. You were the complete opposite Amma. From challenging every norm thrust upon you, to trying to find loopholes in every rule there was. I remember being seven months pregnant and feeling like a beached whale, with a long day of family and rituals ahead. I had just woken up and we had an hour to have a bath and get ready. Five more minutes, I said when you came to wake me up – and you sat massaging my feet for fifty instead. I whined and said I was in no mood for washing my hair. You closed the door quickly, came back again in an instant with a mug of water and a wet towel. You sprinkled some on my head and asked me to just wrap around that wet towel around my head and put some deodorant on – no one would know the difference. And that’s what I did. Here’s me, grumbling an hour later about how tight the bangles were – so you just pretended to put them on for the photos.

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You’ve taught me to constantly question authority, put my foot down, do things my way, be it the right way or not. You hated wearing jewellery of any kind and did the most blasphemous thing of not wearing a mangalsutra, constantly and faced quite the flak for your choices and mine, but never ever stopped doing things your way. You’d cheat on the Ugadi pachadi, hide my school uniform the day we had any outdoor picnics. You’d warn grown men from even daring to say anything against your children, even in passing. You’d never take your eyes off of us, or your granddaughter. “Let me watch for some more time.” you’d say when she’d finally fall asleep.

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You’d start new traditions, like putting up the Christmas Tree, because I saw a neighbour’s and wanted one for the house too. Indulgence was your middle name, Amma. And I miss that the most. Asking you for something and getting something 10,000 times it’s worth. Like the time I asked you for a jigsaw puzzle and you bought me the whole box because I couldn’t decide which one to take.

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I hope I can be at least one-tenth of the mother you were, Amma. Happy Birthday – I hope they serve cake up there.

 

 

Of beauty and the beasts who deem it important…

We had quite a bit of a scare last evening, with the brat falling and hurting her chin so deeply it wouldn’t stop bleeding for hours. A trip to the doctor resulted in me having to make a decision whether to stitch it up or not. Being the old school person I try to be when it comes to parenting, and after years of conditioning that I’m still trying to recondition myself to, I made the choice to say no. It’s okay if it leaves a little scar, I’d rather have that than to force something to happen and also have to deal with a squealing child. That moment, I closed my eyes and tried to not think about what happened when I was exactly that age.  But I couldn’t.

People who know me in real life, know about the quite visible scars on my face and treat them like a part of me. A childhood accident that resulted in years of torture at school, something that I have made my peace with, but only after quite a bit of work, to say the least. Strangers still ask me about the scars- questions that I chose to answer, if in the mood, or brush off or ignore, if not. Some at school even made fun of my name, that I was christened with – “Soundarya” so much so that I refused to be called that, to date.

I still remember the first time H fell on her face, six or seven years ago. The first thing that I heard in response was – “Not on her face, she’s a girl!” As if that should make a difference. “Make sure her teeth are alright – there’ll be problems in the future – you know when she has to get married.” This, when she was hardly even a toddler.

Then, I didn’t have the courage to say what I wanted to. But now I do. To make decisions that I want to, for mine and my child’s, without having to think twice about it.  Beauty is so much more than how you look, on the outside, and runs so much deeper than your skin. Thank God, I have incredible friends, like the one who threw a whole fistful of peanuts in my face, when I told her I feel ugly, and drove it into my head that I’d never ever ever call myself that ever again.

I hope H does find good ones too – people who care for her, regardless of how she looks or doesn’t. People who actually care about what matters, on the inside instead of superficial fluff that just fades away over time. And I hope she finds the courage to wear these scars like medals, over time – that she fought with life, and won, and has something to show for it. Like I am trying to, every day.

Happy Birthday Rockstar!

Another year has come to pass – and you’ve only continued to amaze me with your grit and your courage to live your truth, head on. Your unconditional love continues to drive me through everything.

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You’re an amazing mother, and it surprises me how similar our lives seem to get – now we’re both mummies of three little darlings – I know there are times when we don’t even talk for ages but knowing that there is one person I can always count on, no matter what the situation is, to be there completely and truly – and that’s you.

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May you have a brilliant and beautiful year ahead, full of doggy love and human love, travel, music and all the things I’d want too. I’ll stand here and watch you take on the world. And because I have to make this post as sappy as me – here’s a song for you doll – Teri aankhon ka jaadu, poori duniya pe hai – duniya ki is bheed mein, sabse peeche hum khade 😉

I love you to the moon and back, baby!