Monthly Archives: March 2010

Telling It

Here is the question.

How do you achieve balance in a relationship without one person turning to say, “It’s fine. Go ahead. My dreams and goals can be on the backburner for now. I CAN WAIT.”

There are times when I wish it could be so simple. That in a wonderful old-fashioned way it was possible to say, ” The ultimate dream is our happy family.  As long as we have enough to get by on, do we really care how we work out the logistics?”

And even if both involved parties agree upon the final destination of A Happy And Fulfilled Family Life , how do you get to the finish line together without one feeling shortchanged? Is it a measure of love you really need or is it huge dollops of sacrifice and forbearance?

How much love would it take to make you give up your dreams? Given that there were concrete dreams beyond marriage to begin with?

I am an awful fit for traditional notions of marriage. I don’t really possess the sort of soft, supportive values it seems to require. (Note how I make marriage sound like a Victoria’s Secret bra)

Too opinionated, too unwilling to bow or bend, too unwilling to give unless I can take as freely, too exacting and too demanding. I am passionate about the things that matter to me, the very things that contribute to my emotional and intellectual welfare. I am singleminded and ruthless when passion has a plan.

I look at successful couples with children and think, “Whats your secret? Yeah, the one you aren’t bottling and selling?”

Or are they also squabbling over who was supposed to take the trash out last night? And I bathed the kids yesterday, so its your turn SO THERE. Maybe they are.

My life would be immeasurably simpler if I could lean back (I can never lean back. I always lean in) and say, “Honey, go make your millions. Follow your dreams and I’ll be around.”

Maybe I have seen too many awful relationships where the common quotient seems to be an unspoken, seething resentment. An unsavoury Hillary Swank – Chad Lowe prototype where the quietly resentful “I sacrificed and contributed to your success” is cut with a crass “Yeah, like you were going to run for President anyway.”

Maybe I have seen far too many men and women of my age, of my generation, give up. Whether they chose to work or stay at home, WORKING – duh – they have somehow lost the sparkle in their eyes. Maybe it was their inability to negotiate any real power in their relationships. Maybe they believe that this is as good as it gets?

(Why is it always women rather than men that will settle for a confinement, a regulation of themselves?)

Call me Alpha Female. Call me a bitch. But I won’t do Plus One. Or Mrs.

I can’t be the add on wife at an expat club, drinking martinis and sporadically screwing the tennis instructor. Oh…WAIT A MINUTE NOW:-)

Its not about Stay At Home or Out At Work. Its not about women’s rights. All of this applies equally to men.

For a minute, lets talk about how an appetite for life can be too large to be contained. How the need for contact, stimulation and social engagement can drain and rejuvenate you simultaneously. How you can wake on somedays popping with energy and great ideas and the possibility of actualisation. How swiftly you will be crushed by depression when you feel you are treading water and going nowhere. How the sense of hopelessness can feed the dark spaces of your mind and just when you think you are NEVER getting out of bed..

You do. And if you’re lucky, you might just find a spark that never died out; that won’t allow you to give up.

My only real promise to myself was to always feed that spark  – and to remember that what a lot of people call selfishness is also self-love.

I have made my peace with the fact that compromise will always be an uncomfortable word for me. An uneasy fit if you will.

I want to continue taking chunky bites of life around me and wiping the zest of my chin.

I want to stay the young girl who was always afraid of dying young, who felt like she had to take it all in, make sense of it all in some way before she was hit by a bus. It petrifies me to let go of the urgency, to let myself be waylaid into a “ach..later” mode of thinking, where tommorow never comes.

I really want to say that mothering is the most fulfilling thing in my life, and at times, sure. It fulfils me to the point of bovine floatation.

Then there are times when it does nothing of the sort and I pick up socks and wonder what the hell happened to the Me I Knew.

Unalloyed blessing, it ain’t.

And maybe its an odd thing to say, but I want to pass on a greed for life to my children. Not sacrifice, not compromise, not apathy in large doses. Not a notion of love or devotion which always sees their needs, their energy de-prioritized.

I want them to grab their happiness with both bare hands, ignoring that it will be difficult at times, ignoring that it might be to the detriment of all that is traditional and accepted, cherished and convenient. Ignoring that it might make the significant other in their life a bit cranky for a while.

I want them to realise sooner rather than later that they will only care about truly making someone else happy when they are reasonably fulfilled themselves.

As for the balance issue – could I be happy with a man who wasn’t comfortable with my taking the wheel? Letting me be on top? Come on, I’m letting you pick the smutty metaphor here.

Absolutely no damn way.

Who will big enough to make room when there are many ambitions and plans jostling for space with family life? I can’t say just yet.

Having woven dreams for a decade now, we know how to do it without dropping a stitch. The challenge is really to keep wanting the same design, to be happy with our creation. I’m leaving that to time, talking and a belief that there is way without losing ourselves somewhere.

In the meanwhile, if someone is selling that secret recipe, I’m buying.

There’s no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you may lose your mind.
Ain’t life unkind?

– Ruby Tuesday, Rolling Stones.

68 Comments

Filed under family, Life

Waking

I will never get this on film, so I have to try in words.

That moment, that thing you do when you stir in your sleep,

When the dream and consciousness both fight to possess you

And you turn into my warmth.

The feathery touch of your tiny fingers reading the map of my face,

the braille of poxmarks, brows, lips and nostrils

the slow motion of lips curling and settling into a smile of peaceful recognition.

The casually languid stretch, the purrs.

All feline, all mine, this cherub child.

19 Comments

Filed under Armaan

Oxygen

Pretty elementary if you stop to think about it.

The elegant lady in the uniform – the one with the shiny hair and great skin –  tells us in a kindly voice that we must first put our own oxygen mask in place before placing the mask for the child.

I’m slumped in my seat on the plane, returning from another strange city, desperately hoping that the friendly-looking man in the next seat is not going to attempt conversation.

I’m beat and I really need him to remain a mystery. I need to plug in my ipod and tune into a dream.

No-one told me about a damn oxygen mask, I think resentfully. Why do I never breathe enough?

Probably because everyone knows that breathing REAL oxygen would leave less time for inhaling our own guilt.

Guilty of feeling chained and drained by the expectations of routine and domesticity. If I ever knocked domestic help before, here I am – watch me now – eating crumbs of your humble pie – soon to be cleaned up by YOUR DOMESTIC HELP GODDAMIT.

Guilty in my knowledge that I want more of this – the travel, the exciting work, the coming home to my kids’  hugs with presents and less of the hard, hard work of being their parent.

Round peg in a square hole I am on this day.

17 Comments

Filed under Parenting, Self

Honest

“It won’t happen again. Honest.” he says, all beseeching charm.

Honest. What a strange word to use, she thought. Strange but apt.

Honesty was raw when he spit on her and called her a useless, third rate slut. 

Honesty in his bitter regret, in the verbal venom he spewed to decimate even the tiny shreds of the sense of self that she had clung to.

Honesty bled when he cracked her skull against the brick wall; honesty in the rough fingers seizing her neck, suffocating her with open intent.

Tearful honesty as he kicked her pregnant belly, disowning what he was convinced was a bastard child.

She has been honest too.

Honest in seeking out another man’s body to forget the violence of his weight, his burden on her. Grateful for the white blankness, the emotional insipidity of the encounter. Its utter lack of brutality.

Such a pity, she thought, that savagery and contempt had provided the most illuminating moments in their relationship.

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Filed under Fiction

Phat Like That

In modern day urban lingo Phat means cool, hot and tempting – everything that fat doesn’t.

On our vacation to India last year, we had a glorious week in Goa with extended family. Goa, during the monsoon, like most places on the west coast of India, comes alive in a special way. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I am addicted to the warm monsoon rain. I love pretty much everything about it – so much so that I won’t even complain when the humidity makes my hair frizz to resemble a freaky bird’s generous nest.

I was fortunate enough to be there with an aunt of mine, who also doubles as one of my absolute most favourite people on the planet. She is gorgeous, round and awesomely roly poly, with a twinkle in her eye, a smart retort on her lips for badasses and a zesty attitude to life that is no-nonsensical, full of insights and belly laughs.

One day after our usual hour long breakfast, where we moved seamlessly from idli to uthappam to toast to masala dosa, we were ambling across the lawns of the resort when it began to rain.

“Lets go to the beach for a walk in the rain,” I say excitedly as everyone around me begins to run for cover and umbrellas.

“We’re in!” chorus the Viking and my aunt, and while the others worried about their clothes and potential colds, we walked towards the beach with our upturned faces welcoming the rain beating down on it. By the time we reached the beach, we were laughing out loud, loving the tingling of wet skin and tickled pink by the utterly unflattering way in which our clothes clung to us.

We ran into the rising tide, feeling the salt on our skin as keenly as the rain. We relished the strong pull of the current and way it tipped us into the water; the way it sent us hurling back to the beach. For the longest time we lay on the sand, we rolled about on the sand, rain beating down on us, laughing at the water dripping from our noses and chins and talking about the marvel, the beauty of it all.

Suddenly, my aunt was very quiet and feeling my eyes upon her, she said very quietly, “Its terrible to be a fat person in this place. Because people will choose to ONLY see the fat, only see what is unattractive and not the person beneath all that, who might still feel young and full of life. It is not socially acceptable for someone as big as me to roll about on a beach and enjoy myself on this beautiful day. Its not proper. Can you imagine the comments?” she says with a laugh, before she is quiet again.

“Sometimes you just get tired of always being a target for these jabs.”

Its saddens and angers me in equal parts that she has ever had to feel that way. That she has ever had to constrain her appetite for life to fit in.

You still think fat is not a feminist issue?

The truth of the matter is that certain people can never fit in (thin or fat) because they are larger than life – in more ways than one. Fat people are just fine as long as they are not happy, as long as they are NOT too vocal or loud, as long as they are apologetic about their body.

I begin to recall situations where I have seen this in action – and how much it has angered me even when I have not been the target.

The callous way in which certain people, very often just upon meeting someone, assess them from head to toe only to conclude with a disparaging remark.

You’ve put on even more weight than before!

Accompanied by a look of utter disgust rendering all further comments null and void.

“Ayyo, How fat you’ve become! And you used to look so good.”

This line is normally followed up with advice to drink cabbage soup for 10 days and take walks on the beach.

But the Oscar goes to:

You’re looking absolutely uncouth. Not nice at all. You MUST do something.

Well, maybe if I used your head a punching bag during boxing training, I’d be proud of my pecs.

Yeah, scumbag. Nice to see you after ages as well.

Its all very convenient. Fat should symbolise depression, unhappiness and lack of control. Within this framework,  the social structure and hierarchy where fat people are on the lowest, most miserable rung, stays intact. People such as the commenters above can retain at least one notion of superiority. So what if they are totally disregarded by their own family. Shucks, at least they stayed thin! High Five.

Not every fat person is a cry for help and if they were, your unwarranted wisdom (I use the word loosely) is not the cure.

When I think about the Ably LoveHandled people I know and adore, those amazing LoveChunks of Hunky Mutton, its rarely the fat in itself so much as the way one is perceived, treated and commented upon that is upsetting. As if people assume that the adipose tissue will insulate your feelings as well.

Oh wait. Fat people should just be able to take it. They’re so jolly. UGH!

I honestly do not feel sorry for my aunt. She has spent well over 30 years of her life and youth with a man who adores her from her wobbly top to her jiggly toes. Who has fortunately always seen beyond the exterior to the star she truly is.

My pity is solely reserved for those people who really believe that they have to look a certain way to earn and retain love and respect and invoke desire.

For those people who are so miserable and mean-spirited that they can only get their kicks from gutting someone about their physical appearance the minute they meet. Way to go, shitface, getting the upper hand there.

I wish there were more people like my dear friend out there, who at the age of 10, in the face of a particularly unnecessary comment from a relative said, “Man, you are SUCH A MEAN PERSON.”

Just like that.

So obviously not the right thing to say at family gathering, yet music to many long-suffering ears.

Down with blowhards leaking the Milk of Human Meanness, wot?

28 Comments

Filed under Things That Make Me Go Grrrr!